Grow your own veg – you'll dig the savings
With food prices soaring, it's time to grab a spade and get planting, says Kate Hughes
Saturday 26 April 2008
Food price inflation is causing civil unrest worldwide and in the UK the cost of putting food on the table has soared. This year basic staples will cost £780 more than they did last year according to grocery comparison site mysupermarket.co.uk, with the cost of bread, butter, eggs and potatoes increasing by as much as 60 per cent in 12 months.
Spurred on by rocketing supermarket bills, we are now turning in droves to cheaper alternatives and many are beating food inflation by growing their own. Not since the 1970s, when The Good Life was first shown, has sustainable living enjoyed such a growth period. And the numbers add up – dropping out and digging in could save as much as £1,400 a year.
"Making a saving all depends on how large your plot is," says Charlotte Corner of the charity Garden Organic. "But even this is subject to how 'time rich' you are as opposed to how 'cash rich'." But you don't need a very large garden to make it pay. Garden Organic believes a plot as small as 4ft x 4ft (1.2m x 1.2m) could supply vegetables all year round for as little as £50.
If you've got a garden or can get your hands on an allotment, you can save a fortune in vegetables. A standard allotment can yield around a ton of vegetables. If you bought the same amount of organic potatoes, onions, carrots and parsnips in a year, it would cost you around £1,700 from Sainsbury's or a minimum of £1,227 from Asda – even more if you have spent £30 a week on organic vegetables delivered in an attractive crate.
What you'll need
You can spend a fortune on trowels, pruning sheers, pitch forks, shovels, a bit of space, compost bins, water butts and compost. If buying new at Homebase for example, you'll pay at least £130 for this list of equipment. But buying second-hand equipment or using old shovels at the back of the garage, can work out much cheaper – and turning soil rather than pumping weights could save the cost of that expensive gym membership fee.
"For seeds in pots, you can just use your fingers and for digging your garden, raid the family garage or shed to see what has been forgotten and you can reclaim," says Guy Barter, head of horticultural advice for the Royal Horticultural Society. "Often older tools are better than today's equivalents – just because of the care and attention that was put into the making of them. Just remember to keep your tools clean and occasionally sharpen them and they will serve you well."
You can choose to either buy packets of seeds to sow yourself, or you can opt for small plants that you put straight into a big pot on a windowsill or directly into the ground, he says.
"To save money on seeds, keep an eye out for seed-swapping events near you," says Corner. "These events have really taken off in the last few years, and even if you don't have seeds to swap, you can still pick some up for a few pence. If this isn't an option, buy seeds through a seed supplier."
"Start composting your green waste and vegetable peelings by throwing them on a heap instead of in the bin and you can save pounds on bags of compost," she adds. "With home composting you will get a rich compost, full of organic matter, great for growing."
What to grow
If you choose to grow onions, potatoes carrots and parsnips organically (with a £300 budget for equipment, water and seeds), you could still save at least £1,400 compared to buying the same amount in Sainsbury's or at least £927 if you usually shop at Asda. These crops require the least effort, and are least likely to fail. Even if you don't consume a ton, root vegetables can be stored.
The cost of bread has gone up by a massive 20 per cent in the major supermarkets, from 54p to as much as 65p for a basic loaf. But if you happen to have a spare 297sq m (3196sq ft) you can grow enough wheat to supply the bread for a family of four every year, that's worth over £100 a year if your family eats two loaves a week.
You don't even have to have any outside space to grow your own. Potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs can be produced indoors in windowsills and under sinks. "Some vegetables thrive in containers on a windowsill or patio," says Barter. "Salad leaves, herbs, chillies, broad beans and beetroot will all grow indoors. It also means your plants are less likely be attacked by a pest or disease."
"The budget option would be to use old plastic bottles as pots, buckets, bins, or even an old pair of wellies," says Corner. "But if you have a little cash to spare then how about buying some planters, compost and seeds, which could cost as little as £30."
Economies of scale may mean the indoor option will not save as much, but the upside is by growing spuds indoors you won't find yourself furiously digging in the dark and rain in February to source the chips for dinner.
For more information, the RHS Grow Your Own campaign website offers hints and tips on getting started at www.rhs.org.uk/vegetables; The Garden Organic website is at www.gardenorganic.org.uk, or call 024-7630 3517
Added eggstras – the benefits of keeping your own chickens
Why stop at growing your own vegetables? The cost of free-range eggs has increased by almost 50 per cent in a year. A dozen free-range eggs have gone up from an average of £1.75 to £2.58.
So why not invest in your own chickens? Hens yield around four eggs a week each. Three chickens should cost around £10 to £15. A bag of feed will be around £5 to £6 and lasts around three weeks.
A coop can be bought new from around £150, although you could pick up a cheaper one second hand. An outside space of at least 30x30cm should be available for each bird.
How to get an allotment
By Photini Philippidou
Cultivating an allotment provides numerous social, health, environmental and economic benefits, but getting hold of a plot is becoming increasingly difficult. The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) says applications have doubled in the last five years. Most councils have a waiting list, and around a third of applicants wait more than a year for a plot. In central London, waiting lists can be as long as 10 years.
The good news is that all local authorities in England and Wales are legally obliged to provide any group of adults (aged 18 and over) with allotments of 250sq m, even if you own a garden, although some boroughs offer half plots of 125sq m.
However, inner-London local authorities are exempt from this statutory obligation, claiming a lack of money and a lack of available land. If you live in central London the NSALG recommends you apply outside of your borough.
If your nearest site is not owned by your local authority, it may be privately owned in which case contact your local allotment association or your council to find out who the owner is, and whether you can rent there. If you feel there is a need for allotments which are not being met, get together with a group of any six residents who are registered on the electoral roll and put your case to the local authority.
If you manage to get a plot from your local authority, it is for life. The authority will need to apply to the Secretary of State to change the land's use so you are technically safeguarded if you stay within the bounds of your tenancy agreement.
Allotments can cost anywhere between £5 and over £100 a year to rent, and this may or may not include your water. But if you are renting from a local authority, it is your landlord's responsibility to at least provide access to a mains water supply, as well as to maintain hedges and gates and paths and hauling ways.
Mark Dampier: 'We're on our own in retirement. They've pulled pensions to pieces'
Questions of Cash: I don't use Amazon Prime, but my credit card bill says I do
Donald MacInnes: 'I have to have £500 a month spare from now until at least 2035'
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
Defined-benefit pension schemes: Rebate change in 2016 may leave you out of pocket
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
General Election 2015: Polish prince challenges Nigel Farage to a duel over immigration question
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...
£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...
Day In a Page
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000