Dig for victory!

Is it just me or do your hackles rise when you see Kerry Katona trotting about in those irritating Iceland ads, loading up her trolley with cheap pizzas for the kids and braying about how wonderful it all is? I have nothing against Ms Katona or Iceland for that matter – I too have shopped there for BOG OFF offers in the past. And I’m not a parent struggling to feed my children. But if DJ ever overcomes his morbid fear of ‘small people’ and we have kids, I hope I won’t be shovelling cheap pizzas and chicken nuggets down their throats morning, noon and night.

True, we’re all experiencing the brunt of rising food prices and nobody more so than people already struggling to make ends meet. It makes sense to look at the weekly shopping bill and try to trim it by shopping around. There is nothing wrong with that, or the odd pizza. I lived on microwave lasagnes before I met DJ and he showed me there was another way.

But even in an economic slowdown, I think it’s important not to start eating rubbish just to save money. It’s clear from all the research into cancer and our ‘five a day’ that eating good food – good quality meat, and fresh fruit and vegetables – is vital to stay healthy (before you say anything, I’m not sure if that includes squirrel!). However, nowadays proportionally people spend less of their income on food. In 1957 a third of incomes went on food and non-alcoholic beverages. Now we spend only 15 per cent on food and more on housing related costs, such as rent, mortgages and council tax, our cars and leisure time.

OK, we don’t have much choice about paying the rent. But often when the property market slows people spend money on DIY to improve the homes they can’t sell. So before you think of adding a new bathroom or kitchen, why not spend the cash on your family’s bellies by building a vegetable patch at a fraction of the cost?

Not everybody has a garden. If you don’t, then why not try to get an allotment? Or if that is too difficult because of the waiting lists, find a friend with an allotment to help out, or someone with a garden who also wants to grow veg you could join forces with and share the produce. There is a council estate in Bermondsey which has turned its entire communal lawn into a vegetable plot, and many urban food growing clubs that you may be able to join.  But if even if you can’t find a plot, then it’s still possible to grow herbs, tomatoes and lettuces in pots on your windowsill. You can also grow mushrooms in a box under the bed. Your friends may laugh but you’ll have your own delicious produce!

Growing vegetables isn’t always easy and it’s hard graft. You’ll need to do a lot of reading, not to mention digging. There’s also a little financial outlay, especially if your soil isn’t great. We have clay soil that’s hard to work and could have taken years to get right, so DJ cut to the chase by building raised beds on our lawn and filling them with bought topsoil. And you can’t plant your veg just anywhere. You need to see where the sun travels along the garden and which areas get the most light before you decide where to put your plot. Plus you’ll need to work out ways of storing your produce so as not to waste it. Many herbs, beans and fruits can be frozen, while other things, such as apple slices, can be dried or turned into jams and chutneys. If you want to be really clever, you could build a root cellar to store vegetables.

We also fight a running battle with pests, birds, foxes and cats which try to eat or dig up our plants, oh…and the odd rogue pet chicken that occasionally finds her way in there (naughty, Thelma!). But it’s really rewarding and the produce tastes so much better than anything from the supermarket.

So get digging!

Do you grow your own fruit and veg? Would you compromise on food quality to save money?

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5 Responses to Dig for victory!

  1. Kelz says:

    my dad grows his own veg, + fruit, like potatos,carrrots, onions, corn, peppers, leek, cabbage, then weve got plum, pear and cherry tree as well as my neigbours apple orchard next door and rubarb and a strawberry patch, my parents only buy veg if hasnt grown yet in the garen. they grow there own beetroot and jar it up, freeze most of the veg. a tip to stop poests on the growing veg is too put plastic bags on sticks in the garen the noise of the bag should scare away birds and such.

  2. Christine says:

    It\’s a big assumption that people can cook from scratch you know! And many perfectly fit people give up allotments because  they genuinely don\’t have the time after work and at weekends when there is a house to keep in order and a family. Growing your own is not often an occupation of choice whilst food is cheap in the supermarket. Oh and believe me there are plenty of people around who won\’t touch vegetables fresh out of the ground – the stuff is dirty and unhygienic you know (search me where they think the clean, washed stuff in the shop comes from). But it\’s still great fun.

  3. rik says:

    I\’ve just got back from having a look at a mates new allotment, (he managed to get it privately from his mates mum), I did ask if there was any chance of sharing but as there are already four people chipping in there wouldn\’t be much room. £20 a year rent and some hard work isn\’t bad to free you from the supermarkets though! My grandad always grew his own veg and I used to love eating his tomato\’s from the greenhouse when I was a toddler, they\’re still much better if you grow them yourself. At the moment we don\’t have the chance to grow our own veg due to being in a rented house and planning to move again soon, but hopefully we\’ll get somewhere were we can plant something. The allotments round here are like gold dust with the council saying their nearest available ones are about 10 miles or so away.
    There\’s always "clandestine farming" though, plant the odd bit here and there out of site while you\’re out and about then harvest them while walking the dog etc. No guarantee they won\’t be found by someone else first but seeds are cheap so plant them wherever you can! 😉

  4. sharron says:

    good morning pipper ..
    as you might have sussed yes the mad house grows it\’s own veg , im not alergic to hard work or mud and i personaly think food that has only been out of the ground for 10 mins before its cooked tastes much better than the tasteless crud on offer in our local tesco
    it wasnt covered in chemicals either and yet it still managed to grow.. amazing
    nor has it done a round trip of the M6..
    this year we have sprouts, cauliflour,cabbage,beetroot,2 crops of tatties,onions,leeks,broadbeans,peas and runner beans english and italian yard long beans
    i am looking forward to munching my own and filling the freezer
    as for the comments i hear quite a lot about people not having time to grow their own .. i have 3 kids a husband and an asylum to keep in check i spend roughly 20 mins each evening sorting the veggies and i manage perfectly well .. but then im not one of lifes lazy people that think someone else will always do the job for me.
    hope your patch grows as well as mine … quick tip for you … if you have a spare sat/sun morning offer to muck out a local stable .. and get paid in muck .. and watch the garden grow 😉

  5. katy says:

    Hello!Just thought I\’d drop a little tip in- one that I have yet to try myself, but am learning about. Look into \’no-dig\’ gardening and permaculture for ways on how to grow food with minimum input and maximum output! For no-dig you do need more compost though, I believe. The thing about permaculture is that you aim to give back to nature more than you take out, but it is done in a way that maximises the produce you will get. I personally think it is one of the solutions to the mess we\’ve got ourselves into- especially as it isn\’t just about agriculture. Check it out, if you haven\’t already- it\’s very exciting!

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