Growing your own food forest does not have to be hard work, nor do you have to own a massive garden to achieve it. You work with what space is available – you can even make a mini ‘forest’ of herbs and sprouts on a windowsill – and do what you have time for.
We’re gradually changing the grass/food ratio in our own garden. We built some raised beds out of old roofing tiles.
Kale is one tough cookie. It does well here in Northern Scotland and continues to produce leaves for two years.
A cheap packet of lettuce seeds from Lidl was sprinkled all over this (non-raised) new bed this year and two courgette plants were popped in among it. They’re doing really well. We use the lettuce in a ‘cut and come again’ way as you get a higher yield that way. It just keeps going.
Potatoes are a really easy crop to grow. This year we planted mainly shops ones that had sprouted at the back of the fridge so they really didn’t cost anything and they have produced well. Admittedly, the Pentland Javelins we bought as seed potatoes have been somewhat more abundant.
Potatoes can also be grown in containers or even a bag of compost. We know one lady who threw some old sprouted ones into a half used bag of compost and left them all summer to find masses of lovely new tatties in the autumn.
We like to mix things up and plant a few flowers between. They’re good for attracting bees. Nasturtiums are also edible. Pallet bench in background…
Fruit bushes and trees are well worth the initial investment as they go on giving forever more and create shelter and the ‘foresty’ aspect of your food forest. Birds seem quite good at ‘planting’ the blackcurrant seeds; we’ve had some new ones come up in odd corners of the garden. They’re very low maintenance.
and Mammoth Dill round the edges of beds. Also grows really well in pots.
Planned next in the garden: a polytunnel to be constructed of recycled pallets and reclaimed plastic, and a big patch of Jerusalem Artichokes!
Also see our article Free Food for information on foraging.
‘How to Grow Your Own Food: A Week-by-week Guide to Wild Life Friendly Fruit and Vegetable Gardening’ by Dirty Nails. This fabulous book takes you through the year, detailing what you can be planting, preparing, harvesting etc. each week. Humorously written, lots of information on wildlife is given throughout such as facts about badgers, woodpeckers and cuckoos. The book is very well indexed and has some lovely fruit and vegetable recipes too. A user-friendly title that’s sure to help you maximise your garden’s food production. Buy UK
‘Forest Gardening’ by Robert A de J Hart. Here the author details his garden – a miniature forest filled with an abundance of things to eat. This is low maintenance gardening once established with trees, bushes and perennial plants which provide both shelter and food. Included are recommended plants for different regions of the world – this book is a huge resource of information and inspiration. Buy UK
It’s all a bit short and sweet from us today, just like the choccies pictured above! They’re from new clearance food outlet Low Price Foods,
and though the front page is focused on snack items we found really
cheap pasta, tins and dried fruit there too. Definitely worth a regular
check as they get new things in often.
Sourdough and Gardening: We have a new post on making Sourdough for Pennies here. It also details some of our recent gardening exploits and which seeds are still good to plant in July.
Cheap Clothes: Everything5Pounds are selling three pairs of shorts for £5 at the moment!
Sourdough bread is absolutely delicious and can be really easy and cheap to make. It’s the way bread was made for thousands of years, containing healthy bacteria for the gut, and the long fermenting process partly breaks down and digests the gluten. We’re not experts by any means, and are quite lazy bakers, but we’re successfully making lovely sourdough for pennies. Tesco sometimes sell off 1kg bags of plain flour for 15p (in baskets round the store) and those are what we’ve been using here, each one making just over two loaves.
We made this starter recipe using grapes and it certainly created a wonderfully frothy active starter that sits on a windowsill and is called Herbert! There was no wasting the discard when we first fed Herbert; we made pizza dough and left it to sit all day, then topping with tomato sauce, tomatoes and Asda free from Mozzarella (they have much cheaper free from cheese than the other supermarkets). It was gorgeous.
There’s a basic sourdough bread recipe here. What follows are our lazy variations!
The first bread we made was a herby olive oil focaccia. We kneaded the dough once, coated in herbs and olive oil and left it to rise all day in a tin before baking late afternoon along with dinner. It tasted amazing.
Then we tried olive bread, and returned to the dough after a couple of hours and gave it a second kneading and shaping. This one was left to rise overnight and baked in the morning. Again, the taste of this stuff is delectable.
The loaf pictured at the top of the page was the result of putting it into an oven that was not pre-heated (told you, no expertise here). The high rise happened during the lower temperatures, and we love it.
We were really pleased to receive this sweet and sour red cabbage recipe just now (during the Corona Virus crisis) as red cabbage is a really cheap vegetable that is rich in nutrients and good for the immune system. It’s also unlikely to be sold out due to bulk buying!
Goes with most things and ingredients can be altered to suit e.g. use any cabbage, vinegar, sugar, (what you’ve got).
This recipe also freezes well.
2 tablespoons marg or veg oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 red cabbage, shredded
2 apples peeled & grated
1/4 cup white vinegar
salt & black pepper
Heat marg/oil in saucepan. Add cabbage & apple. Cook for 5 mins. Stir occasionally. Add vinegar & brown sugar. Season to taste. Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Serves 4-6.
Optional: add 1/2 sliced onion with cabbage & apple + pinch fennel or caraway seeds when salting (or whenever).
If you do want to stock up your cupboards, the place to do it is Approved Food. They sell clearance food, drink and household items online. They’re a fantastic source of bargains and are set up to cope with bulk buying, so you’re not depleting resources.
Our founder’s new novel FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE launches today. Inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude, the story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas… And there’s chocolate!
A frugal, onion-cooking quote from the book:
“I look in the pantry. In truth it is all but bare, but I find flour and fat and an onion. I hold the onion in my hand and stare down at it for a wee minty, feeling all mixed up and strange. The last time I held an onion was in Scotland. It was part of the last meal I ever prepared there. This is the first time I’ve held an onion in America. They’re pretty much the same here or there, so I dinna ken why I’m feeling so odd, but the onion feels important, like it’s a link to home. And then I decide it’s going to be a part of the first meal I ever prepare here.”
Don’t worry – they don’t sting when cooked! Nettles are very nutrient rich and of course – free! Don’t gather them beside a busy road where they will have been contaminated by traffic fumes. If you keep cutting them from springtime you get a regular supply of fresh leaves, though they can get a bit insect infested during the summer! Below are two recipes for soup:
Version 1 – a “cream of” style soup:
2 tablespoons of vegetable margarine or oil
2 tablespoons of white flour
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Freshly picked and washed young nettles (several good handfuls – picked with gloves and caution!)
2 cups soya milk (tesco value is cheap and organic too)
1 cup water or stock
salt and pepper to taste
Fry the onion and garlic in the oil or marg. for a few minutes then stir in the nettles (no need to chop or remove stalks) until they soften. Stir in the flour and gradually add the soya milk and water or stock, stirring all the time. Add seasonings and liquidise. Delicious…
Version 2 – a versatile recipe using potato to thicken, ingredient quantities are totally adjustable:
Do an onion and 5 garlic cloves in some oil, add half head of celery, 2 potatoes, cover with water, bring to boil and simmer til soft then add bowl of gathered nettles, some chives and parsley (optional – feel free to experiment with other herbs), stock cube, salt for a few minutes and blend.
2 cups of porridge oats
1 large tablespoon of vegetable margarine
1 banana, mashed
a handful of raisins
a splash of unsweetened soya milk
Melt the marg in a pan and then stir in the oats. Mix in the banana and raisins, add the soya milk and stir well. Press the mixture into a flat cake tin or oven proof dish (10×10 inch did well) and bake for 10-15 minutes in a hot oven. Score while still warm, leave to cool and cut into squares.
If you would rather have a more traditional sugar laden flapjack, add a tablespoon of golden syrup to the mix, but really, they’re delicious without it!
Chocolate variant: add two heaped teaspoons (or more!) of cocoa in with the banana and raisins 🙂
Recipe inspired by Lucy who always adds banana to her flapjacks 🙂
Whether you want to reduce your debts, save for a holiday, stay at home with your children, live more simply or just beat the system a little and end up with more cash, we hope you find something here to help. Consider yourself as in a clothes shop – look around, try the ideas on for size, take what’s right for you and leave the rest for someone else.
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