Grow your own fruit and veg to save money, even when you’re feeling delicate 

So… the downside of entertaining 😊. I did two loads in the dishwasher as we went along, but we didn’t want to stay up all night washing up. So many glasses!

Growing your own hangover

We had a lovely evening. Mr S enjoyed being the centre of attention and we even sang happy birthday. The cake was delicious. This is what it looks like inside. It was more sugar than I have eaten in almost three months though and gave me a headache, although that might have been all the prosecco I managed to quaff. I felt a little ‘tired’ when I got up.

Growing your own fruit and veg

It is a gorgeous day. Gardening and fresh air can be a good hangover cure!  We had a few jobs in the garden that needed to be done as we are off on holiday in a few days.  At Shoesbring Cottage we are always growing our own fruit and veg to save money – well some of it anyway. We had to get the runner beans into the vegetable patch as well as the courgettes.

We aren’t doing as much this year. I love growing our own produce and it definitely tastes better and fresher, but it involves a lot of work and we don’t have time to do it on a larger scale at the moment. Growing your own means that you can eat food that can be quite expensive in the shops and a tiny fraction of the price.  So we just have the aforementioned courgettes and runners, plus broad beans, pumpkins and spinach. I have also put in a globe artichoke for the first time and we have rhubarb that is now well established.  In the greenhouse we have tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers.

We have quite a lot of fruit: red and black currants, apples, grapes and raspberries. I will freeze some of these as they are lovely on our porridge throughout the year.

I am really happy with how the garden is looking at the moment. We have been working really hard to keep on top of it and it’s paying off.  I just hope my darling daughter waters it all next week as she has promised!

Do you grow your own fruit and veg? What have you got coming along?

How much debt??!!

I heard on the news that the average UK household has around £13,000 of debts, not including their mortgages. The idea of being that much in debt frankly terrifies me. I occasionally put the odd small thing on a credit card, transfer it to a 0% interest card straight away, then pay it off as soon as possible. I’m talking three or four hundred here though, not thousands! 

I suppose this didn’t really surprise me that much though. I do wonder, if you are on an average kind of salary with average expenses, how do you pay that amount off? I guess you start being frugal and reining it in at some point or you go under. I would worry how I would cope if interest rates went up, or if I became ill and my income dropped. I will never get into that much debt!

We had a few hours in the garden yesterday as it was so mild. It really needed it. We have been really neglectful due to lack of time. We found a whole load of leeks that we had forgotten about so pulled the lot up. They were quite small as they hadn’t been thinned out enough but are usable. I feel a big pan of leek and potato soup coming on! It was nice to get out and dig. We did that instead of going for a walk but I’m sure it burned off a few calories.

We have finally found a lodger. She is moving in next weekend and only wants Monday to Friday, which suits us fine. That will boost the bank account a bit. Hopefully I can focus on saving money rather than getting into debt!

Foraging and the fruits of our labours

I saw our students off this morning before work. They were perfectly pleasant but it’s always good to get the house back to ourselves and not to be tied. If we want egg on toast in front of the TV instead of a proper dinner we can! We don’t do it often and I tend to cook but it’s nice to have the option! The money is so handy and most of it has gone into the savings for our holiday in September. 

We seem to have quite a lot of food in the house at the moment so we will be eating from the stores until payday, although I will need to pop into Asda for fruit and cat food on my way back from work in the next couple of days. 

I know I am sad but I was so excited to find loads of fruit on the plum tree tonight – it doesn’t take much to make me happy 😜. It is three years old and last year it produced one plum which the birds ate. We have about 20 on there currently, not ripe yet. I hope they taste nice when they are ready. I am still picking blueberries as we have had a bumper crop this year.  They are delicious and so good for you. 

I plan to drag Mr S out foraging for blackberries this weekend. If I can fill the freezer  we will be able to eat pies and crumbles all winter, which we love with custard. Plus a friend has told me where there are lots of plums ready for scrumping. Maybe I won’t buy too much fruit from Asda!

Any good foraging where you are?

All is not lost!

Yesterday I blogged that there had been a few disasters with the veg growing this year. Well, I went down to water the patch this morning and things are looking up! 

The runner beans that survived the slugs have suddenly become super productive, the courgettes have all grown a lot in the last few days and I can see some baby courgettes on the way, there are masses of cucumbers and we still have lots of broadbeans coming. We have hit the time of year when I can more or less stop buying salads and veg for a while.

We even have some lovely blueberries. The first year our little bush has produced this many. So I have blueberries on my porridge today – lots of healthy antioxidants!

We said goodbye to our French student this morning. I had an early start as I had to drop him for the coach at 7 am. This is why I had time to look at the garden and blog before work! He was a pleasure to host, so polite and thoughtful. I have two more next week so I hope they are as nice!

Do you grow your own?

Blackberries and raspberries from the garden

One of our money saving schemes is to grow as much fruit and veg as we can. We are constrained by the amount of time it takes to sow and plant out, prepare the soil, feed, water, weed and ultimately harvest. We both work full time and, although we love getting outside, we don’t want to spend all our precious spare time working in the garden. I also need time to preserve some of the harvest so I freeze what I can as it is, make soup for the freezer too and some preserves when I have enough fruit.

We are lucky if course to have a big enough garden to do this. I know that some people have to wait months or years to get a council allotment.

This year has been a mixed bag. Two crops we can usually rely on have been rubbish! The courgettes have failed to thrive and the runner beans got eaten by slugs. The tomatoes looked fantastic but are showing slight signs of possible blight. The carrots either failed to become seedlings or were eaten immediately, I’m not sure. We do have a few growing in an old recycling bin though 😀. The spinach also bolted as I put it in a sunny spot then we didn’t water it enough and the raspberries were smothered in bindweed so we have just a few. 

However, we have fabulous beetroot, leeks, cucumbers, redcurrants, broad beans, some chard coming on and sprouts which have so far avoided being decimated by cabbage whites, as happened last year. The neighbour’s blackberries tip over to our side and they are already ripening. Not our best year, but not a complete failure!

I think it is just about worth the effort. Do you grow your own? Do you think it saves you money?

Saving £££s in my garden

  What an unexpectedly sunny weekend it has turned out to be here in Essex. Today it is due to rain all day but then it is a bank holiday Monday!

  We didn’t have anything much planned. I was  looking for a bit of down time as work is always so busy and I find I get tired a lot. As ever I was busy here instead, but at least some of that was in the garden. There is so much going on and I love being outside in the sun.

I potted on all of the tomatoes and cucumbers – and there are a lot of plants so that took a while. Mr S planted out the broad beans and mowed the lawns and we both did masses of weeding. There are still so many jobs to do! I love it and wish I had a bit more time to spend out there. 


Tidier, but it needs more flowers and colour!

 We both have garden vouchers so I think we will hit the garden centre to spend them today. All that weeding has shown gaps that need filling. We need some more flowers and colour. When I was in Home Bargains last month I picked up some shrubs for just a couple of pounds each, including a beautiful bright pink azalea. I wish I had bought more now so will try to swing by there too and see what they have. 

You don’t need to spend a lot of money in the garden. You can grow plants from seeds and cuttings for pennies, and exchange them with friends. You can use any old containers for your flowers and don’t need fancy pots from the garden centre at £30 a pop. I have an old pair of wellies in the shed that will be planted up with some cheap bedding plants from Aldi as soon as I get a spare minute or two. Yesterday some  yogurt and cream pots were used to pot on my young plants whilst others were cut into strips and reused as plant labels.

  We make our own compost too from all the teabags, egg shells, fruit and veg peelings from the kitchen plus lawn trimmings and old plant matter from outside. I let the bin men collect the weeds  in the kerbside compost collection as I don’t want any seed heads finding their way back in the soil. 

We save so much money from growing some of our own food and gardening in this way.

  Taking of saving money, remember the broken bench we retrieved from outside a neighbour’s house the other week? Mr S repaired it and it is ready for me to rub down and paint. I am thinking a pale green colour. I will search for something suitable and get cracking next weekend.

I hope you enjoying the bank holiday whatever you are doing.

A lot of gardening and spot of retail therapy

  The weather has been a mixed bag recently – sunshine and April showers! I am typing this on my phone drinking a cup of tea in Asda waiting to head to the hospital for a routine appointment and it is pouring! Luckily the sun shone on Sunday and we had a great day in the garden. 

  Mr S was super productive and cleared out the potting shed and the hundreds of pots that had built up between it and the greenhouse. He found some interesting wildlife on the way. It was full of big spiders so I was happy he decided to do it rather than leaving it to me!

  I dug over and prepared the veg patch so that I could get some seeds in – leeks, carrots, beetroot and spinach went straight in the ground. I also sowed courgettes, runner beans, sorrel and parsley in pots. The seeds I planted a few weeks ago are doing well and we should hopefully have a cracking crop of cucumbers, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and salads.

  We found time to go to the charity shop over the weekend as well. I bought a ‘frugal’ cookbook by Jamie Oliver. I doubt he is as penny pinching as me but I might get some inspiration. I noticed a lot of lamb recipes – I rarely buy this as it is far too expensive – but I haven’t had time to look through properly yet. My haul cost a fiver – that’s my sort of retail therapy!

Right, off to brave the rain. Happy Tuesday!

A walk around the allotments

We had our usual Sunday walk at the weekend. It was amazingly mild! We had wander around the local allotments, which looked remarkably well tended and productive even at this time of the year. 

 We particularly liked one allotment. Its tenant had made a fantastic effort to attract wildlife, with a living roof on the sheds and various big boxes. 

  A few folk were having a dig and a tidy and we received lots of cheery waves and smiles. That is the other great thing about having an allotment: most sites have a real sense of common purpose and community. Seeds and produce are shared, tips and advice given and received and friendships are forged.

I love my large garden but I also miss my allotment. There are long queues for most council sites nowadays, so others appreciate the opportunities an allotment can bring. Fresh produce, exercise and fresh air amongst friends. What a treat!

  We also went to the charity shop and bought 10 CDs for 99p each, so there has been lots of music in the house since. I haven’t got into the idea of streaming music yet. I’m an old fashioned girl!

The French student arrived and seems very nice and easy to chat to. The cats like him as well, always a good sign 😀.

Spinach and spiders!

  Still lots going on in the garden. It is absolutely full of spiders though! I’m not a great fan but I can cope with them. You can’t be a wimp about creepy crawlies when you are a gardener!
 There are quite a few flowers and still lots of vegetables. The courgettes are coming to an end which is just as well as we are all sick of them now. I have cooked them in so many ways, but in the end a courgette is still a courgette.
  Tonight we had spaghetti with homegrown spinach, mushrooms and cream. It was a variation of the recipe in A Girl Called Jack’s book, but I added some cream and wine to use them up and because I think it needs more sauce. It was quick , easy and healthy which is what I am always looking for after work.
  What are your speedy go to recipes when you are in a hurry?

Less meat, more tomatoes!

  The garden is all about the tomatoes at the moment . The absolute best ones for cooking are definitely the huge beef heart ones. Full of delicious juiciness and flavour! The plum tomatoes have been a bit of a disappointment though. As they are the variety used in tins I thought they would be the juiciest but I was wrong. They don’t have much flavour or yield a lot of juice. Not to worry. Yesterday I mixed them up with the better varieties to freeze some for soups and stews later. I just removed the skins in boiling water, chopped them up and put them in old plastic containers in the freezer. 
  It’s a shame my student doesn’t like tomatoes as she and DD3 have between them been almost keeping up with our huge crop of cucumbers. We have never had such a fantastic number and they are really big! As I have a week off I shall pickle some in the next few days.

We have been eating lots of our own spinach, runner beans, courgettes and potatoes too. I made a yummy pasta on Saturday with mushrooms and spinach and no one seemed to worry about the lack of meat for once. I am not a huge meat fan and would eat very little if I was only feeding myself but Mr S and DD3 feel hard done by if they eat too much veggie food. At least they both enjoy all the veg too.

I think we should all eat less meat both for our health, bank balances and the environment so I shall continue to offer meatless meals at least twice a week!

With all this fresh home grown veg around this shouldn’t be difficult …