Saturday, May 23, 2015

Penny Pinching

My parents were penny pinchers.  With nine children to raise, they had to be. 

Saving money, often saves our planet
My dad never paid anyone to do any sort of repairs – he did it all himself.  He made all his own fences and buildings, did his own plumbing, and saved every single nut, bolt, scrap of wood that could possibly be used for anything.  My mother grew her own veggies, cooked most meals from scratch, never threw out clothing that could be altered/reused for another child, and never spent a dollar when fifty cents could do it.

Some people do it because they have to, others because it seems natural.

I think I come into the second category.  Of course I was raised by two people who believed in saving everything they could, but I like penny pinching because (a) it means I don’t unnecessarily throw out items that can still be used (we live in an increasingly disposable world) and, (b) it means I have more money to spend on the good things in life.

Like books.

So – I suddenly had this thought; that if I gave readers some penny pinching ideas, then they would have more money to buy books too!  Yay!  And hopefully buy my books?

(It made sense in my mind when I wrote this blog).

So the first thing I have to say about penny pinching, is for God’s sake – and the sake of our Earth – try growing your own food.  Now, if you’re still reading past that line and are still with me, I have to tell you it’s NOT THAT HARD.  If you wished to grow ALL of your own food, then it’s hard.  But supplementing your diet with your own produce?  Easy.

You don’t even need a backyard.

If you’re still with me, I will tell you the penny pincher’s way of doing things – and it won’t cost a cent.

Any plastic container can become a pot
1.  Grab a container. 
If you’re worried about how it looks, you can buy a pot from the shop.  Or look at rubbish bins – people throw pots out all the time.  Ask a friend or neighbour.  They always have pots.  And if you’re still looking, use an icecream container or yoghurt container.  Poke a couple of holes in the bottom for drainage, put the lid of the container underneath for the saucer, and voila!
For those lucky people who have a backyard, find a nice sunny spot – between two rose bushes or hedges, whatever.  Just a spot.  I grow veggies between all sorts of other plants.  If your soil is poor, dig a hole and fill it with potting mix before planting.  If your soil is iced or waterlogged, try a pot instead.

2.  Fill your container with soil.
I would recommend paying $4 at the nursery section of your local department store for a large bag of soil.  (There are lots of things you can grow in pots.  Buy a big bag and save it for the next blog). The more money you pay for the soil, the better it is and the better your crop will grow.  But if you’re on the bare bones of your bum, then you need to get creative.  Beg a friend for a scoop of soil out of their garden.  Steal a scoop from your local park – as long as you do something in return such as pick up some rubbish.  It really doesn’t take that much to fill a 1kg tub of yoghurt.

Choose a bunch with roots still on
3.  Next time you’re shopping, buy a bunch of spring onions.
Spring onions are PERFECT for penny pinching.  They come from the shop with their roots still on!  Make your meal, or whatever you were planning to make, but save the ends of the spring onions.  Just the roots and about half an inch of the white bit.  And you only need about 7-8 spring onions.

4.  Plant your ends in the soil.
Spread them out nicely, cover the roots but leave the white tip showing.

5.  Water your plants and place them in the sun.
They will grow on a sunny windowsill if you live in an apartment or if it’s icy and snowing where you live.  Otherwise, chuck them outside in a sunny spot.  Water them when they need it – daily if it’s summer, every couple of days if it’s winter.

Spring onion regrowing
6.  Now the fascinating bit.  THEY WILL GROW. 
And in three weeks’ time, when you need some onion in your stir-fry, take a pair of scissors, and CUT THE ONION OFF AT THE BASE, leaving some white bit in the soil. 


How come people don’t know this?  You don’t pull up your spring onions.  You leave them and clip them off.  They just keep growing and growing.  You will never need to buy an onion again.  My family uses onions in about 4-5 meals per week.  So if you’re paying $0.25 per bulb, that could be a $1 saving per week.  That’s one extra ebook you could buy a month!  And you’ve saved the planet by not buying onions at the supermarket where they need to be transported from the farm, which uses fuel.

Celery growing from base
After your remarkable success with the onions, the next thing to try is celery.  It is exactly the same.  Buy a whole bunch of celery, cut off the base, and plant it in the soil.  The leaves will start sprouting within a week, and you will have celery growing in your pot.  Gently break off, or cut off, the leaves and stalks when you need them.

You will find that because the leaves are fresh and tender, they are delicious.  Use the stalk, leaves and all in stews, soup, stir-fries, salads, anything.  Never buy celery again. 

Bonus tip:  Don’t worry about fertiliser.  Dig a hole in some dark, leaf laden corner of your garden or the local park and find an earthworm.  Chuck it in your pot.  He’ll work and fertilise your soil.

Next week – growing flavour.

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