They say money doesn’t grow on trees but savings do – and on bushes – and in the ground – if we grow our own fruit and veg. With people struggling to keep food on the table, harvesting our own means eating something fresh and free
Growing our own veggies is back in vogue. Having an allotment is one way to go, but even without a plot of land, there are other money-saving hacks to put free food on your plate.
There are around 300,000 allotment plots in the UK, and another 100,000 people on the waiting list. At one point, during the second world war, there were an estimated 1.4 million plots. With food prices going up, there’s never been a better time to grow your own…
Plot Your Path
Most of us don’t have our own allotment and the waiting lists are long. But that doesn’t have to stop us growing our own. A single bed in a garden can be used, and we can even grow our own in a window box. Lettuce, spinach, radishes and even carrots can be grown in a window box.
More community gardens are cropping up, where fruit and veg is often grown. The social farms and gardens website has a list of these all over the UK. We can find our nearest on their website.
Feeling bolder? We can set up our own community garden. The voluntary action group NCVO has a how-to guide to all the steps needed to do exactly that. It includes everything from finding the land and what we’d need on-site, to finding a grant to get us started.
Healthy and Wealthy?
There are loads of health benefits of growing our own fruit and veg. Gardening is physical, and all that digging and planting, weeding and watering gives us a healthy workout. People have even argued that gardening should be offered on the NHS. (Yes, really!)
Dr William Bird, an NHS GP, gave a speech to the Royal Horticultural Society where he said: “We could see benefits of at least £5 health benefit for every £1 spent. Since about £60 billion is spent on long term conditions, 80% of which could be prevented by a healthier lifestyle, there is a significant incentive to develop a programme that includes horticulture.”
That’s not all, the mental health charity MIND ran a project called ‘Eco Therapy’ where people spent time gardening and growing to try and help their mental health. Seven out of 10 of the people involved said the programme gave them a ‘significant increases’ in wellbeing. Of the unemployed people involved, 254 were able to get back into full time work afterwards.
Cheap and cheerful?
Is it really cheaper to grow your own fruit and veg? Which? Magazine found that for things that are expensive in the shops, like soft fruit (raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes etc.), the answer is yes, it’s cheaper.
The average allotment plot is 250 square meters. The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners say the average plot yields £1,362 of fruit and veg a year. It’s a chance to make a few quid too. For smaller plots, like a garden bed of two square meters, we’ll only get enough veg for a couple of meals a week. But, as they say, every little helps.
But there are still some types of veg that we can save money growing that are also easy to cultivate. As Sarah Brown, spokesperson for the charity Garden Organic told Moneywise Magazine recently: “Runner beans are a great money saver,” she said, with a packet of twenty-five beans costing £1, enough to grow about four kilos of fresh runners. Asparagus plants, too, she explained, cost 75p per crown and can last up to twenty-five years in a well prepared bed!