Friday, September 2, 2011

Things that make change

Who said you had to spend heaps to make a veggie garden? 

OK ~ you probably didn't but I know others who have. In the past six weeks, we have not only set up a raised veggie bed for nothing, we've got the seeds, fertiliser and more in for next to nix. Building the garden bed used a lot 

We have saved hundreds of dollars over the years. Instead of paying up to $5.00 for packets of seeds which may or may not sprout, we have started grabbing packets of seeds from the herb and soup sections of the supermarkets. 

The seeds you get for coriander, mustard, fennel, cardamom or celery in spice packets from the supermarket for cooking can be planted in your garden. These normally cost around $1.00-$1.50 per packet and you will get a lot more seeds than the packets bought from a plant store. 

We also get the full dried peas (not freeze dried) from the soup section (with the lentils and McKenzies packet mixes) and these successfully grow ~ we've had the sweetest sugar snap peas ever from soup peas! A packet normally costs $1.50-$2.00 and you get well over 100 seeds. In comparison to buying 'packet' seeds it would cost you five times as much for about 20 or so seeds. Just remember not to buy the split peas ~ they won't grow at all.

Another way to save buying seeds is cut the ends off shallots and replant them, it takes about three weeks before they get over their 'shock', but you will have an endless harvest of shallot stems to use in salads. We do the same with old onions, including salad onions, that have hidden themselves away in our cupboards and sprouted. Plant them in your garden, let them flower and go to seed to get great seed stock for the next few years. No need to buy more!

Garlic can be done in the exact same way. Grab a clove and plant it flat end into the ground. After about four months you will get a great bulb of garlic from your original clove. A few cloves turns into a bumper crop and look great drying in the pantry or kitchen. Be aware that garlic from China or Mexico has usually been treated with Bromide (a carcinogenic) so only use Australian grown garlic.

Pumpkin, cucumber, capsicum, tomato, chili and other vegetable seeds can be cleaned, dried and then planted out to give you more seed stock to play with. If you plant two different types of pumpkins near each other, they cross pollinate and you can end up with a hybrid which tastes great. We usually let one or two of each vegetable go to seed so that next years planting will cost us even less. This works well with  lettuce, silverbeet, rocket, Asian greens, mint, corn, loofah, tomatoes and sugar snap peas.

Old potatoes and sweet potatoes that start sprouting can be replanted and will give a good crop. Just cut a sprouting part of the potato and plant it, from one potato you get up to five new plants, with around 30-40 potatoes from each. Some people don't recommend the growing of potatoes in old car tyres ~ we've never really had an issue with it as it has always been easier to add an extra tyre and layer of dirt as the potato plant leaves come through the soil ~ but you can always use an old hay bale or hessian bag of soil if you'd prefer.

Sowing broad beans, carrots, onions, radishes and spinach can be difficult and fiddly and the best way to solve the problem is to make home-made seed tape. It is an easy family activity and something we've done for years. I actually submitted this as a hint to Simple Savings about four years ago and its still there in the Vault and was mentioned in one of the newsletters.

1. Unroll a strip of toilet paper on a table (any ply, unbleached and non-scented), to the length you wish. While it might seem quicker to do one long, straight row it is easier with a few shorter strips when planting out.

2. Make a thick paste of flour and water. Dab the paste onto the toilet paper using a cotton bud, spaced apart as per the seed packet recommendation, for example 20cm.

3. Place a seed on each paste blob.

4. When the paste is dry, the seed tape is ready to fold. Starting along the strip's long edge, fold a third of the paper over the seeds, then fold the other third over to cover the seeds completely. Lightly dampen the paper, misting it with a spray bottle of water to secure the seeds. Make as many of these strips as you need then carefully carry them to the garden.

5. Make shallow furrows in the prepared soil, lay the strips down, mist heavily with the spray bottle of water and cover with soil. Now, your seeds will grow in straight, spaced rows. Tip: Alternate carrot seeds with radish seeds because when the radishes sprout, they help to mark the row and break the ground.

The key to a successful veggie garden is good watering practices ~ having lived through drought in Victoria, investing in a water tank was the only reason we kept ourselves in vegetables until I became physically unable to tend the garden and Hubby's lengthy absences due to work made it an event in weed cultivation. 

Already we have Asian greens at the usable stage (although leaving them another week or two will mean they are bigger and require less in our stir fries) and we are about to sow the second cropping of corn, peas and carrots to ensure they are growing in a staggered manner. We have lettuce going to seed to add to those already growing and hope to have the beetroot ready for salads in the next month. 

This Fortnight's Menu

It's posted a little later than I hoped, but we have been eating to the menu as planned. The list was written up on Sunday and stuck on the fridge as usual, so I've extended to carry through to next week. In the middle of welcoming back my long lost kitchen Tupperware friends, released from the cold Ballarat shed and reunited with us here in Bundaberg. Oh FridgeSmarts, dear ModularMates ~ how I have missed thee... 

Yes, well - so here's what we've been having and what we will have going forward.

Sunday: Pork chops and steamed vegetables

Monday: Spaghetti Bolognes 

Tuesday: Tortellini with tomato, chilli and basil sauce

Wednesday: Pea & Ham soup (homemade, SmallBoy had face plant - will elaborate over the weekend)

Thursday: Pea & Ham soup for SmallBoy; Peri-Peri chicken salad for us - both homemade

Friday: *Splurge* Takeaway burgers, fish, seafood, chips

Saturday: Vegetable pasties

Sunday: Roast Chicken with all the trimmings - Happy Fathers' Day - :D

Monday: Thai Beef Salad (of sorts)

Tuesday: Chicken and vegetable pic

Wednesday: Tuna patties and salad

Thursday: Veal schnitzel and salad

Friday:  Nachos

Saturday: Gozlemes

Sunday:  Roast Pork

Having just eaten down our Ballarat pantry ~ moved to Bundaberg with 'nothing' and now building back the basics including herbs, spices and oils before we focus on too much stock piling purchases. I do want to make sure we have extra flour, sugar, rice and some other staples (considering this is the first time in years I've actually got no rice!!)  We are fine for cleaning, washing products - I have an abundance of shampoo & conditioner thanks to a trial on Soap. Couldn't give away as much as they gave me!
All the cat food has been sent up (thanks Mum) so that will last through until the end of the month of September - 15 cans and two packets of dry food (plus extra litter) is a huge saving! 

As September is school holidays, and we are going away to the Gold Coast with friends for four days in week 3, then we have 4 extra mouths for week 4, I've got a little spending cash aside for some restaurant meals. I've already planned some of the menu for visitors and have most of the items in the freezer already. I also expect that friends will contribute to some of the groceries - especially while we are on the GC. 

Week 1 - w/e 01 September ~ Budget $100
Week 2 - w/e 08 September ~ Budget $ 50
Week 3 - w/e 15 September ~ Budget $ 50
Week 4 - w/e 22 September ~ Budget $100
Week 5 - w/e 29 September ~ Budget $ 50

Part of this week (Week 1) shopping are some of those staples - just to start building some in reserve. It was suggested that, in anticipation of our first 'wet season', we do use some of the budget to ensure we have extra and start rotating stores as we get the chance to increase the volume. I'd like to have 5kg of brown rice on hand, so if I buy 1kg now and look for specials on 1-2kg to build it up. 

Time to relax ~ bit of a garden and sorting kinda weekend. Hubby has brought some personal 'home' items for us to intermingle in the house, more of our belongings are out of the camper and finding places to be kept. We are finding our place and making our mark ~ I do like the feeling we are creating. Almost a full school term has passed, we've been here in our own for six weeks and so much has been achieved. Time for reflecting over the weekend too I think *nods*

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