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article imageOp-Ed: Eco-economy — A few budget-saving tips

By Anne Sewell     May 19, 2012 in Lifestyle
Times are hard worldwide at the moment and money is short. The following are a few tips on how to save money, while also helping the environment.
Grow your own food
This one is a no-brainer. If you have a bit of land available, grow your own vegetables.
There is loads of information available online to help you with your cultivation.
Once the garden beds are dug and set up, there is little work involved besides the odd weeding and watering.
Green beans growing on a balcony.
Green beans growing on a balcony.
Not only would you be avoiding the dreaded GMO vegetables, it is also much cheaper and healthier to grow your own. Even if you merely grow a few fresh herbs on your kitchen windowsill.
No garden and living in an apartment? Well you can grow at least something on a balcony.
I have a smallish balcony on my apartment, but am at present growing a range of 7 herbs on a set of shelves and a Swiss chard plant is happily giving me a couple of leaves for dinner each night.
Last year I grew green peppers successfully in a tub on the balcony and experimented with green beans.
Currently I am trying to make room for a tub of cherry tomatoes and hoping soon to move into a small house with a garden, where I can go all out with food production.
Hungarian green wax peppers growing on a balcony.
Hungarian green wax peppers growing on a balcony.
My son is lucky enough to be living in the countryside and has quite the vegetable garden on the go. He rarely buys vegetables these days. Ready to cook dinner? Stroll outside and pick it. Below are some of the vegetables currently in his garden:
You don't even need all that much space. Here is an interesting article on growing 1 million pounds of food on 3 acres, but my son makes do with garden beds covering around 12 square meters.
If you can, save seeds from your plants once they get to the seeding stage and you won't have to buy for the next crop.
Broccolli plants going to seed.
Broccolli plants going to seed.
Avoid herbicides and pesticides like the plague they are
Keep your vegetables really healthy to eat, by choosing how you plant them, and how you protect them from damaging insects.
There are many ways to do this, including planting marigolds and nasturtiums between the vegetable plants. Marigolds tend to chase away the bugs, while nasturtiums actually attract them away from your crop. These are known as companion plants, and you can read about more of them here.
Occupy Monsanto has recently published an article on how to make natural and safe organic bug sprays, which can be viewed here.
Not only will your plants be happy, but so will your soil and the ecosystem.
Use your own healthy compost - make a compost heap with your organic scraps instead of using commercial fertilisers, or buy organic plant food to feed the plants once a week.
If you are lucky enough to be living in the Spanish countryside, order a truck-full of good horse manure too!
Horse manure
Horse manure
Dog owners save money and keep your dogs healthy
Once you have grown the vegetables, there is another use for the peelings, besides the compost heap.
I have two rather elderly dogs and I decided to move away from buying commercial dog food. The tinned stuff might be tasty, but heaven only knows what goes into it.
There are some good organic dry dog foods available, but these are expensive, and my dogs quite honestly don't like them.
What I decided to do was to start buying the cheaper meat cuts and cooking the food myself.
Now just giving them meat is not good enough. They need vitamins too. What I am now doing is keeping carrot and potato peels, the ends of green beans, etc. As dogs, like small children, tend to eat around their veggies, I throw all the peels into the blender to make a vegetable gravy. After frying and cutting the meat into pieces, over goes the gravy, with quite a bit of salt (also necessary for dogs) and either pasta or rice for their carbohydrates.
At the moment I use cheap pork and mutton chops and buy pots of the chicken innards, add any scraps cut away from my own meat, and away they go.
This costs a lot less than commercial dog food and is so much healthier and tasty too.
I must add that my dogs are small - it could be a lot more expensive for the bigger hound variety!
Picking up the poop
If you are a city dweller and have dogs, it is necessary to pick up their "droppings" in the street. A lot of people buy the commercial plastic bags for this purpose.
However, if you have smaller dogs, stop using so much plastic! Take one plastic shopping bag with you on your walks and a bunch of paper kitchen towels. Pick up the, er, droppings ensuring they are wrapped completely in the paper towel and place in your plastic bag.
When you get home, just flush the little parcels away, and keep using the same plastic bag for the next walk.
Again this probably wouldn't work with big dogs, who naturally leave bigger deposits!
I hope the above helps in saving you a bit of money and also helping the environment.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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