I recently discovered @Frugl – a great website full of money saving tips (to add to my list alongside Money Saving Expert). They are currently running a competition to #KeepItFrugl by sharing your frugal ‘life hacks’, for a chance to win Amazon vouchers and a Frugl trip…
I have long believed in being frugal – reducing consumption is a key part of reducing pressure on the planet (and I hate waste). I shared some of my tips with Frugl and was lucky enough to win last week’s draw. Share your tips and you could win this week’s prize.
Frugl reminded me of how much you can save at the moment by foraging. Here are a few things you can remove from your shopping list if you don’t mind a little cooking (chosen on the basis that I’ve cooked all of these this week using foraged food so they’re all in season.)
Everything below is easy to make – nothing takes more than half an hour of preparation – and you could save a fortune while still getting your ‘five-a-day’.
Why buy fruit when you can get apples, pears, plums, blackberries and a lot more besides for free?
Urban areas often have blackberry bushes along canal banks and railways (though never go on any dangerous bits of the railway to get plump blackberries!)
Ask friends with gardens if you can trade them produce for jam and you’ll both benefit.
Look for windfalls and explore nearby woods. In addition to fruit, you may find nuts too at this time of year.
Blackberries, apples, pears and plums mean that jam is just a ‘forage, chop and simmer’ away at this time of year.
I balance the pectin levels of the fruit to get it to set so the only cost is some sugar and lemon juice, along with the energy to cook it.
Just boil up your fruit and sugar, add lemon juice and put into sterilised jars. Plums are particularly good if you’re new to jam making as it’s almost impossible for them not to set.
If you need recipes with more specific instructions, try this (I play it by ear with recipes as you never know what amounts of produce there will be with foraging. I also use less sugar than many recipes recommend).
You won’t need to buy air freshener if you make your own jam – it makes your home smell great.
I tend to keep some jam for myself but set aside some of each batch in more decorative jars for gifts. If you forage for a full autumn, you’ll have enough to fill hampers for even the biggest family: and if you use recycled jars, the only cost is the sugar and lemon juice. Better yet if a friend has a lemon tree…
You can also use less sugar and make a fruit compote to have with porridge or yoghurt for breakfast. Who needs a fruit corner yoghurt when you can make your own for a fraction of the price: just add Greek yoghurt to your fruit combination.
There’s no need to spend a fortune on lunchbox snacks. Spread a thin layer of fruit and sugar puree on a silicone tray and cook on a very low heat until it sets. I leave the seeds in when I make blackberry and apple fruit leather as I like the crunch.
Team with making a slow cooked stew, meringues (see below) or dried fruit to maximise use of the oven and justify the electricity.
Alternatively, get a dehydrator. If you get through a lot of fruit leather, it will cover its cost at speed.
Herbs and Flavourings
Many herbs grow wild, from self-seeded mint to mugwort, poppy seeds to borage.
I’d recommend everyone has a kitchen herb garden to make it easy to add taste to budget cooking but foraged herbs can add new flavours (though only eat things you’re 100 percent sure you can identify).
Many woody herbs thrive the more you cut them so again, ask friends with gardens if you can take cuttings. If you strip back the base leaves and put them in water, you can root your own herbs for next year too.
Add foraged berries to stale bread for a delicious autumn pudding. Just line a loaf tin with bread, add your fruit (after simmering your berries and apples together), top with more bread and wrap in foil.
Weight it down on top (I used full almond milk cartons) and leave in the fridge overnight. It will be a lovely colour and better taste by morning.
Alternatively, toast oats and sugar, and layer with berries and whipped cream with honey folded through (whisky optional) for a seasonal twist on cranachan. I love the dark flavour blackberries add to it.
If you’re making fruit leather, make meringues too for Eton Mess. Use blackberries, or rhubarb cooked in orange juice, along with whipped cream, for a delicious deviation from strawberries.
And there’s also apple pie (or apple pancakes, apple scones, apple crumble); poached pears; stewed plums; and soon, raspberries…
With a few basics in your cupboard (sugar, lemon juice, oats, flour and butter or vegan alternative), foraged food can help supplement your diet and make sure that budget meals are far from boring. Get outdoors and open your eyes to the free food that surrounds you.