Green and Thrifty

My green and thrifty adventures this week have been all about the garden and the kitchen. Which is not a surprise. The necessity of eating every day makes garden-and-kitchen the most obvious place for making huge savings. It's all a matter of planting a little of something, often, then eating what you grow, wasting nothing, then putting all the non-edible bits back into the garden. This sounds simple, but is actually fairly complex and demanding, as many seemingly simple things are. But probably quite definitely worth it:)

Popped up to the pool with the kettle - as you do. No, I wasn't planning an afternoon tea pool party, although that idea certainly has its merits. I was actually planning an all out assault on certain persistent weeds in the retaining wall there. I plugged in the kettle at the pool deck, repeatedly filled and boiled it, then poured it on the dock and dandelion weeds whose roots go down between the bricks in the retaining wall, and refuse to die. Ha. That learned 'em. They won't try that trick again in a hurry. When I wasn't waging war on weeds I fed the orange trees up by the pool with two bags of delicious straw chicken bedding that my lovely gym buddy gave me. Best. Gift. Ever. Will make my hungry oranges happy, and biodegrade in no time. Brilliant present, requires no dusting! Am hoping for many more similar gifts:) Also added sheep poo for extra goodness.  Sheep poo was the only thing I bought at the recent school fair. It actually doesn't provide much extra nutrition to plants, but is the most marvellous soil conditioner, especially for my clay soil.

It has been cool and rainy this week, which is excellent weather for transplanting, as the poor plants and seedlings get a good start with the rain, and no heat-induced transplant shock. Who has seen the gardening hint regarding planting the bunches of spring onions that you buy at the shops? Well, this week I had a go - used the tops of the onions, planted out the bottoms. Let's see how that works out. Has anyone else tried this?

Baby peas, baby parsley, wonky spring onions

Although I have tried many home made and natural cleaning products, I have always had to resort to nasty chemicals for the oven, because I wait for about a year between cleanings, despite my best intentions. Well, this weekend, I finally found a way to clean my oven successfully using lemons and baking soda. And lots of elbow grease.

When I started getting email reminders for this year's school fair, it occurred to me that I still had unidentified chunks of frozen lamb from last year's school fair, when I bought a side of lamb all at once to be thrifty. I am pretty sure that year-old frozen lamb won't kill us. At least it hasn't yet, but I did make a resolution to cook the remaining lamb chunks ASAP. So I thought I would share my fail-proof recipe for Mystery Freezer Meat. I made up this recipe because my family didn't really like any of the slow cooker recipes I tried. Not enough flavour, and vegies that taste blah at the end of all that cooking, so my solution was to invent a slow cooker base recipe, which I cook up with a big chunk of any cheap meat, then freeze and reheat with fresh vegies and spices at dinner time:

Best Ever Slow Cooker Base

Throw into the slow cooker:

1kg (2 lbs) of any cheap stewing meat. Fatty is fine, and makes it lovely and tender, just pop it straight in. A whole chicken also works well.
2 chopped onions
2 to 4 minced or chopped garlic cloves
2 heaped tsps dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 bottles tomato passata (680gm or 24oz each)

Cook on low for 8 hrs (I always start it on high until it boils, then turn down to low).

Once the meat falls apart when poked with a fork, turn it off and cool it down. When it is cool I pull apart the meat and fish out any bones, cartilage and fat. The I pop it into the fridge overnight. The next day I skim off any fat, and freeze in dinner-size portions. This amount makes about four dinners for our family of four.

When I want to serve I add salt, spices and vegies.

For Chili con Carne I add chili, coriander and cumin plus kidney beans, and serve with corn, salsa and sour cream.

For a classic stew, sauteed mushrooms and steamed or roasted pumpkin and carrot served with mashed potato.

Chunks of roasted zucchini, tomato and red pepper for a vaguely Italian inspired dish served over pasta or cous cous.

Whatever else your imagination suggests..

What fun thrifty projects have you undertaken this week? Any kitchen and garden adventures?


CJ said…
Gosh, your school fair sounds far more exciting than ours, what with sheep poo and sides of lamb. I always use boiling water on the weeds here, after the kettle's been boiled and whenever I'm draining something like pasta or boiled eggs. It works a treat on the patio. No pool or orange trees here though, more's the pity!
Bek said…
I have tried the spring onion trick, in fact they can be never ending spring onions if you just keep chopping them off at ground level rather than pulling them up to harvest.
Love the freezer meat recipes!
Anonymous said…
I have replanted spring onions roots and they grew beautifully. I've also cut them and others growing off at just above ground level and although you lose a tiny bit of the bulbous part, you get the rest to eat and the roots regrow. :)
As for your dandelions, pick them and throw the leaves in salads! I have them all through my gardens and I encourage the kids to blow the clocks (if I can get my darling daughter to stop picking the flowers that is) into the garden to seed them further. I smuggle the dende leaves into omelettes here. :)
GretchenJoanna said…
I really love your slow cooker idea - it sounds so easy. I have some chicken in the freezer that I'd like to use up, and I DO want to use the slow cooker more. Perfect.
Jo said…
CJ, mine are day girls at a boarding school with lots of farming families. Excellent farm fare at the fair.
Bek, I'll see how that goes. I am very excited to have perpetual spring onions!
Jessie, I don't need to encourage the dandelions any more, they are all through my lawn (I realise a lawn isn't such a permaculture concept..) anyway, I am sure wilted spring greens are on all the best menus.
Gretchen Joanna, you can absolutely rely on any recipe I share being easy:) Hope it works out well for you.
Heather said…
I've never tried replanting green onions, but I think it is a brilliant idea. Where I live, the supermarkets sell herbs with the root ball attached. Whenever I need an herb I haven't got in my garden, I buy one of these and then plant what I don't use in the garden. The plants grow beautifully and I usually never need to buy that herb again. Love it.
Heather said…
I've never tried replanting green onions, but I think it is a brilliant idea. Where I live, the supermarkets sell herbs with the root ball attached. Whenever I need an herb I haven't got in my garden, I buy one of these and then plant what I don't use in the garden. The plants grow beautifully and I usually never need to buy that herb again. Love it.
Unknown said…
I dont have enough freezer space for a side of lamb but i do have multi boxes of my slow cooked meat pasta sauce and it morphed into several different meals.

Jo said…
Heather, that is brilliant, planting the supermarket herbs. I have seen the same thing - potted herbs in the salad section seem to sell for about the same price as a bunch. Thanks for the reminder - I will look there to increase my herb selection.
Lynda, of course, the meaty pasta sauce makes lots of different meals too. Is yours mince-based or a casserole? Really, most cuisines have meals based around very few cuts of meat, because how many ways are there to cut up an animal after all? Often it is local vegies and spices which make a dish unique to its place of origin. How about that for a recipe book idea? A dozen basic meat dishes that can be used as a base for a hundred different meals?
you have made me put 'sheep poo' on my list of things to buy!
i can see perpetual spring onions happening everywhere now :-)
Jo said…
e, the supermarkets will be wondering why no-one is buying spring onions anymore:) If you are a spring-onion farmer, get out now!

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