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The price of food is rapidly increasing, for all sorts of reasons - one reason being poor grain harvests in Australia and America over the last few years have led to most meat and dairy products' process worldwide being driven up to cover the rising cost of cattle feed. This means that farmers are forced to charge more around the world for their milk, meat, cheese and butter in order to recoup the money they are having to spend on grain feeds. It's definitely a global problem and one which is getting harder to ignore, but with a little jiggery pokery in our own back gardens and kitchen cupboards we can lessen the impact on our wallets - this book will help you find out how to do that.
I'm now in that period of the year when I don't have to buy any carrots, spuds or onions until at least October due to a few dustbins filled with compost in my back yard, where I grow my own. This book, Self Reliance by John Yeoman feeds my interest in self sufficiency in food and saving money, but please don't think that it is a glorified gardening manual as there is much more to it than that.
The book mainly looks at saving on food costs in all sorts of ways - storage, preservation, using items of food that we wouldn't usually consider eating and foraging, but there is also some useful information on saving money off the average household budget - for example how to free yourself from a credit card debt etc.
Content / Opinion
It seems that this book has been a labour of love Mr Yeoman - he has experimented with many of the suggestions it contains in the interests of research and this makes for quite an informative and authoritative read as he has first hand experience and advice to relate to us about most of his book's content.
The four main parts to the book are:
1. Recipes for Fun. This section contains general money saving tips including how to save money by looking after our cars better, a few general "handyman" repair skills, the financial benefits of reusing, reclaiming and reselling second hand goods, using store cupboard staples like baking soda as a cleaner etc.
A very interesting section, although I feel he's only scratched the surface when it comes to general household savings to be made. If you want a book solely about this topic, I recommend "Thrifty Ways for Modern Days" by Martin Lewis.
2. Recipes for Economy. This chapter explores how changes made to the way we shop have the potential for big savings. For example, if you have the patience to wait till after 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon, then buy fruit from a street market fruit and veg stall at a massive discount as most street sellers knock down the prices dramatically as they don't want to keep the food until Monday when they next open their stall. Surprisingly, he has a very polite but common sense ridden attack on owning a freezer - he basically says that they're not a good idea and instead it is better to invest in foods that can be dry stored and don't rely on expensive electricity. I understand his point, but certainly don't agree. As someone who grows his own vegetables, my freezer is massively useful for helping to store the occasional glut of food from the garden - there are only so many Lancashire hotpots that we can eat in a week using our own spuds, carrots and onions before the mere mention of another portion incites violence in our family. So, instead we plan ahead by cooking big batches when times are good and freezing them for the leaner winter months.
This chapter, like the previous one, is full of interesting information and even if you only took on board a few of his suggestions then I'm sure that you would still save a noticeable amount of money on your food shopping bill. I can recommend his sour dough recipe, and am itching to turn an un-used carport into a green house by draping the sides with plastic sheeting, but unfortunately I don't have a carport!
3. Recipes for Experiment. There are some "extreme" food economy measures in this section, and are best suited to survival / end of the world / the zombies are coming type times. However, some of the principles like foraging are suited to everyday life and there is plenty of information on what to do with, for example, foraged rosehips.
For its sheer "is he serious?" factor, (which is off the scale in this chapter) I refer you to the recipe for chlorophyll biscuits, which uses dried grass as an ingredient! Knowing my kids' pets, I think even their rabbits would turn their noses up at those.
Also, the recipe for a coffee substitute from dried ground dandelion roots is surely only attractive about 6 months after a zombie outbreak when all the supermarkets have been raided and supplies are running low. I haven't tried that one; I'm sticking to Gold Blend.
4. Recipes for Real. This chapter expands on the theory behind chapter 3, and looks at improvising food in the absence of shops, ie the collapse of society as we know it. It tells of how make sugar from carrots, vinegar from dregs of wine and wood shavings etc. Not as likely to be used as his recipe for a stock made from a chicken carcass and home grown herbs, but still interesting to read. There's some useful advice on how to store foods in the absence of a fridge - handy if you go camping perhaps?, and also some informative stuff on water purification methods.
Lastly, the end of the book has a resources section with a long bibliography and further reading list (most of the books it suggests are now on my Amazon wishlist - my wallet says "ouch!") as well as a list of suppliers - bulk seed suppliers, smallholding equipment suppliers etc.
Overall, this book has earned its price by giving me lots of ideas for both saving money off the family food bill and increasing my options when out foraging along our local cycle track - I was starting to get fed up of just having blackberry jam all the time!
I would recommend this book as a supplementary addition to a book case that already contains self reliance - self sufficiency essential reads such as John Seymour's "Complete book of self sufficiency" or Richard Mabey's "Food for Free". I do think though that the RRP of £12.95 is a bit cheeky considering the "live for less" principles of the book, but I can almost forgive that for its usefulness and the fact that it is interesting to dip in and out of.
As it is a bit "far out" in parts, I reckon an award of four stars is fair - on the whole it is useful but as I said above, it would be better used in conjunction with other books and not in isolation. Thanks for reading.
ISBN: 9781856230155 (paperback)