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Free yourself from the financial furore; Emma Pinch talks to the people who are having fun avoiding the financial hardships currently racking Britain thanks to the credit crunch.

Byline: Emma Pinch

YOUR flexible friend's turned hostile; chips aren't that cheap any more, and, if your money's invested in your home, suddenly it's not looking as safe as houses.

As the credit crunch, high inflation and rocketing oil prices all begin to bite, we're all feeling the pain. Because it's the basics we depend on including food, petrol and loans, that are shooting up in price.

The headlines have been relentless.

Interest rates - at their highest since 1993 - unleaded petrol up by 16.5%, while diesel has soared by 23.3% in a year. Gas and electricity, meanwhile, are up by more than 12% Figures suggest that a household spending pounds 100 a week on food in 2007, will now have to find another pounds 66 a month or pounds 800 a year.

What can we do to fight back?

As well as scrutinising our direct debits and making sure we're getting a good deal on the likes of credit cards and insurance, there are ways of clawing back hundreds on petrol, food and household goods - that can actually be enjoyable.

Here are some of the people doing just that.

BARBARA HIGSON hasn't had to buy any fruit or veg for 10 years, because she grows her own at Harris allotments.

It has saved her a fortune.

"About two-thirds of what we eat in my house is vegetables and potatoes," says Barbara, 66, from Prenton, Wirral. "All I actually have to buy is meat and the odd cucumber if I want it in winter. And there absolutely is no comparison on taste."

Barbara served up 12 vegetables on her Christmas Day table last year. "Potatoes, parsnip, celeriac, swede, carrots, onions, sprouts, cabbage, garlic, peas, broccoli, Swiss and ruby chard, leeks and cauliflower, home-made chutneys," she reels off proudly. "And raspberry brulee for dessert, but nobody had much room for that.

"While I'm working, I'll graze on mangetout, raspberries, tiny cape gooseberries, and pears from our fruit trees. I've actually got no idea how much fruit and veg costs."

Excess produce is bottled, frozen or carefully stored, or even used for bartering.

"We've still got about 50lbs of spuds left from last year.

We store 100lbs of onions and bottle about 100 jars of tomatoes, which we use like canned tomatoes. I freeze chopped peppers, strawberries, peas and beans of all varieties. I was given a drier this year for Christmas, which I'm really excited about."

Barbara reckons she spends about pounds 100 per year on rent, seeds and equipment.

She salvages wherever possible. Supermarket flower buckets are used for growing potatoes, and margarine tubs are used as seed trays.

Her produce is 90% water, 10% perspiration - but, she adds, the benefits aren't just found in the cheap five a day.

"Allotments are a great leveller," she says. "You work side by side with consultants and solicitors. An allotment is no longer just somewhere old men go when their wives have chucked them out of the house. There's very little you can't grow."

CONTACT your local authority's allotments officer to find out more.

ESTIMATED saving: pounds 1,500 per year


Barbara Higson at work on the Harris Allotments, which keeps her virtually self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables Picture: MARTIN BIRCHALL/ mb170508allotment-2
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 21, 2008
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