The Herald's Cooking the Books personal finance podcast is here to get you the tips you need to weather the financial storm. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new expert featured on each episode.

When you're trying to cut back on expenses, the best place to start is with the big ones.

The stats show housing, transport, and food are where we spend most of our money. Big spending means the potential for big savings, if you're willing to try something different.


So if you can start a garden there's the potential for bringing one of your core expenses far lower.

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Whether you're renting, living in an urban area, or just have black thumbs, there are options for you.

The best part is that the easier ways to garden are also some of the most cost-effective.

For the latest Cooking the Books podcast, I talked to Elien Lewis, from Homegrown Happiness, who shared her tips for getting started.

If you're renting, grow in pots, or take over the lawn

While renters often make the good point that it's hard to commit to a garden when you're on a one-year lease, pots are a godsend.

Even if you just grow herbs on the windowsill, that will make the food you cook more flavourful, and make you less likely to be tempted to order in.

Leafy greens can also be easy to grow and add to most meals.


Anything that you already eat a lot of is a good idea, as you're less likely to waste it once it's grown.

"[When renting] I grew a little bit in pots, because that was easy to move around, and if you haven't been there very long you might not know where the sunniest spots are," Lewis said.

"But in general I did just plant on the ground, because it's not that hard to re-sow grass when you're leaving, if the landlord doesn't want the garden there any more."

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Try the "no dig" method

A no dig garden is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than trying to dig fertilisers through your soil, you plant where you want to, and then regularly drop organic material on top to act as fertiliser.

You can put compost, seaweed, aged manure, or straw on top. It will then rot down and add to a rich soil just as it would in nature.

Not only does Lewis argue this is better for your garden and will create better soil, it's also much easier on the back pocket than trying to juice your plants up with store-bought products.

"I stay away from the synthetic fertilisers and soil amendments and just stick to the homemade organic stuff, so I can let nature do the work for me.

"It also means it's just so much cheaper and easier to do."

Grow from seed, instead of seedlings

A packet of seeds is cheaper than a tray of seedlings, and Lewis argues they're also likely to grow better in your garden.

"Often those seedlings, especially if they're a bit older, can be root-bound and getting a little bit big for those punnets.

"That can be a reason why people's vegetables fail, because those plants are quite stressed.

"The seeds will also germinate when the soil temperature is ideal for them."

Lewis says the best way to get started is just to start, as simply as possible, and without any fancy equipment that requires investment from you.

You'll soon work out what does and doesn't succeed in your own garden, and then you can repeat the successes next season.

• Listen to the full interview on the Cooking the Books podcast. You can find new episodes on Herald Premium, or subscribe on iHeartRadio, Apple podcasts app, or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

• If you have a question about this podcast, or question you'd like answered in the next one, come and talk to me about it. I'm on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here.