Low Cost Living by John Harrison

Some of you will already feel you know John Harrison well. I have been including links to his monthly tips and other parts of his fantastic website in our monthly newsletter for some time. 

He has written a number of books, all of which are available from his own website bookshop (signed by the author and currently with free seeds as well – quite a bargain!). I have a few of them and plan to review some of the others in future.  But in the current economic climate I thought this was a good one to start with!

About the book

This is not a book about allotments, and is really relevant to everyone, but those with allotments will probably find they can implement more of John’s excellent low cost living suggestions.  It isn’t a book which preaches or suggests that you stop doing all the enjoyable things in life – but it is full of suggestions for cheaper, greener options so that you can enjoy a better standard of living at a lower cost of living (which I suspect we all want!).    I have already decided to implement some of the tips – the first of which will be making my own hummus.  It really does seem to be quick and cheap – and as its a staple food in our house I could save a few quid!  I’ll also be putting in radiator reflectors to try and make our heating more efficient.

The good   -  This book is easy to read, accessible and personal – you get a feel for John and what he is like as a person so it is slightly more than a “how to” book. You won’t need specialist equipment or lots of money to implement most of John’s cost saving tips (its surprising how much some cost-saving ideas can cost!).  Its not just about the garden (although gardening, waste, food, chickens and bees all feature), there are cost-saving suggestions to do with all aspects of our lives.  I particularly liked the section about “Beating the supermarkets at their own game”!

The bad –  Time.  Most, but not all of John’s suggestions take time to implement, and I suspect that the only people able to do all of them are retirees.  But then as he suggests – if they are things you like doing (like growing or preserving your own food or making your own beer) then they aren’t really chores but hobbies.  I can certainly fit some of them into my busy life.  I suspect that were you to start getting interested in any one aspect (eg keeping chickens), you would need more than the information in this book.  Its enough to get you started but not enough to become an expert.  But he does have some other books which can take you that step further – eg Backyard chickens, and How to store your home grown produce.

The ugly –   I really can’t think of anything that annoyed me about this book.  If I had to improve it I suppose it would be nice to have some pictures (there are some line drawings which are useful, but some photos would be nice).  Its not a long book but for the money (£5.99) I reckon its good value.

Overall – if you want to cut costs without compromising on the niceties of life; if you want to improve your life without having to work longer hours or get a new, more stressful job; and if you like growing your own and want some more ideas for a better quality of food and life, then I say give this book a go.

Low Cost Living is available from John Harrison’s website, and currently comes signed by the author, with free P&P and £11 worth of seeds. There is a link to Amazon on John’s bookshop page for those who prefer to use that (but you won’t get the extras). A good Christmas present for a gardener I reckon!

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