Last week, we discussed how to save food money through gardening. Here’s a link to that blog post. This week I’m sharing some other ways to save on food this year.
All over the countryside, there are different ways that you can forage for various wild foods. Many backyard weeds like lambsquarters, dandelion, mustard greens, and wild garlic leaves are tasty, cooked greens among others. Mint can often be found along roadsides and stream beds as well.
A friend of mine used to gather cut grass along the roadside to use as mulch in his garden. However, since a lot of cut grass has been treated with herbicides, he’s stopped doing that. If you’re foraging along the roadside, you also need to know how anything you forage has been treated. You don’t want to be poisoned by your free greens.
Other things that you can forage for are berries. I have foraged wild strawberries along the railroad track (It’s okay if you’re a kid and want a few strawberries to pop in your mouth, but hardly worth the effort.) I also have foraged raspberries, blackberries, and elderberries, which I enjoy, but many people don’t. Just be sure to plan to protect yourself against insects and briars.
Mushrooms also are great forage if you know which kind you are finding. Again, you don’t want to poison yourself. Do more than just get a book about mushrooms or watch a few YouTube videos. Find someone who knows the mushrooms in your area and go out with them before wandering out on your own.
There are numerous foods that you can forage in your area, and it can be fascinating learning what all does grow wild where you live. Be on the lookout for Jerusalem artichoke which is an excellent source of carbohydrates as well as fruit and nut trees and other plants as well. Just remember, not every plant is edible, and not every part of a plant is eatable nor is a plant necessarily edible at all times of the year. Know your foraged foods before consuming them!
When I was a kid, we used to do a lot of gleaning. Gleaning is taking leftovers from a field after the owners came and took out most of the crop. I remember having done this with potatoes and green beans.
One year I also picked up field corn from a farmer’s field to finish feeding two pigs that we were raising. The fact that those pigs were eating the most that they had of their young lives made gleaning field corn a definite win for my purse!
Working for Shares
Another way that I have done several different times over the years is when I have been short on cash is that instead of purchasing fruit and vegetables, I have worked for shares. My most recent time of doing this was this past week. One of the other vendors at the farmers’ market had blueberries and blackberries and I volunteered to work for both berries for fifty-fifty shares. This worked well for me and for my friend because it meant that he would be getting his berries picked without having to hire someone to pick them for him. It was good for me because I was able to obtain tame blueberries and blackberries without having to pay cash for them. It was a win-win for both of us.
Years ago, I did the same with strawberries. I picked several quarts for myself and several quarts for the owner of the strawberry field.
Another form of shares happens when someone who has a garden leaves town and asks you to take care of the garden and to take anything that gets ripe during the time that they are gone.
Working for shares is also possible when dealing with animals like chickens or milk cows. Picking up the eggs or milking the cow and keeping the milk (assuming that you know how to milk a cow) will give the owners a break and give you a much needed protein source.
Several years ago, I had another friend who had several apple trees and a pear tree and I volunteered to pick her apples and pears in exchange for my own pears and apples. If you pass by someplace that has a fruit tree that is loaded down with fruit, you might consider stopping and asking if you can have some of it if you picked it for them. A question not asked is always “no”.
Pick Your Own
A variation of picking on shares is “pick your own”. “Pick your own” establishments used to be more common than they are now because of legal liability and insurance costs, but I remember doing this when I was growing up in Northwestern Pennsylvania with strawberries. We would come and pick as many as we wanted and then we would pay for the fruit at a reduced price because we picked them ourselves. It was a great way to spend a morning and then always ended with a homemade strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries.
Another crop that we sometimes got from a “pick your own” was corn. We often picked bushels of sweet corn and canned what we picked.
One activity that is common where I live is hunting. I personally don’t hunt, but my eldest son does and I am often a recipient of his hunting abilities. Most of the time around here deer is the prize, but I have known people who have eaten possum and groundhog (woodchuck). Some people have even gone after wild pigs. Wild meat can be tough and strong tasting so cooking it in a crockpot with a lot of onions can be the ticket to tastier meat.
Fishing and Seafood
Most of us know that you can take a pole out to a body of water and catch dinner but there are numerous ways of fishing. For instance, there are different types of nets that you can use to catch them. In addition, you can place a string of hooks and line and place them across a stream to catch fish even when you aren’t there. It might not be legal where you want to put your string so make sure you know the laws before putting out your strings.
Years ago, when I was living on the Tidewater in Virginia a friend took me to a brackish area where we went crabbing. They were like mini-lobster, and with butter, they are delicious. At different times of the year, you can get seafood from nature you just have to know what it is and how to get it.
Barters can be made for anything, not just food, but if food is what you need, there are a lot of ways to do that kind of trade.
If you have a garden with a few extra vegetables or chickens that are providing you with too many eggs, you have a source from which to barter. Last year I made a great barter. I had a few extra hens than I needed, and I traded a few for several nice round beef steaks and some lean hamburger. I have traded eggs for meat as well.
Have an apple tree with an abundance of fruit? See if your neighbor with a pear tree would be willing to trade with you. Have okra but need more tomatoes for canning? See if you can make a trade. There’s no end to what you can do for food barters.
There you have it, my list of locations to get food that is not the store. How about you? Do you do any of these to stretch your food dollars? If so, please share in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you!
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