Food has gotten ridiculously expensive in the last few years, the containers and portions are shrinking, the prices are increasing and the companies are claiming “eco-friendly” packaging and fuel prices as the main excuse. But, what if I told you that you can score essentially free food for your family?
Do you use what is available to you?
As a kid we had several spots that we frequented seasonally to gather our own free food. At the time, I thought we were just having a fun afternoon and would get to enjoy some tasty treats later in the week, fresh blueberry
Berry Picking: Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, huckleberries, Currants, Cranberries and more! Depending on your particular region two or more of these types of berries may be available to you for free several times per year, all you need to do is locate places to pick them. Be sure to never harvest more than 75% of the berries in the area you choose to pick and leave over-ripe berries to naturally reseed and replenish the area.
Nut Gathering: Pecans, walnuts, hickory nuts, chinquapins, beechnuts and butternuts are all delectable. Even acorns can be ground as a base for gluten free breads, tortillas, pancakes and muffins.
Wild nuts are very abundant in Eastern and Central areas of the US. Most state parks and national forests will also allow you to gather nuts, (simply ask). The height of nut gathering season usually runs about Mid October, but can vary depending on the climate. Nuts can be shelled and frozen for easy storage, or dried in the shell and stored for several months.
Mushrooms- this one is best done if you know what you’re doing as there are many types of mushrooms that look alike and you could potentially consume a toxic one. Did you know, many communities offer free or very cheap evening classes and often have a class on identifying wild edibles. Be sure that you cut wild mushroom stems at the ground, don’t pull them up (which prevents them from growing again). Note: Mushrooms grow from spores, but if you yank the entire mushroom up, no spores remain to repopulate.
Each region has it’s own offerings, having grown up in New England, it wasn’t unusual for us to dig our own clams (steamah’s), fish for cod and haddock (which can be relatively expensive at the market!).
Living within an hour of the Southeastern coast, we frequently take advantage of the free seafood that is available. Make a day of it for essentially free family fun and catch a cooler full of blue crab, like these beauties we caught last week (pictured right). In addition to crabs in late fall, we dig clams and harvest fresh oysters, as well as catching various types of saltwater fish such as flounder, mackerel, herring, etc. Save your kitchen scraps (chicken skin from leg quarters) to use as bait.
Be aware that you don’t necessarily need a fishing license either. For example, in Maryland and South Carolina, you can use up to 3 drop nets per person (recreational) fishing to catch blue crab and you are not required to have a fishing license for it.
Every state offers FREE Fishing Days, license not required, generally around Father’s Day. This is essentially free food that you can stock the freezer with to enjoy year-round.
Every locale has something to offer in the way of free food, you just have to be a bit creative about it!