Are you tired of high grocery prices? One way our family has managed to lower grocery costs is by including wild produce in our meal planning. Known as "urban food foraging," gleaning wild foods from our neighborhoods is a trendy and fashionable way to live greener and save money too.
I first started foraging wild foods in my neighborhood some 25 years ago when an elderly neighbor taught me how edible sauces, syrups, and jellies could be made from too-tart-to-eat sour plums and crab apples. Since that time, I've added other wild produce to my list of summer gleanings which has made a significant dent in lowering our grocery bill over the years.
Here's several ways how food foraging has dropped our grocery bill. These tips will help lower your food costs as well.
Include wild fruits as part of a balanced meal. From July through September, I can count on a steady supply of wild berries, plums, apples, and wild grapes to feed my family. Substituting freshly harvested, seasonal wild produce for store bought can add up to significant savings and tastes better, too.
Use wild fruit as a bartering tool. Our neighborhood has an overabundance of wild plum trees, far more than we can possibly eat or home-can into jelly or sauce. To make the most of those plums, I'll barter homemade plum jellies and sauces for surplus produce from my neighbors' vegetable gardens. This simple method of trading goods prevents wild produce from going to waste while providing us with an assortment of free vegetables.
Preserve it for the future. In areas where wild produce isn't being harvested by others, it's perfectly OK to pick extra to preserve for winter eating. Most wild fruit can be preserved easily through home canning using a water bath method. Your local grocery store should have the latest Ball canning guide along with all the supplies needed to put up wild jams, jellies, syrups, and more. (Psst... it's a lot easier and cheaper than you might think.) Dehydrating and freezing are other great options for preserving wild produce.
Make your own juice. Instead of buying canned frozen concentrate juices, I make my organic blends from the wild grapes, apples, and berries harvested in the neighborhood. Making juice is easy when you used a stove top steam juicer. The extracted juice can be frozen or decanted into quart canning jars and processed using a water bath canner.
Motivates us to try new recipes. Thanks to those wild plums, I've collected about 20 different recipes for plum sauces which can be used for everything from dessert toppings, salad dressing, to marinades and barbecue sauces. These alternate uses for wild produce means that we can scale back on the store bought condiments which also saves a big chunk of cash.
Gleaning wild foods is a simple way to lower your grocery budget while still providing your family with fresh fruit for a balanced meal. Some things you should know before heading out to forage for wild food include these helpful tips:
Don't trespass. Unless you have permission from the owner, don't glean wild foods found on private property. Foraging from public parks, city right of ways, public lands, and alleys is usually OK.
Watch for contaminants. Chemical sprays, gas exhaust, animal poop, and motor oil can contaminant wild food. If you don't know your city's policy regarding pesticides and herbicides, call them and ask.
Don't be greedy. The unwritten rule of urban foraging is to always leave plenty for others. If you live in neighborhood where the food is going to waste, then it's fine to harvest as much as your family can use.
Be nice. When harvesting wild foods, handle the trees and vines gently so to avoid breaking off limbs or damaging the bark. Careful handling will keep the fruit bearing trees in your neighborhood healthy and productive for many years to come.
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