If your family is on a budget like ours, tapping into resources for free food is a great way to lower monthly expenses. While one of the most basic ways to get free food is by visiting a local food bank, there are other resources for free food that won’t leave you feeling beholden to a charity. Here are 9 ideas to get you started.
Both my sons got on-the-job training and a free lunch in high school by volunteering in the school cafeteria for 45 minutes each day. Volunteering in a soup kitchen, at a community garden, or as part of a gleaning group is another way to get free food for your family.
Gleaning and foraging
My favorite way to find free food is to harvest the wild produce that grows around my home. Asparagus, plums, berries, currants, and apples are just a few of the wild fruits and vegetables that I forage from abandoned alleys or along trails in the foothills. Most communities have an urban foraging network that you can tap into to find the location of free wild food.
My favorite recycling network, Freecycle is not just a place for getting rid of old furniture and building materials. Depending on the time of year, I’ve seen listings for boxes of apples, or walnuts, cases of canned goods, surplus potatoes and other foods that people want to get rid of.
Hit Costco on Saturdays
Costco is a great place to hit on Saturdays because of all the free samples they give away. Another resource for free food are at store “Grand Openings” where they’ll often serve up hotdogs, chips and drinks for the customers.
If you live close to a river like I do, fishing is a great way to put meat on the table. In our state, a fishing license runs $25 a year though most people find that it more than pays for itself.
Pick for a share of the produce
If you have neighbors with fruit or nut trees, a berry patch or grape arbor that they no longer use, ask if they’ll let you harvest the produce in exchange for keeping half of what you’ve picked.
I have chickens and often barter the eggs for fresh produce from some of my neighbors. Trading goods or tradings service-for-goods is a great way to get the things you need at zero cost.
Lots of people hit the dumpsters for edible foods that grocers throw out at the end of the day. You do have to exercise some caution here since the last thing you need is to get sick.
Plant a vegetable garden
Whether you have a large yard or no yard at all, you can grow vegetables almost anywhere. You can find cheap seeds at the dollar store or free seeds or seedlings from Freecycle or from neighbors who have extras.
More by this contributor:
3 ways to live more like a freegan
4 reasons why I dumpster dive
How to find wild food for free