If you’re careful, you can save money by foraging for food and otherwise living off the land.
Foraging for food may seem a little old-fashioned, and you may not have actively considered it before. Still, you’ve probably done it once or twice. Think about it: ever picked a berry from a roadside, or collected a morsel for a snack? Most of us have done something like that.
That might not be large-scale foraging, but it’s foraging nonetheless. And when you give it some thought, foraging is an intriguing way to add to your food supply while saving money. What savvy consumer would pass up that opportunity without giving it serious consideration?
We humans began foraging long before we gave any thought to hunting, fishing, or agriculture. It was our original way of feeding ourselves, and in many parts of the world, it’s still important. Even in the Western world, foraging is more widespread than you might realize.
Consider, for example, all the people (probably numbering in the millions) who gather wild grapes, fruit, and berries from the roadside each year, or who hunt for edible mushrooms in the forest…or both.
For Freegans — people who abstain from participating in the general economy and recover wasted food for their own use — foraging is an integral part of their lifestyle.
Wild Hickory Nuts
Please note that I’m talking here about collecting wild foods from the natural environment, not the more intense styles of urban foraging like Dumpster diving. I’d never advise you to do anything like that, though some people don’t mind it…and more power to ’em.
But I see nothing wrong with natural foraging of the type made famous by naturalist Euell Gibbons a generation or so ago. Indeed, I heartily recommend that you consult his book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” before you head into the field. It’s available online.
Gibbons’ book offers an effective primer on what natural foods to look for, where to find them, and what to avoid. Which brings up an important point: be very careful about what you put in your mouth. Study up on everything. If you’re uncertain about an identification, pass it by.
Where to Find It
Take a walk in the woods or beside a stream or river, and you’re likely to find something edible sooner or later. Do your due diligence, of course, so you know what to expect, depending on the environment or season. Public land is best, unless you have permission to be on private land.
One place you might try is your local arboretum or botanical garden. Often, they let fallen fruit or nuts go to waste. Foraging for food in these facilities (with permission, of course) can serve both parties well, as you clean up for them while stocking your pantry.