3 Ways to Get Free Organic Food (Without Growing It Yourself)


It's no secret that organic food is expensive, and not everyone has the space to grow a garden at home. But did you know there are ways to get organic food that's not just cheap, but free? Read on to learn how to get free organic food (without having to beg, steal or grow it yourself!) #getfreeorganicfood #savemoneyongroceries #savemoneyonorganicgroceriesWanna learn how to get free organic food without having to grow it yourself?

Sorry. Stupid question… Of course you do:)

* * *

It’s no secret that organic food isn’t exactly the most affordable option when you’re purchasing it from the store. This is, of course, one of the main reasons we grow a lot of our own organic food at home, because growing our own means we have access to free* organic food all season long, and we’re able to preserve the excess to enjoy year-round.

* I say “free” because it’s free to harvest, however there are, obviously, some costs involved in producing said food, although the costs are significantly less than if we were buying everything from the store.

But what if you’re not able to grow a garden at home? What if you’re just too busy to keep up with a large garden or don’t have the space to produce much? 

For starters, I do think that everybody can grow at least a few things at home, regardless of time, space or experience. Herbs, for example, require very little time and effort and can be grown in pots on a small balcony or even in a window box.

But the reality is, if you don’t have a ton of space and time, then growing a large garden that will provide your family with an abundance of free organic food all summer and fall just might not be feasible for you. And while I do believe it’s worth a little extra money to buy organic, many people simply can’t fit store-bought organic food into their budget. 

Now, there are definitely some more affordable ways to get your hands on organic food when it’s in season, including purchasing from local farms and roadside farmstands, visiting your farmers market, going to a u-pick farm or signing up for a CSA, but today I want to talk to you specifically about how to get FREE organic food, even if you don’t have a garden. Because while affordable is good, free is even better:)

Foraging

First up on the list is foraging. There are so many wild foods that you can go out and harvest no matter where you live, and of course wild foods are inherently organic because they haven’t been tampered with by humans.

Now, what you’re able to forage for at any given time depends largely on where you live, what grows wild in your area and what time of year it is. But generally speaking, most areas have at least some wild foods that can be foraged. Here are just a few organic wild foods you might be able to forage in your area:

  • Weeds and greens (including dandelion greens, chickweed, purslane, chicory, sorrel, plantain, lamb’s quarters, Japanese knotweed and stinging nettles, to name but a few)
  • Wild asparagus and/or fiddleheads (young ferns)
  • Wild mushrooms (including morels, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms, chicken of the woods, lion’s mane and many more!)
  • Wild onions
  • Seaweed (while I haven’t personally foraged seaweed, my understanding is that most if not all varieties are edible. If you know more about this please leave a comment as I would love to know more!)
  • Berries (including blackberries, wild strawberries and blueberries, huckleberries, saskatoon berries, elderberries, goose berries, mulberries and many more)
  • Wild apples, crabapples, plums, pears, persimmons, paw paws, etc.

It's no secret that organic food is expensive, and not everyone has the space to grow a garden at home. But did you know there are ways to get organic food that's not just cheap, but free? Read on to learn how to get free organic food (without having to beg, steal or grow it yourself!) #getfreeorganicfood #savemoneyongroceries #savemoneyonorganicgroceries

Even cities offer opportunities for foraging. When I still lived in Vancouver, it was a summer tradition to go blackberry picking at the end of August in parks and along dikes where the Himalayan blackberries grow wild and are considered an invasive species. 

Just be sure when foraging that you…

  1. are able to positively identify the food that you are foraging for and you know for sure that it is edible and safe to eat (this is especially true with wild mushrooms and also berries)
  2. don’t forage for wild edibles from polluted areas like busy roadsides or potentially contaminated industrial complexes, etc. (because then it’s not really organic, is it?)
  3. respect local laws and regulations and only forage where you are allowed (check local bylaws to find out where you can and can’t forage. Often times designated public parks are off limits, although an exception is sometimes made for invasive plants like blackberries).
  4. don’t over-harvest. The general rule is to harvest no more than one third of a particular wild crop in any given area and leave the rest for wildlife, other foragers and to allow the crop to go to seed and replenish itself each year.

Trading

Another great way to get “free” organic food is to trade with others in your area. Now, technically this isn’t really totally free because you’re trading something for it, but you don’t necessarily have to spend money.

If you’re growing or raising some of your own food, (maybe you’ve got eggs or you raise meat, etc.), but you don’t have any fruit trees, for example, you can trade what you’re growing for what somebody else is growing in your area.

It's no secret that organic food is expensive, and not everyone has the space to grow a garden at home. But did you know there are ways to get organic food that's not just cheap, but free? Read on to learn how to get free organic food (without having to beg, steal or grow it yourself!) #getfreeorganicfood #savemoneyongroceries #savemoneyonorganicgroceries

If you’re not growing anything, why not trade something homemade instead. Why not trade some homemade soaps or candles or bottles of homemade kombucha or SCOBYs or homemade bread or pastries for a box of organic apples or a basketful of organic garden produce from someone in your area?

Another idea is to barter with a neighbour or someone near you for free organic food and promise to make them something with that food in return. So, for example, if someone has an apple tree in your area, you could offer to bake them an apple pie or make them a few jars of applesauce, some fresh pressed juice or a package of dried cinnamon apple slices in exchange for a box of apples. 

If you don’t personally know anybody who’s got anything organic to trade, Facebook marketplace is a great place to start your search, or you can create your own post advertising that you’re looking to trade with someone. There are also lots of Facebook groups dedicated to facilitating these types of trades between farmers, gardeners and other community members. 

In my area, I’m part of a self-reliance group and a bunch of buy, sell and trade groups where members regularly set up trades with each other. 

The possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to trading, and to be fair that’s how we used to do business with each other long before money was required for every transaction. Plus, learning to trade and barter with your neighbours and community members is an invaluable skill to have as a modern homesteader working toward self-reliance and freedom from dependency on grocery stores and the almighty dollar.

Gleaning

This is hands-down my favourite way to get free organic food, and it’s gaining popularity as both food waste and food shortages become an increasing problem.

So, what is gleaning?

In short, gleaning is the act of harvesting and collecting excess leftover or unwanted crops so that they don’t go to waste.

It's no secret that organic food is expensive, and not everyone has the space to grow a garden at home. But did you know there are ways to get organic food that's not just cheap, but free? Read on to learn how to get free organic food (without having to beg, steal or grow it yourself!) #getfreeorganicfood #savemoneyongroceries #savemoneyonorganicgroceriesHistorically, gleaning was actually considered a human right in parts of Europe and the middle east. In fact, the right to glean was even written into the Old Testament:

“’Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger.” – Leviticus 19:9-10

It was common practice to leave the excess crops in the field for the poor and peasant class to come glean, and in 18th century England it was the legal right of those without enough land of their own to grow food, to glean the fields of local farms after the majority of the crops were harvested. Similar laws existed in France too at the time.

Gleaning eventually fell out of fashion though when private property rights began to take precedence over charity for the benefit of all, and over time not only did it become illegal to waltz onto someone else’s property and pick over their excess harvest, but the volume of food waste in the west also began to climb.

Today an estimated 96 billion pounds of food is left in the fields and wasted before it even gets a chance to make it to market. And up to 50% of fruits and vegetables are discarded for being “ugly” or imperfect looking.

Luckily gleaning is making a comeback in communities across North America and the world, and community food recovery programs are popping up all over to facilitate the process. These programs typically donate large portions of the food to local food banks and initiatives, but volunteers usually get to keep a portion of the harvest for themselves too. 

So while you could certainly ask local farmers and neighbours with fruit trees and large gardens if you can come glean their properties when they’re done with their main harvest, you might have better luck finding and joining a gleaning organization in your area. Not only will you get some free organic food to take home, you’ll also be helping to provide fresh, healthy food to your community’s most vulnerable members.

Where we live, in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, there’s a program called the Lush Valley Food Action Society that we volunteer with (if you’re in the area then join us for a pick!). They organize “farm picks,” where volunteers help local farmers harvest their crops and are usually rewarded with a bag of organic produce to take home. Or they do “fruit picks,” where volunteers pick fruit from trees that landowners don’t want or are unable to pick themselves. In the case of fruit picks, ⅓ of the produce goes to the landowner (if they want it), ⅓ goes to local community organizations and food programs.

It’s a win-win-win!

It's no secret that organic food is expensive, and not everyone has the space to grow a garden at home. But did you know there are ways to get organic food that's not just cheap, but free? Read on to learn how to get free organic food (without having to beg, steal or grow it yourself!) #getfreeorganicfood #savemoneyongroceries #savemoneyonorganicgroceriesYesterday my daughter, Evelyn and I helped pick garlic at a local farm and we got to take home a large bundle of organic garlic that was deemed too small for market (still larger than ours this year, sadly), along with a small bag of organic tomatoes.

Tonight our whole family helped pick apples at a local property and were gifted a large box of apples to take home for ourselves! Any guesses what I’m doing this weekend?

To find a gleaning organization in your local area,  you can either search Google, ask online in local community groups (like on Facebook), or check out this list of gleaning programs across North America to see if there’s an organization listed near you!

> North American Gleaning Programs*

*Please note that this is not a complete list of all programs currently operating.

Organic food doesn’t have to cost a fortune!

Even if you can’t grow your own organic food, you can still get your hands on some for little more than the cost of some time spent foraging, bartering or volunteering in your local community. And that means you can still prepare and preserve organic food for you and your family to eat all year long!

On the flip side, if you have excess produce of your own, consider trading it or donating it to someone else in your community who could really use it. Contact your local gleaning program or food bank to learn how you can help!

Do you know of any other ways to get free organic food even if you don’t have a garden? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂

 

 

 

 


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2 Comments

  1. Robin

    I would love to learn how to forage…but how do you find a group of people who can be mentors?

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      Hi Robin,

      Many communities do have foraging tours and organizations that you can join. We have local foraging tours for mushrooms and when I lived in the city I did a foraging tour for local greens, berries and seaweed. Otherwise you might be able to connect with others online, through Facebook community groups or Meetup.com and find others to go with who can show you the ropes:) Orherwise there is a lot of info online about plants that are easy to forage and identify. But for things like mushrooms I would recommend finding a local guide for sure just to be safe.

      Reply

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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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We’re finally home from our week-long summer vacation, and while I enjoyed being away, there’s nothing like sleeping somewhere else to make me miss home!⁣

The vacation itself tends to get all the glory, but for me, the best part is always coming home.⁣

Going away gives me the chance to step away and gain some perspective so that when it comes time to go home, I’m actually excited about it! I’m excited to come back to this life that we’ve created with intention. I’m excited to get back to my garden and my kitchen and my desk where I get to create a life I love with my own two hands.⁣

Sometimes we need that perspective that comes from a change of scenery and routine. I know that right now it’s harder than ever for so many people to get away as we’re being asked to stay home, but sometimes all it takes is a break from your every day routine to make you appreciate it. And if you don’t? Maybe it’s time to change it.⁣

The moment that I don’t love coming home or coming back to my life and routine is the moment I’ll know I need to change something about how I’m living. But right now, being back home is the best feeling in the world... Even better than walking through beautiful fields of yarrow with my daughter while we were away. And that was pretty good too:)⁣
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Plus, I don’t really mind the wait. Because seriously, is there a vegetable on earth that produces prettier flowers than sugar snap peas??⁣

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“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do. Plus you get strawberries.”⁣⁣⁣⁣
- Ron Finley⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣
In light of recent protests across the globe, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I stand, what I stand for and what form my activism takes.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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I’ve been thinking about how protesting isn’t just about taking to the streets with signs and megaphones. It’s about the choices we make every day.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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It’s about who (and what) we choose to support with our dollars.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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It’s about how we use our voices, and what we say when we speak.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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It’s about questioning the status quo and taking meaningful action to resist the parts that are corrupt and broken.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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You see, homesteading 𝘪𝘴 my form of protest. Growing food is my way of resisting and rebelling against the status quo.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Whether we’re talking about systemic racism or the corporate food system, it makes no difference; They’re both broken spokes on the same societal wheel that’s keeping everybody trapped and dependent.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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But growing food is a statement of freedom and independence. It takes power away from “the system” and puts it back in the hands of the people.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Make no mistake, growing food is one of the most influential forms of political activism there is, and at its core, that’s what the modern homesteading movement is all about.⁣⁣⁣⁣

Every homegrown vegetable; Every jar of homegrown food; Every loaf of homemade bread, even, is a small act of resistance, and those small acts add up. If enough people join the movement, we’ll eventually hit critical mass, and that’s when the real change happens.⁣⁣⁣⁣
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If this aspect of homesteading appeals to you too, I invite you to read more and join the conversation (and the movement!) by clicking the link in my bio @thehouseandhomestead or by going to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/growing-food-is-my-form-of-protest/⁣⁣⁣
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⁣⁣
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Co-operative farmers bringing fresh produce to food-starved urban communities.⁣⁣
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Community activists growing food in abandoned city spaces.⁣⁣
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Black farmers, gardeners and homesteaders who've lived a different experience than white people, and who often have a different relationship with food and the land due to their unique shared history and culture.⁣

So this week we're diving into the importance of cultural diversity within the modern homesteading community. I'm also sharing some different perspectives on the importance of food security, self-reliance and finding independence on the land, including a list of resources (books, blogs, podcasts, etc.) written and produced by black and BIPOC farmers, gardeners and homesteaders who are changing the game when it comes to food security and self-reliance in their communities. ⁣⁣
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I hope you find inspiration and hope in this week's post. I know I sure did.⁣⁣
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Click the link in my bio or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/cultural-diversity-modern-homesteading⁣ to read the full post.⁣
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P.S. If you find this article helpful, please share it and keep the conversation going. This is too important not to talk about right now.
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I’ve been mulling over my thoughts and words about what’s been going on in America for the past week.⁣

I’m angry. So angry at the racial injustice and the police brutality and the authoritarianism that I’m seeing play out in real time.⁣

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I’ve taken to making Saturday “market day,” mostly because that’s the day when our local market is held! But also because if I stock up on local goods on market day, then I can avoid the grocery stores the rest of the week.⁣

Quite honestly we could live off the food we have and produce at home for quite some time. But because we grow our own food (and rarely go to the grocery store), this frees up some funds that I can then spend on locally grown and produced foods to supplement what we don’t grow at home, even if they’re a little more expensive.⁣

Th his means we get better quality food over all AND we support local farmers and small business owners in our community, which supports the local economy AND is an all-around more ethical way to shop and eat.⁣

These are some locally grown mushrooms I got at the @comox_valley_farmers_market today. I also got cheese, veggies, mustard and bacon. What more does anyone need, really? 😉 ⁣

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