Forage your fridge full

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Groceries are, and have been, pretty scarce around here. A $25-50 a week food budget isn’t much to go on. Really, it’s not enough to go on.

Food banks were my best friend in college. I’ve avoided going back, but it takes a lot of work to find food from alternative sources.

Foraging

Gardens are obviously a great place to find food, but food is growing all around us.

Did you know that dandelions make a delicious and healthy snack?

In Winnipeg, raspberry bushes, chives and rhubarb plants grow in some parks. Chickweed, purslane and goosefoot—fairly common weeds—can bulk up (or make) a salad.

Spend an afternoon wandering a park near you and taking photos of plants you suspect might be edible. Or maybe do a little research before heading out and have some in mind to look for.

Lucky for me, a good friend of mine is in greenspace management and joins me for hikes. He frequently stops to look at plants and I frequently ask, “Can I eat that?”

While foraging in urban settings will help reduce your grocery bill, it’s also fun and a great way to get into nature.

Trading

I’m pretty lucky to have a ton of friends who love me a lot. I could ask for handouts, but that’s not a very friendly thing to do.

Instead, I’ve been offering to trade work I can do for their food. A hand knit hat for vegan lasagne here, helping in the garden for fresh produce there. Maybe a ride to the vet in exchange for a burger.

Doing favours for friends is so nice, but if they can afford to give back and you can’t afford to eat, ask how they feel about filling your belly.

Preserving

Canning is a skill of mine and I’m lucky enough to own a dehydrator. If a friend has an apple tree and not enough freezer space for pie, I’ll offer to make apple sauce or chips in exchange for a cut of their haul.

For a couple years, I signed-up for Fruit Share. Basically, some folks sign-up to pick, others sign-up to have food on their property picked. Pickers do their job, leave a percentage for the home-dweller, give a percentage to charity and then take the rest. I usually missed sign-up for everything except crab apples, but that meant I had enough apple chips to last me a full year.

There are so many other ways to get free food! Dumpster diving, joining a community garden and starting your own garden are a few other ways.

Do you have any tips on filling the fridge without blowing the budget?

Potluck your belly full

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The first thing I did after giving my boss my last day was rework my budget. It was pretty tight to begin with, but now I have expenses listed in order of what’s most important. Rent and bills come before food, which means I might be looking at some pretty bare cupboards for the next few months.

It’s okay though. I have a plan.

When I was in university, I used to have a weekly vegan potluck. We’d end up with a table full of vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins to gorge on. Once our belly’s were full, we’d trade food.

Instead of trying to get through my week on plain white pasta and soup from the dollar store, I had salads, tofu dishes and more.

Having it every week is a lot of work (although it helped me keep my apartment clean!), but having one once in a while is a good way to help stretch out the last of your money before the next cheque comes in.

Here are a few tips for planning a successful potluck:

  1. Create an event page or email thread where everyone can say what they’re bringing. This does two things. First, it puts pressure on people to actually show up so you don’t have a bowl of hash browns for 12 and 10 last-minute cancels. Second, it ensures that you won’t end up with six fruit salads.
  2. Tell everyone to bring their own tupperware. This way, you don’t have to lend out yours and potentially never see it again.
  3. Make it fun! Turn it into a crafternoon, get everyone to bring their favourite board games, maybe pop in a movie. This is an especially good idea if you’re inviting folks who don’t all know one another.

Do you have any tips for throwing a killer potluck?