Monday, August 30, 2010

Stock up on free food

Emergencies like hurricanes and other natural disasters, and more unnatural disasters, like food and money shortages, should be enough to encourage us all to keep food safely stored for the possibilities.

It's expensive to go to the grocery store and stock up on food, though! And it may be too late to start a big stock up, if you're worried about a hurricane or you've lost your job.

Don't worry; there are still things you can do. We live in a wonderful world, where nature is generous. This time of year there is often produce that gets wasted because there is such a glut of it. It's not unusual to find food for free just for the asking.

Is there an apple tree overhanging the alley? A grape vine gracing a parking lot? Do you know someone who has been feeding squash to the chickens? Walnuts falling from a tree in the park? Go ahead... ask first, and then help yourself. Most of the time people are more than willing to give excess produce if they know who might want it.

Don't expect them to pick it for you and bring it to you, but use some initiative and go get it after you've asked. (If you go into a private garden, ask the owner to come with you or show you what you can pick.)

Wild plums grow around here just for the picking. Perhaps there are wild fruits and nuts where you are. Strawberries, blackberries, apples, plums, peaches and many more fruits grow wild across the nation. Walnuts, pecans, hickory nuts and many others grow wild. Know what they are and take advantage of them.

Go to a small grocery store and watch to see what day or days they pick through the produce. Ask if you can have the box of discarded vegetables "for your chickens" or whatever. You will be surprised at how much and what kind of produce gets thrown out, still useable.

America is still a nation rich in natural resources. Farms harvest tons and tons of food each year with large machinery which leaves a good portion in the fields. Ask a farmer if you can glean the field of onions or potatoes or carrots. You won't have any trouble picking up enough to do you for a year.

You can put this free food away to build your pantry. Learn to can if you don't know how. Learn to dehydrate and freeze whatever you can get your hands on. There could very well come a time when you'll be very glad that you did!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lessons learned from a garden

What a strange garden I have this year! The tomatoes I thought were late, never did get started. I may have a couple of dozen tomatoes from three plants. The peas did great earlier this year... but they quit blooming after the second week. I've got fewer cucumbers from two plants this year than I did from one plant the last time.

I planted zucchini and yellow squash on new ground because they'll grow anywhere, right? Maybe not. There are 50 times as many male flowers as female so the harvest is skimpy there.

But when one vegetable doesn't do well, another will. This year is the year for winter squash. I only planted acorn and butternut and it's a good thing. They took over one entire raised bed and I'm talking one plant of each! Some acorn squash has already been harvested and I counted seven more almost ready, with heaven only knows how many coming on and yet to form. The butternut is slower to mature, but the vine is loaded. I lost count twice and gave up but there are at least as many butternut squash as there are acorn squash.

I'll eat squash this winter, even if I don't have tomatoes and pickles to go with it.

Beans, of both kinds: green and dried, are prolific this year, so I'll have beans to go with my squash.

Roll with the punches, go with the flow, whatever way you want to say it, truly frugal living means making the most of what you do have and not crying about what you don't have. So there won't be many tomatoes. Instead of having homemade spaghetti sauce, I'll have butternut squash soup. Zucchini and yellow squash are seasonal favorites here, but we'll eat green beans instead.

So you can't get a new couch this year? Paint the walls instead. It will make your life brighter, and like gardeners (and frugalites) say... there's always next year.