Let’s face it, times are tough for a lot of people these days. Finding money for the simple things like the weekly grocery shop is becoming hard for many families. But there are ways you can source food for FREE or very cheaply. Here are 7 ways to get food for free.
GROW YOUR OWN
Chickens and eggs
Admittedly, there might be a small start up cost associated with growing your own food. For example, chickens are an excellent source of food in both the meat and the eggs. There’s the initial cost to set up a coop for them and purchase the chicks but, in the long run, this could provide a lot of good quality food for your family. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can be eaten as is or used in baking and the chickens can be eaten as well. The manure is perfect for the garden. I can remember we had chickens in our backyard growing up. I’m not really sure why we got rid of them. Maybe it was too much for Mum to handle on her own with 3 young children. Check your local area government rules and regulations for keeping chickens.
Fruit & Vegetables
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is also an excellent source of free food. Many varieties of produce can be grown from seeds you already have (eg tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons etc) or they could be grown from the actual item itself (eg potatoes) or from the root (eg celery). There are a lot of tutorials on how to grown your vegetables from scraps if you Google them. Fruits like strawberries are very easy to grow as well. I have grown my own herbs over the years but intend on growing salad vegetables when the weather warms up.
I can remember we had a choko vine, a pawpaw (paypaya) tree, a fruit salad plant (monstera deliciosa) and a custard apple tree. This obviously saw us through hard times when we couldn’t afford basic fruit but I don’t remember eating too much of these things. My grandmother was pretty self sufficient with both fruit and vegetables in her backyard. Just remember to factor in the time it will take to tend your vegetable garden. You’ll have to make sure you keep pests away, fertilise it (you can do this easy enough by making your own mulch from food scraps) and keep it watered.
We have a community garden in our area and a lot of cities and towns are getting in on the idea. Members from a community take a small allotment of land and turn it into a thriving fruit and vegetable garden. You probably just have to volunteer your time in return for produce. I actually haven’t been to my local community garden but have been meaning to. Check out your local area for any community gardens.
I have had a couple local churches offer free bread over the years and I’ve always taken up their very kind and generous offer. When I first became a single parent, I was getting free bread from this lovely elderly couple who collected beautiful unsold fresh bread and buns from local bakeries at the end of the day. Once I got back on my feet, I said that I no longer needed to collect it but they said I should come anyway. It was only going to be thrown out. I didn’t want to take any before someone else in need should have it.
There was always so much leftover at the end of the night at the local church hall. We used to get beautiful sourdough loaves, wholegrain loaves and rolls and the lovely couple would save a doughnut or cake for my children.
There are at least 2, that I know of, churches in my immediate area who still do this with the bread. Whatever is leftover at the end of the day is collected by a farmer who feeds it to his pigs. Honestly, this bread is one day old, if that. It’s beautiful and fresh and packaged. There is nothing wrong with it. Again, I would never take free bread from anyone else in need but if it’s only going to be fed to pigs, I’ll take it home with me. I only ever take what I need for our small family. Our freezer is always stocked with bread and rolls. When it’s defrosted, it’s as fresh as the day it was baked.
Food banks also offer food that is either past it’s ‘best before’ date or getting close to it. They may offer some of this food for free or ask for a small price or donation. I know some churches in my area have ’emergency packs’ for $40 which has quite a few groceries in it but it’s not for me but I’m sure it helps out a lot of people in need.
Another church near me recently acquired all these boxes and boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. They were like 3 boxes for $2 and each box had about 20 chocolates in it. The best before date wasn’t until Christmas time, not that they would last that long in my house. I know chocolates aren’t nutritious everyday food, but they do have a lot of dairy products, fruit and vegetables and bread for free and other groceries for a small charge. Google ‘food bank’ or ‘free food’ in your area.
Charity organisations like St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army and Lifeline (here in Australia) have food banks or services where they will give you a food parcel when times are really tough. They also offer free services to help you work out a budget, how to get back on your feet and counselling when you need it. I never knew of this service before and I can remember the first Christmas on my own after my mother died and my marriage ended, I really wondered what I’d do for Christmas presents for my children.
I had a few things I picked up second hand from op shops but someone suggested phoning a charity for a Christmas parcel. I did and they brought me a whole lot of Christmas type food, snacks and treats for the children plus a little present each for them. I was so grateful. I felt like a bit of an imposter accepting the parcel because I know we would’ve got by and the children wouldn’t have known any different but I’ll always be grateful for that kind gesture and never hestitate to give to those 3 charities I mentioned.
Not that I’ve ever done this but if I ever was desperate for food, I would be more than willing to offer my services of cooking, cleaning or sewing, for example, in return, for example, a dozen eggs from someone who had their own chickens. I can remember as a young girl, people coming over with a box of vegetables, for example, for my Mum and she’d hand over their clean laundry or some mending they needed.
There are a lot of people out there who don’t know how to mend or cook and I’m sure they would be more than happy to do it in return for whatever food they offered or at least money towards buying food.
I love my markets for fruit and vegetables and other bits of ‘trash and treasure’ and it is all relatively cheap to buy anyway. I have been there towards the end of the day though and a lot of sellers are ‘giving away’ a lot of produce they don’t want to take home with them. I can remember getting a whole huge box of broccoli for $5 which I blanched and froze and after I paid for it, the seller threw in a couple of oranges, capsicums and potatoes. Probably a few dollars worth of extra produce I scored for free.
PANTRY CLEAN OUTS
I can’t say I’ve ever taken food from strangers when they’ve had a clean out. You see it a lot on Facebook garage sales for example. Usually it’s just unopened food the person knows they’ll never use. I’m not sure I’d be game enough to try it from a stranger. You just never know but for years, even when I was working full time, I always took my mother’s unwanted food items. They weren’t really unwanted. They were probably just spur of the moment purchases she had made and she realised she’d never use them.
Same goes for my sister. She often goes on a health kick or changes her diet so she’ll send all her unwanted items my way. I don’t mind in fact I love it. It gets my creative juices flowing trying to come up with ideas to use them.
I think in this day and age, it really is hard for a lot of families but there are a few ways you can be savvy when it comes to sourcing food for free.
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