I never intended to start my blog with free food, but I suppose where else could I start but at zero?
It’s a Sunday night and the food for the week has all but run out. I’ve got a lunch prepared for tomorrow and then it’ll be time to go and do the weekly shop (I’ll publish what we bought and where) tomorrow night.
I ought to start this post with a disclaimer: I have never been starving. I have never got to the point where there is nothing in the house. I have never gone bin-diving. I have always been lucky that even when the money for everything but essentials is gone, I’ve never had to be without food.
If you are at that point now, I recommend the earliest posts at Jack Monroe’s blog. Jack and their son, Small Boy, scraped together pennies for a few meals, and Jack blogged about it. The recipes here are fantastic and I absolutely recommend them. If you follow one blog, even at the expense of mine, let it be Jack’s. I owe Jack Monroe a debt of gratitude, as many of their recipes have helped me feed myself for less throughout student life and beyond.
Now onto this blog!
I love a freebie. Who doesn’t? Free (vegan) food is just the best. So here are some tips on making the most of what you can get.
- Ask your friends (or freecycle, freebie FB pages etc) for their spare fruit. Apple trees drop more apples than one family can use. Same with plums and other tree fruits. This year we had a whole crate of cooking apples gifted to us by a friend, but in the past we have simply asked for them on freebie sites and come away with more fruit than we know what to do with! Peel them (or don’t for extra fibre and vitamins), core them (save some cores for jam making), chop them, boil them with a tiny amount of water. Let them turn to mush and chuck them in the freezer for crumbles, pies, natural sweetener, egg replacer…
- Keep an eye out for any free/cheap food online using the Olio app, facebook groups… we once got a tonne of vegan junk food for a quarter of the price because a local vegan was going on a health kick. We made a close friend in the process!
- Go foraging. There’s a wealth of info online (or check your library for books) about foraging for food. I’ve always said I’d love to forage more but you can always stick to the basics such as…
- Picking raspberries and blackberries. Why does nobody do this anymore? Give them a quick rinse and you have tasty, free fruit. We pick ours along footpaths and from a wasteground near our house.
- Pick unusual fruits. You really have to weigh up the costs of making things from these, but we love to pick sloes for sloe gin/sloe jam, and rosehips for rosehip syrup. We give most of what we make as Xmas presents and even fussy family seem pleased.
- Collect nuts. If you’re lucky enough to find a chestnut tree, gather gather gather! They will be smaller than supermarket ones but have you seen the price of imported chestnuts!! Also, I see beech nuts bloomin’ everywhere. Even acorns are edible (but I really do not recommend).
- Use what you can grow. I honestly hate seeing ‘grow your own’ as a frugal tip because for many people setting up a garden can be super expensive. We have clay, water-logged soil so it’s practically impossible for us without investing in compost. However, we sometimes buy reduced 10p herbs in pots and keep them for as long as we can.
- Use what you already have. Ok, not strictly free as you already bought it. But be open-minded. Go through all of your cupboards. Find the tin of peaches that’s been sitting on your shelf since the year 2000 (it’s probably still good). Save your veg peelings for stock. Heck, don’t peel your veg! Keep your broccoli stalks. Don’t throw anything away that isn’t completely inedible.
Do you have any other tips or tricks for getting free vegan food? What are you favourite things to make from cheap ingredients? Let me know in the comments.
Header image: the last blackberries of the season (boo). Above image: rosehips being prepared for freezing.