Foraging and Perennial Food
One aspect of budgeting that people might not consider is how much they spend entertaining themselves during their free time. Although having frugal pastimes might not appear to save a lot of money, the savings multiplies when this pastime replaces one that was more expensive.
Consider this: a weekend off, the kids are bored…shall you take them to a movie and spend roughly $50 on tickets and treats? Or how about going for a drive and picking berries, stopping for a picnic and a swim at a lake somewhere along the way? Now you have gone from a costly, sedentary day spent in air-conditioning to a day of fresh air and exercise with quality family time and healthy, free food thrown in for good measure. You have not only replaced the $50 movie experience but probably saved yourself a few bucks on berries when you next get groceries.
Of course, if one is to go berry picking you must know what you are looking for, and where to go. Perhaps you have a neighbour or friend that can give directions or tag along for the day. Sites such as northernbushcraft.com are great for identifying edible plants, berries and mushrooms by province. Beware foraging for mushrooms—it is advised to only gather mushrooms with an experienced guide as many varieties look similar and some are deadly poisonous.
Be safe and courteous
Please don’t forget that when you pull off the road to pick berries in the ditch, you may be near someone’s home. You would probably frown on a stranger stopping to pick the fruit off the trees in your yard. Take only what you will actually use and leave some for the next family. Remember that someone owns the land, whether crop or pasture, and be respectful. Whatever wrappers and trash you bring with you should be taken home and disposed of properly. And lastly, don’t forget that out in the country we share our terrain with bears and other wild animals. Keep an eye on the kids and remember, bears like saskatoons too!
Even if you aren’t interested in being a full time gardener, you might consider adding some perennials (plants that come back year after year) to your yard that can provide some early spring nutrition for your family. When you consider the cost of treats like asparagus, strawberries and raspberries at the grocery store it makes growing your own a lot more appealing. There are even grapevines that can overwinter here! With a little mulch and compost, an area dedicated to perennial food can offer your family great health benefits for many years to come.
Most people are aware that berries such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries (all of which are hardy in this gardening zone) are extremely nutritious. But don’t forget rhubarb, commonly found in farmyards around the area. Rhubarb is said to aid in weight loss, improve digestion, stimulate bone growth, and increase circulation, among many other health benefits (www.organicfacts.net). If that makes you want to rush out and buy a rhubarb plant, ask around. It is much cheaper to dig up a portion of someone’s existing plant. If you are unfamiliar with rhubarb, try substituting rhubarb mixed with strawberries or other fruit in many of your favorite dessert recipes such as apple crisp.
More and more varieties of fruit trees are available that can survive and bear fruit in our climate. Although it might seem like a long time to wait, planting a fruit tree or two is very rewarding when you are finally able to walk into your own back yard and enjoy the fruit that you’ve grown yourself. Whether it is apples, pears, cherries or plums, you can find the right tree at a local greenhouse along with more information on how to care for it. Be sure to ask if two trees are needed for pollination.
Preserve your harvest
If you are successful at berry picking and growing some perennial food, you will quickly find yourself with a surplus of perishables that can be frozen, dried, pickled or made into jams, jellies, desserts or canned to be enjoyed later. Learning to preserve and bake are new hobbies that will also save you money down the road.
It is a fact that many families are cutting back on their spending. Including foraged or homegrown food in your diet is a simple change that can benefit your family in many ways beyond saving money. Being busy outdoors, spending time together instead of money, is a great way to spend lazy summer days. When you substitute frugal hobbies and pastimes for costlier ones, you are learning new things while also reducing your spending. Putting great food on the table has never sounded better or more affordable.