Friday, July 27, 2012

Frugal Friday: Foraging for Fruit

This is my 25th Frugal Friday post! In honor of this momentous occasion I'm going to share another of my favorite ways to save money: Foraging! I will specifically talk to you about fruit in this post, but you can use the principles from it to forage whatever you want: Vegetables, pets, sticks, rocks (my kids are good at the last few especially...)

As you may know by now...I don't coupon, but I still love to save money. And this is one of those ways I've found to save money on food (healthy, wholesome fruit) that I would normally buy. Using the ideas I'll share below I've successfully foraged for apples, peaches, pears, bananas, blackberries, apricots, plums, walnuts, and more. So hop on the foraging bandwagon folks and learn to make good use of what others throw away...

Just a few apples that we foraged last year and made into applesauce...

What is foraging?
What comes to mind when you think of foraging? Scavengers in the woods with flat brimmed hats filling their baskets with roots and plants and other naturally grown food? While I'm sure there are plenty of people that still do that to save money and be frugal, that's not the kind of foraging that I want to talk about here. The kind of foraging that I'm talking about is finding fruit that is free or low-priced usually in the form of fruit that is unwanted or less wanted for whatever reason.

Many people don't realize or appreciate the value of fruit unless it is perfectly shaped and formed and they pay for it at the grocery store. Lots of people have fruit growing on their property that never gets picked. Maybe they are afraid of bugs. Maybe they don't have time. Maybe they just don't like fruit. Maybe they never noticed. But whatever the maybes may be, there is a lot of fruit available waiting for foragers to come.

What kind of fruit do you forage?
Now, I'm assuming that you live in an area of the world where some type of fruit is grown. Most likely your area of the world does not grow ALL types of fruit that you enjoy eating, but probably some type of fruit is grown during some time of the year. Locally grown fruit is one of the perfect candidates of fruit foraging. If you don't have any locally grown fruit there are other ways to forage too, so read on for those ideas later on in this post.

Does it matter if the fruit isn't sprayed? This is a question I know some of us wonder about and I've wondered about it myself to be honest. The answer is, that depends. Spraying fruit is what makes fruit in the grocery store so beautiful, bug-free, and invitable. Some of the fruit that you forage will not be sprayed, and some will. There's a lot of information available about the harm of those chemicals to our bodies that they spray on the fruit. I'm not going to go into all that. That's a debate for another day. If you are an organic-produce-only-type-person, then go for the non-sprayed fruit. If you are an I-only-eat-fruit-in-the-grocery-store-because-I'm-afraid-of-bugs-type-person, then I'll say this: if the fruit looks good, tastes good, and IS good, then eat it! Wash it really good, if there are bugs or worms or bruises, remove those parts and enjoy the parts that are good. Just because someone didn't spray fruit, doesn't mean it will have bugs in it. That's just not true. So don't dismiss it before you try it. It might be perfect or close enough.

When do I forage the fruit?
The best time to forage for fruit is right in the season of the fruit you are foraging for. You may need to do a little research to find out what time of the year that is. Ask one of the local folks - preferably an older folk. They are often the best resource for those kinds of answers.

Where do I forage for fruit?
The best places to forage for fruit are close, convenient and local. Some examples are: homes in your local neighborhood, local fruit stands, farmer's markets, nearby orchards, gardens or farms, or even grocery stores. Public spaces like city parks or places just off the side of the road sometimes have fruit growing. Keep your eyes open for fruit, ripe for the picking that isn't being picked.

How do I forage for fruit?
There are lots of ways to forage. But usually foraging opportunities don't come land in your lap. You have to be on the lookout for them. When you see those opportunities, act on them. And this is the hardest part for most of us: ASK! It might be a bit embarrassing. It might be a big uncomfortable. But just do it anyway. Someone might say no, but most often people say yes. They are glad to be of help. Many consider you a help to them because you're ridding them of something unwanted. You're helping them clean up something before it turns into a mess for them to clean up.

If you're new to fruit foraging here's some ideas to get you started:
  • Ask a neighbor or friend or even someone you don't know if they are going to use their fruit growing on their trees. This is usually the cheapest way to forage for fruit. Many, many people don't use their fruit and are willing to give it away for free, grateful to be rid of the "mess" that rotten fruit causes. A few years ago when our oldest was little, he picked an apple off someone's tree that was growing right near the sidewalk as we were walking by. We talked to him about how that is stealing and had him go up and knock on the door to ask if it was okay if he ate the apple. He did and we found out that the people hardly ever picked the fruit. They invited us to come and pick whatever we wanted and to tell all of our friends. We now go back there every year and pick apples from their tree to make applesauce. They're not perfect apples - a bit small, but they taste great. Some have worms, but there are a lot that are perfect. The kids love to eat them and we make and can quarts and quarts of applesauce from those apples and eat it year-round. It certainly has saved us a lot of money just by asking.
  • Check at a local fruit stand or orchard if they have seconds on the fruit they are selling - seconds are usually fruit that is smaller, has blemishes, slightly bruised or imperfect in some way. You can usually buy seconds for considerably cheaper than the firsts. I recently bought a half bushel of peaches at a local fruit stand for $6 compared to $14 that they were selling the firsts. The fruit needed to be sorted immediately and some was bruised or small, but I was able to freeze a bunch that will be perfect for smoothies or cobblers to eat later.
  • Ask the owners of a local orchard if you can glean the smaller fruit after the larger has been picked. Sometimes they just let the smaller fruit rot on the trees if it's not up to par with the rest...See if they will let you make use of it. It's worth a few hours of picking to save a lot of money.
  • Ask someone in the produce department of your local grocery store if they have any fruit that is imperfect or blemished that they can't sell. Sometimes they will give it to you or sell it at a lower price. For example, our local grocery store sells slightly overripe bananas for more than 1/2 price. I love to freeze them and use them in smoothies or make banana bread. 
  • Ask if it's okay to pick fruit in a public space or off the side of the road - I've seen fruit or nut trees in public places or berries growing off the side of the road various places. Often those are welcome places to pick fruit to use, but check to make sure if there is any question. Obviously look for safe places to forage (for example, your local sewage plant may not be the best idea...)
What do you do with foraged fruit?
Eat it is the easy answer, but if you have excess you can preserve it through dehydrating, freezing, or canning. You can make smoothies with it or use it to flavor yogurt or oatmeal. Make fruit popsicles, fruit drinks, homemade ice-cream, cobblers, etc. The possibilities are endless. I'll be sharing lots of more ideas of what I do with my foraged fruit, so look for those to come soon...

Hopefully that gives you enough information to get started on your own frugal foraging adventures. Have you ever tried foraging for fruit? Had any successes? I'd love to hear about them. Happy Friday everyone!

Linked to: Frugal Friday, hearts 4 home, Thrifty Thursday


Jean said...

Visiting from Frugal Fridays. I love the ideas in your post. I generally purchase our fruit in the grocery store because of the convenience factor but you've inspired me to go knock on the neighbor's door and ask if the kids can pick a few apples off his trees that he's ignoring. Thanks for the great ideas!

Eden @I'm THRIVing! said...

When visiting friends in Price Utah years ago, they took my foraging. We had a blast picking fruit at what I believe was their dentist's office (along the parking lot) . I don't see many places like that around here. I need to check with my mom to see if there are still persimmon trees on the farm.
My blogpost inspired by your Frugal Friday post from last week is up. I'd love for you to "come by" for a visit. Glad I subscribed to your blog!

Stephanie Lynn Stevens said...

I LOVE this! We live on the Gulf Coast where beautiful citrus is in season all winter. Your post makes me feel bolder about just much falls to the ground and goes to waste.

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