Monday, June 27, 2016

Where to Find Free and Healthy Food

I'm not kidding when I say that wild food can make a dent in your food budget. Foraging is sometimes seen as one of those things that strange people do. It's not mainstream.

Foraging for wild food is a smart thing to do, though, not only for your budget, but for your health. As a rule, wild food is healthier than domesticated crops, delivering up to 10 times as much nutrition in the same amount of food.

There are two things you need to be careful of. One, make sure you know what you're gathering.  There are not many plants that are deadly poison, but be sure you don't gather the few that are.

The second thing is to never forage in areas that have been sprayed with any kind of chemical. Many city lawns have been treated with herbicides to keep down weeds and pesticides to kill insects. Don't pick anything from them.

Where to find free fruit

Not only can you forage for vegetable plants, there are plenty of fruits that can be foraged, in the wild or not. How many apples does a mature apple tree have? More than an average family can use! It doesn't hurt to ask when you see a tree loaded with fruit.

There are fruit trees, brambles and bushes planted as ornamentals on college campuses, business lots and city greens. Check into them; why not? The birds won't eat them all. Some of them may have been treated, but they are not always.

Foraging for vegetable plants is even easier

If you have a back yard, don't put anything dangerous on it. Leave a small part to grow "weeds" or deliberately plant them in a contained area. If you're in a hurry, you can buy seeds from many plants, including dandelion, purslane and lambsquarter.

Don't gather anything from a public park, as it is nearly always treated for weeds as well as insects. You can, though, gather seeds from there if you're careful to be there at the right time and plant them the next year. 

You probably shouldn't gather plants from roadsides, either, unless they're dirt country roads that see little traffic.

Get a good book for your area, since different plants grow in different areas. Here, I harvest lambsquarter from mid spring to fall, dandelions in the spring and again in the fall, purslane from late spring through at least the first frost, but your area may be different. Find out and go gather some free food!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mashed Potato Salad? Yes!

Years ago, when my father was using our home as a stopping place between his home and the hospital where he was taking treatments, the patients had a picnic and he asked me to make potato salad for it. I made mashed potato salad 'just like mom makes' without thinking much about it, but the next Monday, he returned with a request for a written recipe for it!

That kind of threw me into a quandary because I'd never even seen a recipe written for it. I sat down and tried to remember how, what and when to put it together, and this is what came of it.

It needs to be made ahead of time, so it's perfect for tomorrow's cookout or to make for planned leftovers.

    * Make a batch of mashed potatoes just as if you were serving them for dinner. (It's more frugal to plan leftover mashed potatoes, because it won't take extra fuel to cook them.) Make sure they're cool before starting the salad.
    * For each couple of cups of potatoes, chop a quarter of a cup or so, depending on your tastes, of each the following:

    1. Dill or sweet pickles
    2. Onions
    3. boiled egg
    4. sharp cheddar or other sharp flavored cheese

    * Add enough mayonnaise or salad dressing to make the salad creamy and smooth.
    * Refrigerate overnight, or several hours, covered.
Serve cold, with a big spoon!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Bean Burgers

Summer time isn't all about eating, but it can seem like it sometimes! Don't let it break your grocery budget, stay cool with real treats - made frugally by you.

This summer treat your family to bean burgers instead of hamburgers. (If you're not a bean person, these are better than they sound!) Serve them with southern style sweet tea for an inexpensive meal that's good enough for company. (Music from the radio or tape or cd player can turn any meal into a festive celebration.)

Here's the basic recipe for bean burgers. After you've made them once, you can adjust them to suit yourself. Different types of beans make different flavors, so don't be afraid to experiment. Add steak sauce, liquid smoke or Worchestershire sauce for different flavors. For this recipe, I used leftover boiled pinto beans from the freezer. Even if you buy canned beans, it's a cheap meal, and healthy, too.

2 cups beans
1 cup of bread crumbs (amount may vary)
1/2 finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, mashed or minced
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 heaping tablespoon flour

Drain beans and reserve the liquid. Mash or puree beans in a blender, then add onion, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add about half the bread crumbs and mix with a spoon, then add the rest slowly until the mixture is stiff enough to form patties. If it becomes too dry, add a little of the liquid from the beans back in.

Dip the patties into the flour to coat and leave them to set for a half hour or so. This will help them keep their shape when they're cooked.

You can panfry them, but they're great on the grill, too. Either way, 5 to 10 minutes is all it takes. Serve on a bun with traditional hamburger toppings or barbecue sauce.