5 WAYS TO OBTAIN FOOD WITHOUT GROCERY SHOPPING
5 ways to obtain food without grocery shopping
Learning to live on what Mother Nature provides is one of the most important self-sustaining lessons one can learn. I’m not talking about eating a “wild,” gathered meal here and there between boxed dinners. No, I’m talking about truly sustaining your family on essentially a full-time basis by hunting, fishing, foraging and gardening.
If you’re willing to work hard, you can obtain most of your own food without making continual trips to the grocery store. Practice the following steps, and you’ll become the ultimate provider.
New Hampshire winters are often long and cold. Sometimes we even get snowed in. I must put away as much meat as I can, when I can. Hunting can be expensive—fuel, ammunition and hunting licenses/permits— so I also must make the most of my money. If you’re truly looking to eat solely wild game meat, look to bag as much game as you can for as little money as possible.
I hunt mainly in New Hampshire and Vermont and obtain annual licenses for both. I also purchase my federal waterfowl permit and permits required for New Hampshire and Vermont. This is money well spent, because odds are that I’ll harvest ducks and geese in both states.
I also purchase turkey permits for both states. Vermont allows two turkeys in spring and one in fall; New Hampshire allows one in spring and one in fall. If everything aligns, I can put five turkeys in the freezer alongside the waterfowl, small game and upland birds I harvest.
Large game, such as deer and bear, are always desirable, but require much more work. But, one deer, along with the
aforementioned game, will feed my family through winter. A bear would be an added bonus. Perhaps you have even larger game animals, such as elk and/or moose, to target where you live. One of either species will produce hundreds of pounds of meat.
As soon as the ice breaks in spring and the water opens, I go fishing. Just like hunting, I fish for food. That means I keep all legal fish I catch (abiding by limits, of course). Fishing licenses are generally cheaper than hunting licenses, so if you don’t hunt, fishing is the best way to put protein on the table and in the freezer. I purchase freshwaterfishing licenses in both Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as a saltwater-fishing license for New Hampshire. The saltwater license allows me to fish the New Hampshire coast and the coastal waters of Maine and Massachusetts.
It’s easy to overspend on fishing equipment, so I’ve learned to simplify. Heck, some days I can catch fish just using a basic rod equipped with hook and worm. On other days, it may take spoons or in-line spinners to land a catch. These lures are simple, and they work for both freshwater and saltwater species. Unless you’re a tournament angler after a record bass or walleye (I’m not) you don’t need to spend a lot on gear. Keep costs down and use what works. Remember, the goal is to put food in the freezer.
“… if you’re willing to work hard, you can obtain most of your own food without making continual trips to the grocery store.”
Very rarely do I leave the woods and fields without bringing something home with me. Like those who came before me, I seize every opportunity to gather food. While hunting spring turkeys, I often find fiddleheads and other available wild food. Fiddleheads are the young shoots of ferns (carry an identification guide) and are great as a side dish. As the warm weather progresses, I often come home with assorted wild berries, which I find while hiking into my favorite Vermont trout stream or beaver pond.
In fall, I harvest wild apples and grapes, which are great for sauces, jams and jellies. I also harvest acorns, walnuts and beechnuts. Everything gathered becomes part of our food supply. I always carry large, resealable bags in my pack so I can bring this bounty home.
If you locate a large berry patch while out hunting or fishing, go back with your family to involve them in your food-gathering efforts. Always carry a sidearm (if legal), because bears eat berries, too. In Vermont, New Hampshire and many other states, there are plenty of public lands where you can harvest wild foods free of charge.
As soon as the weather warms up, I prepare my garden. A garden can be as large or small as you like. You don’t even need land to start one. Urbanites easily grow their own food in containers. Many urban communities even have large community gardens where you can get space to grow your own food. There are also numerous co-ops where you can exchange labor for fresh produce.
The key to gardening is to grow vegetables that do well in your area, have large yields and store well, and your family will eat. Refer to the planting information on the back of seed packets prior to purchasing them.
I stick to beans, squash, tomatoes and potatoes. These produce food my family eats,
“If you locate a large berry patch while out hunting ... go back with your family to involve them in your food-gathering efforts.”
plus they store well. Tomatoes can be eaten as is, or they can be processed and then stored in the freezer for later use. Beans always produce high yields, and dried beans store for a very long time. Squash and pumpkins can be dried or cooked and then frozen. Potatoes are a staple, and they too can be stored for a long time (see sidebar, “Food Storage” on the right).
Bartering is perhaps one of the oldest methods to obtain things you need. Basically, it’s trading an item or your services for something else. Over the years, I’ve worked on a lobster boat, trading my services in exchange for a portion of the catch. I have exchanged labor with a local farmer for eggs and a few butchered chickens. I have traded salmon fillets for venison steaks. I’ve even traded berry pies for ammunition, which I then traded for fishing time on a boat, securing fish for the freezer. The trick to bartering is not to sell yourself short. Make fair deals/exchanges.
Are You a Provider?
Living this lifestyle requires work, and it isn’t for everyone. If you’re willing to invest the time and effort, it can be rewarding. Plus, you get the satisfaction of knowing how and where your food was obtained. That’s an aspect grocery stores don’t offer.
(above ) When hunting for food, pause periodically. You’ll often spot game you’d otherwise spook or walk right past. (below) When hunting, be prepared for something to happen quickly. You may not get another opportunity.
A chance fishing trip to Louisiana provided the opportunity to land this red drum. PHOTO BY DANA BENNER
Never pass by a food source like these delicious blueberries. PHOTO BY THINKSTOCK