Feeling the squeeze in these harsh economic times? Fear not, for there are ways to find nourishment without spending money on agribusiness fruits, vegetables and meat, etc., or on a parade of juices, sodas, and so forth.
Note that “free,” as defined here in my article, only means no payment to receive food. That is, one would not be handing $13 to Chipotle for a burrito with fuckin’ guacamole. There are labor and costs to everything, even free food. One has to work, or put forth effort, to get these things; but the bank account will not take a hit in the process. At the very least, one will be well-exercised and make some new friends. Also, some of these methods require a small monetary investment that will effectively pay for itself in no time.
No, this is not dumpster diving. Back in my native Wisconsin, people could be seen on the side of the road picking asparagus or rhubarb. In the spring as a young adult and teenager, I would join my dad in hunting for morel mushrooms (not magic mushrooms). Morels can be found across North America and in Europe. It takes some skill and patience to find them, but it can be done and it’s fun.
What other food can be foraged? Dandelions, which are readily available, can be picked and used in a salad. Berries are also abundant, especially mulberries, which I picked a lot as a kid. Very tasty. Also, look for nuts, like chestnuts, and then crack them like your grandpappy used to. And acorns, if prepared correctly, are also good to eat.
Do a search on the internet for rural and urban foraging. You will be surprised at the type of shit you can get into.
2. Buy a Canteen
At approximately $20, buying a canteen isn’t free, but having it with you for ready access to water wherever you go is cost-effective in the long-term. Take it with you everywhere and fill up at public water fountains, inside cafes and anywhere else water is freely accessible. Yes, the cost of water is passed onto a cafe’s consumer in the form of coffee prices, but this is marginal. Fill up. At a restaurant? Ask for a water, then pour that shit in your canteen when the waitress isn’t looking.
Canteens pay for themselves in mere days.
3. Grow Your Own Fruits & Veggies
Again, there is a start-up cost here, but ultimately the only costs over time are one’s time and effort. A country residence will provide more space for gardening, naturally, but this can be done in the city in the form of patio gardens. Dwarf peach, blood orange, lemon, and pineapple trees, amongst others, are available for a reasonable price. Yes, it costs some money. But it’s a great investment because the trees live quite long. After a year, provided the trees are well-cared for, one could be eating fruit for free after paying off the initial investment.
A great way of getting free food (on occasion) is to volunteer at an organization. I volunteered at a place here in NYC recently, which had a cafe and a lot of events, and the cafe’s food was either free or discounted. When there were events, I was able to get free food and drink. Fantastic. Of course, the real reason to volunteer is to do something good for one’s community—but it never hurts to reap the rewards for right action.
Admittedly, I am not a coupon collector, but I have heard of and I have seen with my very own two eyes people walking out of a grocery story getting incredible value for their money. They may have gotten $30 worth of food for $10 or something to that effect. It can be done. Coupons are annoying, but think of the savings the next time they are stuffed in your mailbox.
6. Go Fishing
This is a no-brainer, so why don’t people do it more often? Time, lack of proximity to a body of water, the feel of the slimy worms and fish? Ask for a fishing pole for your next birthday or Christmas/Hannukkah/Quanza present and then put it to use. Yes, you will have to buy a license, but one could conceivably catch enough fish to freeze them for numerous later dinner experiences.
7. Join a Co-Op
“Yes, yes… old hat,” you might say. But it’s rather surprising how many of us aren’t part of co-ops (myself included). Of my group of friends in NYC, where people talk environmental sustainability and quality, organic food consumption, only one friend is part of a co-op. Join and reap the rewards.
8. Find Churches, Join Them
Nothing like a bit of blasphemy to slake one’s thirst and hunger. Churches have free food, if you can put up with the sermonizing. If you’re looking for things to do whilst at church service or event, pick up the Bible and read Revelation, a real grade-A surreal horror show written by a delusional author that features, amongst other events: strange visions, supernatural terror, prostitution, lambs, devastation, dragons, beasts, the Antichrist, the number 7, a “woman clothed with the sun,” the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—you get the point.
The Book of Job is also choice reading. Though I’m not religious, I have a special fondness for this book, which I think springs from the rather pleasant depiction of Satan, who, when God asks “Whenst come thou?”, Satan replies, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Makes it seem rather like Satan was just strolling about the Earth digging all the beauty of the surroundings and enjoying a little voyeuristic peek-a-boo.
These books will help you get through the Christian religious service. I also played tic-tac-toe with my sister at Church when I was a teenager and made illustrations. This can be disguised as thoughtful note-taking. Just remember to nod and appear as though you are pondering some deep metaphysical thought.
Pulling this sort of stunt at a Jewish Synagogue, Mormon Temple or an Islamic Mosque would be quite a bit more difficult, perhaps even impossible; but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to take their free food. One could, I suppose, acquaint one’s self with the various tenets of each religion, but Muslim services are delivered in Arabic, while Synagogue services use a lot of Hebrew. If all else fails, look for English-speaking services.
9. Join Food Not Bombs
This is Food Not Bombs‘s mission statement:
“Food Not Bombs recovers and shares free vegan or vegetarian food with the public without restriction in over 1,000 cities around the world to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment. Each group is independent and invites everyone to participate in making decisions for their local chapter using the consensus process. Food Not Bombs is dedicated to taking nonviolent direct action to change society so no one is forced to stand in line to eat at a soup kitchen expressing a commitment to the fact that food is a right and not a privilege. With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?”
Do this and you will be doing right by the world.
10. Gallery Openings
In a city like NYC, Los Angeles, Paris, San Francisco, London, etc., there are gallery openings nearly every night. Take advantage of this to procure as much free food and drink as possible. The internet is a great resource for finding which galleries will be servicing food and drink. You will undoubtedly meet some ponces (douchebags, scenesters), but the world is full of them anyway, so grin and bear it.
No need to worry about being polished when it comes to art history because artists, gallery owners and collectors have proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the art world is a conman’s extravaganza. A bullshit factory of epic proportions. (See: Jeff Koons.)
There is no shame in taking from these fucksticks.
11. Continental Breakfast
As kids, many of us enjoyed staying at a hotel with the parental units, then waking up in the morning to continental breakfast: juice, pastries, bagels, fruit, muffins, jelly, so forth. Map all of the nearest hotels within, say, a five-mile radius—something walkable or within cycling range. Once mapped, find out which ones have continental breakfast and pay them a visit.
Now, hotel staff will catch on after awhile, so it might be to your advantage to collect assorted disguises, including hats, glasses, and jackets. One might also consider researching the illusionist and spy’s playbook for altering one’s gate, posture, movements, facial ticks, etc. One can never be too prepared for the over-zealous hotel clerk.
12. Become a Dumpster-Diving Freegan
Dumpster-divers aren’t just bums, they are people with jobs who eschew the traditional means of acquiring food. Freegan.info is a great resource for the person considering it.
Like Food Not Bombs, Freegan.info writes:
Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed…
Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that all the products we buy will have detrimental impacts most of which we may never even consider. Thus, instead of avoiding the purchase of products from one bad company only to support another, we avoid buying anything to the greatest degree we are able.
13. Watch for Restaurant and Bar Openings
Just as with the gallery opening tactic, so with restaurants and bar opening. It seems that restaurants are always opening an closing. It’s cyclical. And often times new establishments will have a grand opening with free food and drink. (Side note: many bars and restaurants offer either free food or drink as special to get people in the door. Take advantage of this, too, even though the experience is not ultimately free.)
14. Farmers Market Sampling
I feel a certain amount of guilt in admitting that I use this tactic, but so be it. Find all the farmers markets in your city, visit them, and sample everything you can. Farmers will serve samples of their peaches (lulz), apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a variety of other things. Return the favor, though, and buy something. We have to support the little guy.
This may be disagreeable to some; and it, like fishing, has its startup costs, but it’s a great way to eat. You will not turn into some gun-toting, militia-fetishisizing Republican. Besides, many of you readers already eat meat—why not slaughter the thing yourself in a more humane way, to be cognitively dissonant for a moment?
Instead of buying a gun, ask to borrow a friend’s, or ask if you can join him or her on a hunt. Offer to pay for ammunition or gas money for the trip to the country. There is federal and state land everywhere available for hunting—take advantage of it. For my money the best game is pheasant, quail and, of course, turkey. Bag a few of those birds and you’re set for quite some time. Squirrels taste like shit. Deer (venison) and elk are excellent, too, though not for everyone. Partridge and chuckers are quite tasty as well.
Yes, you are reading this on Death & Taxes.
[Image: Dumpster Liberation Front]