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Are you struggling to fit groceries into your budget right now? There are many places where free groceries can be found if you know where to look!
Where to Find Free Groceries
Food is an expensive part of any budget, especially if you have a large family or if your family has any food allergies.
I’m always looking for good ways to save money on groceries and over the years, I’ve come up with many tips that we ourselves use every time we go shopping. Things like Buying in Bulk, Utilizing a Food Coop, Saving Money on Healthy Foods, and these other Ways to Save on Groceries. Just because we have to eat doesn’t mean we need to pay a lot of money to do it!
Today I thought it would be fun to put together a different kind of list. Not just ways to save money on food, but where to find free food. There are so many resources for free food out there but oftentimes we underuse them because of lack of time or by just not knowing which resources to use.
If you need to drastically cut your food budget, hopefully, these ideas on where to find free food will be helpful.
There are many types of common weeds such as dandelions and purslane that we pass off as something annoying in our yard, but really, these can be a great source of nutrients and extra food to grace your table.
If you aren’t sure what, how, or where to start foraging for “weeds” or other edible plants, I recommend reading about How to Start Foraging or getting some books from the library about plants that you can forage in your local area.
Collect Nuts or Berries
Nuts and berries are a little easier to forage than grasses or leaves but they still are an underused method of getting free food.
What you are able to gather will depend on what grows in your local area. Here in South Dakota, I’m able to gather wild raspberries, grapes, asparagus, and chokecherries without trying too hard to find them. Your local area might have blueberries, blackberries, walnuts, or other berries and nuts growing wild. Since both berries and nuts are usually quite expensive at the grocery store, this can be a great way to save money on these foods.
A good book on local foraging will also be helpful here if you want to find free nuts and berries where you live.
Barter for Food
We like to barter and do it quite often so this is one of my favorite methods of getting free food. Is there something you can do for someone you know that grows fruits or veggies? Perhaps you can work on their car in exchange for a box of tomatoes or maybe you can help them weed their garden in exchange for a box of fresh vegetables?
Brainstorm anyone you know that might be growing extra food and then think of what you could offer in exchange for it.
–Learn all about how to barter here.
Want free food but need to have meat in your diet? Fishing is a great way to do this! While not 100% free since you will have to get a fishing license for your state, it’s still only a few dollars in exchange for something that could potentially fill up your freezer if you work at it. Plus fishing can be a fun relaxing way to spend the day with your children!
If you have the equipment, you could also hunt for deer, turkey, elk, or other wild game in your area as well. Even though you need a license to hunt for these as well, it will still save you a great deal of money on meat.
If you’ve ever wanted to raise your own fruit trees or berry plants in your backyard, you will know just how expensive the little plants can be to buy from the store. Check around to find someone who already grows what you are looking to grow and see if you can transplant some of their runners or new growth from the roots onto your property.
Transplants will take at least a year to start growing, but down the road, you will be able to utilize the free food they will have.
Grow a Garden
Of course, we had to have growing a garden on this list! While planting the garden itself isn’t always free (although it can be very cheap, read these Ways to Save Money Gardening), it will almost always produce more food for less money than you would ever pay at the grocery store, especially if you are careful to choose very productive plants such as zucchini or tomatoes.
If you save your seeds (or get them from someone else) and simply use the dirt in your backyard with a few Homemade Weed Killers and Homemade Pest Sprays, you will be able to grow a garden for very very cheap if not free.
Grow Your Own Herbs
This goes along with the tip above but always seems to get forgotten. When we think of growing a garden, we usually think of growing vegetables or maybe fruits, but a garden can be for growing anything!
Herbs can really dress up a frugal meal and they grow very easily, sometimes even very prolifically so it makes sense to grow them in your backyard.
You can even grow them inside in a well-lit window as well so that you can grow them year-round. Pick up a few seeds packets at the dollar store or see if a friend has extras and start that herb garden today.
–Read about Growing an Herb Garden here.
Grocery Store Coupon Apps
While this might not be a major source of free food, it definitely works! I get free groceries on a weekly basis by using this tip. Just download the coupon app for your favorite local store or you can also download the Ibotta app as well. Look for coupons that are good for “any product” or for a dollar amount that is good for any product in a certain category, then use the coupon at your local store!
In the above pic you can see a pack of bagels that I found marked down for $0.99 at Safeway. I had $1 off any Bakery item coupon in my Safeway coupon app so I ended up getting the 6 pack of bagels for free. Free breakfast for my hubby for a week!
If you don’t have the money for food, there is no shame in getting help from your local food pantry so that you can get food for free. Most food pantries have some rules such as you can only utilize them once a month, but it can be a good resource to have if you are struggling with food insecurity.
Our family doesn’t personally go out to eat because of food allergies but I know there are plenty of freebies out there that are offered by restaurants all the time! My friend Kristie has a big list of Restuarant Birthday Freebies you will want to check out and get signed up for.
Gleaning is something that has been going on for centuries. The concept is that when a farmer has harvested their crops, people can be allowed to “glean” the fields to pick up anything that has fallen or is leftover. Although the concept is old, it’s still something that can be utilized today. Know a friend that has a garden full of tomatoes (or rhubarb or zucchini!) but they just don’t want to can up anymore? Ask if you can glean the fruit from the plants.
Don’t be shy! Plenty of food goes to waste every year if it’s left to sit in gardens and fields once the farmer or gardener is done tending to it for the year.
If you need food and can’t find any at any of the resources listed above, just ask! Facebook or Facebook groups can be a great way to ask for free groceries. When I’ve seen posts asking for free food, I’ve always seen a wonderful response from the local community to help meet the need.
If you are still unable to find food using all of the resources above, please email me and we will try our best to help you find resources in your local area.
I hope this article gives you some ideas on where you can start looking for free groceries. I know that it can be such a struggle when your family needs food. You can feel helpless and frustrated that you aren’t able to provide like you want to, but please remember that everyone goes through hard times and no one is looking down on you for your struggles.
My husband and I had a period in the beginning of our marriage where we could not afford food either. We ended up going to a food pantry and finally asking strangers for food. The kindness of one stranger led me to ultimately start this website and I always want to be sure that I’m sharing the best tips and information with you if you are struggling as I can.
Where are some places that you have gotten free groceries?