Budget Food: Finding Fish, Fruit, and Produce on the Cheap

Jack McQuarrie explains different methods to find cheap fish, fruit and produce you can get for free or purchase and can at a low cost to you.

| July/August 1975

  • Picking fruit
    We picked our own produce in the Yakima Valley last fall and obtained a winter's supply of food for less than it would have cost us to grow it ourselves. To list just a few of the bargains, we found tomatoes for 8 cents a pound, potatoes for 54 cents a pound, and corn for a nickel an ear. Best of all were the apples we picked off the ground for nothing. "I'd rather give them away than have them rot there," the grower told us.
    PHOTO: FOTOLIA/TROUVAIL

  • Picking fruit

Do-it-yourself programs are more popular than ever now that inflation has carried the prices of many goods and services beyond our capacity to pay. Unfortunately, the costly items include many basic necessities especially food. The result is a proliferation of home vegetable gardens, as more and more of us enjoy the savings and satisfaction of growing our own.

Fine but what do you do if you have insufficient garden space, or worse still none at all? That was our situation last year: no garden and completely dependent on retail outlets. All too often, a bag full of groceries left us with an empty wallet until we learned how to trade extra inputs of time and energy for a substantial saving on foodstuffs.

The idea is that, instead of waiting for the food to get to you, you get out to where the food is: to an agricultural region during harvest season.

Finding Budget Food on the Cheap

Please note that I'm not talking about roadside fruit and vegetable stands, where produce — admittedly fresher than the supermarkets' — is sold at chain store prices. No, what I'm referring to is something slightly less convenient but a lot more economical and it begins in the classified sections of local newspapers, under headings like "The Market Basket" or "Good Things to Eat". There you'll find the ads of the U-Pick growers, who sell their wares at rates considerably below those of your neighborhood grocery.



We picked our own produce in the Yakima Valley last fall and obtained a winter's supply of food for less than it would have cost us to grow it ourselves. To list just a few of the bargains, we found tomatoes for 8 cents a pound, potatoes for 54 cents a pound, and corn for a nickel an ear. Best of all were the apples we picked off the ground for nothing. "I'd rather give them away than have them rot there," the grower told us.

Picking your own food in harvest areas is more than just economical: it's a lot of fun and a great way to make new friends. We met several people in Yakima's campgrounds last September who were bent, as we were, on stocking up inexpensively. Some of the self-harvesters loaded their rigs to the ceiling with sacks of good produce and hauled it back to their homes in the city for freezing, canning, or drying. One young Seattle couple even went a step further and set up a canning operation — centered around a Coleman stove — at their campsite, an ingenious process, we thought, but somewhat hazardous.






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