Ways to Save Money

3 Expensive Grocery Items You Can Find for Free in Your Backyard

Updated April 1, 2016
by Jamie Cattanach
Contributor

I have tried — and failed — to garden. Multiple times.

The restorative power of getting dirt under my nails and the allure of fresh veggies were hard to resist.

But I just don’t have a green thumb, I guess: Even “easy” plants wither under my touch.

Well, except weeds. I grew lots and lots of those. And pulling them was probably the least enjoyable part of my gardening experiments.

But I’ve just learned I might’ve been missing out on a free meal… or five!

3 Edible Weeds That Help You Save Money

As it turns out, some of those “pest” plants are actually palatable. Even tasty.

And since they’re weeds, you don’t even have to have your own garden to find them — they grow wild in American backyards all over the place!

Heck, if you’re really adventurous, you could even go foraging for them.

And while some are weeds you probably think of as weeds (who knew you could eat kudzu?), you’ll find many of them in grocery stores — where you might pay as much as a dollar per ounce to get them.

As long as you make sure you’re properly identifying these plants to stay safe, you can avoid that cost altogether — and maybe even get some exercise and sunshine while you’re at it!

Here are a few edible wild weeds you might find near you… and what you could expect to pay in-store.

Watercress: $1 per ounce

Named the number one “powerhouse food” by the CDC in 2014, you have every reason to throw it into your mixed greens this evening.

You also have every reason to avoid buying it in-store — if you can even find it. Although it’s increasing in popularity, it’s still not on every grocer’s shelf.

And when you do find some at your local health food store, you could pay a lot for it: This blogger bought her 4-ounce package for $3.79. That’s almost a buck an ounce!

Luckily, watercress grows near streams throughout the U.S. You can even grow it in a shady spot in your backyard — just water it as often as its name implies it likes!

Dandelion Greens: $1.49 per pound

Dandelions aren’t just ethereal, wish-making flowers.

Their greens are packed with vitamins A and C, and they can be used in tons of delicious recipes.

You could buy them in-store — again, if your grocer carries them. Or you could order the less-tasty-and-nutritious, cut-and-dried bulk bag.

Or, next time you blow dandelion seeds into the wind, make your wish for a healthier life come true by grabbing some greens while you’re at it!

Bamboo: $1.20 per can

Sliced bamboo shoots are a popular and healthy addition to stir fries, and they’re common enough that you can buy them canned at your local Walmart.

But if you find some young bamboo near your home, you might consider harvesting it — it’s the only way you’re going to get fresh bamboo shoots short of a trip to Tokyo! Or, OK, maybe a vacuum-packed version at your local Asian market.

Try to find young bamboo (under a foot tall), but keep in mind you need to prepare and cook it before eating it.

Foraging for Edible Weeds

If the idea of pulling random weeds from the roadside to toss in your salad freaks you out a little bit, it might just be a cultural bias.

Susan Shain, our resident budget traveller extraordinaire, mentioned a friend of hers in Korea regularly asked if she wanted to go and pick “wild vegetables.”

The weeds they found by the highway or near the schoolyard made delicious additions to their dinners!

Foraging can be a fun and effective way to save some cash. Plus, it might help you lose weight, get more active, be more green, and — let’s be honest — look really hardcore.

See the full list of eight edible weeds — and some killer recipes to try with your haul — over at Rodale’s Organic Life.

And get ready to eat some fresh, (really) local greens!

Your Turn: Would you harvest weeds to snack on? Let us know in the comments.

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes other stuff, like wine reviews and poems.

by Jamie Cattanach
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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