Foraging Before TEOTWAWKI, by Just A Dad

This article describes how foraging can provide many of the things we need.

In today’s world, the idea of foraging for one’s existence is deemed beneath most of us. In fact, I personally have encountered many individuals who believed themselves to be so far above me that they had already decided what laws I was breaking, what wrongs I was committing and gone so far in some cases as to call law enforcement to stop me from foraging from discarded trash. And before anyone gets any ideas, the individuals who got upset, were a mixture of backgrounds. One notable individual recently was driving a truck with a Trump 2020 flag attached, and another called the police and tried to get them to take my child while flaunting their “United – Never Defeated” shirt. It always amazes me to see how ridiculous people can be.

Edible Plants

Foraging and gleaning are age-old traditions that kept humanity alive and allowed us to thrive as a species. For myself, the tradition was adopted from my parents before me. They taught me how to seek out ripe berries, wild onions, tubers, and how to clean small game so as to use all the available meat. More importantly, my Ozark-bred parents helped me understand that while we rarely asked for help, we could in fact subsist quite easily on the fruits of our own labor. And labor it is, foraging.

Learn about the edibles in your specific area. A hint: these tend to vary quite a bit, sometimes drastically, over just short distance or a difference in ekevation. Understanding what is edible, what is tasty, and what is simply filling is important. There are plants that offer medicinal benefits to varying degrees. Meanwhile, other plants can poison you slowly, or almost instantly. And there are plants that can be both poisonous and healthy depending on how they are prepared. Where I reside at this time we have a rather high alkaline content in the soil, this translates into high alkalinity in the plant life as well. Limits and balance are your friends when eating, regardless of what you eat.

Some foraged plants require a good amount of soaking and others require boiling. Still more require drying, and others must be either young or old. In all, our plant life, while less abundant in many ways; compared to other locations is still a solid source of fiber and vitamin intake for the family. Our local animal life consists of rabbits, ground squirrels, javelina, deer, sheep, antelope, bobcat, mountain lion, black bear, elk, turkey, and a few dozen species of snakes and small birds. To be fair I rarely hunt small birds, generally using a shotgun for dove or quail can be tedious when cleaning. I prefer instead to use live traps we build for this very purpose.

Unlike the intelligent crows, ravens, jays, magpies, and the rest of the Corvidae family, dove and quail are quite easy to lure and trap with regularity. Just 3 or 4 are enough to supplement a meal with solid protein servings. The traps are simple tubes of chicken wire, with a small funnel inside them to prevent the escape of the trapped creatures. Spreading a bit of grain or other tasty leftover treats around the trap with a large amount inside ensures they pour in with ease and regularity. To build up a good trapping area I scatter grain with a closed trap, leave it like this for a few days to build up the message that it is a solid spot to get fat. Birds are notorious for telling their entire world about your bounty they now believe they own. Make sure you tour around during their feeding so they become accustomed to seeing you. When I open the trap, I allow a few to get in, and shut it up. I bring another closed trap with me and swap them out. For a few minutes or sometimes a few hours the birds will leave the area, but they always come back. Needless to say, consult our state’s fish and game laws before hunting or trapping.

There are ways to trap snakes as well, most snakes donít like to climb, therefore small semi walls will easily guide them into traps. The traps can be small nooses, deadfall type traps and even live traps. Though you will want to use smaller mesh than chicken wire. Snakes rarely move backward except when recoiling to strike or avoid problems. They will, like sheep and cattle attempt to force their body through the trap, thus ensuring they become hopelessly entangled in your trap. Snakes have far less meat than say a rabbit, however, a 4 foot+ long rattlesnake or bull snake can easily provide 2+ pounds of good quality meat.

Having a good-sized compost pit ensures regular animal traffic, it feeds the chickens and brings in rabbits, quail, and doves with regularity. Never trap right the compost pile, always place traps 20 or more yards from this area. You do not want the animals to fear coming around. You are simply using your scraps to ensure you are able to keep discarding scraps. After all, if you don’t eat, you really will die.

Harvesting local plant life is a bit more difficult in some ways. Much of what we have locally is quite thorny and even more is unappetizing at best in its natural state. If, however, you know what you are looking for, it is easy to make it all into really creative and delicious looking and tasting dishes. For flavoring, we grow many different varieties of herbs. However, we are not able to grow all of our seasonings and so must buy those in bulk. My ancestry is Norse/Scottish and to be fair this prepping journey has allowed me to see why my ancestors have the reputation of low seasoning. After all, its not like we could grow most of the seasonings that are used with regularity the closer you get to the equator. Many of the spices we enjoy daily will not grow in our region. As a result, I do bu and stock these in bulk.

Over the years I have lived in several cities around the globe. While I generally avoid cities, there are a large number of foraging opportunities available during normal times in cities. While it is severely reduced during times of chaos such as our recent media-initiated, politically motivated events over the past year. Between this virus that has a 99% recovery rate and the various groups causing chaos in the streets, cities have become more limited in what is available for foraging. There are still plenty of opportunities, from food to gear.

Dive, Dive!

Some cities have laws in place restricting dumpster diving. However, in many cases a bit of work will allow you to look similar to the great numbers of homeless currently roaming the land. Once this is done, the potential for being stopped for foraging is greatly reduced as most cities also have mandates in place to protect the homeless. Grocery stores often discard just barely out of date foodstuffs, the fresh produce should be washed thoroughly and the other items checked, but for immediate use, these can be valid options.

Every city in the USA where I have resided has selected times every month for various sections where they take what is known as bulk/brushy trash. Keep an eye on the dates, and tour those areas of the city. I have found enough lumber and lightly-used furniture to furnish multiple houses and build all of my garden sheds, chicken coops, rabbit hutches, and more with these trips. Americans are truly addicted to what is new, in fashion, or simply out of their price range, to buy on credit. This benefits those of us willing to look a bit and scrounge a lot. When it comes to furniture I check closely for bed bugs and lice. Otherwise, grab it, clean it, and use it!

As previously mentioned, the computer and monitor I use for these articles and for reading SurvivalBlog daily are both reclaimed. The monitor was a brand new Dell 21.5î SS240T that was reclaimed from a local business. They had just stacked several boxes next to a dumpster. I asked, and they said “Sure!” So now I am up one amazing monitor and sold some others for a hefty profit. While this is relatively rare, if you watch the printed local papers you will often see bankruptcy sales and the like, it is amazing what people would rather throw away than attempt to sell.

Some Amazing Free Books

Foraging is a time-honored, amazing way to feed your family and these days gain things that I would not have spent the money on, back when I was working! Over the years I have rescued entire home libraries that were being discarded. In one case I was able to rescue the entire First Edition series of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift. These were the original printings beginning in 1927. I rescued several early edition and even first edition works from before the Civil War and even our founding fathers! For an avid reader and amateur historian these were especially amazing.

As a result of some of my book rescues I was able to generate enough funds selling on eBay that I converted some of the library into books of note, from The Writings, Letters, Miscellany of Thomas Jefferson (compiled in 1817) through the written letters and papers of Lincoln and more. My collection of actual first hand writing from the founders is quite extensive and from what I have been able to gather, one of the more robust collections in the United States in private hands. This of course allows me to easily put to rest the idiocy my children and their friends have picked up from government indoctrination camps with the many things over the years that have been incorrectly assumed, taught, and promoted by the left.

Our entire library of handyman books was rescued. So were many books on foraging including the fabled original print Foxfire series. That is a true gem that really should be reprinted! Of course, we have rescued many other books, including but not limited to textbooks for math, science, history, and more. Often I find myself questioning the intelligence of people who discard books that could save their lives. But, I am also grateful for their foolishness, as it means that our library is now quite extensive and well-rounded.

Other Gems I’ve Found

A few other things we have foraged over the years include: food-grade buckets with lids, pallets, tools, and lawnmowers. (Yes people throw lawnmowers out when they stop working, or if they decide they want a newer one a little TLC and most can be reclaimed easily.) My gun storage cabinets are all reclaimed. One was a nice stack-on that had a key and the other was a chemical storage cabinet from a local business. It also had a key! If you know about chemical storage requirements you will know that these are actually a bit more durable than typical storage cabinets!

Many items we have reclaimed we have also been able to clean up and sell. The extra money is welcome and has continued to fund our firearms and ammunition inventory. In one rare instance, we were able to recover quite a bit of reloading equipment. The relatives of a recently-deceased individual were in process of throwing away all of it. I asked nicely if my children and I could retain it, and told them I would gladly clean it up and load it, so that they could take a break. The result was more equipment. Sadly much of it was for calibers I no longer own and honestly could never afford again. However, the benefit was more money generated for things that I do use and need.

Some Foraging Guidelines

So a few things to remember when foraging in the city:

1. Ask permission. It is amazing how easy and nice people can be, just as it is amazing how many insane people exist in our world. While cities tend to draw this aspect out, the country is not immune!
2. Never leave a mess. Just as with camping, shooting, and hunting, if you leave a mess then people will stop allowing it.
3. Think about what is in each location, I have found the upper-middle-class neighborhood grocery stores are best for reclaiming foods. Upper-middle-class people are rather snobby in many ways, as is reflected in their shopping and trash habits.
4. Ultra-rich or super poor neighborhoods are not good areas to forage.
5. State and federal forest land are great places to forage edibles!
6. Private land is also a good place to look for wild edibles or to glean from filed or orchards that have already been harvested, but only IF you ask for permission first!
7. While I have not always used gloves, it is recommended. Dumpster diving can expose you to some sharp corners and edges! I use a stick to move things around.
8. Always, always wash your hands and the foodstuffs well! This includes the wild greens that you harvest!
9. Use your head. Seriously, think things through before jumping in with both feet.
10. Stay hydrated.

Well, I know I ramble quite a bit, it is the downside of being of Norse/Scottish ancestry. We are storytellers. If you have any questions, then ask in the Comments section. I will gladly try to answer your questions.


  1. Oh your article brings back some memories. I have been doing ‘scrounging’ forever. It’s really hard for me see anything go to waste. In fact my feeling is “If we are wasting ANYTHING it is just means we are to ignorant to know how to use it!”

    Back in the late 70’s early 80s I was going through some rough times and I had a growing family to feed. I had never really done any dumpster diving before. I was living in Southern California before it had gone completely bonkers. It was a middle to middle upper class area. I was looking for some good cardboard boxes for packing. I was looking behind some large retail grocery store. I open a dumpster to see if there were any good boxes and low and behold it was literally chucked full of bread, still in their sealed plastic bags. I myself, at that time, was a little hesitant to collect food from a dumpster but it was still in the original packaging! I went into the center of the dumpster away from the filthy edges and recovered maybe 20-30 loaves of bread. Needless to say, that kind of open my eyes to new potentials.

    I ended up doing a lot of ‘dumpster diving’ after that instance. We really ended up getting a lot of stuff that we would never have purchased. Like exotic meats and cheeses that would have been far beyond what you would feed to a growing family. Here are some of the interesting things I remember getting. Often I would fine dumpsters full of milk dated the day after the expiration date. Once a dumpster full of ice cream, still frozen! How about a dumpster full of boxed baking soda. Like baking goes bad, yes I know it can loose potency, but really! Tons of eggs.

    I am glad that much of the dated food from grocery stores is now being given to ‘Four Square’ and other food pantry type organizations. I’m sure God will hold us accountable for all our waste!

    Dated food is another thing we need to think twice about. I’m sorry. but this is an arbitrary concept. Food does not turn to poison a day after the expiration date!

    1. Expiration date means nothing more that the producer “guarantees” that nutrition, taste etc. equals the definition, bevause food can and does “detoriate”, not meaning it´s unedible or “unhealthy” but could lack nutrients.

      And then it´s that thing called that is the law or costs like loss of reputation

    2. Well said, eam. I, too, have fed myself and loved ones from food dumpsters since the 70s. Since I was once a caterer, knowledge of food safety was front and center. Boiling food that I had suspicion about gave me many fine meals. And, of course, that which failed to meet my standards of consumption went into the compost bin, thus to feed me some month later.

      Many times I had people tell me I was breaking the law. What they are really saying is, “I am uncomfortable with what you are doing and I want you to stop so I can be comfortable again. Telling you it is illegal is the only thing I can think of to say.”

      Regarding legality, you addressed it well. Here is what I found:

      That being said, I recognize arguing the law when someone is accusing me of breaking it is useless. I simply ask, “Do you want me to leave?” Usually the person replies in the affirmative. Sometimes people have said, “No, just be careful.” That is what cops have said to me, too.

      Carry on

  2. Great essay! My parents grew up during the first great depression so they were very frugal people. As a little child I picked up a lot of my mother’s ways and to this day I wash plastic bags for reuse, save certain wrappings for reuse, save bacon and other grease in jars, keep all the glass bottles and jars for reuse, and so on.

    When I lived in the city, I was up before dawn on trash day, checking out the neighborhood for recoverable items, before I had to go to work. Like Dad said, people throw away some really good items!

  3. My daughter got four kitchen chairs from the curb the evening before trash day, an easel for art projects another time,and children’s toys at various times. A lot of people near her put out things with the expectation of someone picking them up. We put out a lawn mower that worked but was no longer self-propelled (we are seniors) with a sign “runs” and the handbook attached to the handle. A man rang the doorbell to ask why we had it there if it ran. When we explained, he replied “I have a small yard. Thank you.” and took it. I have picked up flower pots, a picnic basket, and some garden tools. Generally if it is on the curb the evening before trash pickup, it is considered fair game.

    1. I’m like you, Animal House and Mary. However, my sweet spouse has been pointedly noting our advancing age. That we will have to leave here face-first or feet-first some day. We have been assiduously working to downsize. Giving away a lot of stuff we haven’t used in a long time.

      I joined a 12-step group, Clutterers anonymous, since my acquisition behavior was demonstrating compulsiveness. With the help of those folks, a therapist, friends, and my sweet spouse, I am working toward putting limits on the volume of food and stuff I bring into the house.

      This has been difficult since I consider, as my mom taught me, that waste reclamation is a great virtue. Sigh. I realized that some of what I saved from the dump was being a burden to me and my sweet spouse.

      I also realized that I have looked down upon people who buy “fancy stuff” at retail. Labelled them “greedy” and “consumerist” among less polite terms. Truth be told, I am no less acquisitive than they are, I just resist paying retail. That is one area of hypocrisy in my life. Another sigh.

      So, you can see I struggle with maintaining a balance between what is available and what I can actually use. I wonder if any you, my friends, have any similar experience.

      Carry on

  4. We often put out items on the curb with a “free” sign on them and people would always stop and ask if it really was free. It was always something that we wanted to get rid of and did not want to deal with selling it.

  5. Good Article Just a Dad! Thanks! A few thoughts came to mind.

    Fortune favors the prepared. Doesn’t mean a car wreck, a sharp knife or an errant bullet will not strike the prepared but as it says Fortune favors the prepared. Odd how “GOOD LUCK” resembles hard work and real world learning.

    Having a tarp to hold your donations, work gloves, eye protection, a hard hat, basic tools helps and so on IN YOUR Daily Driver means you can respond NOW to a Opportunity. WAY too often I’ve returned with my “Stuff” to find the Opportunity has been taken already. AMAZING what gets thrown out. I’ve gotten battery powered tools that were “Old” and using some YouTube information got their battery’s refreshed and off we go to the swap meet or trading with friends.

    The BEST TRADES are when BOTH sides think they’ve won 🙂

    Asking, THANKING and keeping things CLEAN is very important. A business connection that you’ve had success maybe useful again and again.

    There is GOOD TIMES Foraging like now where dumpsters have recently outdated foods inside and lax application of LAWS against diving. And BAD TIMES Foraging where your efforts might get you robbed legally or illegally (does it matter eh?) so BE AWARE. When things get WORSE as they will in 2021 there maybe violent competition for easy finds like dumpsters.

    Happily most folks dislike WORK (that HORRID 4 letter word) so offering your Services as a Trash Hauler (Look Professional folks) can net a lot of useful items for use and trade. Same with yard work. Compost needs safe organic material (NO Scotts Lawn stuff, Roundup is nearly forever hard on veggies). Cuttings from various plants can be grown into NEW Berry Plants for your use or trade material and so on. Started plants are FAR more costly than seeds and thus your efforts have value 🙂

    Proverbs 22: A Good Name
    1A good name is more desirable than great riches; favor is better than silver and gold. 2The rich and the poor have this in common: The LORD is Maker of them all.…

    Socialists and thieves (but I repeat myself) can take away your electronic digits (including your retirement accounts) but a Good Name as an honest worker keeps you clothed and fed.

    As I started I end. Fortune favors the prepared. As that Braveheart quote goes “All men die, Not every Man Lives”. Spiritual preps are also important. We will all die and meet our Creator, best be on good terms with Him.

    1. Love this article, Just a Dad. Your response, Michael, is spot on.

      I’d love to barter more, but find I don’t have bartering neighbors. Any hints on bartering are welcome.

      1. PJGT reading over the other posts I *think* they already discussing how to barter. Have you never traded services like mowing a lawn for ???

        In short barter is finding a need and fulfilling it. If you need help shoveling yourself out of a blizzard and they need gasoline for their snow blower well..

        When the Socialists finally kill off cash (no doubt for HEALTH Reasons eh?) barter will be the only way to avoid massive taxes, fees and in general Big Brother getting into your business.

        AKA No Cash No Sale no taxes-regulations and so on.

        1. Yes, I know how to barter and what it is. Just stumped at getting a network set up. Doesn’t seem to be any interest where I’m now living in the American Redoubt. Not really interested in “borrowing” tools as others do not always keep theirs in top condition and I’ve replaced one too many. I came from a decades old established rural network that I dearly miss.

          Just looking to see what I might have missed.

          Recently, I made 30 masks for a neighbor for her business (after giving her a couple with N95 filters that she obviously liked) and we couldn’t find common ground so I ended up accepting cash for supplies.

          What am I doing wrong?

          Thanks in advance for any ideas.

          1. PJGT maybe your not doing anything Wrong. Your neighbors at THIS TIME don’t have any needs they think you can help them with maybe?

            BTW it’s not about borrowing tools, it’s about building trust relationships BEFORE disaster thrusts it’s self into your lives.

            Thus the GOOD NAME Scripture. Nobody barters with someone they have no trust in unless desperate and those are folks I DON’T trust to barter with.

            Ecclesiastes 11:6
            In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

            Deuteronomy 15:10
            Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

            Psalm 41:1,2
            To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble…

            Most of my bartering has been helping my elderly neighbors with tasks like yardwork and snow removal. Sometimes I get nothing but a thanks for my efforts. Sometimes I get an extra blessing.

            Sometimes someone I didn’t help comes to me BECAUSE that elderly person mentioned me. You DO need discernment about TAKERS and when to say No and mean it.

          2. Good thoughts and sctiptures. I live in one of the most conservative states in the union on purpose, but my little neighborhood is not so much. Maybe I’ve not given it long enough.

            I really like what you said about discernment.

          3. For what it is worth, it can take years to “fit in” – and that is the hard part! But it is worth it, my suggestion, especially considering my true value is my word; keep your word, even if it costs you. Do this, and you will find the good people, because they will want to be around you.

  6. ThoDan, I do understand your point, and I do try, but I just can’t seem let something that is perfectly good go to waste. I have been better over the last year. I have a trailer on my oldest daughter’s property and do to the current situation, she is going to be loosing her place, so we have been forced to cut back.

    I can’t remember what the item was right now but a few months ago we needed some little item and we looked at each other, “Oh, we just got rid of that last week!”

    1. Yes, i feel with you.

      But i don´t´ve that trailer space and the cost of one item every then and there is reasonable to the cost of space blocked by the the bulk of items you may need and never do?

      I consider “trash day” a way to give things away without effort, may´ve an use for and take it.
      I prefer to donate things, but that is not practicable with everything

    2. Hey eam, we’ve all had that experience! 🙂

      I know too many people who use that as an excuse to hold on to EVERYTHING. The truth of the matter is, we only remember the times we threw something away and needed it later. It seems like a frequent occurrence only because we don’t recall the 999 times we threw something away and didn’t need it later. I have a running joke with a friend who’s a major cluttermeister and my response is always the same, “On the one in a thousand times when that happens, there’s a simple solution. You go to the store and give them little pieces of green paper and they’ll give you a whole new one!”

      1. StF, found this just moments ago in my favorite catalog of t-shirts and bumper stickers. I immediately thought of you.

        “Spend Your Life Doing Strange Things With Weird People.”

        Carry on

  7. Great article on foraging scrounging. Learning to use what you have, or reuse what someone else is tossing is a huge skill to have. I’m currently studying up on edible plants myself. Samuel Thayer’s books are great, now only for identification but also use and prep. I’m surprise how many of the plants I recognize right off the bat and I’m like “I can eat that?!” I will be wandering the woods and parks nearby to identify and try some of these plants. It’s a skill I want to have BEFORE bad times. Most people will be after game, but 99.9% won’t know what plants they can eat so they will all be available for the few people who learned to identify and use them.

  8. About product dates. I know people that are actually phobic about them. If I was a manufacture the product would leave the plant with about a 1 week expiration date even if it would last for years. Why? You can sell more stuff to idiots.
    Here’s another take on food scrounging. I live in a semi rural are and as I go about my business I notice sources of food. I have a map of the local area and on it are the locations of fruit and nut trees that are on land that is not occupied along with approximate harvest dates. I also have abandoned wells and other water sources, cattail areas, berry patches and other stuff that may be valuable one day. I think I may be cursed as a scrounger. When I first was married my wife kept a journal in the car of all the stuff I picked up along the road. For some reason she could not figure out how I could spot a 10 mm socket along side the road at 70 mph. Weird.
    Now that I am getting along in age I have decided it is time to pay back a little. Two of my neighbors refer to my shop as Joe’s True Value Hardware. They always offer to replace items when next they are in town and I sometimes let them, but how many of the 100’s of pounds of bolts do I need any more. I just found a box with 500 1/4 ” wing nuts behind something I moved. Need any?

      1. For those times when us tightwad scroungers have to actually buy something, we’d much prefer to get it from Joe’s True Value Hardware as opposed to the Real True Value Hardware. If those wingnuts cost 30¢ each then Joe and I would both come out ahead if I gave him 15¢ apiece. Anyone who uses thrift stores would also agree, as well as many others.

      2. I have had numerous garage sales in the past and by and large it takes more time to get ready than the dollars recovered. Note the word “recovered” I have heard numerous times the phrase ” I made so many dollars on my garage sale” Most people that use this phrase sold a bunch of stuff for x dollars and only recovered 10% of their original money. I prefer to just give people stuff and not go through the garage sale haggling over an item marked 10 cents that some jerk only wants to pay a Nickle for.

        1. That was targeted on the one week expiration date, but honestly what i would mostly get for the stuff i declutter isn´t worth the time and effort i would´ve to spend, so i donate it when practicable

  9. Hey Just a Dad, great article.

    I come from a long line of scroungers (aka foragers), and in my family it’s a positive word, with lots of good stories garnered along the way.

    Here’s a bunch of the things I scrounge to to save money and just have fun with it.

    My local sawmill has free sawdust (for mulch, composting toilets, etc), free “short ends” which are the pieces cut off from a 1 x 12 to make it 8′. Those are excellent to split for kindling or to split in half and stack in the wood stove for firewood. They also make oak railroad ties and the short ends off those are free and excellent for firewood.

    Leaves are free and anyone will be happy if you offer to take them off their hands. They’re excellent garden mulch which turns into humus by the end of the summer to improve garden soil. I use a tarp to rake them onto and move the tarp around to add more. It’s a super way to move a lot of leaves at once, a wheelbarrow is just too impractical. The tarp is also used to load them into my truck.

    Just straight out asking for things I see at neighbors’ homesteads which they’re obviously not using and would probably want to get rid of. They’re usually happy to get rid of the clutter. I got a free 100lb propane tank this way which are $156 at HomeDepot. A never-used concrete laundry sink from the same neighbors. I never consider these “free” and always pay them back with honey, jam, garden seeds etc.

    I have wild plums in my woods which are too pungent to make anything with, including jam. It finally occurred to me this year that I could probably make vinegar with them so it pays to think out of the box.

    I have other neighbors and ranchers who no longer use wood to heat their homes and they’re always glad to have me remove fallen trees and some have asked me to remove trees which were leaning over their houses to which they just wanted to get rid of for other reasons. Any firewood I can get from off my own property means my trees will last longer, get larger, and provide future firewood.

    My county recycle center is a gold mine. They would just as soon see people make use of the materials rather than sell it to big recyclers for a pittance. Among other things, I’ve gotten enough double-paned patio doors to make a greenhouse as soon as I figure out where to put it, and many smaller windows as well.

    My local hardware store is a gold mine. I’ve mentioned before I get a bunch of free tarps just for the asking which come as lumber wraps. The 2 x 4 x 4′ feet on the piles of lumber are also free. Its good for kindling and the treated ones have lots of uses outdoors, mainly for my bee stands. Pallets are free at most places and have a lot of uses including walls for my compost “corrals”.

    Seeds are available for scrounging in many locations. Public buildings and parks, neighbors’ flower gardens, and roadside flowers are good sources. Along those same lines, free cuttings from local plants including elderberries and blackberries. Many SB commenters have mentioned using thorny plants as barriers to slow down the roving hordes and trespassers. If finally occurred to me to plant wild blackberries on that north fence where I can’t water in July so the thornless blackberry hedge I planted there never really took off. Wild blackberries are very drought resistant and would also provide one of the best barriers I can think of. In February I’ll be taking lots of cuttings in the location where I harvested 100+ lbs of berries each summer before I got my own thornless variety planted. Wild grapes are another freebie that make great jam and syrup.

    One of my daughters canned 300+ quarts of free fruit one year just by knocking on the doors of people who were letting it go to waste, usually older folks. They were elated to see someone make good use of it as well as keeping it from falling and making a mess in the yard. She’s in a new location this year and spent a lot of time over the past year scoping out this year’s doors to knock on. She’s also made a lot of new friends that way.

    Catching snakes was mentioned. My kids and I loved studying any kind of critters when they were growing up. Lizards were very difficult to catch and over half the snakes got away before we could catch them. We took an old fishing pole, five feet of fishing line and made a critter catcher. One end of the line was tied to the handle, the other end to the top eyelet, leaving a few inches of slack. By pulling a small loop out at the top, we could get the tip of the pole right up next to a lizard or snake, and they’d just watch it. It was funny watching lizards tip their heads sideways as they were trying to figure out what this skinny thing was. Then we’d slip the loop over their heads, pull the string from the handle end just tight enough to catch them and we caught the critter 95% of the time. We even caught minnows and larger fish with it in streams.

    Repurposing is another skill which we could all benefit from. By thinking creatively about other uses for something that may seem to be useless can go a long ways. I have a very long list of things I’ve repurposed.

    And finally, food package dates were mentioned. IMO this is just plain predatory marketing at its worst. The only thing legally required to have a date is baby formula. Producers know that a huge percentage of the population is ignorant of food chemistry and the science of spoilage so we waste a bazillion tons of food in this country each year for no reason whatsoever. It’s a crime! People say it has lower nutritional value, which is no doubt correct to a tiny degree when it gets way past its expiration date, but I’m willing to bet my hundred dollar bills against anyone’s pennies that in a controlled study, you’d see zero difference in a kids raised on 100% expired food and kids raised on food which was never expired. And Americans overeat so much that I doubt lesser nutrition in expired food would hardly cause a problem.

    Lastly, I’m a minimalist and can’t stand clutter and messy-looking properties. I do a lot of scrounging and most of what I scrounge is put to immediate use. The few projects which haven’t been started yet like my greenhouse glass and roof tin are neatly stored in a discrete location. Other things like tarps are folded up and stored in the garden shed. I keep my place nice and neat looking just in case the county ever has a best-looking homestead contest. 🙂

    Apologies for the long post but I too have 50% Norse and 50% British Isles ancestry which makes me hopelessly blabby when it comes to things I’m passionate about.

    1. Free mulch is available in most places in the United States (If there are trees around, and NOT just sagebrush and cactus). [Reason #872, on why to move to the Redoubt Region.

      “Boise has been composting since June 2017, and the program has been an overwhelming success. Since the launch, we have collected over 70,000 tons of compostable material! Completed compost is available at our pick-up sites at the Idaho Botanical Garden and Joplin Rd. ~~~~>Residents can pick-up two cubic yards per year for free.”~~~ [details can be found at cityofboise(dot)org. City of Boise, Idaho Website.]

      Governments (maintaining parks and roads), tree service companies, and Electric Companies selling electrical power, will give away Free {usually new} tree clippings for mulch. Sometimes the mulch can be used for soil improvement; other times for weed control. … [There are laws about the requirements for ~trimming trees in public places (roads, parks, sidewalks) and near Electric Transmission lines.] Many companies and governments accumulate mulch from trees, bushes and lawns by the Tons every year.

      Plus, there’s a gal that frequently posts on SurvivalBlog about ‘mucking’ out her horse stalls. … Most likely, she’ll provide the pitchfork and wheelbarrow, for collecting ~mulch at her place. A big garden only needs so much mulch during the year.

      People picking up much at various ‘free’ sites, typically need to provide their own tools. (hauling truck with tarp to cover the load) … A ~pitchfork is incredibly useful, along with a flat-edged shovel, maybe a spade shovel and rake, and always a clean-up broom. People need to check the places around their areas for free mulch; usually free all year long. [The various places want to get rid of it.]

    2. St. Funogas, yes with both, scrounging and storytelling, hardest habit to break when one is an instructor is over explaining, and storytelling

      And yes, repurposing is an awesome thing!

    3. Yep, StF, I’ve said it before. I want you as a neighbor. Just this summer, with the aid and urging of Sweet Spouse I neatened up my homestead. Many hours. Worth it.

      Carry on

  10. Foraging is a mixed bag with a few problems. I love the idea, I practice it in a limited way. But probably in a full SHTF situation 99% of people depending on foraging will die in the first 6 weeks. Most of what will be available for the forager simply will not sustain you. It will ‘help’ and can possibly add fiber and vitamins to stored foods. Another problem with foraged foods is poisoning. Not necessarily the kind of poisoning that kills you almost immediately as in eating a death cap mushroom. But the less obvious kind where compounds in the plant can negatively impact your organs or cause imbalances in essential minerals which can make you sick and thus make it difficult to continue to survive.

    1. @ OneGuy,

      Are you sure about that? How did people live before the grocery? Agriculture?

      People can also get sick (poisoned) by eating chocolate.

      Great article, Just a Dad!

      1. Pretty sure. A lot of forage plants come with the suggestion that you do not consume too much of them. Some of them are toxic, a nasty sounding word that does not necessarily mean deadly. Some plants are indeed deadly to some people while others can tolerate them. That’s why I said it is a mixed bag. There are of course plants that are poisonous if they are not prepared correctly and some plants that are poisonous at certain stages of their growth. Not to mention plants that have edible fruit and deadly poisonous seeds.

        1. One guy, my suggestion is learn your local flora, spend time learning how to prepare each plant local to you. It will save you from experiencing what many others will experience.

          I’ve spent many years doing this, its not a hobby

  11. Yep. Country folks can survive, with God’s grace. We grew up on simplicity. The parts of the (left wing) USA that lost it… is in big trouble. 2021 is full of accelerated social divisions. The complicated, city driven (tech addicted, fake-unsocial media)…. i pity these Americans without practical skills!

    Let the patriots and peacemakers stand firm in their life, liberty and family faith.

    I grew up on that!

  12. St. Funogas, Yes I know what you have to say is true as far as the 99 times I keep things I really can’t use at the moment, or forever LOL. I think it has something to do with our basic natures. It really does take room to store things and if space is a premium that is a practical issue. My daughter has two acres and I have 40, so space is not the problem. NOW, to be completely honest, am I using my abundant space to allow me to be less neat and organized as I could be? YES!! Thanks for bringing me back to my basic problem in life, ME!!

  13. after 32+ years of marriage, my wife continues to call me a hoarder, I tell her ‘I’m not a hoarder, I’m a Pack-Rat!’….Big Difference!

    Thanks for the great article

  14. In the city if you ask about the produce being tossed, it has to stay tossed, dumpsters get locked. Now that I am in a rural area our local grocery store always has boxes of “expired” produce. Things like a dent on an apple type of stuff. Wilted broccoli, which by the way you just slice a bit of the end off and cut an X into the stem, place in water and the next day it will be as hard as the day harvested. Most of the stuff we get will go to the chickens, several other folks have the same idea. We also do barter. One neighbor that likes to hunt and fish will give us some elk meat and every time he goes fishing he passes along a good serving for the 2 of us which we cook that night. He gets a weekly dozen eggs from our girls. Folks you can’t beat that. This has been working with other neighbors for similar items. I love my chickens, they love to hunt, win, win. Sometimes hard knocks as a kid will be the best teacher for scavenging, I think I embarrass my husband when he sees me get excited as we drive by a loaded dumpster full of use-ables.

  15. I’m not a hoarder, I’m a Collector. Sometimes it just takes me 20 to 30 years to use something I’ve collected. Too many projects, too little time. Sometimes acreage is not your friend.

  16. Great article Just A Dad! I’d love to hear more about your book gatherings. Where did you find the Foxfire books for example?! I love books but have to limit my collection due to space issues. I can’t read books on my tablet, it’s just not the same.

    1. Death notices, estate sales and the like are the best places for book gathering. Some I really just “lucked” into, I try to be aware of my surroundings and neighbors and watch what they do. Most of the books were rescued after many had been tossed. Also, people moving. Books are heavy, which means we generally don’t want to hump them around as humans, especially with electronic approaches having overtaken printed.

      Hope that helps?

      1. Especially if it´s to expensive to haul them around, i´ve carried the Mahabharat with me back from India, it´s some weight.
        OTOH i´m not capable of throwing books away, last years i donated a few carloads of them and that was took time(not that my Bookshelves(wardrobe) looks any emptier for it)

  17. While I’ve never been dumpster-diving in the city, I’ve frequently embarrassed my kids by pulling a U-turn to stop and grab some item that someone put out on the side of the road, either with a “free” sign, or picked outright from the top of their trashcan. I learned to “rescue” things from the best … my resourceful grandfather (God bless him, I miss him so much).

    I also forage every year … greenbriar shoots and fiddleheads in the spring; blackberries, blueberries, dandelion greens, grape leaves and purslaine in the summer; apples, pears, crabapples, autumn olive berries, concord grapes and wild rose hips in the autumn. We have a source of cattails … one of these days I’m going to have to wade into the muck and give them a try.

    We also forage wood from the local conservation area (windfalls only). My son is a Boy Scout, so we wrote the conservation department head to ask if he could do a bit of trail maintenance to earn one of his merit badges, and they said “any trail maintenance would be appreciated at any time” so we go in with a hand-saw and a backpack, and if we see anything bigger around than our wrist, we cut it up and bring it home, while if it’s too small, we just drag it off the path so nobody trips on it, and also cut the greenbriar (next spring’s shoots!).

    When we were kids, when times were rough, my father would hunt squirrels, opossum and rabbits off-season, as well as fish; and also he bagged one or two deer every hunting season, as well as some ducks and geese. A few months ago we saw a deer get hit and the poor thing died. The state trooper said he knew of a homeless shelter that will take and process the meat when it’s just-hit like that and he called them.

    The thing to keep in mind, however, is that in a prolonged SHTF situation, every single “normie” who is ill-prepared will be doing the exact same thing as you are doing, foraging for food and wild game, so unless you live in a rural area, it won’t be a reliable means of feeding your family the way you might be able to get away when times are good. During the Great Depression, nearly ALL of the game, both large and small, around the urban and suburban areas was nearly hunted out, including song birds. It’s good practice to forage so you know what’s available, but it’s just as important to expand your horizons to stuff people might not realize is “food” and learn how to prepare it.

  18. I appreciated this article. We are an extremely wasteful society. We dispose of our garbage and waste in green boxes. For years people would set useable items outside the boxes for others to “rescue” . the country in it’s great wisdom decided it needed to “protect ” us so built a sturdy chain link fence with razor wire around the top. They also built a hut and now have a full-time person to protect our garbage. Now when we see bags of clothing, nice dressers, bedding, good lumber, boxes with useful kitchen items, ect. We must not touch it or we’ll be fined. Instead it must be sent to the already getting too full landfill and be buried. Fortunately we can still harvest others food like neighbors apples cherries, plums if they don’t mind. Beware of the “squeamish” factor. ” I would never use “used” sheets, towels, ect.” I doubt that you bring your own bedding to use in motels when you travel. Hot water and soap can sanitize most things. Maybe if things get more difficult people will begin to look at things differently.

  19. I would love to learn to forage wild edibles. I have a couple books on the topic. Have not applied myself to the endeavor however. Thank you for the nice article!

    There was a time I struggled to feed my children. I found a Bakery outlet, which was basically day old breads and pastries. I was able to purchase there at a fraction of the price of the grocery store. I didn’t really know how to bake much back then, nor had I a spare moment.

    I’ve never gone dumpster diving, but I am a thrift store person. I furnished the home I’m in now mostly with thrift store furniture and it’s great!

    Sadly, I gave my entire library of books away a few years ago. I cried. It was a matter of logistics and moving them all that couldn’t be done at the time. I was very sick then, so I couldn’t “argue” since I couldn’t do the work myself. Books are precious to me!

    Such interesting conversations! I love to read what people value and their creative ideas for solving problems.

  20. Just a dad, I thoroughly enjoyed your article. Your book finds especially make me smile. I, too, do not read books on a tablet, but love paper books. Your library warms my heart! You brought back found memories of my childhood friends and I, picking wild strawberries or red huckleberries to make our own little jams to eat on bread.

    I do not recall the name but I saw a British tv show at my parents last year, and it was about people who asked for items at the garbage dump before they were thrown away. Then the tv crew would follow up later, and show how the item was repurposed or repaired for a new life. It was amazing to see how creative and talented some people are.

    Again, loved your whole article. Keep writing! Krissy

  21. As a volunteer at a local food pantry, I learned that we would give away food that was up to three years past the “Best By” date. Still good as long as the cans had not started to swell.

    I think if you are getting into the world of scrounging and saving stuff, organization is critical to knowing what you have and then being able to find it when the need arises. I know that sometimes I will end up buying another one of something because it takes so long to hunt down the one I already have.

    Good article and thought provoking. Thanks b

  22. didn’t bother reading the 40+ responses – but if someone else did a “forager” VS garbage picker little rant – I agree ….

    I have no problem with a little garbage picking on something obvious – we have daily FaceBook “CURB ALERT” postings of perfectly good items set out for the garbage >> I keep a wire snips handy during garage sale season for sniping at appliance electric cords – I draw the line at dumpster diving – YUK ….

    My rant here – “foraging” to me is 100% foilage harvesting – doesn’t belong be ing associated with other types of gathering ….

  23. Depending on where you live, your local land fill may or may not allow you to take things you’ve found there. I have seen a line of 10 or 12 complete working, bicycles that someone discarded because they were apparently too much trouble to sell.
    Some land fills are just open areas with few people around and they don’t care what you do. They’re also good places to find random pieces of metal, pipe, wheels, tanks, machines, etc. (building materials).
    Some land fills are “pull up, throw your stuff in a pit, get back in the car and leave ASAP.” They weigh you going in and out.
    I work at a large company that has strict rule that nothing is to be taken out of their dumpsters, period, under threat of being fired, no exceptions. They assume someone is going to throw away something valuable and retrieve it later. It breaks my heart to see them throw away perfectly good furniture, tools, packing materials, containers, wood, etc. etc.

  24. Good morning,

    Where could I reference what types of plants are edible in my area? I can inly imagine there is a website or reference point. Thanks for ur help!!

    1. Some ideas:

      Suggestions: Make a list for your location and have subsets for seasons of the year. This will help you identify which seasons might require more effort to forage for food. In each subset try to list in order of food value/calories. Many wild edibles won’t sustain you and simply knowing which foraged foods provide the most calories is valuable.

      There are a few dependable and sustainable edible plants to concentrate on. For example; Cattail, Dandelions, stinging nettle.
      There are also the common and prolific ‘fruits’ that are available seasonally that can be very significant contributers to survival; Blackberries, apples (crab, wild and abandoned) grapes, cherries, nuts, etc.
      Beware of mushrooms. If you are an expert then have at it but if not I would avoid them. That being said there are a handful that are easy to identify and can be found in most places.

  25. My buddy and I on bikes would scrounge the local trash cans, This was most of 50 years ago. Once we found a bunch of very nice classic woodworking hand tools close by, we took some and showed my dad, he said we must have stolen them. We took him back and he was amazed, he talked to an old lady but I don’t know or maybe I don’t remember the talk, maybe asking permission, maybe offering money, maybe her husband died. This isn’t scrounging, but at our local non chain grocery store I found about 30+ boxes of expired fish fry mix in their marked down cart, I asked about a price for all of it and got it for I think 1/10th original price. This was likely six years ago and we still have a few boxes left, tastes fine, nutrition may not be like new but it is basically seasoning.

  26. sometimes foraging “in reverse” works well to eliminate an unwanted item. I once set a sofa out at the curb with a free sign. one week later it was still there. So I put a sign on it that said “Sofa $50” and it was gone the next night. gotta create value to stimlate interest.

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