Food prices have gone surprisingly high, even for those of us who sort of expected it. Unfortunately, most people's incomes have not risen to match, so we find ourselves juggling and comparison shopping and couponing just trying to keep even.

So that's the problem. What's the solution?

There are many solutions, really. If you can replace one meal each day with something that costs about a tenth of what you've been spending, you're money ahead. If you can only do it every other day, or even once a week, you will save.

You don't have to buy every bite of food that you eat. Foraging, gardening and gleaning are three ways to get free or almost free food.

Foraging includes gathering wild food as well as food growing where no one wants it. That includes everything from cattail roots to apples. It's a big topic and I can't address it fully here, but you can learn on your own. Start with something you're familiar with, like dandelions, then go from there. Keep your eyes open for trees or perennials that have gone back to the wild and are uncared for. Ask first, of course, if they seem to be on someone's property.

Not everyone has room for a garden, but almost everyone has a windowsill where a pot will grow some radishes and lettuce or some herbs. Use whatever you do have and use it to the utmost. If you do have a little land or a patio where you can use containers, you can grow quite a bit - maybe more than you think you can. Start small if you've never gardened before and grow the food that you enjoy eating.

Gleaning isn't practiced much any more, but if you live in farming country, you can do it. If the farmers use open trucks to haul, say, onions or potatoes, note their routes and take a leisurely drive or walk along them some day. Don't forget the sacks or boxes to hold your take. You can also wait until after harvest and ask farmers if you can pick up leftover produce along the edge of the field. He might say no, but don't be discouraged. Just go ask another farmer. If you use both these tactics, you should be able to put up free food for the winter.

If you use all three methods of getting free or nearly free food, you should be able to eat for much less.

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