Things are looking scary. As the government assures us we won’t face food shortages the news tells us otherwise. Meat production plants are closing indefinitely, the distribution chain is breaking down and economists warn of a “Greater Depression.” However far we stick our heads in the sand, we can all feel the trembles.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been having conversation after conversation about how this is survivable. The Great Depression was survivable. With great upheaval comes great opportunity… I offer all my patent answers and the follow-up question is usually… But how?
For many of us, especially creatives, learning to live with less is just a way of life. Old news for us. This is nothing new. We salvage, scrimp, save and make due. The same creativity that fuels our dreams also fills our belly.
To keep the magazine going (and our creative careers) we’ve visited food pantries, salvaged furniture from the corner and did quite a few odd jobs from working the Renaissance Faires to writing poetry for tips.
So what does a seasoned starving artist do at a time like this? To start…
Garden like your life depends on it. It might. Last fall I set up a deep mulch garden using the Ruth Stout method. I chose this method because it’s ridiculously easy, efficient and almost no-cost to free. I bought a huge bale of ‘spoiled’ hay for $10 and turned half our yard into a garden in an afternoon. Any mulch will do. Old leaves, yard clippings… you could be growing in a week. I joined a local garden co-op to get organic bulbs and seeds for cheap. All together our garden cost under $20 and a few afternoons. The first produce is coming up now. Explore Ruth Stout method here.
- Explore foraging. I’ve read a lot about foraging but I’ve never actually tried it until recently. Dandelions are an easy one to start with, and lucky for us they are in their culinary prime in spring. I located an abandoned park that is covered with them,
grabbed my bag and went out to get some greens. As long as you stay away from the bitter stem, the rest of the plant is delicious this time of year. Even in the rest of the season when the leaves have a more bitter taste they can be delicious. In less than 20 minutes I had enough delicious greens to toss into the crockpot with our white beans and enjoy in a fresh salad later. If being a free, plentiful and easy superfood weren’t enough, you can dry dandelions to use in winter. Explore dandelion dining here.
- Think free and find freedom. Lots of things people normally toss are gold to thrifty
folks. My seedling starter pots are all recycled and saved from years past. I also use toilet paper tubes as biodegradable plant pots. My back porch bean trellis are actually large, wood pallets we salvaged. When the CDC suggested everyone wear masks out of their home, I made some out of clothes headed for donation. The best dish scrubbers I have found are made from onion sacks in less than 5 minutes. When you need something, look around and see if you don’t have it already. With economists predicting dark financial days ahead, now is a good time to pinch pennies. I had a chance to interview Amy Dacyczyn, the Queen of Thrift and Frugal Zealot herself years ago. Her Tightwad Gazette* books will get you in the right mindset. Here’s a reprint of that interview.
There is so much to say on this subject, I can’t possibly fit it all in one post. As a long time practitioner of penny-pinching (my first blog was called The Penny Pinscher back in 2008, visit it here) I’ve been collecting notes for a someday book called How NOT to be a Starving Artist. It looks like that book’s time has finally come to be born. Until then, I’ll share those notes here.
Note, links marked with an * are affiliate links to Bookshop.org and I receive compensation when you purchase through them.