FREE! The Best Price for Food

I have a clear memory of getting something for free, maybe my first freebie. I don’t know how old I was, but I remember being in an antique store, and there was a trunk that said “Free” on it, filled with some random goodies. There was a little glass vase with a handle, and I could NOT believe it was free! Someone was just giving it away?! My mom had me check at the counter, where I found out that yes, it WAS in fact free, and they even wrapped it up for me so it wouldn’t break. Amazing!!

Free is still my favorite cost, and of course it is, because getting something for FREE is the best! It’s especially rewarding when that free thing is something useful. And what could be more useful that food?

Free food comes in many forms, and over the next couple of weeks I’m going to describe some ways you might acquire free food, and what to do with it when you do. Specifically I’ll be talking about free produce, which generally comes as a gift from someone, or you forage for it. (Foraging combines free with self-sufficiency which makes it a double whammy!) For this first post I’m going to talk about zucchini.

ZUCCHINI? Blech! Seriously, I hate squash. Pretty much any squash product except pumpkin pie, and even then it needs lots of whipped cream. Zucchini has a reputation too, as that never-ending garden product that you beg your neighbors to take off your hands and secretly hide in your friends cars. Seriously, why do people keep growing the stuff? No doubt you or someone you love has received an unwanted zucchini. Once the initial shock has passed, you can reevaluate your choice of friends and hide in creative ways when the squash season is in full swing.

However, believe it or not, there ARE things you can do with zucchini that don’t include building a catapult and launching them off a freeway overpass, as fun as that sounds. Here are two things I like to do with randomly acquired zucs.

First. Believe it or not. Because I don’t. Grilled zucchini is actually edible! (If you’re reading this post and you really, really, TRULY like zucchini, one, liar!! two, sorry to offend) I discovered this sometime last year, which inspired me to grow our own, which I will not be doing again, because they just go crazy. But with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, a few slices of grilled zucchini aren’t bad.

I also like zucchini fritters! These are actually really tasty. Here’s what you do. First, grate your zucchini and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit for ten minutes or so and then squeeze it in cheesecloth or press in a sieve to remove as much water as possible.

There are TONS of zucchini fritter recipes out there, and so you can kind of just experiment. What we did was mix our zucchini (one large or two small grated) with a little flour and some panko. I don’t find that exact measurements are needed, but of course, if you do, probably like a 1/4 cup of each. Salt and pepper to your taste, and two eggs. I’ve seen recipes with baking powder, but I didn’t use it. If you have parmesan cheese you can sub it in for the panko. Add some sliced green onions if you want. Want it spicy? Maybe a touch of cayenne or smoked paprika. Once you get your mix how you want it, heat some oil in a skillet. Form the mix into balls and press them flat, then fry for a few minutes each side. Best served warm. Serve with sour cream or yogurt or just some buttah on top. Easy and tasty and kids love them too!

One last super useful thing to do with zucchini is to stretch your ground meat. Whether you just don’t have a big meat budget, you’re trying to eat less meat, or you’re just trying to eat more veggies, this is perfect. Grate and drain zuc as above. Mix with ground meat. Done! We made a three pound pack of meat into four pounds plus ten ounces by adding three zucchinis. Once you cook up the meat with seasonings, you don’t notice the addition of zucchini instead of more meat. Perfect for stir frys or taco meat, maybe even burgers, but I haven’t tried it.

What do you do with all your extra zucchinis??

Next week we’ll talk berries and foraging!

Oh and just for fun, here is me last year at 19 weeks pregnant, when my app told me my baby was the size of a zucchini, and I picked this thing from the garden that day. And I wondered just how big she would get if this was 19 weeks! 😉

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