My daughter-in-law, Caroline Avant, said she had an idea for my writing. Caroline mentioned that her neighbors (this past fall) would knock on the doors of apple tree owners whose apples had fallen to the ground and ask to gather them. The owners were very responsive and said, “Yeah, take them. We aren’t going to touch them. Take whatever you want.” The results: free apple sauce, apple butter, apple cider, apple pie, apple cobbler, and some leftover apple seeds to start an apple grove for the “gleaner.”
The notion of gleaning not only outside of the home but inside also began to excite me. Frugality combined with the concept of “reduce, recycle, and reuse” (of which gleaning truly is) is in actuality 80% mental and 20% actions. Thus when I started to consider the many ways I could become a better gleaner, ideas rose to the surface.
If we look at the definition of glean, we find in The Random House College Dictionary that it says: “to collect or gather anything little by little or slowly. To gather what is left by reapers.” Perhaps “gleaning” is a new term for you, but it is a Biblical notion that has been around for centuries. A reaper was a harvester. And gleaning was essentially the first welfare system because it allowed the gleaner to gather grain and other produce left by the reapers. Jewish law mandated gleaning for the poor as it says in Leviticus 23:22 “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.” Perhaps you know the most famous story of gleaning in the Bible where Ruth, the widowed daughter-in-law of Naomi, gleaned in the field of her relative, Boaz. From that gleaning, Boaz ended up marrying Ruth, and their union begat a son in King David's linage.
To think of gleaning as a frugal notion, we think first of gleaning outside of the home. Here are a couple of ways you can do that:
1. Check for nearly expired cans and vegetables in your grocery store. On Bainbridge Island, WA, Safeway said that expired cans are sometimes sold at 50% off if they catch them fast enough; otherwise, they send them back to the manufacturer. And if you catch a “nearly expired can,” then bring it to the checker and ask regarding a reduction. Regarding meats, a Safeway butcher said that they mark fresh expired meat down by 30% every morning around 6:00 a.m. on the day of expiration; and packaged lunch meats are reduced about five days before they expire.
2. Goodwill, if you aren’t familiar with it, has weekly sales of 50% off different colored tags as well as Manager’s Specials and a Senior Citizen Discount every Wednesday. When you are in Goodwill, you can pick up a flyer to show you which tags are reduced and when. Or, if you would like to receive a text message about the manager’s special, check Goodwill online to learn how. Another great gleaning place for used clothing is your local Senior Citizen Center. Their hours are less than, say, Goodwill, but they have some great values. And of course, Bargain Boutique ( our Seattle Children’s Hospital Thrift Store, which raises funds) has 50% off a tag color every month too. Many people check in these used clothing/goods stores periodically.
3. Although I have seldom used this gleaning place, Yard Sales are out of the home gleaning at its finest. Many people have furnished their homes and clothed their children this way.
4. Then, for computer gleaners, www.craigslist.com is a dream come true. We recently gave away a piano on there, making it a great place to give and glean.
5. And if you are a real die-hard gleaner, try “dumpster diving”– an art for the young at heart.
For more on gleaning on the inside of your home, check the next article. Just remember, don’t let those gleaning savings pass you by; because every little bit saved helps! If you save it here, you can put it over THERE.
Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.