A pandemic-era trend is paying dividends for some who are looking to save money.
Food foraging became widely popular during COVID lockdowns as people looked for new hobbies and ways to get outside. Estimates from environmental social scientists at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania show interest nationwide tripled during the pandemic.
Some went into their backyards to do it, others, a local park, but Orion Aon of Colorado has spent hours in the depths of forests and along riverbanks gathering much of the food he eats.
“You know, in a normal year, I probably get out [to forage] two or three times a week,” said Aon. “Normally, people are eating maybe 30 different species a year. I probably get one to two hundred different species a year in my diet, and that’s kind of a conservative estimate.”
Aon’s interest began at the age of 10 when he went on his first mushroom hunt. He says the adventure and exploration drew him to continue foraging as a hobby until 2012 when he began foraging to supplement his nutrition. Today, Aon hunts all his own meat, picks his own spices, and gathers many of the greens he uses in everyday meals.
Not only has it offered him an outlet and connection to nature, but he is also bypassing the rising costs at grocery stores.
“I don’t have a quantitative number to it, but there’s definitely a savings there,” he said. “You know, our pantry just has a shelf that is full of stuff that I’ve picked and preserved. Our freezer is full of stuff that I’ve hunted so it could very easily be that we would skip going to the grocery store for a month and eat that stuff if we wanted to, but, you know, there is that convenience factor of going to the store.”
Aon says about 30% of his diet is made from foods and ingredients he has foraged.