Day 1 – $50/week grocery challenge – wild weeds chicken salad

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Wild lettuce salad

Welcome to the first day of spring!  And to the first day of the $50/week grocery challenge.

I would like to thank readers for their comments and participation in the August energy challenge.  The blog posts from that challenge are still online.  Alternatively, you can chat with others on the Frugal Dare to Millionaire Facebook group. I am learning so much from comments and feedback – thanks to everyone’s comments I have saved hundreds of dollars on my electricity bills!

Throughout the September challenge, I will post a few times a week. Not every day.  The idea will be to give you some insight into how I do the $50/week challenge.  The first one (today) is a tad controversial. Perhaps.  You see, I am a believer in urban foraging.

I am slowly learning how to identify edible weeds.  At first, I was terrified I would eat something poisonous. I mean, people have died agonizing, painful deaths in Canberra from eating golden mushrooms. (No golden mushrooms in my recipes – I promise.)

But once you know how to spot edible weeds, you won’t mistakenly eat anything bad.  Most things growing in your garden are probably okay in any case.  If you haven’t sprayed weed killer on them there is nothing toxic about them.  And many are extremely good for you – super foods in fact.  Commercial lettuce types had their beginning as wild weeds – many are from the same family.

One of my favourite resources is the Facebook group about edible weeds and other useful survival information.  You can post pictures of plants you find that you might want to eat but are unsure of.  Or even better, get a friend or expert to show you.  If you are in Canberra, food blogger Susan Hutchinson will again conduct an urban foraging walk that includes edible weeds on 7 October.  I am still learning so much about edible weeds and urban foraging from her.  She has been living on less than $50 a week for a lot longer than me, and has some amazing culinary creations. Yes, it can be done.

Many lettuce like weeds are at their best in early spring, especially when there is enough rain.  Last year I fashioned a simple chicken salad a mixture of homegrown lettuce, rocket and garden weeds, and a dressing made from locally grown (gifted) lemons.  All of the greenery was sourced from my garden (I love my apartment, but reading this made me miss my old house so much.)  I tossed in whatever was in my fridge that I wanted to use up. I’m sure you will have some creative variations.

You could use entirely foraged greens for this, or perhaps mix in a few supermarket lettuce varieties if you like. It is really up to you:)

2 cups of foraged greens
1 to 2 chopped sundried tomatoes
1 chicken thigh fillet, grilled (or use some leftover BBQ chicken)

Salad dressing
1 dessertspoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 dessert spoons of olive oil


First forage for some salad greens to add to some more conventional varieties.  This can include:


This is very common in garden beds in Canberra. It has small white flowering flowers and once you know what it is, it is easy to spot.


Mallow (the green plants)

Choose the very young, tender leaves. I usually like this stir-fried, but in this wet weather, it is tender enough to eat as it is.

Dandelion greens

Dandelions and chickweed
Dandelion (with some chickweed flowering in white to the side)

Pick small leaves before the flowers form – any later and the leaves become very bitter.  Dandelion leaves are a powerful liver cleansing tonic.  Add sparingly to your salad if you are not used to them given their strong bitter taste. (I personally like the bite of bitterness, but not everyone does.)

Milk thistle (aka sow thistle)

This weed is often confused for dandelions.  It doesn’t matter too much because you can eat both.  What I call Scottish thistle is also often referred to as milk thistle. You can also eat Scottish thistle raw, but you need to cut off the prickles with scissors.  (I prefer to cook them instead, which softens the thistles).  I don’t like the taste as much so only used sparingly.

Poppy greens

Young poppy leaves
The young leaves of poppies are edible

The garden in my old house was filled with wild poppies in mid spring that self-germinated. I ought to have gotten rid of them but I liked how pretty they look. You can eat the leaves of the poppy when the plant is young, preferably before buds have formed.  The opiate effect of poppies is well known, but the young leaves are okay so long as picked early.  They have a lovely nutty flavour.

Wild lettuce (Lactuca Virosa)

I added a few of these to my salad, and love them as a salad green in winter.  But I find they are already starting to get a bit tough and bitter for salad consumption.

Total cost:

Salad greens – free
Sun-dried tomatoes (homemade) – 20c
Olives (homemade) – 10c
1 chicken thigh fillet, grilled (or use some leftover BBQ chicken) – $1
Lemon  juice (gifted, but costed in) – 20c
Mustard – 10c
Olive oil – 50c

Total:  $2.10


  1. Super interesting! I’m always interested in edible weeds, but Mr. FIRE is the pickiest eater in the world. Maybe I just won’t tell him 🙂 I’m pretty sure there is heaps of mallow growing next to the train line on my ride home.

    1. Yes, sometimes it is best not to tell people:) A lot of weeds are cultivated commercially in other countries (or even in Australia in some cases). Some greens in a curry or pasta (or ravioli) all pretty much look the same and who would know where they had come from?

  2. Interesting – Mr. FIRE is super picky, so I don’t know if I could get away with feeling him weeds, but I’m keen to give it a go. I think there is a huge bunch of Mallow growing next to the path on my bike ride home. Maybe I just don’t tell Mr. FIRE where the greens came from… haha

    1. A new type of Asian spinach LOL? Seriously though, there are up to 50 different types of pesticides in some spinach. Spinach when cultivated is one of those crops that attracts a lot of insects. Mallow is free AND healthy.

  3. I’ve always been interested in what is/isn’t edible and what it tastes like. We used to always pick mushrooms from the field near our house with guidance from a friends dad who knew what was what (you’ve got to be super careful with mushrooms). Since then I haven’t really thought much about foraging. I should look into it and find some places nearby with green space! if anyone knows of a good group in Sydney already set up for this please let me know.

    1. Hi there, yes there is a LOT of free food around when you know where to find it. I don’t know much about groups outside of Canberra, but I think there are some Facebook groups devoted to urban foraging. I tend to know where is good close to work and home, and also I have friends who like foraging who give me tips. I picked some great mallow on the cycle home the other day growing around Lake Burley Griffin.

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