Disassociation with the economic bag of any society is difficult unless you are very rich or a Trappist monk. This article is for those who have no savings, no inheritance no trust funds and no desire to remain in a money-oriented rut (there are so many other ruts to explore).
What I have to offer here is not all-inclusive — just merely information that I have acquired firsthand as my family (wife and 2 kids) and I have tripped along.
When we first started on the trip, our first concern was food — a needless concern in this country — we went to the local grocery store and asked for the vegetable and fruit discards. Everyday in this country grocery stores-all of them throw away about 4 garbage cans full of edible food. Food that is 'spotted', 'overripe', 'bruised', or ugly. The quality and quantity of the throw-away food depends very much on the type of ownership of store and its clientele. One man operations or family owned stores keep everything chain operated stores throw away good food all the time. The easiest way to get vegetables from a store is to ask for them. Sometimes you score, sometimes not. The store I got vegetables from gave me enough to feed 31 people, 10 chickens and start a good compost pile 2-3 boxes everyday. Stores catering to the elite of this society have the most throwaways -no blemishes or bruises allowed, but they tend to be selfish with their garbage. Stores like Safeway, etc. are best bets.
Another source of food is Government Surplus Food obtained from your local welfare office. In Santa Cruz County (Calif.), a married man with 1 child earning less than $200 a month is 'entitled' to 20 lbs. of flour, 3 lbs. of oatmeal; 5 lbs. of corn meal, 1 lb of bulgar, 3 lbs. of rolled wheat, 3 lbs. of rice, 5 lbs. of butter, 10 lbs. of powdered milk, 3 lbs. of lard, 2 lbs. of dried peas, 1 lb. of peanut butter, 5 lbs. of cheese, plus canned vegetables, dried fruit and fruit juice each month. These foods are good trade items we traded for eggs and non-food items, examples made arrangements with a group living on a farm. They didn't 'qualify' for welfare food but had an abundance of barnyard stock. We traded. We had food, another made sandals. We traded. We had cornmeal, someone raised a lamb — we had meat, they had meal. The best way to trade is to give it all away-when it's time, it will come back.
Next to tree food, you need cheap food. Most bakeries sell day-old bread-we used to get about 13 loaves. of French bread and 5 dozen rolls for $1.00. (This helped feed the chickens too.) Egg Ranches sell flats of eggs below market value - we got cracked eggs for less (cheap enough to feed the dogs, along with the canned welfare meat). Also, farmers markets and flea markets are good places for cheap good produce. Most important of all bulk purchases of wheat and rice are very wise investments.
Cheap clothes are available at the Goodwill, Army Surplus Stores, Rummage sales and Flea markets. Rent is the real bummer and we never solved it completely until we moved into our camper. However, rent can be lessened on a trade for rent basis, I got 3 weeks free rent in agreement to clean up the house I was moving into. One friend got a big house for 3 months in exchange for repairs. Another got a year's free rent - the first 6 months in exchange for repairs and the last 6 months in trade for a sculpture he did. With the camper, rent is not the problem it once was.
I built my camper for about $125.00. I got nearly all of the lumber at the city dump and at construction sites (you could start a lumber company from their scrap pile). The stove in the camper came from a trash pile and I traded a window for the sink. The icebox was given to me. The $13 foam rubber mattress on our bed cost $5 at the Flea Market. Four of the five tires on my truck were free - I got them from behind the Santa Cruz County auto maintenance building. They use tubeless tires and they don't repair them. They throw them away - it's covered by taxes. Service stations and department stores sometimes throw away usable tires.
Transportation is hard, mostly luck. I've been given 1 car, 1 truck and I bought an excellent running car for $20 trade.
Medicine. In emergency, go to the county hospital, look for trade situations. I know of a dentist who did work at cost or trade for long-haired people. Another friend worked at a Veterinary Hospital to pay for his dog's operation. Look behind the doctor's office. I found 700 tranquilizers at the dump.
Tools and furniture may be gotten at Goodwil markets and rummage sales. If you look around, you may be able to find a mechanic who will work for exchange of things other than money-there are lots of things you can do.
You don't have to be rich to drop out - but it helps.