Practical steps to developing food security during uncertain times

Not much is more sobering about the fragility of human life than a pandemic.

Beyond the consideration of our own mortality, for many, COVID-19 has been their first experience of even a remote possibility that goods and services we all take for granted might not always be so readily available.

This initial thought can cause a lot of fear and anxiety. This is easily observed in the “great toilet paper rush” in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Large swathes of the population suddenly feel very insecure about their long-term prospects for wiping their arse and have gone to great efforts and expense to ensure the best possible outcome for their derriere.

Unfortunately, toilet paper is likely to be only the beginning.

When these same fearful and panicked hordes have similar thinking about some other commonly available item – soup, beans, cash, bandaids, or god-forbid coffee!!!… the result tends to be a run on those things. This causes mayhem and deprives others in the community access to those same items, in turn, furthering panic.

See… most people are reactive instead of proactive – responding to events instead of anticipating them. Many get away with this only because of the capacity of large infrastructures to endure such things. However, those systems cannot do so indefinitely, and for those accustomed to depending on reacting always working for them, this can produce very uncomfortable and perhaps even fatal outcomes when the breaking point of those systems draws near.

Panic, like most fear, undermines good decision making. It is rooted in our mid-brains where our fight or flight responses come from. When we panic, we are not using our strong, thinking, pre-frontal cortex brains. Therefore, it becomes imperative that our first step in any practical steps to think about long term food security that we start from a place of calm, panic-free thinking.

Calm yet? Good! Keep reading!

Like other areas we’ve written about preparedness, following a strategy is important. Food security is no exception.

The first practical step one should take when considering their food security is to identify a reasonable and achievable goal. This goal needs to be rational. The reality is… there is really no such thing as total food security. We can’t ever be 100% certain of our ability to feed ourselves any more than we can any other area. We must come to grips with that truth in order to make effective decisions.

What is a good goal for food security? If you’re uncertain of a specific goal, start with this: aim to multiply your current supply by three. Have a week’s supply? Great – aim for three week’s supply. Have a month? Aim for three months. Have three months? Aim for nine months. Keep doing this until you and your family believe your on-hand supplies provide the level of resiliency to best equip you for uncertain times and to help others in your community to do likewise.

Next, if at all possible, don’t rush to reach this goal. You’ll make fewer mistakes, waste less, and avoid causing others to go without if you build up slowly. Instead, increase your supply buying by 10% per shopping trip until you’ve met your first goal. Continue to do this until you’ve met your second goal, third goal, etc.

Once you start to build your supplies, purchase shelf-stable or freeable foods that you already consume. Food that you and your family do not eat will go to waste if there is no occasion to need it otherwise. Develop a  “FIFO” (“first-in, first-out”) system where you eat from your pantry the oldest food first and continue to do so as you add new supplies.  Organize the good so that the closest food in reach is the oldest food in your storehouse. In this way, the food is always fulfilling a practical every-day use in family meals instead of rotting on a shelf.

Remember, the goal is resiliency, not to become a doomsday prepper fearfully anticipating loss and demise.

Following the above steps will lead most individuals and families to a reliable supply of food to meet their anticipated needs within a relatively short period of time and without blowing out most budgets. Having a hard time finding the funds? Let us know and we’ll show you some ways we’ve found to squeeze more out of almost any budget.

This plan also allows one to slowly, calmly adapt and scale to their own needs over time and proactively add more pantry, shelves, or freezer space as needed instead of creating yet another situation to need to react by making hasty, unnecessary, and costly decisions.

For those interested in going further

Food security for most will be tied to the supply chains in place in their community. Any supply chain has vulnerabilities and there is no way to entirely mitigate against those risks. What should a calm, rational and resilient person do? Shorten the supply chains.

Whether food comes from a far-off country or one’s own backyard, it comes from a supply chain. The grocery store, the garden… those are both supply chains. The shorter the supply chain, the more resilient it is. Most North Americans rely on very long supply chains for their food. Resiliency is found in finding and using shorter supply chains.

The simplest supply chains are those that are self-managed:

  • Home gardens
  • Backyard chickens or other small animals (ducks, rabbits, other fowl)
  • Hunting, fishing, and foraging

The second-simplest are supply chains within the community:

  • Food co-ops
  • CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)
  • Local farms
  • Farmers markets
  • Produce auctions

The most complex supply chains

  • Large grocery stores
  • Big box retailers
  • Online vendors (Amazon, Walmart, etc)

Our family has found the best workable strategy for us to be a combination of all of the above, not placing all of our eggs in any one basket – including those supply chains right here on the homestead. Those also are not without risk. Animals die, gardens fail, fruit trees fail to grow fruit. That is just an inescapable reality.

We happily purchase from the cornucopia of delightful foods available to us in North America in combination with our own self-produced and other locally produced foods. We will continue to do so as long as we are able.

Conclusion

Resiliency is a journey and as with all journeys – the hardest parts are often in the getting started and the patience to enjoy the journey without rushing through it.

Take your time, think about your goals, plan your food security journey, then get started.

In doing so, you’ll produce in yourself more resiliency and in doing so, a more stable family, community, and nation.

Did this article strike a chord with you? If so, we’d love for you to share it.

 

Sprouts – add this tasty super food to your emergency meal planning

Sprouts: Fresh produce all year long – no garden required!

Many people (ourselves included) who value eating healthy, organic, nutritious foods and who also concern themselves with securing a sustainable food supply will eventually ask themselves the question “How will we continue to eat healthy foods when we cannot harvest from the garden?”. There are many natural and disastrous circumstances that could keep one from  growing healthy produce – namely Winter!

We’re big fans of freezing, canning, root cellaring, cold storage, etc. However, those options don’t provide the participants with fresh green produce (typically). Enter sprouts! Sprouts are just what they sound like – sprouted seeds of vegetables, beans, grains, or grasses that are just days old when harvested and consumed. Sprouts are a wonderful addition to a simple, sustainable, healthy, and prepared lifestyle. Sprouts are super-easy to grow, offer superior nutritional and health benefits, require little to no energy to produce, can be eaten fresh, and require little investment.

Getting started with sprouting

Making sprouts is easy and requires little investment. While you can sprout seeds in mason jars, clear plastic or glass containers, etc. we chose to buy a sprouting kit. The kit below was a small $12-$14 investment was well worth it and allows us to sprout up to three kinds of sprouts at once with just a few square inches of counter space, a few cups of water, and a few days. To sprout three trays of sprouts probably requires us about 30 minutes of total time investment.

A great, simple sprouter

This great little sprouter is available for about $12-$14 at Amazon. Click to see.

The sprouting process is simple. You place a small amount of the sprouting seed (more on that in a minute) on the tray, fill the top reservoir with water, and let it trickle down through all the layers of seeds, wetting each layer of seeds. Do this twice a day and in about three to five days, keeping the sprouting container in a well lit area of your home and you’ll have fresh sprouts ready to eat. How’s that for quick and healthy food?

Sprouts as a survival/emergency food

Sprouts should be added to the food strategy of anyone looking to create a secure and sustainable food supply. Firstly, sprout seeds are vegetable seeds so they can serve the dual purposes of sprouting for food, or growing to fully mature plants in the garden. Secondly, seeds are easy to store. As long as they’re clean, dry, cool, and dark, they should hold up in storage for a between 1-10 years! We consider them sustainable because we can plant the seeds, harvest harvest the crops from those seeds, keep seeds from the crop and store them again and again (if using non-GMO, non-hybrid seeds that is). They’re also great because the don’t require much space, require no real “labor” to speak of (compared to gardening), very little water, and tolerate most indoor temperatures. In summary, sprouts are hard to mess up!

Sprouting seeds – a smorgasbord of flavors and variety

If all you know of sprouting is alfalfa sprouts you can buy in the store – it’s time to expand your horizons! There are tons of varieties of sprouts to choose from. Leafy sprouts such as alfalfa, clover, and arugula. There’s “Bean” sprouts such as mung bean, garbanzo (chick pea), pea, lentil and peanut. Then there’s Brasicca sprouts such as broccoli, radish, mustard and more. Perhaps you might like Grasses (wheat, barley), Grains (spelt, quinoa, kamut), Nuts (almonds, sunflower), or Allium sprouts (garlic, leek, onion). There’s not shortage of things to sprout! You cannot sprout everything (ie. never sprout nightshades like tomato, potato, and eggplant).

When we got started, we were not sure what we’d like, so we purchased a 12lb variety pack (seen below). It’s been a great way to add to our emergency food supply as well as discover what we like. So far, the clear winner in our home are lentils!

This is the 12lb organic sprout seed sampler we purchased. It's a good way to get a lot of seeds, and also discover what you like.

Ancient wisdom with modern repercussions

Sprouting seed has been around for a loooong time! Take a look at this scripture verse:

“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. – Ezekiel 4:9

I don’t know about you… but if there were a food that I knew could keep me alive for 390 days eating nothing else, I think I’d add it to my emergency food supplies. In the verse above, God instructed the prophet Ezekiel to make a bread from sprouted grains and eat it (exclusively) for just such a duration. It’s no wonder… take a look at the nutritional value of sprouts:

  • Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K
  • Calcium
  • Carbohydrates
  • Chlorophyll
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • All Amino Acids
  • Trace Elements
  • Protein: up to 35%

Do we want to eat sprouts/sprouted bread for 390 days? Of course not. However, it’s nice to know that there are simple, healthy, inexpensive, and sustainable foods that can sustain our lives and the lives of those we love. Heh, sprouting was worthwhile enough for God to instruct Ezekiel to give it a shot – maybe you should give them a try too?!

Please post your own thoughts about sprouts in the comments below.

Kefir: The dairy “swiss army knife”

One if the things we’re interested in doing is maintaining a good variety of healthy foods, but in a way that is affordable and sustainable. At this time, due to where we live, we cannot  get a cow or goats for milk. Despite this, we still want to be able to produce simple dairy products on our own without having to depend on the market for every dairy product. We still have to purchase milk, which we get raw from a local farmer.

Enter Kefir – an ancient fermented milk drink that has been around for eons. We think that kefir is the swiss army knife of dairy for those looking to be able to use one item to produce a variety of other items. Kefir on it’s own is much like yogurt and offers all the same benefits, but in bigger doses and with less work. If kefir grains are added to fresh milk, they will ferment the milk within 24 hours. Once fermented, the resulting kefir can be left to sit for another 1-3 days during which time it will separate into curds and whey. The curds can be eaten, or further refined into “laban” which can be used as cottage and cream cheese right away. Or, salt can be added to this laban and becomes the basis for harder cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan cheese. Also, kefir can be fermented to different lengths and strengths producing different tastes and usefulness.

This whole process does not require refrigeration and is a good way of getting usefulness from milk without energy use. Further, the kefir grains are constantly growing and multiplying, thus keeping the owner in a constant supply of kefir grains to eat, use, or share with others.

This is all in addition to many health benefits known to accompany kefir!

If you’re looking to add a “tool” to your simple life arsenal – particularly if you have access to a fresh supply of milk – consider kefir! You won’t be disappointed!

Finishing the Root Cellar

When we moved into our house years ago, we had no idea that we had a root cellar. From our point of view, we had a wet, nasty closet area off our foundation that needed to be cleaned up and made to stop leaking. Needless to say, as we came to understand the value of root cellars and what they were, we were glad that we had not been able to make a significant change to our root cellar since moving in.

We were able to put an insulated door on the root cellar, paint it, run electricity to it, and build shelves turning it into a great place to store our potatoes, sweet potatoes, homemade wine, canned goods, etc.

Vented Root Cellar

A good root cellar has a few components – good insulation, high humidity, and good ventilation. We had plenty of humidity, plenty of insulation (the ground) but no ventilation. We fixed that by adding vents. This was easily done by drilling holes in the foundation (through the cement block) and running 1 1/2″ PVC pipe through the side, then up through the flower beds outside. We used a bend at the top to keep out rain and a screen on each one to keep the critters out.

Root Cellar

The way this works, the supply vent should bring cold air (when it sinks) down the pipe and into the root cellar. The source pipe goes nearly to the floor and the vent pipe on the adjacent wall has a vent at the top, to let the rising hot air escape. We decided to give it a little assistance by adding a powered fan to the vent. This was done using a few PVC fittings from Lowes and carving out a spot for an old computer exhaust fan wired to a 12v DC cordless phone power cord. We then plugged it into a timer like this to have it come on at the cooler parts of the day to cool off the root cellar and keep the fresh air moving through.

Root Cellar with Shelves

Lastly, we added shelves made from furring strips. This was a cheap alternative to purchasing shelves and allowed us to make custom-fit shelves for the root cellar. It took just under four bundles of furring strips (10 to a bundle) to finish – so for about $40, we were able to build simple shelves that would allow the air to circulate through the shelved items.

We plan on covering the nasty floor that is currently there with some small gravel. This will allow us to spray water on the floor that will then evaporate to maintain the humidity at or around the 95% humidity that root cellars need.

If you don’t have a root cellar, they’re easy to make in many homes. Just find a non-heated section of your basement (preferably with no window), wall it off with well-insulated walls and a door and vent it. Most people tend to aim for an ideal temperature in the mid 50’s. This keeps things like apples, potatoes, onions and garlic, sweet potatoes, etc. good for just about the entire winter.

In our case, this allows us an energy-free (mostly – when the fan isn’t running) means of preserving the freshness of our summer harvest. If you don’t yet have a root cellar but enjoy growing your own produce – consider a root cellar as your next DIY project!