PRESERVE EXCESS | FOOD SWAPS | SOURCE LOCAL GROWERS AND PRODUCERS | LEARN HOW TO USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Creating Personal Food Resilience
By Anthea Hudson
It is likely that in time to come many people will face at least temporary interruptions to their usual food supply. These may be short term "hiccups" or turn into longer term shortages.
As individuals, we can do a lot to lessen the impact these situations have on us and our families. You may also be able to put yourself in a position to offer help to your neighbours as well... and maybe receive help from them too. The more people within a community who can become at least partially self sufficient with their food supply, the more resilient that whole community can become in the event of crisis.
Cultivating a Suburban Foodshed
Ensuring you have access to adequate food doesn't have to be a huge expense, especially if prepared for over time. It does however take a little planning and managing, but is well worth the time and effort for the peace of mind it will give you.
We aren't talking here about preparing for an indefinite disappearance of any food (although longer term self sufficiency is a worthy goal too), just for a supply to see us through what may come in the relatively shorter term... whether that is a few days, weeks, or even months.
As Chris Martenson says, the difference between being 0% prepared and 3%, in many of our needs, is like night and day. This applies equally to food as to any other system. It could mean the difference between eating a very limited diet, going very hungry or even malnutrition and death in extreme cases.... and having adequate variety and nutrition to see you through comfortably.
So, what are some of the things we can make part of our Personal Food Resilience Plan?
CREATE A DEEP PANTRY
- Many of us already have some supplies on hand in a cupboard or pantry, so a deep pantry is just an extension of that. Many people like to aim for at least 3 months supply of commonly used foods, while others extend it to 6 months, a year or even longer.
- One of the important points to remember is that you should really only buy what you will use. Special ration packs, cans of spam or expensive freeze-dried foods aren't really a great investment if they aren't something you would normally eat.
- Further to the above point... you need to make sure you rotate your stock, using older items and replacing them with newer purchases. So you will be eating what you store throughout the year, not just saving it all up for a future possible crisis. Some foods, of course, have very long shelf lives, if stored properly, so these will not need using and replacing as often.
- You may choose to stock up on some items that you personally don't really use often, but you feel would be good swap/barter items.
- Where possible, buy in bulk, as this will save both money and packaging for loose produce.
- Keep your eye open for sales, and stock up. Remember... buy what you will use. A sale is not a money saver if the item is not what you want.
- To build your pantry over time, make it a habit to buy an extra something or so, each time you do your grocery shopping.
- Proper storage conditions are a must to protect your investment. Cool, dry and out of direct sunlight. Make sure any containers used are clean, seal very well and are vermin proof.
- For moth/insect prone items such as legumes and rices, freeze in a moisture proof bag for a day or so before storing, to destroy any tiny eggs that may be present in the food.
- Keep a food storage notebook and record all your stored food items, including pantry, freezer, root cellar and any other location. Also record the date by which is should be used. Make a note of any item that is used up, running low, spoiled, or has to be used very soon. This notebook helps when planning meals, locating food items, preventing waste and when making up your shopping list.
Build your own food storage pantry with this great video:
DIY Food Storage Pantry - Save Time, Save Money, Buy Bulk and Be Prepared
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD
One of the best ways of creating food resilience is to take responsibility for producing much of your own. Then you know what you will have available, when, and can plan accordingly. Of course, things don't always go to plan (such as when crops fail for whatever reason) which is why it is good to have back-up sources also.
Food picked fresh from your garden is also probably the healthiest, nutrient packed food you will get, as long as you use organic practises, as it doesn't have to be subjected to artificial chemicals or unnatural growing and ripening processes, travel long distances, sit in storage for sometimes months, depending on the type of produce.
You can start off small, growing just a few things that your family enjoys, and that are easy to grow. Then branch out as you gain confidence and your soil gradually improves through composting, mulching and the attraction of worms and other beneficial creatures to your garden.
Growing food is a skill best developed before you are under shortage pressures, as it takes time to gain the skills to be successful, to make your soil productive, and for things to grow to maturity. Fruit trees and vines especially need time to mature before they will produce much food, but even vegetables take quite a few weeks to start producing.
"Growing" can also extend to other forms of food, such as backyard chickens or your own bees for honey.
If you plan to grow more than you actually need, you can then preserve or store away certain foods for use outside of their growing period. You can also help spread resilience into your community, by giving away extra produce, or swapping to increase the variety of foods that you, and your neighbours, have access to. This also means, everyone does not have to try to grow everything they want to eat, which is difficult to do with the space available to most people.
How Much Food Can I Grow Around My House?
Homegrown Revolution (Award winning short-film 2009)- The Urban Homestead
CREATE A ROOT CELLAR
If you already have a suitable basement/cellar you can utilise this to store your root crops in conditions that will help them last for quite a long time. You can also create a makeshift root cellar, if your house is raised and you can get access to part of it, or even make a purpose-built root cellar from various insulating materials.
Root vegetables can also often be successfully "stored" by leaving them in the soil for longer, rather than harvesting all at once, then collecting what you need on a daily or weekly basis.
MAKE A COOL CUPBOARD
In temperate or cooler climates, you can convert a floor to ceiling cupboard into a cool cupboard. This entails venting both the floor and the top. It operates on warmer air rising into your roof area, drawing up cooler air from under your house. This can keep things much cooler than the normal room temperature.
You can store non delicate produce and other items in there, rather than in your fridge, but do be careful that you don't use it to store anything that might spoil quickly or grow harmful bacteria. Also, keep an eye on how well it is working in hotter months. You may find some items may need to be moved to the fridge.
This is often not a practical option in tropical or very hot areas. In very cold areas with long periods of snow, check that the air coming up doesn't freeze the contents of your cool cupboard!
FREEZE EXTRA FOOD
Freezing is a good way to keep produce available longer. Most fruits and veggies need to be at least blanched (cooking for a couple of minutes or so in boiling water) before freezing, to halt the enzyme activity which leads to deterioration.
Make sure you label everything clearly with what it is and when it was frozen. Ideally keep a record in your notebook as to when it should ideally be used. Then make sure to plan to make use of your frozen stock by that time.
Different foods have different ideal time limits for being frozen, however as long as your freezer is operating properly, most food is still safe to eat after this time, it just may become less palatable in terms of flavour and texture.
How to Easily Freeze Foods
Once your garden gets into full swing, you may find you often have an abundance of harvest at certain times. Any produce which is excess to your immediate needs can also be preserved in various ways.
Smoking- Smoking is often used for meats. Make sure you know what you are doing or you may end up with food poisoning!
Canning/ Bottling- A very popular skill in times gone by, now making a comeback in many circles. Most fruits and veggies, along with other foods, can be preserved this way. You can use brine, vinegar or syrup. Some produce has different ideal procedures than others, so research the process well to avoid spoilage or even food poisoning.
Jam Making- Another thing that was very popular in past times! Create your own beautiful jams and jellies. You can also make things like chutneys and pickles.
Drying- Herbs are excellent choices to dry and most can just be hung up to dry naturally. Many fruits and veggies can be dried, either in the sun on drying screens or in purpose built dryers, usually electric. Properly stored, these can last well.
Easy Solar Food Dryer In Fifteen Minutes
SOURCE LOCAL GROWERS AND PRODUCERS
Find out what you can get that is grown or produced in your local area. Accessing these is less likely to be affected by transport interruptions, as the food is right there, near where you are. Get acquainted with your local farmers, growers, store owners. Buy direct. Personal contact and a personal network will serve you well in times to come. Try not to buy things from further afield- especially overseas- if they can be obtained locally. Support your local farmers and businesses... and hopefully they will in turn be there for you in the future.
Go to Farmer's Markets and join CSA's if you have them in your area.
Get together with family, friends and neighbours to informally share what you grow/produce.
Create a list of who grows certain things, has chickens etc, and are willing to share or swap excess. Circulate this with those involved.
Form a more formal food swap group, and have monthly (or whatever suits) swap meets, where everyone brings along what they have to spare.
Great idea for sharing food...
Food is Free Project: Open-Source Front-Yard Community Gardens
And taking it further... in Ballarat!
The Food is Free Laneway - Giving Away Food For Free!
LEARN HOW TO USE WHAT YOU HAVE
The food you grow and store isn't much good if you don't know how to use it. And over prolonged periods, knowing how to create healthy, tasty, varied meals out of what you have, is a skill worth developing. Research recipes and practise cooking simple healthy meals using the ingredients you can be fairly sure of having on hand.
Also, sometimes certain things may not be available, so learn what you can use to substitute for things such as eggs, milk, sugar etc. For instance, if common grains aren't available, such as rice or wheat flour, there are numerous other grains that can be used in their place that may be less in demand and still be able to be sourced... if you have taken the time to research sources, and practised using it.
Rather than relying on outside sources, learn to make your own foods such as breads, cakes, pies... even butter and cheeses.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you create some food security for you and your family. However, the more resilient your local community is, the more secure each of its members will also be.