Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Putting Food By

Actually that title isn't something I dreamed up myself.  It is the name of a very popular book on preserving food which has sold more than a half million copies.  Now years ago, people didn't need to be reminded to preserve food for future use; it was often do that or #1 go without in the future or #2 pay a premium at the grocery store for the item--if the item was even available--which most people couldn't afford.

These days with food so plentiful, most people don't preserve food for future use.  They just figure if they want something it will be available at the grocery store any time they want to pick it up.  They assume Starbucks will always be there for their morning fix.  They get 95% of their food from restaurants of various kinds.  They have lost the age-old fear of food scarcity because they haven't experienced such a thing in their lifetime, and the idea that food will always be available is a given.  I know several people--and these are old people who should know better--who barely have a couple day's worth of food in their pantry because they eat out for every meal. 

While I understand the convenience and the ease of eating out (especially when you don't have a houseful of kids forcing you to make family meals), everyone should have at least a month's worth of food at home.  Literally, enough food so you would not need to leave your home for a month or more to go to the grocery store if necessary.  Whether you are listening to mainstream media or sources that are more "out there", the consensus is that it isn't if but when food shortages will impact our country.

To this end, there are several things you can do now to prepare for a food-insecure future:

  • Buy loss leaders and "put the food by".  This is simple if the sale is on canned goods as you simply need to store and rotate them.  I bought several pounds of strawberries at the store this week and cleaned them up and froze them.  I may hit up the store again before the sale is over and buy more to make jam with.  Do people really need to know how to make jam?  Probably not but everyone should know the process.  It is easier, and probably safer, to buy commercially bottled jam, but at least knowing how to do this if you ever need to do so in an emergency situation is a bonus.  Ditto with pickling, canning, making jerky, etc.
  • Learn how to cook.  You don't even need to follow a cookbook any more as there are YouTube videos and cooking shows on TV and Netflix that will give you step-by-step instructions on how to cook everything under the sun.  By learning how to cook, and making it a point to cook several times a week, you will no doubt produce healthier meals than stuff you grab on the go at fast food places, and you can also make a plan to use what's in the fridge and therefore curb food waste.
  • Learn how to garden.  Production gardening is a hell of a lot of work but many people have found ways to be both more productive and create less work with intensive gardening.  This family is one example.   Again, is it required that people garden?  Probably not but at least knowing the process is important.  It also gives you more control over what you eat, can be cheaper than what you find at the store (sometimes; gardeners often spend A LOT of money on supplies and go all out on seeds), and you can choose the size of your garden from a huge lot to maybe just a couple of containers of tomatoes.
  • Shop sales.  Yesterday we ended up with an entire spiral-sliced ham for $7; it was $35 around the Christmas holiday but was now deeply discounted.  Needless to say we now have a freezer full of packets of spiral sliced ham and a bone waiting to be used to make soup also in the freezer.  One day I was out for a run, ran into the store along my route to pick up a couple of bananas, and finished my run with a half dozen fish tails flopping out of the top of my grocery bag (for some reason whole salmon were a couple of bucks per fish--a great deal which lasted us several months).
  • Glean glean glean.  Free food is the best sort of food.  Now some people will happily jump into a dumpster to get food which has been tossed by the grocery store but which is still edible; others probably won't go to that extreme.  But there is plenty of food around to be had for free if you just look.  Even here in the desert there are lemon trees (if you see these trees on private property you can always ask for any they don't need), pomegranate trees, apricot trees, date palms, etc.  In other areas there is even more food to be found in the wild, from truffles to wild mushrooms to wild apples and other fruit trees.
  • Hobbies which can produce food are good hobbies to have.  In addition to gardening, hunting and fishing make for good hobbies which are also productive food-wise (as long as you avoid the 'I need a new .338 Win Mag for elk season' kind of logic).

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