I’m going to deviate today from my normal content and take a little time to talk to you all about the possibility of coming food shortages. As a content creator, I try to stay away from topics that can feel alarmist or evoke feelings of fear or panic. But, at the same time, mention of potential shortages is filling our newsfeeds. So, I wanted to sit down and give you some tips, advice, and 6 ways anyone can use to prepare. No, not outlandish “prepper” ideas, and not panic hoarding, but practical advice and steps you can take.
As homesteaders, a big part of what we do removes us from a reliance on the traditional food supply chain. Most homesteaders grow crops, raise livestock, and are well versed in food storage. But not everyone is in a homesteading position. That does not however mean that you can’t take small steps to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on the grocery store.
A couple of years ago, at the start of the pandemic, when supply chain issues started to become a problem the first thing I did was switch to buying from my local grocer. Now by that, I don’t mean a local location of a national grocery store chain, I mean a local grocer that stocks food from local and regional suppliers. The products on their shelves don’t have to travel as far, so they don’t have as hard of a time keeping their shelves full. True, they may not be the cheapest option. But I don’t mind paying a few dollars more for reliable products that support the local economy. Additionally, when seeking an item we don’t grow, I check our local farmer's market first!
Did you know that there are about a dozen plants that can be turned into flour? One of the simplest is the ever-abundant zucchini. To turn zucchini into flour all you need to do is thoroughly dehydrate it, and grind it into flour in a food processor. I’ll be posting a tutorial recipe for it soon, so stay tuned. Zucchini flour is not a 1 - 1 substitution, but you can replace up to ⅓ of regular flour with it. Other substitutions include switching out sugar for honey which can almost always be found from a local apiary. Substitute frozen veggies for fresh, this works best in cooked dishes like soups and stews. Substitute buttermilk with cream and vinegar. The list is endless. We have been spoiled with the number of options available to us, but the truth is that our grandparents managed to make better food with less and we are facing the time to re-learn those skills.
Learn to Cook From Scratch
When you know how to cook from scratch it’s possible to take basic ingredients like meat, flour, and vegetables and turn them into healthy meals. If there really is a food shortage, people who have this basic skill will fair far better than those who rely on pre-prepared and packaged foods to feed their families.
I’m not talking about acres of garden or greenhouses large enough to feed a family. All you need is some pots and a few feet of sunny space. You don’t need to produce hundreds of pounds of produce, just grow enough to give you a little self-sufficiency. A few weeks ago I posted an article about foods you can regrow from the supermarket, and many of those do quite well in a dish on the kitchen counter. If you have a small deck or porch or even a sunny window you can grow food. There is a large variety of foods that can be grown in pots.
Zucchini - a single zucchini plant will yield 3 - 10 lbs of zucchini.
Strawberries - on average a single plant can produce up to a quart of berries.
Potatoes - a single potato plant will yield 5 - 10 potatoes.
Chard - With chard, you can reseed for a continual harvest through the season.
Herbs and spices - these grow well in fairly small posts and a single plant can be harvested from for a whole season.
Tomatoes - Depending on the variety, a single tomato plant can produce up to 30 lbs of fruit.
Lettuce - This is another plant that will give you several harvests per season.
Bell Peppers - depending on conditions, a single plant can produce between 5 - 10 peppers.
Microgreens - microgreens are ready to harvest in days, not months and they can be replanted over and over again on a sunny window sill.
As you can see, even a single pot with a single plant can help to give you a little food stability. And, here’s a fun fact, during World War II in 1944, 40% of the nation's produce was grown in home gardens. By the time the war ended approximately 8 million tons of food had been grown by regular everyday people in average homes.
Learn the Art of Food Preservation
Even if you don’t grow your own food, you can still preserve foods. Every food that arrives in the grocery store does so according to season. And, during each food’s specific “season” grocery stores will usually offer them at greatly reduced prices. As an example in late summer, corn is often 10 for $10. Keep an eye on seasonal foods and stock up when they go on sale. Then use preservation options such as freezing, canning, and dehydration to preserve the excess for future use.
Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging
Knowing how to get food from the wild is a basic skill that everyone should know. Our ancestors would have starved if it wasn’t for their resourcefulness and ability to find food in the wild. Hunting and fishing may not be for everyone, but foraging is something that anyone can do even if you live in an urban environment. Take for example the humble dandelion, this little plant often considered a weed can be eaten fresh, or used to make jams and jellies and even bread and wine. Another great example is the pine tree, every part of this abundant tree is usable in some form from food to medicinals.
Being able to gather your food from the wild is a great way to be less dependent on the grocery store. Be sure to check your local laws for any training, licensing, or other knowledge that you need to know about before hunting, fishing, or foraging. Never under any circumstances eat a plant from the wild that you are not 100% sure of as many plants have “look a likes” that are harmful if not outright deadly. If you plan to forage, you also need to remember to do it in a sustainable way. Never take more of a plant than you need. Never decimate an area and always leave enough behind for the plant to regenerate itself naturally.
Becoming More Self Reliant
Hopefully, this article will give you a little bit of insight into some steps you can take to become more self-reliant. Remember, even small things will help. Growing a single vegetable, or gathering wild food may not cover your entire grocery list, but it will help you to take control of a small part of your personal food chain. Are you worried about potential food shortages? What are you doing to prepare and make your family more self-reliant? Tell us all about it in the comments, and as always, until next time,