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Having Food Security in Our Modern World

I’ve been thinking a lot about food security lately and what that truly means in our modern world. Up until very recently, people HAD to think ahead and make a plan for eating year round regardless of their climate.

Now we can just pop into the grocery store and buy anything we want, in or out of season. But is that really food security?

baskets of garden fresh vegetables and herbs

First, let me say that I’m fully aware that there is food insecurity in the world and even in my community. There are places where it’s hard to find fresh fruits and vegetables to buy. There are people who are doing the best they can and just don’t have money to buy food.

While these strategies can help with that type of food insecurity, it’s a complex issue and beyond the scope of this article.

I think part of simple living is helping those who are unable to have food security on their own. And honestly, should be part of our food security plan for our family.

empty produce section of grocery store

I think this spring, we got a small taste of how previous generations lived. As we head into the fall and winter months, we might see it again so I thought we could chat a little bit about what true food security looks like and what it doesn’t. 

What long term food security is NOT

This spring I saw people stocking up and buying things they normally don’t buy, “just in case” they need it. I’ve often wondered where that stuff is now. Did they use is? Is is still being stored?

I also saw a lot of companies playing on people’s fear. They used this fear to sell them on the idea of “food security” and storing food for the future. Their food, or seeds, or special program would give you the food security that you need. I vehemently disagree and think that this is just another form of food insecurity.

Let’s explore why…

Buying a “seed bank” so that if you HAVE to grow your own food, you can. 

If you already garden you know that your first few years of gardening aren’t going to produce much. Gardening is a skill that needs to be practiced if it’s going to be productive.

You need to be learning how to grow food now, if you want to be able to grow food in the future. 

Seeds deteriorate over time regardless of how well they’re stored. Seed are meant to be planted, not saved long term.

Grow food and save the seeds year after year to create your own seed bank. It’s not hard and you’ll always have fresh seed. Save extra so you can swap with others.

Buying MREs (meals ready to eat) or freeze dried food that has a self life of 25 years. 

MREs are fine and some even taste good but if you’re not used to eating them, it will be one more thing that isn’t “normal” during a time when you’re seeking some normalcy. 

I don’t know about you, but storage space is limited in my house, I don’t have room to store foods we aren’t going to eat in a reasonable amount of time.

Freeze dried meals are also expensive, as is a freeze drier. I’ve had freeze dried fruits and they are tasty. But I’m not sure that buying a freeze drier is really a cost effective way to preserve food.

That being said, if you live where there are earthquakes, having some (maybe a week’s worth) freeze dried food for your family, makes sense. Just know that most freeze dried foods require adding boiled to them. You’ll need water and a way to heat it up to use them.

Lastly, what will you do when the stored freeze dried food runs out?

Buying jars and boxes of food at the grocery store that you don’t normally eat.

It’s easy to get caught up in the panic and just start grabbing things off the grocery shelves before they’re completely empty. It’s fine to stock up on some store bought food, just be sure it’s food you would eat in your normal life.

Once you get a little stockpile, you need to start rotating it into our meals and replacing it in the pantry. This will ensure you always have fresh food in the pantry.

Buying buckets and buckets of grains and legumes to store. 

Even though grains and legumes are great storage foods, they still break down over time. Food is meant to be eaten.

If your family isn’t used to eating beans and rice in their normal life, it’s going to be a hard transition. So if you have buckets of grain and legumes, you need to start cooking with them now.

Here’s a great way to start incorporating more beans in your meals.

two chalupas on plates

Changing what you eat

Years ago, as a new mom, I read all the volumes of The Tightwad Gazette. One of the things that the author said that stuck with me was something like…”If you eat simply when things are good financially, your family won’t notice when things are tight.” 

That made so much sense to me! I grew up in a home where it was either “feast or famine.” I didn’t want that for my family.

Our meals don’t really change depending on how much money we have. We’ve use the same budget year after year making minor adjustments as needed. We’ve had several times of unemployment and our meals stayed the same.

Sometimes we’ll have an unexpected expense that comes up and we’ll decide that we want to reduce our grocery budget and other areas instead of dipping into our savings. No one really notices because we just have more of the cheap meals that are already in our meal plan.

How to have more food security

I believe true food security means not relying on the grocery store ( or Amazon) for all of our food. Just like previous generations, our food should come from a variety of sources.

Grow a portion of your food

Even if it’s just a few herbs on the window sill or patio. Start practicing growing your own food. You can even grow an indoor garden in a very small space.

One of the Instagram accounts I follow is 66SquareFeet, Marie shares what she grows on her NYC patio and forages around town. It’s inspiring!

You can also plant fruit and nut trees for a backyard orchard. These are great because they produce year after year. If you don’t have space, talk to your city government about planting fruit and nut trees in parks and other common areas.

Forage wild, edible foods

Learn to identify wild edible plants to forage and start using them. Wild edible plants are all around us. But just like growing food, you don’t want to wait until you HAVE to use them to start using them.

Here is a short course on 5 easily identifiable edible weeds.

Here’s a more in-depth course that covers many more herbs and edible weeds that are common to North America.

Be sure to forage ethically by being respectful of the property owners and the plants.

Preserve some of what you grow and forage

Preserving food takes practice. So, start learning now. My books, The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables and Pressure Canning for Beginners and Beyond, can teach you how to preserve food for your family.

Also, preserved food tastes different than fresh food does – not bad, just different. If you want your family to eat home preserved food, you have to start serving it now.

Fermentation is a great way to preserve food that actually increases the nutritional value of the food. Making kefir and sourdough are great things to start with.

Get to know local farmers and support them now

Sometimes it takes a while to find things like meat and milk locally, don’t wait until the grocery stores are empty before you start looking. 

Local farmers need your support year round, not just when there’s an emergency. If you support local farmers before there’s a run on the grocery store, they will be better able to support the community when the grocery stores are empty.

A close up of venison cubes cooking in pan with a slurry being poured in

Learn to fish and hunt

Fishing is probably the cheapest way to get animal protein. The equipment is inexpensive and so is the license. But, again, it takes some practice, so take the kids or grand kids out and learn to fish.

Hunting has more expense depending on what you’re going to hunt. My guys hunt some but I wouldn’t consider us a hunting family. However, whenever friends who love to hunt offer us their extra meat, we gladly accept it. To save freezer space I usually can it. There’s an entire section on wild game in my book, Pressure Canning for Beginner’s and Beyond.

Keep a few chickens

Obviously, this is space dependent but chickens can be kept even inside most city limits. There is a cost associated with feeding and housing chickens but you can grow some of their feed and let them free range to cut costs.

Here are some other tips on how to raise chickens for eggs. The same ideas can be used for raising meat birds.

winter garden vegetables

Cook from scratch now

If the only bread your family knows is store bought, sliced sandwich bread, they are not going to just love your whole wheat homemade bread. It takes time to change your taste buds to enjoy real food.

So start now by serving more simple, homemade food and less packaged food. Stock your pantry with shelf stable ingredients so you don’t have to rely on boxed cake mixes or biscuit mix.

Cooking from scratch takes practice, so start practicing now. What meals or packaged foods do you normally by that you can learn to cook from scratch?

What is the goal?

If your goal is to have a bunch of food you never eat stockpiled “just in case”, then just buy a bunch of food in buckets and never open them.

In our family, that’s not our goal. Our goal is not to be completely self reliance, it’s to be sustainable long term. Our budget cannot afford to buy a bunch of food we don’t eat.

Nor do we have time or energy to grow all our own food. That’s not sustainable for us either.

Instead we choose to live in community, learning from and sharing with others, and helping those in need. 

This is true food security. 

shelves full of home canned food and buckets of grain

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

cg

Friday 8th of April 2022

Very helpful and wonderful site and important topic. Entire communities from infants to senior citizens understand food isn't guaranteed and that inadequate practices and circumstances cancel food security. Food Security: the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. I DEFINE food insecurity as eating the left over part of any animal like the wing tip, chitterlings, hoof jelly, snout, pickled pig feet, etc. Not the best but the poor urban inner city or lower class for decades faced and experienced food insecurity, with second class produce, high pesticide products, "food stamp" giveway goods from 2nd rate companies, uninspected packaging, exorbitant prices, etc. and in places this is still prevalent. Although it can be difficult to see beyond these food offerings, the best of meals included produce: sweet potatoes, cornbread, grits, greens, beans, potatoes. etc. Its wonderful to view fresh produce and learn about food, gardening, homesteading, etc. from Schneiderpeeps.

Angi Schneider

Thursday 14th of April 2022

Yes, there is real food insecurity even in the US and while it is a complicated issue (especially in the inner city) I agree that the most nutritious meals are the simple meals of our ancestors. Glad you're enjoying the information I share.

Kelly

Tuesday 15th of February 2022

Wow! You really made me think about the food I've been squirreling away. Lots of ideas to think about.

Rose Felton

Saturday 1st of May 2021

I think I have pretty good food security. I do almost all our meals from scratch, I have 6 raised beds for gardening as well as several containers of herbs and vegetables and a herb garden. I learned to can last year so have a few things put away there and I put a lot of things in the freezer some being left overs that can be used in another meal. There are also several buckets put away of dried food for that "just in case" moment. I make our bread, butter, BBQ sauce, jams, well most everything! I only have to buy a few things at the store. I can ferment food and I keep a constant supply of Kombucha ready to drink. I learned to hunt and fish when I was younger, but I don't do much of that anymore. I live in the desert of Arizona and don't find too much to forage for, although there are a few good ones! I love doing things this way.

Angi Schneider

Saturday 1st of May 2021

You're doing a great job, Rose! Thanks for sharing!