We are continuing to talk about food in our Be Prepared series, and more specifically the sub-category of produce during emergencies.
As a review, we are covering three categories: produce, meat, staples. Then we are breaking it down further to cover these three food categories for the immediate, the mid-term or intermediate (2+ week supply) and then the longer term (3+ months) and ideas and options with all of them so that you have usable versatility with your food storage options. We are going to encourage you to have a “usable now” food storage and be rotating through your bulk and stored supply and learning to use your bulk foods a few times per week (more on all of this later, but having a practical usable bulk food supply is the key to both a healthy frugality and an emergency food supply!) but having proper food storage, even in small spaces where no storage really exists. It is easy to just tell you to go get the freeze dried #10 cans of foods, which you can do…. but we want to make it also very accessible and just a part of life to have a supply of food and that it is consumed and rotated regularly!
Remember that our rule is to have an emergency supply for a minimum of 3 months. Again the reasons why are listed in our Be Prepared post HERE.
We have already talked about produce ideas for the immediate and intermediate needs with some fun and unique tips in our previous Be Prepared: How To Have Fresh Produce Quickly, Easily and Cheaply For Emergencies and Use Now.
So now it’s time to talk about long-term produce options. We personally like having our eggs in many baskets so that it is a bit of extra security! What I love about these very practical ideas is that not only can they help immensely in an emergency, but they also are the thrifty option for living anyway and so we would recommend these as well for that too!
These ideas are probably not as unique as our immediate and intermediate ideas, and they may also take a few years to fully implement, but you should just START somewhere!
A picture of our Square Foot Gardens from an update earlier this year!
Grow a Garden
This isn’t a unique idea, but it is the most practical and sensible option! If you want to have a bit more security that you will have produce for you and your family for most any type of emergency, then you really should grow your own food. It’s fun, rewarding, healthy, practical and thrifty! I am not a natural born gardener – or rather – I have no green thumb. But I have been working on it for the past few years and this year has really be a turn-around year for us! I fell in love with Square Foot Gardening. We’ve been sharing our updates, but we have four 4×4 boxes this year and next year we plan to have seven! Our food is growing better than ever! We also plan to grow potatoes and we plan to have a year round garden by growing winter wheat in these boxes in the winter, harvesting in the spring right when it’s time to plant the other seeds. I really want to utilize these boxes year round and make the most of them!
I have had (BY FAR) the most success with the square foot gardens, plus they are very low maintenance, they are easy to put together from “scratch” and they take very little space. Even ONE 4×4 box could be a huge benefit for your family.
If you absolutely have ZERO space, not even for one box on a porch… then consider vertical gardening. Apartment and small space dwellers utilize this option. Vertical gardening is similar in concept to Square Foot Gardening, but for small spaces. We are actually utilizing a combination of both square Foot Gardening and Vertical Gardening. You can read up on how to grow a vertical garden HERE and another Vertical Gardening article HERE. Plus, you can find both books and ebooks for a good price on Amazon HERE.
From there, learn about harvesting and storing seeds. This is my goal this year!
Our new peach tree
Plant Fruit Trees
We wanted to plant more trees in our yard for shade. When we talked and thought about it, the thing that made the most sense was to plant fruit trees. We then get our shade, but it was also more practical from a thrifty and preparedness sense! Why spend money watering and taking care of aesthetic only landscaping? Do double duty on the yard and make your wallet heavier by planting fruit trees! We already have a very fruitful plum tree that has been a blessing each fall for many years. So this year, we planted a few more fruit trees to solve our shade and fruit problem at one time. They are easy to plant, easy to care for and they are the same cost in nurseries and garden centers as non-fruit trees. Worst case, you can sell your excess fruit at local farmer’s markets and make money off your tree if it is too much fruit for you to handle. But in an emergency, this could be a lifesaver, not just shade-giver!
Our line of other new fruit trees to “shade” our backyard but be doing double duty too 🙂
Preserve Fresh Foods
Canning, dehydrating, freezing, etc. Each of these ways will preserve your fresh produce for long term storage. Canning will be the longest method of preservation with it being fine to eat for at least 1-year and many for much longer. This gives you the summer to grow fresh food, eat fresh and can the rest for the rest of the year!
You can pretty much can everything (maybe except lettuce, but you can with spinach and kale!) and so this is a great way to have long-term produce supply of anything that you are growing.
Think of those fruit trees we mentioned above! What if you canned the bulk of the fruit for the rest of the year each year? Since you are using glass, you will spend very little on equipment after the initial investment in the canning supplies.
Canning does require some good storage space, but an alternative that can be just as easy, but take up far less storage space is dehydrating! You can have quite an abundant supply of produce in the dehydrated form stored in a small space in your pantry! We have a number of dehydrated foods, most of which I rehydrate to cook and eat! Even without re-hydrating, you can eat these foods in their dehydrated state, especially fruits!
Finally, freezing is another method and the easiest! It is a common way that we preserve our produce because it is so easy. BUT… if they power goes out, this is a problem! But it will work for many needs, so worst case, at least freeze your produce – especially before it goes bad and you have to throw it out, but don’t rely on this as your only form.
The cost of buying canning and/or dehydrating equipment is a very small investment for the return that you will receive. You just need to devote a bit of time! Right now is the best time to find canning equipment in classifieds, thrift stores and garage sales. When fall hits, they will be hard to find second hand! You can get everything you need used for under $30. Brand new, you can get started for around $100, but honestly, you should easily be able to find the pressure cookers or stock pots used for a great price and buy the kit and jars new for the worst case! You may also have neighbors or church friends that have canning equipment that you could borrow for a couple of days. I actually did this my first year and it was a huge blessing – I was able to find the jars used and just bought new lids at Walmart and then everything else was borrowed from a church friend.
For resources on canning and food preservation, check out these links below:
Collect and Store Seeds
This is actually my next step…. learning to harvest my own seeds. This will be my first year trying to do this, so hopefully I will have more to tell you later 🙂 But if you can have a stored supply of seeds to plant when needed or to give to others (or to use as a bartering/exchange tool) when the time comes that it may be needed, then this is something smart to do.
Even if you don’t harvest your own, you can get seeds for good prices! Stock-up on some and store them! But please note, it is important that you buy, plant and store heirloom seeds, NOT hybrid seeds.
What is an heirloom seed? An heirloom seed, is seed from a plant that has been passed down for many generations and can often be hundreds of years old (the original plant – not the seed ;)). The flavor, productivity, hardiness, harvest, adaptability and quality are shown in these foods as they have not been modified or artificially induced. The are basically the original! They are the ones that you can also harvest seeds from the easiest and more beneficially from and will produce the best results. They are the most valuable types of seeds as well because of all of the above factors.
What is a hybrid seed? A hybrid seed is produced by artificially cross pollinating two genetically different plants of the same species, such as two different tomatoes or two varieties of corn. It is a man-made process used to create greater crops, crops that can resist diseases, produce uniform and easily riped foods for the commercial food industry. BUT… many seeds are sold this way… which also means a “one-time” crop. You cannot harvest seeds from hybrids and would have to buy seeds every year.
So spend a little extra and get the real stuff!
For a free resource and “how-to” on seed harvesting, saving and long-term storage, you can visit this site: HowToSaveSeeds.com. I have also found YouTube invaluable in how to harvest, save and store seeds from specific plants! So just head to YouTube and do a search for what you are wanting to harvest and save!
If harvested and stored properly, you can save heirloom seeds for up to 10+ years!!
And once again…. Consider Having a Sprout Farm
These are Lentil Sprouts from my Mom and Dad’s sprout farm.
We talked about this on the last Be Prepared article. I bring it up here again because it is also not only an option for the immediate and intermediate, but long term as well!
Instead of re-stating everything here, just visit the previous article HERE on having a sprout farm which gives you fresh food in 2-5 days (but you can store the seeds for a LONG time!) HINT: This is a super cool, super easy, affordable and requires very little storage space – you will want to check this out!
Coming up on the next topic is having meat/protein in emergencies! Stay tuned!