Do we need to worry about being food secure?
There is a lot of disruption in the world at the moment, and some natural disasters that are putting a strain on food supply. Farmers are also being encouraged financially to give up their land or animals which makes we worry about how secure our food supply is in the future. Prices are also going up which always happens when there are shortages. Prices are only low when the market is flooded with an item. I don’t visit the supermarket very often, but yesterday I shopped for a friend who is house bound and I was very aware of the empty shelves and those that had stock spread out thinly over them, when in the past they would have been crammed. I am lucky as I will be food secure for a while because of planning and strategies that I take to ensure this. Here are a few things that I do.
Keeping a full stock cupboard
I have had times in my life that we have been so poor that I have struggled to provide food for my family and I have gone hungry myself. I was a single parent and the benefits system has not always been as generous as it is now and we had to survive on low wages in a time when inflation was high. Since those times over 40 years ago, whenever I have had a bit of spare money, I have made sure that I have bought extra food that would store well. I guess that I could be called a prepper as I am always prepared for hard times. This really helped me during the pandemic and a time of illness when I could not go out. I was never short of anything, and even when money has been tight, we have had plenty to eat. I always have a good stock of flour, grains, dried pulses, tomato puree, fats and oils, oats, spices, herbs, tins of fish and sugar which means that I can provide nutritious meals coupled with what I can grow in the garden. Having a full cupboard takes away a lot of stress and worry and means that I can help family in times of shortages. I was the one giving flour away during the pandemic.
Growing a garden
I don’t have a very big garden and most of it is paved, but I still manage to grow an awful lot of food, most of it in recycled containers or buckets. I grow enough to preserve for winter and to eat during spring, summer and autumn. I do not buy a lot of fruit and vegetables, except when it is very cheap at Christmas time. Another bonus of growing my own is that it is organic and is free of pesticides and preservatives.
I do not spend much money on my garden or food growing but it does take a lot of work. Every year I say that I am going to grow less but it never happens as prices are too high for me to stop, and it has helped me develop the knowledge and the skills to provide my own food should SHTF. I have lived in apartments and have not had a garden and so during these times I have grown salad and small vegetables on the window sills, or rented an allotment.
Now adays there are a lot more community allotments where you can volunteer and collect food that you have grown and there are also community projects that grow food in the community. We pass raised beds full of herbs and vegetables that any one can pick when we walk along the canal. There are also raised boxes of vegetables in our shopping centre. Micro greens is another way to have fresh food if you do not have a garden.
Buying in bulk
By buying some foods in bulk, I not only save money, but it helps me stay food secure. I buy big bags of spices, beans and pulses from the world food aisle, and buy a few things like dried coconut milk powder on the internet, which means that I always have food in the cupboards to make a nutritious meal.
By preserving food that I grow and forage I ensure that we have enough nutrition during the winter. As well as freezing food, I make jams, chutneys, syrups, water bath tomato sauces and fruit, and dehydrate food to store for the colder months when money has to stretch further.
Keeping my ear to the ground
I constantly research on the internet about what is happening in the world. When I read that India are going to stop exporting rice due to needing it to feed themselves, I will stock up whilst there is still plenty in the shops. I did this with flour during the pandemic, and with dried milk just before dairy increased by 50%. By keeping my ear to the ground I was able to stock up before food starting increasing in price, and have been able to stay ahead of any shortages. This has kept my food supply secure and saved me lots of money.
Cooking from scratch
We often play ‘ready, steady, cook’ in our house and I practice making meals out of what we have in the garden or the fridge and challenge myself to use as little as I can out of the freezer or the cupboards. By learning to cook from scratch I know that I can make a meal with what ever food is available. I like looking at world war 2 recipes and how meals were made out of very few ingredients, and I try to use few ingredients in my recipes, not only to save money, but to save my ingredients for another dish.
I never rely on a single kind of food. I make sure that I have a variety of grains for fibre, different kinds of protein, a variety of pulses, and things to sweeten food, or thicken it. An example is that I am aware that there might be flour shortages and so when my stock runs out I will need alternatives. I have therefore dehydrated courgettes to make flour to thicken food and have collected dock seeds to make a substitute flour to eek my flour supplies out should it become difficult to buy. I know also that flour can be made from wild alternatives. I am always reading and increasing my knowledge to find alternatives for things. I now use barley in place of rice sometimes, use nettles when I do not have any spinach, use wild garlic when I have no garlic or onions, etc. I have learned a lot from reading war time pamphlets.
Having no waste
I do not waste any food. Everything has a use, even if it is to put it into the compost. Left overs are made into another meal by adding potato, pastry or a few ingredients out of the garden. Even things like potato peelings are turned into snacks. We add carrot tops to pesto, use beetroot leaves in salads, turn pumpkin seeds into flour, and keep growing things like spring onions in a dish of water so that we can snip them and grow them again. Seeds from supermarket vegetables are sown, sprouting potatoes planted. Nothing is wasted. It is frozen if I can not use it straight away. I have a bag in the freezer that I put vegetable peelings, and another one with bones in so that I can make stocks or soups. Other examples are that banana skins can be used to polish shoes or as fertiliser, and rhubarb leaves when boiled can clean pots and pans so that they become shiny again, or you can make an organic insecticide with them.
Save my own seeds
Every year I buy 2 or 3 packets of heirloom seeds. It doesn’t cost a lot, maybe £7 or £8 pounds. This means that I can then save the seeds from the plants that I have grown to sow the following year. If there is a seed shortage I would not be worried as my stock of different seeds is increasing each year.
Over the last 5 years I have been teaching myself how to forage for food and preserve it. I try to learn about 5 different new foods each year, and these add a lot of free food to my pantry. It usually starts in spring with the wild garlic which provides me with garlic bread, garlic butter and garlic pesto for the year, and ends in October when I collect apples and sweet chestnuts to get me through the winter. I have rosehip syrup stored to sweeten food, a freezer full of brambles to add vitamin C to my diet and provide gorgeous puddings, young leaves in spring add variety to my salads, and nettles give me a nutritional boost through using the leaves and the seeds. The more free food that I can forage, the more independent I become of supermarkets, and the more confident I become about being food secure.
Are you food secure? In what way do you make sure that you are food secure and how could you improve on this? I really think that we all need to think about this and take action whilst we can, even if it is just learning new skills.