March 28, 2024

Thinking about food security.

I think about food security a lot at the moment with everything that seems to be happening in the world. My time line, the media. and my YouTube seem to be filled with scary stories about how there is not going to be enough food in the future for everyone. It also really concerns me about how many farms are going out of business or being bought out by large conglomerates.  I see companies making the most of the fear by advertising and selling products to stock up on, or advertising seeds to store in case there is a catastrophe.

Someone that I follow on YouTube made me smile as she went out and stocked up on loads of food from the supermarket last year, but showed us recently that she still had most of the food as it wasn’t things that she particularly liked.  It was just things that would store well.  Buying things isn’t really a good way of making ourselves food secure as what happens when the supermarkets run out of food? You have no way of replenishing it.

It is easy to panic and go and stock up on items from the supermarket when you read all the scary stories.  I did it when I heard that olive oil was going to increase in price and when I heard that there were going to be rice shortages which would make it more expensive.  That is ok as it saved me money and it is food that I know that I will use regularly, and like. I also do have a small stash of things from the supermarket or garden that will help me make meals in times of shortages, and I rotate these items regularly so that they do not go out of date. With my limited storage I need to make sure that they are nutritious eg dried chickpeas, or will fill us, for instance pasta and rice.

Since retiring, improving my food security has  been important to me as I know that I have very little money to spend on food.  I therefore have had to learn to improve my skills in food security as prices increased. I don’t own land or have a big house to store lots of food in, and so it is difficult.  I therefore don’t try to be totally self reliant, but try to be self sustainable as much as I can in the long term.

For me, food security means not relying on the supermarkets. I look for different sources of food, and I am not talking about Amazon, though I do bulk buy odd things from there like sausage skins. I try to learn and use skills now that will help me before it comes to a time that I have to worry about food scarcity.  I eat as if food is scarce now.   My children were always brought up with simple, frugal meals and so never realised how tight money was when they were growing up. Eating simple meals meant that I didn’t notice the shortages during the ‘Pandemic’ as I have learned to adapt recipes and plan meals from  what we have already.

Past generations had to plan ahead to ensure that they had enough to eat and couldn’t just pop to the shops.  I do plan my food for the year as I have a yearly food budget, but I always have the comfort of knowing that food is readily available in the supermarket if I run out.  At the moment I forage, grow and preserve seasonal foods to last the year and only buy meat when it is on offer, eg at Christmas and Easter.

Here are some ways that people can improve their food security now.  I think it is important to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  Hopefully there will not be food scarcity in the future, but the upside is that most of these ways of improving food security also save us money.

 

Be part of a community who share knowledge, ideas and even share produce or seed swap.

Cook simple food from scratch so that you need less ingredients.  Learning to cook this way is not easy and takes practice.  Over the years I have learned to make food that I would have previously bought from the supermarket, eg. bread, yoghurt, hummus, pesto, etc.  It takes time for family to get used to the taste of food made from scratch as it often looks and tastes very different from shop bought items.  It is therefore good to start this now before we may have to.  The fact that the food is healthier is a bonus.  There are no hidden additives that no one can pronounce.

Preserve. Every year I try to learn how to preserve something new, or use a new technique. I can’t afford lots of fancy equipment and so preserve using what I have.  I often use the sun to dehydrate food, the oven, or my air fryer. I use recycled jars and water bath rather than having a canner. I pickle, make jams and chutney and this year want to try fermenting food.  I have started making sour dough recently and want to try kefir.

Grow food and save the seeds every year.  I have my own seed bank now and just buy a few heirloom seeds each year to add new varieties.  I grow most of my food in pots as I do not have much growing space.  My hedge is fruit bushes. When I did not have a garden I would grow  herbs and salad on my window sills,  tomatoes in a hanging basket and kale in a tub in my porch.  Another way to grow food is to apply for an allotment or to talk to the local council about providing community gardens or community raised beds in the area.  We have some raised beds along our local canal that anyone can take the produce from.  I planted some cuttings from my blackcurrant bushes on common land in the village to provide free fruit in the future.  Gardening is a skill and it may take a few years to learn to grow food well, and so the sooner you start, the more food secure you will be.

Get to know a local farmer.  I have started buying things from a local farm shop even though they are a bit more expensive.  The farmers need our support to stay in business and provide us with food.  It also might be useful if he knows I am a regular customer if there are shortages in supermarkets.

Changing eating habits.  Over the last 3 years we have really reduced our dependence on meat and have slowly come to enjoy meals made with pulses and beans.  Many times in summer now the whole meal will be made from things out of the garden.

Learn to forage.  Every year I try to increase my knowledge of edible weeds, fruits, mushrooms and berries.  I don’t pick them all but I have the knowledge if I need to.  Some things I do forage now and they add a lot of nutrition to our meals eg blackberries.  Dock seeds have also been a good way to reduce the flour I need to make bread.  There is so much out there for free that will improve meals or provide you with meals eg. tapping birch to get some sweetness.

Look back at history  In the UK we are the best fed population in our history.  Except for those unfortunate enough to be  living in extreme poverty, we expect to have 3 meals a day, snacks and treats.  We have food banks, waste food projects, Olio and free school meals that help those in need.  In the past people may only have had one meal a day, or even every other day, and they would have had to make food out of what they could grow, forage or buy cheaply.  I like looking back in time to see what they ate.  The leaflets distributed by the government during World War 2 are a great example of making meals out of nothing, or unexpected ingredients, and we can learn a lot from them.  I often incorporate some of these recipes into our meal plans.

Keep chickens and honey bees.  The deeds of my property do not allow me to do this but many allotments allow poultry and bees.  Eggs are a really good source of protein, and we all love sweetness that the bees can provide.

Hunt and Fish.  I used to fish as a child from the cliffs on the East coast, and so even though I haven’t done it for nearly 45 years, I know how to fish.  I also know how to trap and hunt from watching YouTube and from survival courses I have undertaken in the past.  I am going to start to learn archery classes next week.

Learn survival skills.  I love learning about survival and have been in survival situations in my past.  I know how to filter and make water safe, and build and cook on fires, or make a fridge to keep food cool if the power went out.  We were taught what we could eat and forage at the coast, and how to build traps as well.  Water is as essential as food.  Having basic survival skills, even learned from the internet, could help if the SHTF.

Do you think about food security?  What strategies have you got in place to improve your food security during these troubling times?

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. Katie Naden March 29, 2024 at 8:12 am - Reply

    As children we grew up in the country side & foraged I stock up on food we get from the Food club & grow . They are made into meals pickled or frozen in portions . I keep a larder & freezer list .
    My standbys to use up fridge or freezer bits are pasta sauces & soups . So nothing is wasted . I still shop for things I can’t yet bake grow or make .
    I have found saying yes to fresh veg at food club has made me a more creative cook & my family less fussy trying new dishes . A recent discovery for me is celiac I love it especially as a soup . X

    • ToniG March 29, 2024 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      Sounds like you have got your food security sorted x

  2. Cal March 29, 2024 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    This is all new to me so I don’t have a strategy but we do cook from scratch and don’t eat a lot of meat to save money. I sometimes make bread, I’d like to be a lot more consistent about it but find it tricky to fit in around kids and work. I’m learning lots from your website! Thanks for everything that you share :)

    • ToniG April 2, 2024 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      It is so hard with a family and a job. I didn’t do half as much before I retired. I have the time now. I think just learning new skills and building the right mindset are best things that you can do. Thanks for your kind words

  3. Dee April 1, 2024 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    Toni, thank you so much for sharing your experience and for your words of advice. I don’t comment much, but I truly appreciate all that you do for our little community! Hope you had a lovely Easter!

    • ToniG April 2, 2024 at 1:14 pm - Reply

      Aww that is really kind of you. Thank you.

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