10 Food Security Tips
10 Food Security Tips
Let's talk about food security. I think a lot of people feel that same at the moment, certainly after the $10 lettuce of 2022. We all want to feed ourselves and our families the best way we can. You can live without the latest movies and fancy clothes, but you cannot live without food.
A major sticking point for lots of people is they don’t have space. To that, I say where there is a will there is a way. And I’ll help you find them, but you have to implement them.
Inner city or suburban dwellers, find your nearest community gardens and ask a friend with a backyard if you can grow using their space (pay for the use with produce). When you become really committed find a paddock to lease just out of town, you might even have a group of friends go in with you and share the cost/work.
Farmers grow amazing food for us, and they are often not compensated for their work in the way they should be. One point about achieving food security is that you may feel some jobs are just too difficult for you. Please know that it's fine not to be able to manage your own meat production, it is not for everyone. Please also remember this when a farmer asks for a set price for their product, remember what that farmer has to do to get that product to you. They are often doing a job that others can’t or won’t do.
Without farmers, we’d all be hungry, naked and sober.
Stockpile Non-Perishable Foods
Flour, rice, sugar, salt and the list goes on. There are many products that you can buy and store in bulk. Once a month buy a large container and pick one item to buy in bulk. Check the supermarkets near you to see if anything is on special or start hunting for bulk buy stores near you.
I have a Costco 1 hour away and just picked up a 10kg bag of salt for 5.69$AUS.
Why do I need that much salt? Stay tuned we talk about preserving shortly. Quite often I can get flour, rice and sugar at discount prices from Costco too! I never even have to worry about expiry dates as we always use it before it would go bad. Make sure you have proper containers to store, especially if you have a mouse or pest problem. I’m in rural Australia and have often seen mice chew through plastic so either store with traps around or very thick plastic tubs.
Canned goods are another item you can buy and store in bulk, and you can definitely get items when they are on sale. There are many articles that are now indicating that lots of canned items can also be used past the used-by date. Do your own research so you are comfortable keeping or using canned items. If you need longer expiry check the dates when you buy.
Maintain a Proper Pantry
So you’ve got a few tubs of bulk food what next! Maintaining a proper pantry.
It's no good to buy bulk and stockpile when things are on special if you don’t rotate through those items in a systematic format.
The best thing you can do is write a list of the most commonly used items in your household and keep those coming into and rotating through the pantry. For us, canned tomatoes, beans, corn and tuna are all high rotation. Dry goods its rice, pasta, flour and sugar. Frozen includes frozen vegetables and fruit.
Through winter we have to buy milk as our lovely goat ladies are dry over winter as they are prepping for new kids. Unfortunately, our chooks go off the lay over winter also, so next summer I’m going to water glass my eggs to give me enough to get through the winter hiatus.
So write dates on things, rotate old stuff to the front and know what you have on stock.
Grow Your Own Vegetables
This is my favourite one, even those in apartments can do this. It takes very little space to have a pot with cherry tomatoes growing in it. A countertop with your favourite herbs or some microgreen (say goodbye to the $10 lettuce).
If you have a backyard think about your most bought veggies, check if they grow in your climate zone and instead of a flower bed plant a couple of tomatoes, zucchini, capsicum or strawberries.
Our heavy users are garlic, onion and potatoes so we grow them every year. And I have to be honest, they taste so much better than the shop-bought versions.
Now I know some people will say “You spend $20 growing $6 worth of tomatoes” but to be honest you can’t beat the taste and freshness. And next year when you use seeds you saved, and equipment you already bought the year before, then you will have only spent $10 and you likely get $15 worth of tomatoes.
The big tip here is don’t grow something that you don’t use often! You can be overrun by produce very easily, of course, you could then join a FB trading produce page in your area and swap the excess for something you don’t grow.
Learn to Hunt or Forage
This one can be a bit controversial, as I imagine you are all thinking I’m not going to go hunting with a gun (for my USA friends, in Australia gun ownership is highly restricted).
So I want you to adjust your thinking a little. Ever been fishing? Crabbing? Caught yabbies from a dam? Then you have been hunting. I also like hunting as in my area there are rabbits, deer, wild pigs and kangaroos. All of which are edible and all can get to plague proportions in a good year. If you are in the city, beach or river fishing is a great alternative, even collecting pipi's at the beach is a fun activity the kids can join in.
Forage can be as easy or hard as you like. The big issue with foraging is plant identification, so never eat something you haven't identified as 100% edible. Mushrooms are the biggest concern and if you really love them then grow them at home.
There are FB pages telling you land that can be foraged on in your area. It's amazing how many fruit and nut trees grow on public lands. The fruit would just go to waste if not collected so better to use it than waste it.
Start Seed Saving
Seeds can be very expensive and unfortunately, a lot of commercially produced seeds are treated with chemicals. My suggestion is to buy seeds from an organic supplier in the first instance and then harvest seeds from the strongest plant. Different seeds have different methods of collection but I have just always gone with spreading seeds out onto paper towels until they are completely dry. Once dry I store them in folded paper away from sunlight and moisture.
I have grown cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, squash, garlic and potatoes over the last couple of years using what I already had. It makes growing much cheaper knowing that I’m on my third year of potatoes from the same seed potatoes.
If you come across unusual seeds they can be handy to hang onto for swapping also!
Keep Backyard Chickens
We do love our girls, they give us so much more than eggs. They produce manure for the gardens, they help turn over our compost, they eat so many pests and of course, we get delicious eggs.
Keeping backyard chickens is a simple and fun way to promote food security. Eggs are a superfood and a great source of protein. They are also a swappable commodity of high value, especially free-range, chemical-free raised eggs.
There is no need to keep a rooster to obtain eggs, I get surprised by how many people don’t know that, but it's true. Just keeping 2-3 hens in your backyard will likely get you 12-21 eggs per week. And you keep bugs down, compost and manure up. It's a win for everyone.
I know that many will be mortified but once a hen is past her laying prime, you also get a tasting meal. An older bird can still be eaten, maybe not as the perfect Sunday roast but there is no point wasting produce. And at least you know what the bird was fed and how she lived before she was dinner, that's more than you can say for your takeaway fried chicken.
Grow Fruit Trees
Again apartment dwellers may say they can’t do this but if you have a balcony there are plenty of dwarf versions of fruit trees. If you have a backyard, even better, instead of ornament trees, grow fruit or nut trees.
Pick trees that you know will benefit your family, no point growing oranges if everyone hates them, and also that suit your climate. I long for the day that I can build a big enough hot house to grow bananas, pineapples, avocados and ginger.
You will likely have more fruit than you can manage which leads beautifully into our next point.
Learn to Preserve
Preserving foods when there is an abundance is a fantastic skill to have, even if you are not growing the produce yourself. The first time I made bulk bottles of strawberry jam, it was because I’d got offered 5kg of strawberries that a grower couldn’t sell quick enough.
I made jam and bottled it never having done it before, with none of the right “tools” of the trade. I think the bottles I used were even from the discount store! Surprisingly we a) didn’t die from food poisoning, b) went through all the jars in record time because they were delicious and c) the bottles survived to be used again.
I have since learned a lot more about preserving food, and it is important to understand the health and safety concerns when starting out. It is also something you shouldn’t be afraid of trying, its actually not that hard to do. I have also made yogurt, and cheese and am looking forward to my first attempt at sauerkraut this year. All you’ll need is produce, salt or sugar, and google!
Raise Your Own Meat
Now to my vegan friends, look away, I will never apologise for liking and eating meat. I have eaten meat and game all my life and at 50 I’m not about to stop. If meat is not your thing then I totally understand, it means more for me, so I’ll never try to convince you to change.
Even those in a backyard in suburbia can still raise their own meat. The backyard chicken is the main example, but don’t rule out rabbit or duck meat, which can both be raised in small spaces.
If you are not sure you could stomach these meats head to your local game butcher, most markets have them, buy a rabbit or duck and get cooking. You will be surprised! I grew up eating rabbits and still think of rabbit stew as comfort food.
If you are in suburbia don’t forget to use the offal and skins in your compost. Some people refuse to put meat products in compost but I have always done it with no problems. Just keep it well buried until decomposition. Your soil will love you for it.
Alright suburbanites who say this can’t be done, do you have open land anywhere around where you live? Any open spaces? Who owns the land? Would they agist an animal on it for you?
Ok so not everyone can do this one but certainly, a few can. And growing goats, sheep, cows or pigs is fairly hardcore in terms of food security.
If it's going above and beyond what you are capable of then my next best suggestion is to find a farmer who sells produce by the quarter, half or full carcase. With a good deep freezer, you could buy enough meat for 6 months in one hit. My hot tip for this one is to make sure everything is labelled, there is nothing worse than defrosting a bag of chops only to discover you're now having mince for dinner.
What are you doing to prepare?
Let me know what you are doing to prepare and manage your own food security. I love hearing tips from others about how they are managing their food supplies.
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