All the indicators are that food is going to be in shorter supply in years to come, which will also mean it’ll be more expensive to buy. There are a few strategies that can be adopted to try and adapt to this challenge.
The first thing most people think of, if asked what a survivalist or prepper does, is ‘store food’. The ‘beans, bullets and bandaids’ view of prepping is widespread and not wholly inaccurate, but very few people can, even if they want to, store decades-worth of food.
Food’s heavy, even the dehydrated long-shelf-life food, and it’s bulky. Where do you store enough of it to last for years? Let alone decades? Most of us don’t have room in our houses to tuck away more than a few months’ worth of food against a tough time – enough to survive being cut off in a bad winter storm, enough to ride out an inflationary blip, enough to tide us over losing a job and finding a new one.
Decades? That’s a tough one.
I’m not saying that having a few staples put away for a rainy day (or month) isn’t a bad idea, mind you. If you think about it, having 5kg of rice, 5kg of unground wheat, 5kg of whole oats, 1 kg of honey and a few kg of dried milk filling up a cupboard somewhere is a pretty good way to make sure you don’t starve if you lose your job, need to spend all your income fixing an unexpected problem, suffer bank fraud and have your account pilfered or whatever. It’s just going to take a lot more than storing a few months’ of food to get us through long-term challenges like climate change.
What else can we do?
For a start, we can cut down our food waste. Most of the food that’s wasted in the UK is wasted by people buying it, taking it home, and throwing it away, untasted. We don’t throw food away in our household – we never have. We’ve always been avid composters and any kitchen waste that’s biodegradable gets composted and recycled into the garden. Carrot peelings go to the rabbits; those big leaves that get peeled off the outside of cabbages go to the chickens; their droppings are cleaned out and put on the compost heap. In turn, we eat the eggs the chickens produce, and put the compost on the garden to grow more veg. Any meat that’s left over from our meals goes into the dogs’ dishes. Bones from the Sunday roast go into a pan to make stock or soup.
(Just as a note; dog and ferret droppings, because they’re carnivores, don’t go onto the ordinary compost heap and into the veg cycle – we put those in a separate composting digester to ensure any parasites they’re harbouring, or any disease pathogens, don’t get into our food – but still feed the trees in the garden.)
Anything that doesn’t get recycled through the chickens, the rabbits or the dogs goes to either the compost bins or the womery.
Having reduced our food waste by recycling anything we don’t eat ourselves, we also try not to have more fresh food in the house than we can eat before it goes past its best. We blanch and freeze fresh produce from the garden, rather than let it go ‘over’. I dehydrate excess eggs to make dried egg powder, or we freeze them, or we barter them to friends in exchange for something else. We’re currently running 3 freezers, all packed full, and we’re on the lookout for a big chest freezer to add to the tally as soon as we can, too.
To try and reduce the ‘hidden emissions’ in our food, we work hard on sourcing our food as locally as possible. It costs a bit more, but we don’t buy meat that’s come from other countries, and as much as possible we source meat from local butchers who in turn buy from local farmers. In the past we’ve produced our own rabbit and chicken meat, and I hope to get back to breeding meat rabbits this year – people in the UK are prejudiced against rabbit meat, but a properly-reared bunny is an excellent, highly-efficient and economical source of high-quality protein. We are getting more eggs from our 6 laying chickens than we can eat at the moment (about 3.5 dozen a week), and when one of them goes broody we’ll put a clutch of table-breed eggs under her and raise chickens for the table as well.
Finally, we grow our own food, up to now in the back garden – last spring, summer and autumn we didn’t buy in much by way of vegetables, our deep beds kept us supplied very well and we’re still harvesting brussel sprouts at the moment, with garlic, onions and spinach overwintering ready for a good get-away when the spring arrives. I’ve recently taken on a 20m x 20m plot on a new allotment site in a neighbouring village, 5 miles away, and we should be able to raise not only the majority of our own food but also most of the food for the chickens and rabbits there. By using open-pollinated seeds, not sterile hybrids, we’ll be able to store our own seed from year to year, and if we have a surplus of one crop, we’ll be trying to barter it against something that didn’t do so well, or storing it for later in the year, either by freezing, drying, salting, fermenting or canning.
The aim of this policy is to ensure our supply of healthy, low-emission, low-food miles food as cheaply as possible, thus helping to mitigate any food shortages or price rises in the future.