Food Resilience

  • Posted on: 27 March 2019
  • By: David Trammel

(With the start of the Spring gardening season, its time to talk about food.)

Is that what your cupboard looks like?

Ok so you might not be this bad BUT most of us are woefully short on our stored food supply. We hit the fast food place on the way home for dinner, or stop in at the grocery and buy today's lunch on the way into work. We never plan our meals in advance, but simply stare into the open refrigerator and see what strikes us as good tonight.

Changing that is your first step along the Circles of Green Wizardry.

Now you will certainly ask, why should I stock up on food when there are grocery stores just 10 minutes away? Restaurants on every street corner. If you are like me, a resident of the First World, its not like we have no options to feed ourselves at a moments notice. Why then put away food?

All you need to do to answer that is consider the Winter and the huge snowstorms that seem to happen more and more today. Or the pounding rain storms that lasts for days. Or heat waves that risk serious burns just touching the door of your auto. And that's just regular weather. Don't forget the super storms like Hurricane Sandy that pounded the East Coast in 2012. People were stuck inside for days, unable to get out. Others had their ability to just jot down to the supermarket curtailed when there was no power to run the cash registers or there just wasn't a store there anymore.

Shall we not laugh at New York Yuppies seeking power from electric sockets around trees at buildings put in for Christmas decorations desperate to charge their cell phones and lap tops. Lest we do, imagine we wouldn't do the same, faced with similar circumstances?

Its going to be a nasty fact of Life as we move into the future of the Long Descent. Supply disruptions, weather emergencies and maybe even civil unrest. And that doesn't even consider just something as basic as you losing your job.

Green Wizards practice "Food Resilience". It is the first skill you need to learn.


What do we mean by that, Food Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to adapt and survive changes to a vital need in your Life. To be able to meet your basic requirements when the supply chain goes down or your ability to get to those supply centers is disrupted. Or when your Life undergoes a fundamental shift in its structure that puts pressure on it.

Resilience gives you "options".

Businesses with their "just in time manufacturing" do the exact opposite. Having extra anything is seen as wasteful and uneconomic. Having extra costs money. That is all well and good when everything is working right.

The problem is when its not working right. And there are some very good examples of when that fails. The months of heavy rains that swamped Thailand in late 2011 disrupted the production of computer hard drives. Thailand is the second biggest producer of those components, behind China. The slowdown had serious consequences for manufacturers of computers. If you ordered a PC or laptop right after that for Christmas, you probably saw several weeks of delay because of that.

Imagine then if that wasn't computer parts but food you eat?

Most cities only have in local storage 3-5 days of food. This can sound quite scary but its not that bad. Factoring in surrounding areas, you'll find that buffer increases. The problem is when the food you need today is 100 miles away and can't get to you for a week. Food Resilience, that is storing a few weeks to a month of food in your home gives you a flexibility that "Just In Time" just doesn't have. Sudden events like a hurricane or snow storm clearing store shelve only matters if your own shelves are empty as well.

And the disruption of such sudden events is only going to get more frequent as time goes on.

Its already putting pressure on the World's agriculture. Droughts, floods, pesticide resistant insects and disease, all are putting pressure on food suppliers. And with basic commodities like rice being increasingly grown in narrow areas, when such places get hit by a natural disaster, local governments can impost export restrictions to protect their native populations, resulting in less on the global market. That means higher prices.

If you can't afford something, its the same as if it wasn't there. Either way you go without.

These things will only get worse as we head down the Long Descent. More mouths fighting over a smaller and smaller pie.


Food Resilience in your Life is simple and based on a few general factors.

The first factor is Access, that is can you get to food AND/OR can someone stop you from eating it?

Obviously food in your kitchen cupboard or hall closet you can get to. Unless you can't get to your home. What about that side of beef at the community butcher shop in a rented locker? If local conditions like snow or civil unrest prevent you from driving to the store, OR, the butcher can't open his store because of those conditions, it prevents you from accessing it and that degrades your resilience.

That doesn't mean that having your food supplies in off site locations like that rented locker are bad. Merely that you must factor that into your overall plan. One of the things I do is store a few large totes at my Sister's, who lives about a mile from me. Those totes have a variety of things, some clothing, equipment and a week or so of canned goods. That way if my own place is damaged (fire or weather related), or I can't get to it, I can fall back to her place and at least have something available without effecting her supplies.

Which aren't much mind you, she's not much on resilience, lol.

Last big icestorm that knocked power out at her place, she packed it up and went to a motel. I was staying there at the time. She has a Franklin stove that she never uses in one room. I ran to the hardware store first thing that morning, knowing there would be a run on firewood and bought a car load. It kept the stove going for a few days until we got power restored. It wasn't the best but it got me by. I kept warm in a sleeping bag next to the stove, reading a book by candle light while music played on an old portable battery radio I had. I remember waking in the middle of the night, cold and having to throw another log on the fire, stoking it to Life and heat again. Made me appreciate what our Founding Father's must have gone through living then.

Consider if that motel hadn't been there for her...

And its not just physical supplies of food in nearby grocery stores. Its what happens if something in the commercial chain goes down as well. Power is a good example. No electricity, no cash registers, no credit card processing. No ATMs. You can have the biggest credit limit in the World, but if the guy with the food can't scan that card, you are not eating tonight. Open your purse, or get out your wallet. Count how much actual cash you have. Now imagine having to stretch that for a week.

The sad fact is that most box store chains, the manager would never have the intuitive to get out an old battery operated calculator and a pad of paper, to make transactions in a power out crisis with cash. The one that did would lose his job afterwards. Cause he'd make mistakes. He'd cost the corporate gods money, fuck the masses and their needs. Better to close the store and be safe.

We will discuss "Financial Resilience" and the Long Descent in a later lesson.


The second factor of Food Resilience is "Shelf Life" OR how long will your food supplies last?

Having a cupboard full of fresh bread, wine and cheese, might give you food resilience BUT its a short term one. Bread goes stale and hard, cheese gets moldy. Wine gets drunk.

A pantry full of store bought canned goods, or even better home canned fresh vegetables and fruits gives you a Resilience in Depth.

Things like a 3 day snow storm won't affect you because getting out to replenish your pantry just doesn't enter your day to day. Nor an unexpected guest, if its your sister without power not yourself. Remember you are more than just a hermit, unless you are a hermit. We all have Family and Friends who we depend on, and who depend on us. And not all of them are going to be like you and take the time to learn the skills now you will need in a World Made Harsh.

Being a Green Wizard means leading by example. And to be ready to teach a lesson when the right circumstances comes along.

We have perhaps a decade of wiggle room left us all before resource limits, climate change, overpopulation and decreased food production start to really affect our day to day lives in major ways. The ones that learn the skills needed in a World Made Harsh, long before a failing grade on the exam is fatal will certainly have the advantage. They and their Circle of Community, their Family and Friends will survive and even prosper as Civilization changes from voracious caterpillar, eating its way through plant after plant to a butterfly living in harmony with its surroundings.

To do that, you need to learn the skills now, while failure is still a survivalable exercise in growth.


A sub-factor of Shelf Life is "Storage".

I always write the date I bought a can of food on the bottom of the can, and then try to always use the oldest food first. Sometime that means eating a meal I wasn't planning to. You have to get used to that. That's one way to practice Shelf Life. Knowing what to buy is another and we will get to that as we learn more about Food. For now, a bit of quantity is ok, we'll look at quality (aka nutrition) next.

Once you start storing more than a few week's of food, managing your Shelf Life becomes important.

We waste too much food as a society. I've seen figures as high as a third of the food bought gets put into the waste bin. Some of it because we don't eat it, but alot because it just goes bad before we do. Its a waste, even if you are composting it. If you aren't, then its just plain stupid.

You have a whole library of options for storing food safely. Freezing, drying, canning. Our ancestors understood that you grew food and harvested it, then stored the harvest for when growing food wasn't practical. Its only after we began exploiting a million years of stored sunlight as coal and oil, that shipping fresh strawberries 10,000 miles by airplane just so people could eat them while the ate breakfast made any sense. Even if that strawberry was picked green then chemically ripened a day before sale. Even if it tastes like something made of cardboard and scented artificially.

Time to get back to moving with the Seasons and their Bounty, not imposing our own schedule on things.

Food Storage will be discussed in detail on the forums.


"The $20 a Week Challenge"

Here is a simple and relatively easy (and cheap) way to build some Food Resilience into your Life.

Next time you are at the grocery store, buy what you were going to buy. Then once you have finished, grab a hand basket, and go back into the aisles. I want you to buy the makings for three meals or so. Try to spend under $20. And a box of toaster pastries doesn't count as a meal. Get something that you know would be filling and nutritious. A big meal, the kind you could keep going on. It might be the only meal you get that day, in the event of an emergency.

But also buy what you would normally eat. Don't buy a pound of dry beans if you wouldn't normally eat a bowl of beans in your life. Don't buy what you think some survivalist would advise, instead pick foods that are part of your regular diet.

And its ok to add a box or two of comfort food. Silly treats like toaster pastries or nuts. Just be sure you have bought the require meals first. A hand calculator is a useful tool in this case. It lets you keep track of your total. We'll use it later when we get to how to budget our food dollars well.

When you get home, take those groceries out and put them in a separate box or container. Remember to date the items with a magic marker or something. Then go put that box in a closet or cabinet apart from your regular pantry. This is going to be the start of your "Deep Pantry."

The following week when you go to the grocery store, do it again. Pick up three meals worth, and put the new items with last week's.

Keep doing that for four weeks. At the end of the month, go get that box and bring it out to your dining room table. Take everything out and notice something. There is a lot of food there, isn't there? With what is in your regular pantry, you now have at least two weeks of food set aside. And if, or when, that next storm is forecasted to hit, YOU won't be at the store staring at empty shelves like the majority of people in your community will be.

Become Food Resilient First and Foremost.


Serinde's picture

Efficiency is probably the opposite of resilience, isn't it? I have a walk-in pantry (formerly a "coal hole", and it's slightly fuller than it would be this time of year due to the moveable feast that is Brexit. A few extra tins of tomatoes and baked beans over the weeks (this is the UK, after all). I always have large sealable containers of flours and sugars, plus the usual pasta and rices, nuts and seeds. Sealed tins of dried yeast. Oils. Jam and jelly (mostly homemade). Yes, shelf life is a definite thing, especially with those nuts!

But there's no getting past the issue that this is the point in the year when I've run out of onions, the garlic is starting to shoot (still edible, just fiddly) and the potatoes... well those that are left from last year's harvest are trying to look as alien as possible, but they're still edible too. I reckon between the pantry and the freezer (I know, what if no electricity? Guess you eat very well temporarily and cook up everything else into something new). I also live in a place that's surrounded by farms, and I know most of the farmers. Handy. I think I could look after the three of us for at least a fortnight; more, with care. I don't guarantee variety, of course.

But it's the start, at least here, of the gardening season. But that's for another thread. As is the wonder that is a tight-knit community.

mountainmoma's picture

Potatoes, onions and garlic do only last so long. To get thru the "hungry months" until new harvest is ready there are a couple options.

First, there is canning. You can pressure can potatoes, carrots and sauteed onions. Carrots can also be water bathed canned if in vinegar, pickled. Dehydrating to my mind is best, dried onions, dried garlic pieces, dried carrot pieces, dried potatoes. While I have not dehydrated potatoes myself, I have dehydrated the others. I have also bought professionally dehydrated onions, carrots and potatoes (diced, shredded and sliced) in #10 cans with oxegen absorbers, so then these canned, dried veggies can last for 30 years. A #10 can of carrots and one of onions is an awful lot of carrots and onions ! Just one can of each will help your normal food storage have alot of variety.

I opened one can of each a few years ago and experimented cooking with them. Great products. Just put a bit in a bowl and add water and leave and both products rehydrated to be just like fresh ! Texture and smell. Way better than a pressure canned or frozen item. I forget now exactly what I came up with, maybe 1/4 cup dried onion ( or less) to rehydrate to one onion, and 1/8 cup of carrot to be one large carrot. I made lots of things with these, soups, added to pasta sauces, in cassaroles, fried rice, etc.... An inexpensive place in the USA to buy some of the most basic dehydrated items, including these onions and carrots is the curch of jesus christ of latter-day saints prepareness store, and they sell to non-church members. Locations are here and the order form showing orices and what they carry is here One can of dehydrated chopped onions, packaged for a 30 year shelf life costs only $7.50 and a can of diced carrots is $8.50, they now only guarantee the carrots for 10 years.

It is a good idea for a backup to having a food access problem at the wrong time to have one can of each. Then, you can have home canned tomatoes that you eat up between harvests and re-can a new batch each year. ( if you do not can each year, you could just buy a can of dehydrated tomato powder in a #10 can from another source, like this I also tested a can of this out the same winter as the other two products. Worked real well as a substitute for tomato sauce, tomato paste and making tomato soup) I think each of these 3 ( onions, carrots, a tomato product) dried garlic, and making sure you keep your spices up, woud make whatever else you have in your pantry not only taste better, but get you a few vitamins.

Keep some butter in the freezer to, maybe 3 extra pounds, it freezes and thaws easily, do not need to do any extra wrapping, just put it in the freezer, then rotate that into your household use. So, you are almost out of the butter in your refrigerator, you put it on your list and buy a pound at your normal weekly shopping, then when you get home, you put the new pound in the freezer on the bottom of the butter stack, and take the top one off and put in the refrigerator. That way you always have an extra 3 ( or 5 or 10, depends on how much you use...) pounds of butter in case of a supply disruption or storms keeping you at home. Everything is better with butter.