I want to talk to you pretty frankly about building a “deep larder”, or food storage, as it’s more commonly referred to in farming and homesteading circles today. I’ve only touched on this topic a time or two because of the stereotypes that go along with it. I’ll confess that when I hear the phrase “food storage”, I automatically picture some paranoid, anti-social survivalist with camo clothes, a painted face and year’s worth of freeze-dried MREs hiding out in a bunker. Not a pretty sight.
But THAT shouldn’t be our impression of food storage at all. My sweet little Granny in eastern Kentucky practiced storing basic food long before survivalists and conspiracy theorists hijacked it in the Y2K era. She grew her garden, preserved the harvest and kept basic, bulk supplies in the summer kitchen, just feet from the back door. She used to tell stories of leaving her summer kitchen door unlocked at night during the Great Depression for her neighbors who didn’t plan ahead and were starving but were too proud to ask for help. She said they never took more than they needed and always returned her clean Mason jars to the back porch. My granny survived 2 World Wars, rationing, joblessness and the Depression by practicing what people had practiced for eons before her: planning ahead during times of abundance for when the times of shortage came.
A generation or two farther back in time, Laura Ingalls’ family was practicing the same useful skill of storing food for lean times.
The garden behind the little house had been growing all summer. It was so near the house that the deer did not jump the fence and eat the vegetables in the daytime, and at night Jack kept them away. Sometimes in the morning there were little hoof-prints among the carrots and the cabbages. But Jack’s tracks were there, too, and the deer had jumped right out again.
Now the potatoes and carrots, the beets and turnips and cabbages were gathered and stored in the cellar, for freezing nights had come.
Onions were made into long ropes, braided together by their tops, and then were hung in the attic beside wreaths of red peppers strung on threads. The pumpkins and the squashes were piled in orange and yellow and green heaps in the attic’s corners.
The barrels of salted fish were in the pantry, and yellow cheeses were stacked on the pantry shelves.
– Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932
That changed abruptly in Post-WWII America with the advent of the supermarket. Suddenly, the food disappeared from cellars, pantries, summer kitchens and backyard gardens. As highways began to criss-cross America and refrigeration became more affordable and obtainable, families no longer depended on their larder/food storage. Now, it’s unusual to find more than a few day’s worth of food in any given house on any given day. Friends, I believe that needs to change. While I’m very thankful for the prosperity that America has enjoyed for decades, we can’t allow prosperity to lull us into a sense of complacency.
I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, but I know things happen. Blizzards. Job loss. Power outages. Divorce. Hacked bank accounts. Things happen. Back in September of 2008, Ohio was side-swiped by the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Ohio. Experiencing a hurricane. Go figure. We anticipated a good soaking rainfall, but what no one saw coming was the Category 1 winds that knocked out power to millions in our area. For nearly a week, we were without lights, hot water, communication or utilities. Roads were blocked by fallen trees. Grocery stores were closed. ATMs were out of order. And because we were in a very rural area, we were very low on the list of priorities. Let me tell you, it was quite the rough week and a pantry full of canned soups, veggies and meats sure came in handy. Beyond Hurricane Ike, having a stocked larder has proved invaluable to my family during extended lay-offs, extreme winter weather, feeding unexpected guests and as a means to bless others experiencing hardship. I believe whole-heartedly that a well-stocked larder should be a priority to us just as it has been in generations past.
Let me just pause here and say that I don’t want you to pursue a deep larder out of a sense of fear, but of prudence. I’ve seen so many sites that use fear to prompt huge, unnecessary purchases and that’s not at all what I want for you. I want you to think ahead like our grannies did and create a necessary, useful cushion for our families. The Bible promises us that bad times WILL come and admonishes us to think ahead (Eccl 11:2, Prov 6:6-9, Prov 13:16, Prov 31:21) and be ready for when the good times end. We need to be like the ant, my friends!
Stocking your larder doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to mean storing MREs and powdered milk, because ~GAG~. The only hard and fast rule for stocking up is to buy food that you KNOW you will use. If your family doesn’t eat dried beans, for the love of Mike, don’t buy a 50# bag of dried beans because a survivalist told you to!! Tailor your pantry to the needs and palates of your family members. An easy way to begin the process is to spend a week or two journaling what you eat each day and look for trends. Are there items on your “menu” that you eat consistently and frequently? THOSE would be smart purchases. After you have a rough idea of what your family eats in a typical week, begin the process of stocking up on those familiar items. Still unsure where to start? How about:
Canned soups and stews
Canned fruits and veggies
Canned/packaged fish and meats
Oats and grains
Evaporated/condensed/instant/shelf-stable milk and other fluids such as bottled water, sports drinks and juices.
Most of these foods have a shelf-life of several years, many can be eaten as-is in an emergency, and nearly all cost less than $2, especially if you shop at Aldi or another discount store. It isn’t beyond anyone’s budget to throw an extra box of pasta or a couple cans of soup in the shopping buggy each week. And believe me, those extra packages add up quickly. If you live in a rural region or close to a farmer’s market, I suggest you take advantage of the fact we’re in peak food-production season and buy fresh, inexpensive produce that you can can, dry, freeze, pickle or otherwise preserve. That’s a simple way to stock your larder quickly.
I’m hesitant to provide links to food-storage plans because they can be absolutely overwhelming, and while they can provide valuable information, they often use fear to incentivize huge purchases. We don’t want to act out of a spirit of fear, but wisdom—and wisdom would say buying something we can’t afford and won’t eat isn’t wise at all! I found only one article I thought would be helpful—addressing what they called “Home Food Resilience“, or the ability to withstand shocks to our budget, environment or lifestyle. They include suggestions for building a “deep pantry”, as we discussed above, as well as freeze dried “emergency” food. Read it with a grain of salt and see what you can glean from it. And as always, feel free to ask questions!! Til next time!