(Note: This is the third and concluding part of this article.)
Garden seeds should be included in your preparations. So in theory, unless you live in an apartment you can then grow at least some of your own food, in desperate times. Garden seeds are very inexpensive and take up very little storage space. And if you select non-hybrid (“heirloom”) seeds then you can harvest the seeds from so you have some to plant the next year again. At a dollar store, you can often buy four packages of seeds for a dollar.
Growing a large garden takes a lot of work, a lot of water, and some amount of knowledge and skill. Once you try growing your own food, you will no longer call anyone ‘dumb farmers’ ever again. Obviously, some things will be easier to grow than others and some things you will not eat. If the only thing out of a garden that you would consider eating is some watermelon, then don’t bother buying any turnip seeds.
Some things like potatoes you grow from the potato itself. You cut them up, and you can get three or four or more new plants from just one potato. A single potato plant may produce a dozen or more large tasty potatoes.
A garden can be any size from one square foot to a hundred acres. You can even have a hanging garden to save space. You can grow many things in pots. Many people now often grow some herbs in their homes in simple flower pots to have a fresh supply. Growing things inside your house or apartment in pots keeps it safe from animals and from raiding by pesky humans.
In most cases, your garden will have to be watered, so you have to plan for that when you plan your water supply. If you have to get your water out of a lake that is a half mile away, then your garden is just not going to work out very well for you.
In town, you will have to keep other people from picking the stuff in your garden. In the country, you will have to keep every four-legged and winged critter out of your garden. You will likely learn to pray for rain and to pray for no hail. The neighbor’s cow or pig could get out and totally destroy your whole garden before you get a single thing out of it. A garden is a great prep item but remember that it is not a sure thing because many things can cause a garden to fail.
A Guerilla Garden
Some now recommend planting a guerrilla garden. This is planting seeds at different spots in the general area and leaving them on their own, and you only check them when it’s picking time. This has many benefits, like no maintenance, and dispersion in several spots, so some are likely to survive. (All your eggs are not in one basket). Another advantage is that your guerrilla plantings are concealed from other humans, and do not disrupt having a regular garden at your home. Downsides are that because of no maintenance it likely means very poor results. Other humans might find it and reap the benefits, wild animals might eat everything. And you did remember all the spots where you planted them, right?
Here again, if you have never done any gardening and are planning on it for your very survival at least get a book or two to read first. And remember you can try many different things in pots inside or outside your house first. Plant a potato in that big patio flower pot to try your hand at gardening. There are often some instructions printed on the backs of seed packets to at least get you started correctly.
So let’s look at options for your survival food: First and most reliable is your stored food. Second is food out of your garden, a good choice but not a for sure source of food. The third is being a hunter/gatherer and living off the land. This is certainly not a sure source of food and could be dangerous. But it might work at least short-term or as a supplement. Fourth is to scavenge/steal/beg/barter food from others. This might be viable but dangerous and not for sure and maybe not very ethical or practical.
Don’t Forget Your Pets
If you have pets or livestock are you going to store food for them also? Or is your plan to use your pets as food? Either would be an acceptable answer. In a long-term situation, pets and livestock will be a valuable source of protein. Many say they will share their people food with their pets and this may be perfectly fine in short-term situations.
In long-term scenarios, you should have stored pet food, and when that runs out, your pet can become a food source for your real family. Does your pet really mean more to you than your son or daughter? If your choice is not to eat your pet, then you should humanely dispatch the creature when your stored pet food is gone.
Under no circumstances should you ever just put your pet out to fend for itself. That pet is totally your responsibility, not anyone else’s. Pets that are ‘turned loose’ often die a horrible slow death by starvation or the lucky ones are killed and eaten by other animals (or humans).
Even if living in the suburbs you can raise some small livestock right now. You could raise chickens for meat and/or eggs. You don’t need a rooster to get eggs, and the rooster is the only loud one. You can also raise rabbits. They are obviously quiet and do not require very much room. Remember that for any pet or livestock you also have to plan on their water supply.
I have had to carry water to livestock on occasion and I can tell for a fact that water is heavy. If the power ever goes out and your water source is even fifty yards from your livestock, add a cart or other means to your preps to assist in moving the water rather than just carrying it.
Consider calories. If you are carrying water for much distance, then you will be burning through many calories. If you are walking many miles out hunting, you will be burning calories. Plan your food supply to your expected needs. If you will be inside your house hunkered down all day, every day then you will not need to consume as many calories per day. You could barely survive on perhaps a thousand calories. But if you will be getting plenty of exercise then you might need three times as many calories and possibly even more than that each day.
No matter how much food I would have stored if I thought a long-term situation was at hand, I would buy as much more food as I could just before the event if I had advance notice. After water, food is the next most vital thing that you need in a long-term situation, and you will need far more food than you think.
It is difficult to stress the importance of having stored food. And don’t forget things like spices, bullion, BBQ sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, salsa, salt (and add more salt because it has many uses), peanut butter, jelly, sugar, brown sugar, and many more add-on items. (Like a spare can opener). These are easy to forget, and while we can likely get by without most of them, they will certainly enhance our dining experiences while using up little extra space or much more money spent.
Often long term storage food (or wild food) can be a little bland, but with a few of these things added, a good cook can make any of us want to eat it. As a forager, I can tell you from experience that while many wild plants are certainly edible in most cases, the application of your favorite salad dressing makes them much more edible.
Local Grain Bins
If you live in farming country, then you have very likely seen grain bins. Huge grain bins store an unbelievable amount of very edible grain. These bins are found near highways for ease of trucking or near railroad tracks for the same reason of shipping. Grain elevators store large amounts also, and those are common in towns and cities. Corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat are the common grains found in those bins. In most cases to use the grain best, you would need a grain mill. Or you could rub the grain between two rocks to make meal or flour. Or sprout the grain and eat the sprouts.
When food is gone farmers will still very likely have grain still stored in those bins on their farms and that grain could be purchased or bartered for from those farmers. In truly desperate times grain bins in remote locations could be opened and grain removed for personal use. This would obviously be stealing, but that would be a choice every person would have to make if they and their family were starving.
Opening a door or chute near the bottom of a full grain bin can be very dangerous and cause a very considerable amount of waste. The grain will flow out just like opening a hole in a dam that is holding back water. It can quickly flow over you and cause suffocation. Be very careful if you ever need to access this source of food. Accessing from the top is always the safest.
There are non-food items we often don’t think much about. Things that we buy only occasionally and often are quite inexpensive. Things like toothbrushes and toothpaste, hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, laundry soap, toilet paper, feminine items, aspirin, contact lens supplies, Band-Aids, and more little things that we use and need and should stock up on along with the food. Some people prep a large supply of these items with the plan of using them for barter during bad times. These items may be quite cheap now but would have real value in a long-term situation.
The list of these sundry items is almost endless. We all use and depend on so many little things that we think almost nothing about now, but we would sorely miss them if we had to do without. Most of these items we automatically toss in our shopping carts without a second thought. Would life be harder for you if you had no more of those reading glasses? Add some to your preps. Make a list of all the little things and add to that list as you think of more. When writing this list, you can add pencils and paper to the list, so you have them to write the next list.
Long-term items to stock might also include a pressure canner along with canning jars and canning lids. If your long-term plan includes using food from a garden, you will need many canning jars and a whole lot of lids. If you have plans for being off grid and yet have a freezer available to use then remember to stock some freezer paper to wrap your meat along with the tape for it.
Salt is a valuable storage item that is very inexpensive to purchase. Meat can be salted and dried for non-refrigerated storage. Making jerky also requires salt, for the brine solution. Salt adds flavor to almost all foods.
A food dehydrator can either be an electric one that you buy or a passive solar one that you build or buy. A dehydrator can allow you to store many foods without refrigeration. Dehydrated foods are also much lighter to carry if you do any on-foot traveling. Remember little things like zip lock bags in different sizes. As we all know they have hundreds of uses and can be easily forgotten when prepping.
If you have never baked bread (and this means most people), then it is something to practice now. After going without bread for a time, a loaf of home baked bread is a real treat. And yes home baked is often way better than the stuff you buy. Eating a piece of bread fresh and warm from the oven is an experience everyone should enjoy, both now and after a disaster.
If you own your own home, you should plant fruit and/or nut trees now. They often take several years before they produce but can be a real asset to your food storage plan, and require very little maintenance.
Also, have plans to cook your stored or acquired food. You will need pans and a way to heat the food. If you plan on a camp stove of some kind make sure you have extra fuel for it. Same if you plan on using your grill, either gas or charcoal. Store wood of you plan on using a wood fire for cooking. And certainly have several ways to light the fire: Cigarette lighters, matches, fire pistons, magnesium & ferro rods, a magnifying glass, or other choices to start a fire. Or better yet, all of those choices.
You cannot get around it. Storing extra food costs money. But unlike some prep items, single food items are quite low priced, and so even on a very small budget, you can slowly but steadily add to your food stores. Even budgeting five dollars a week toward extra food will soon show results. The key to doing it with less money is to use coupons and only buy prep foods when they are on sale. And remember: Only buy what you will eat!