How long could you eat—at home—before having to obtain food outside of your home?
Just in case you’re asking, I do not consider myself a prepper—or a fear-monger, for that matter. It’s simply a pragmatic question. While this article may touch on a rather dark subject, I believe we benefit from looking at these kinds of realities face-on instead of pretending they can’t happen.
If you’re familiar with the financial guru Dave Ramsey, you know how adamant he is about building and maintaining an emergency fund. In his words, an emergency fund is essentially 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses as available cash, at home or in the bank. This is basically what was called a “rainy day savings” a few generations ago, and back then it was considered nothing more than common sense. In today’s credit-card-normal world, many consider it to be an antiquated and impractical idea. I, however, would suggest credit cards are not the same as having cash stashed away specifically for the purpose of the unforeseen, but I digress.
Whether you think having a stash of money set aside for when the unexpected happens is a good idea or not, it has the ability to turn an otherwise overwhelming event into a mere inconvenience. When life happens and the car develops major problems or the air conditioning goes out on a hot day, and you don’t have the cash to fix it right now, a cash reserve has the capability of taking away the immediate pain and anxiety.
How about Food? –
If that’s true of cash, what about food? I know the thought of maintaining a 3-6 months’ supply of food—an old-fashioned larder, so to speak—is foreign to many people today. But I propose—even more so than an emergency fund—it has the ability to ward off stress and anxiety in the event of upheaval in your world. After all, food is the ultimate sustenance in difficult times and is necessary for all people, more so than money, bullets, or clothing.
Remember the Spring of 2020 when large expanses of supermarket shelves were empty or nearly so. America was panicked trying to get some of the basic necessities they were accustomed to buying without a thought. Here at Pasture to Fork, we fielded more requests for bulk beef and pork in a two-week period than we would normally get in a year pre-Covid. How would the psyche of America have differed if even half of the frightened population had had a several month stash in the freezer or pantry? At the risk of being arrogant, let me just say that food was the least of our concerns at that time. We were concerned, to be sure, just not about food. The thing is, we can’t even claim credit for this because it’s primarily God’s provision that we simply store during the abundant season.
Living Hand to Mouth is Just That –
In a time when most localities—especially cities—only have an approximate 3-day supply of food in the vicinity, it behooves us to think of these things. More, the average American goes grocery shopping every three days. These are the very reasons behind the shortages and subsequent panic in the early days of Covid. The stress of the situation exposed the flaws of just-in-time logistics, from both the standpoint of a centralized food system distributing food around the country and the practice of eaters shopping for food every three days.
Having an emergency provision—food and/or money—starts you in the direction of having fewer emergencies. Rather than a food shortage or economic upset causing angst about what you’ll be eating next week, you have the luxury of simply going to your home freezer or pantry and knowing there’s plenty there for the next several months. Isn’t that the epitome of peace and calm in the face of the unknown? Emergencies are stressful and instigate fear, and we know that both stress and fear contribute—even cause—sickness and ill health.
In addition to emergencies or shortages, we know that throughout history people—especially in situations of war— have often been controlled by way of their food supply. The preferred strategy of armies is to cut off the enemy’s food source, and then just sit and wait it out without firing a shot. By the same token, dictatorial regimes have consistently starved out the people in order to compel obedience. To add to this, 20% of American food is now imported. That’s one out of every five bites! To me, it’s an unsettling thought that 1/5th of the national food supply necessitates crossing cross-national or cross-continental borders, not to mention trans-national transportation. In this situation, we can only hope for good foreign relations to continue.
Where to Start –
You may be asking; “Where to I begin with a home food stash?” The first—and perhaps the easiest step—should be procuring a home freezer. Small to mid-sized chest freezers are readily available (outside of a pandemic) and are quite inexpensive (usually under $200. for a 5 cubic ft. and around $400 for a 10 cubic ft.). They have been proven to be quite reliable, and even a small 5-7 cubic foot freezer holds a considerable amount of food. For example, we have a sharp demand for 1/8 and 1/4 beef bundles, as well as 1/4 and 1/2 hog bundles which typically supplies a four-person family from 4-10 months (depending on the size of the bundle), and only takes from 1½ to 3 cubic feet of freezer space.
In addition to having a liberated fear-free life, an in-home food larder will also save you money. For example, we offer a significant savings on bulk whole chicken, as well as other value bundles. And customers who purchase custom-cut beef quarters and halves typically save anywhere from $300 to $500 over buying equal quantity in the farm store. Most farms and retailers will offer discounts when you buy in bulk.
To be sure, there are concerns about maintaining a home freezer during a power outage. No one wants to lose several hundred dollars’ worth of food due to a lack of electricity to power the freezer. But even that is not a huge concern. One, unless you’re constantly opening and closing the door, a freezer full of frozen food will keep cold up to 3-4 days, and that’s a long time to be without power. Two, even a small generator will power a home freezer, and in most cases it’s not necessary to run it more than a few hours a day to keep everything frozen.
Meat is probably the easiest item to start with in laying up a home food stash, because of the ease and reliability of freezers. But if you’re so inclined, you can take food security much further than that, such as stocking up on food items like dried foods (i.e. beans, sprouting seeds, grains, freeze-dried foods, etc.). If you’re interested in learning more, listen to episode #59 of the Beyond Labels podcast, where Joel and Sina discuss the pros and cons of a home larder. We’ve been maintaining a food larder for over fifteen years, and I learned a lot from listening to their discussion.
Food Security and Culinary Arts –
There is one caveat, I confess, to the discussion of home food security. Having several months’ worth of food on hand cannot be divorced from in-home culinary skills. As scary as that may be, home cooking and food preparation is historically normal. While today’s society, for the most part, hasn’t invested in or inherited these skills, we have an advantage that no previous generation has ever had—the world’s knowledge in the palm of our hand. In the day of the internet generally and YouTube specifically, there’s no need to lament a lack of basic how-to knowledge. No longer do we need to read a book or follow written instructions; we have the benefit of visually watching someone do the thing we want to learn how to do. As you can see, I’m hard on today’s generation regarding this subject.
As Americans became dependent on food prepared outside the home within the last 50-75 years, the lack of culinary knowledge—especially cooking from scratch—increased. Trending along with the loss of cooking skills came the absence of in-home food security due to lack of a domestic in-home larder. Which, in turn, changed how America food shopped (more processed foods), not to mention shopping frequency. Overall, it’s been a gradual road leading to dependence—even serfdom—to an industrialized food system that hasn’t a care in the world for your personal health or food security. Let’s break away from it and learn what true food freedom feels like. And that’s The View from the Country.