Friday, June 12, 2009

How to make three months of food last six months, and why you need to know...

Can you think of ways you can stretch your groceries if you were suddenly faced with not being able to buy more for some reason? I’d like to share a few ideas with you to help kickstart your own idea machine.

How far do you think you could stretch your groceries if you really needed to? How solid are your emergency preparedness plans? Could you deal with a longer crisis than anticipated, or multiple ones? Why should you consider questions such as these?

The scene of this world is rapidly changing and becoming more threatening, with no letup in sight. Just a few bumps in the wrong places on the beltway of global commerce alone can trigger a cascading chain of events that can put a serious dent in anyone’s plans.

Our global community has grown so fragile and unpredictable that new normals are being set every day. Here are a few interesting factoids that illustrate how fast the scene of our world is changing. What we are witnessing today was not ‘normal’ just ten, twenty or thirty years ago!

Not that many years ago, terrorism was almost unheard of. The June 1986 issue of the Awake! magazine reports this about the early years of terrorism (see the commentary at the end of this article for an explanation of these statistics):

In 1971, fewer than two dozen people died in terrorist attacks worldwide.

In 1983, 10,000 people around the world were killed in terrorist attacks.

Despite increasingly diligent and aggressive anti-terrorism measures, the year 2007 saw over 22,000 people killed in terrorist attacks. Things are heating up fast!

And look at the disasters!

In 1960, there were 523 catastrophic disasters worldwide.

In 1970, there were 720 catastrophic disasters worldwide.

In 1980, there were 1387 catastrophic disasters worldwide.

Globally, more than 2.5 billion people were affected by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters between 1994 and 2003. That's a 60% increase over the previous two ten-year periods, United Nations officials report. (These numbers do not include the millions displaced by the horrific tsunami which killed an estimated 180,000 people in South and Southeast Asia in 2004. Also, those numbers do not include Hurricane Katrina's victims and survivors.)

Despite better communications and evacuation methods, more people than ever are dying in natural disasters. As recent as 2008, 220,000 people perished in natural disasters.

Then there's the global threat of out-of-control influenza and other pandemics that are admittedly unstoppable. Famine can strike anywhere now, thanks to shortsighted agricultural practices such as monoculture and genetically engineered food crops. Weather conditions wreak havoc with our food supplies. Agricultural terrorism is waiting in the wings. War is an ever present threat in many places.

Because we can only digest so much bad news, it’s easy to be lulled into a jaded complacency that dulls our vision and hearing. It’s only natural, or else we would all go mad with worry. On the other hand, the wrong kind of complacency can be deadly because ignoring probabilities does not make them any less likely to happen. Being well prepared brings peace of mind because you know that you have done all that you reasonably can to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious emergencies.

The old saying about ‘preparing for the worst and hoping for the best’ is wise, considering the uncertainty of our times. Because none of us know what emergencies lay ahead or for how long, it doesn’t make much sense to limit your preparedness goals based on a guess what the disaster of the day might be. (If you do hazzard to guess, then be prepared to deal with the tragic possibility of being wrong.) It makes sense to prepare for the most likely events first, but don’t stop there. It’s better to be a little over prepared than not enough. The broader your plans are, the more your back will be covered.

Being well prepared is not a destination, with a finish line where you can say, “I have finally arrived! I have enough!” View your preparedness plans as an ongoing, evolving process of learning new ways to be more self-reliant. You and those around you will benefit from being better prepared for The Unexpecteds.

Being well prepared is learning how to be more self-reliant, and being less of a victim of your own ignorance.


Take an inventory of your supplies. How much do you have on hand? At your present rate of consumption, how long will they last? Three days? Three weeks? Three months? What will happen if you run out of supplies and replacements are not readily available? Hmmm... ok, then...

With that thought in mind, pay close attention to warning signs of prolonged or multiple events that could affect your ability to renew your supplies. You may need to consider a few drastic measures to stretch your provisions to create a thicker cushion against hard times.

1. RATIONS: Consider the possibility that someday you may need to view your provisions as rations, rather than as your only source of sustenance. Be prepared to use your provisions only to supplement what you cannot get otherwise. If you ever find yourself in the midst of a severe crisis, don’t wait until you have gone through most of your stuff to begin rationing. If you can, begin stretching your supplies early on, and take all reasonable measures to make them last as long as possible.


A) Indoor/outdoor food gardens
can be grown just about anywhere in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Explore different gardening techniques that would be useful in your area. For example, if gardening is difficult because of too much shade or not enough water, seek information about which food plants thrive under those conditions. Are you physically challenged, or do you live in an apartment in the city? Look into container gardening. Many kinds of vegetables can grow in surprisingly small spaces. Highly nutritious sprouts are easy to grow inside a quart jar. Poke salad shoots can be grown in a cardboard box in a closet. Surprised? Wait, there’s more…

B) Guerrilla gardening: hiding in plain sight.

If historical accounts of the Great American Depression (and other sad chapters in human history) are any indication, you can expect conventional or “normal” gardens to be a magnet for hungry visitors during particularly hard times. If you realize that you can’t feed everyone who comes knocking, and if you can’t see yourself standing guard over your beans, corn and tomatoes, consider gardening guerrilla-style.

Guerrilla gardens can be grown just about anywhere--in the city, suburbs and in the rurals. This new clandestine type of gardening can be made highly theft-resistant without the need for fences or alarms, operating on the principle of ‘hiding in plain sight’.

You can easily grow delicious and highly nutritious ‘specialty vegetables’ that won’t attract the attention of those who are unaccustomed to eating them. Certain plants that look like weeds or ornamentals to most people in your community are highly prized as delicious foods by people in other lands. More information about this style of gardening with easy to grow plants will be discussed in my future blog posts and will be covered in detail in the upcoming Mrs. Tightwad’s Creative Survival Handbook.

C) Go for the wild and natural. Learn the basics about harvesting animals and wild plants for food and medicine.

Making meat: If you are an inexperienced omnivore who wants to learn how to 'make meat', you may want to consider cultivating a working knowledge of fishing, hunting and trapping, now. These skills can go a long way in stretching your provisions. If you are not skilled in these areas, consider taking the time now to learn. Viewing documentary videos, along with some real-time observations and experiences will help you to be a better hunter and gatherer. Much in the way of animal behavior, along with a plethora of hunting tips and techniques can also be learned from library books and the internet ( is your friend).

During prolonged or widespread crisis, expect hunting pressure to adversely affect deer and other wildlife populations, in terms of a lower count and increase elusiveness. Consider studying smaller animals and birds that are generally more plentiful and easier to hunt and trap.

Foraging for wild edibles and medicines: There are a lot of look-alikes in the botanical world, and some are deadly poisonous. If you don’t have an experienced guide to personally introduce you to the wonderful world of wild cuisine, then get a reputable guidebook and proceed very slowly and carefully. Don’t try to learn too many things at once.

One of the easiest and the most foolproof learning tools I’ve ever seen is the Peterson Identification System, as taught in the Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants in the Peterson Field Guide Series. These guides are sponsored by the National Audubon Society and are published by the Houghton Mifflin Company.

These guidebooks really shine with incredibly detailed descriptions, illustrations and photos that aid in positive identification. Plants that have poisonous look-alikes are indicated by a skull and crossbones icon as a warning, and a special chapter is devoted to them.

D) Go native! Broaden your horizons by learning about “alternative” foods that primitive tribes around the world have thrived on for thousands of years.

If you live in America, a casual study of traditional Native American foods that sustained the tribes that originally inhabited your region should be enlightening.

E) Microfarming: the other, other meat.

If you find your supplies nearing the end of their existence, and if times are austere enough, you may also want to consider ‘microfarming’, or raising certain insects for an abundance of nutritionally rich and life-sustaining food. Other folks may think of it as raising fish bait. Naturally, I prefer to recycle the fish bait first, by fishing. But if times were hard enough and I couldn’t fish for some reason, then I’d consider eating the bait (after proper cooking of course).

For thousands of years people around the world have cooked and eaten certain insects for their superior nutritional value and also because they’re tasty. This makes perfect sense because no one in their right mind would want to eat a bug, if it didn’t taste good. In many parts of the world, certain insects are highly prized delicacies that fetch good prices on the market, and are eagerly sought after.

If times ever get hard enough and you are staring at starvation, please do consider microfarming. After all, millions of people around the planet couldn't have been wrong all these years.

Those with high ‘ick’ factors can take a lesson from smart mommies around the world: camouflage the undesirable food! Cooked, dried and pulverized almost to a powder, insects can be added to soups and stews without anyone noticing the source of extra nutrition. Although the flavor of most insects is considered quite mild and bland, it is possible to sort different flavors of some insects to match or complement the flavor of the dish at hand. For instance, roasted June Bugs are said to faintly resemble the flavor of malted milkball candies and would do well to raise the nutritional value of a variety of sweet dishes. Imagine that.

F) Minifarm with small animals.

Unless you have the means to grow all your own animal feed, owning conventional livestock may become a hardship and a liability during prolonged emergencies and other hard times. Smaller animals are generally easier to maintain because of their size and feed requirements, and make good choices for minifarming during hard times.

During really hard times when hungry thieves may be a problem, some animals can be raised indoors, out of sight. If set up properly, animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs are easy to maintain indoors and pose little to no odor problems. An easy ‘ecosystem’ can be created with wire cages suspended above worm beds (plastic boxes containing soil and worms). The worms will recycle animal wastes into nutrient rich castings which makes an excellent plant fertilizer.

To prepare against the really, really hard times, you may also want to consider collecting information about how to raise some of the smaller critters such as rats or mice. The taste of the meat is said to be quite good, and has been enjoyed by people in other lands for generations.


Self-reliance topics such as these may seem extreme to some who have always enjoyed an uninterrupted supply of food and water. In contrast, many people are seeing the need to explore as many options as possible because they recognize that our food and water delivery systems are becoming increasingly unreliable and disturbingly vulnerable to new threats and interruptions.

None of us can be totally self-sufficient, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to be a little less dependent on an undependable system. Independence begins with knowledge. Accumulating a wealth of information is good, but having a working knowledge is even better and may prove to be more sustaining than relying on a pile of stockpiled goods that have a limited shelf life.

Can you learn and practice new self-reliant skills right now? Hopefully, you will never need to put this information to use, but if you wait until the last minute to learn too many new skills, it would be a lot like waiting until you are drowning before learning to swim.

A few words about statistics...

Notice that the terrorism statistics given at the outset of this article represent what is called ‘non-state terrorism‘. State terrorism is not included in the statistics given by Wikipedia and other similar factoid places because they are considered to be 'acts conducted by governments'.

When you do a Google search using the key words: 'deaths terrorism 1971', you’ll find state terrorism deaths are not included in the statistics published in many of the encyclopedia-type sites such as, Wikipedia and other similar notables. The acts committed against people by governments or their armies are not considered in the statistics.

So, what I'm seeing is that while the harm done by some political machines can be horrific and terrible, it's apparently not coined with the term 'terrorism'. That’s too bad, because terroristic acts committed in the name of governments are in many ways worse than that of individuals in a militant or religious group.

Terrorism is terrorism, no matter how you look at it, regardless of the source! To me this ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ distinction is terribly misleading, also because it is obvious that some deaths will fall through the cracks of “facts” and may never be reported justly or accurately. To see an example, Google statistics involving the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Although by definition (from,the IRA is "a militant organization of Irish nationalists who used terrorism and guerilla warfare in an effort to drive British forces from Northern Ireland...", those who died under IRA hands sometimes are not counted in terrorism statistics because of the misleading 'state' distinction.

In spite of these inaccuracies in historical accounts, one thing is clear: terrorism in every form is showing no signs of slowing down and more innocent people than ever will be affected by it in the future. No, it’s not a new thing, by a long shot, but it is an unstoppable growing thing that every preparedness plan should take into account.

This copyrighted article may be reprinted by you for noncommercial use, if the following credit is given:

This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:


Shreela said...

"Poke salad shoots can be grown in a cardboard box in a closet."

Do you dig up a poke root, and just put it in soil in a box in the closet? If so -- or close -- then does it grow only once per season, or can it be grown all year long, since there aren't "seasons" inside of closets?

Thanks 8^)

PureCajunSunshine said...

Poke seeds are tricky...but not difficult.

;) I think I'll need to write a blogpost about this! There's just too much info to put in this lil' comment box.

I'll try to write the article in plenty enough time for you to harvest the seeds for shoebox growing.

But to briefly answer your questions, if you harvest just the leaves and not the whole shoot, the sprouts can be a 'cut-and-come again' endeavor! Naturally, better results are realized outdoors, but it can be done indoors, to some degree.

PureCajunSunshine said...

...whoops, hit send too soon.

I was thinking primarily of seeds in the shoebox. The dug up roots might work, but they sure are big 'uns! You'd need way more than a shoebox...

But you got me to thinking, I wonder if smaller SECTIONS of the root will grow new shoots (sort of like the comfrey plant does)?

I will hafta try this!

Rhino said...

Hello sunshine, Luv your blog. I write a blog - The Louisiana preppers network.I try to help the locals get in a prepping mindset, I was wondering If you would mind if I use some of this on my Blog, I will understand if you object. Bye the way you REALLY do do a good blog & will be following in the Future,Keep up the good work

PureCajunSunshine said...

Wow, thanks for the kudos and I’m honored that you would like to include some of my post in your blog! Thank you for asking!

Because it is a copyrighted work, maybe a better idea would be to present a link to it, along with your personal comments (much like the good folks on the Mississippi and Arkansas Prepper’s Network do on their blogs). I would cry a river if my article was not viewed in its entirety, and a cut and pasted portion of it would not be of any great service to your readers anyway.

I have given permission for folks to copy the article for their personal noncommercial (home) use, but a blog is published for the public, which falls under commercial use even though it may be nonprofit. I know that lots of bloggers blatantly copy and paste others’ work without permission, and oh hey, that is just so wrong…and totally lacks class. May the fleas of a thousand camels invade their armpits. And all the crabs in Cocadrie…and all the gators in Grand Isle… And may the Honey Island Swamp Monster steal their dreams…and…

PureCajunSunshine said...

P.S. Rhino...I just now got back from visiting your blog. Keep up the good work! I left a comment on your latest blogged article. ;)