The past few years have been a reality check for many of us. We have been faced with shortages of foods, paper products, cleaning supplies and more. Some of us have lost our businesses and many have lost their jobs.
We have become acutely aware of how dependent we are on the grocery store and the big box stores. We also now understand how little control we have over worldwide situations and how far-reaching the effects of one crisis can be.
But out of challenges comes solutions! A lot of people are now working to increase their self-sufficiency and food security by growing their own food with vegetable seeds, canning, cooking and more. Here are 10 ideas to help meet and exceed those goals.
1. Plant a garden
Grow as much food as you can in the space you have. Even if you only have a balcony, you can grow a cherry tomato in a pot, along with all the salad greens.
If you have a yard, add some raised beds. Plant a fruit tree or berry bushes. Purchase organic seeds and grow organically to assure the produce you grow is the healthiest possible.
2. Eat seasonally
This means whether you grow your own food or purchase it, you use the things that are in season. So, in the spring, your salad is fresh lettuce, and in the summer when the lettuce is over, you switch to cucumber salads because they are at their peak. By late summer, the cabbage is ready to turn into coleslaw and then the fall crop of lettuce will be ready.
3. Learn to can and freeze
If you learn how to preserve food, you will be able to save the crops you are now harvesting from vegetable seeds planted in your garden. You also will be able to buy food in season when the prices are lower and preserve it for winter.
Having a pantry and freezer full of preserved food will certainly add to your food security. There are great online resources to help you learn how to can and freeze. It really is quite easy and will give you control of what your family is eating, as well as save a lot of money.
4. Start cooking and stop relying on take-out
With a little planning, you will be able to make healthier meals and save a ton of money. Meal preparation can be a family activity. A meal shared together isn’t just eating, it’s connecting.
Pack a healthy lunch the night before so all you have to do is grab your lunch and go. Don’t forget breakfast. If you set up everything you will need for a healthy breakfast the night before, you will be more likely to enjoy it at home. If that morning cup of coffee is essential to your mental well-being, invest in a good machine and it will pay for itself in no time.
5. Turn old clothing into an alternative for paper towels
If you use paper towels for everything from drying your hands to wiping up spills to dusting furniture, cut up old tee shirts and keep a pile to use for all these tasks.
When you’ve finished, simply toss in the wash and reuse. This is a good use for all the single socks that accumulate. Slide the sock over your hand and use it to dust furniture or clean blinds.
6. Make your own cloth napkins
Cut fabric the size you want, fold the edges over a quarter inch and over again, press and sew. This is really fast if you have a sewing machine, but can be sewn by hand also. You’ll never have to buy paper napkins again, and you’ll be sending less to the landfills.
Many herbs can be grown on a windowsill in your home! Herbs are able to be dried and used in cooking. Grow herbs like dill to use when canning or making cucumber salad. Add a sprig of mint to your teas. Plant herb seeds and give the plants as gifts.
8. Bake your own breads
Did you know there are over 200 different breads in the world? Each culture has their own original way of making bread, plus many have unique breads for special events like weddings or special holidays. Have fun trying some different breads.
9. Make jams and jellies
Start easy with freezer jam. If you have fresh berries or know someone who will let you pick in their garden, use the fruit to make jam. Warning: Once you and your family taste homemade jam or jelly, you will never want to buy from the store ever again.
The flavor is like summer in your mouth! Besides the fruit, you will need sugar and pectin. Directions for making jam and jelly with various fruits are in the box of pectin.
10. Make your own hummus, salsa and salad dressing
All three of these are relatively expensive to buy in the store and yet they are easy to make. None require unusual ingredients and the flavor of your own homemade version will be so superior. Plus, you can tweak it as much as you like by adding your own special ingredients.
Start with one or two of these suggestions and go from there. Be mindful of why you want to take on these new challenges to help you think outside of your normal patterns and habits.
Have you given up too much flavor and good nutrition for convenience? Could making a few small changes improve your budget? Can you lessen the amount of waste your family produces each week? Can we make better use of the limited resources that the world has by reusing and repurposing? By incorporating one or two of these suggestions, you will improve the quality of your life and perhaps the Earth’s.