Food Pantry: Take Care of Your Basic Needs

homestead pantry
Some years ago I became aware of the phrases “homesteading” and “prepping” that seemed to suddenly pop up all over the Internet.  I’d only known the words from history books when settlers came out West to lay claim to land by “homesteading” it and harvest time when you needed to “prepare for winter”.  I soon realized these phrases weren’t anything new- my family had always been doing it, but we just called it being poor and needing to make ends meet.  Now suddenly, homesteading and prepping were fashionable!

I have noticed there seems to be two camps when it comes to the words: those that want a more simplistic way of life and want to learn lost skills and coping strategies (homesteading) and those that feel there is an imminent catastrophe looming on our political horizon and want to prepare for it (prepping).  Both involve becoming self-sufficient and both have their valid arguments.  But it’s been my experience that just trying to get by in life is often the catastrophe and it can wreak plenty of havoc without a government meltdown.  It’s from that perspective that I hope to be able to provide you with some hard earned knowledge.

It’s Never Too Soon, Its’ Never Too Late

No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s always a good time to become more self-sufficient.  Learning to rely on yourself to provide your needs is a freedom too few of us experience anymore.  Modern life has taken us too far away from knowing basic skills and has created a society that is too dependent on others to provide for us.  And freedom it is!  The beauty of mastering self-sufficiency is that it provides choices.  Once you learn a skill, even if it seems tedious and time consuming, you now have the option to do it your old way or your new way.  You’re more flexible when a crisis comes up, it’s easier to mitigate the issue and start damage control, and you’re quicker on your feet and able to recover faster.  Having a choice- that is real freedom.

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, was the first to introduce the idea that humans have a pyramid of needs and that when one need is met, they seek to fulfill the next.  This idea became known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  It has since been revised to include a broader spectrum and has been criticized by some as being too ethnocentric and too focused on individualistic societies/cultures, but for anyone who has struggled to put food on the table and a roof over their heads, it still rings fairly true.  The original, five-stage version included:

  1. Physiological needs – these are required for human survival and include things like food, shelter, air, and water
  2. Safety needs – personal security, financial security, health, and a safety net to deal with things like accidents and illness.
  3. Love and belonging – friendship, family, and intimacy.
  4. Esteem needs – this involved both respect from others and self-respect and can be obtained in part by mastery of a skill, achievements, and independence.
  5. Self-Actualization – the ability to realize one’s full potential and to achieve it.

Broke Folk know how difficult it is to make a paycheck stretch to cover your physiological needs and your safety needs.  It consumes most of your waking hours and even sometimes keeps you up at night.  In short, it really sucks.  If you haven’t already started de-cluttering your home and your finances, go back and read this article:

The next step is learning how to cook and by that I mean whole foods in their original form and turning it into something you’d actually want to put in your mouth and is something that will provide you would enough nutrients and calories so you won’t go hungry.

Food the Frugal Way

There’s no more basic need than food, air and water, but I’m assuming you’re breathing just fine and you have clean water.  Those heat and serve meals on sale for a couple of bucks might seem like a bargain, but I’m here to tell you they’re not.  Not only are they more expensive than the homemade versions you can make yourself, but from a nutritional perspective, they’re crap.  Really, there’s just no other way to say it.

If you’re just starting out, there are a few things you’re going to need to make homemade meals economical.  You’re going to need to buy and cook in bulk and you’re going to need storage containers to put the raw ingredients and your cooked meals in.  Everyone’s needs are different, but there are several choices to fit one’s needs. This cookbook covers all of that and more.

You’re going to need some staple foods like flour, sugar, salt, corn meal, beans, rice, and pasta and you’re going to need a way to store them that works in whatever space you have available.  Try to buy them in bulk to get the best price, but if you can’t do that, buy as much extra as you can afford to start stocking up.

Any glass jar, even old pickle or peanut better jars, work well for dry storage.  Note: Do not use them for canning. Here are some other great suggestions for packing your dry foods safely. Plastic containers like old yogurt/butter tubs, Rubbermaid or some other brand, and two-liter soda bottles can also be re-purposed to use as food storage. Just be sure to thoroughly wash and dry them before use. Here are some great uses for re-purposing your so-called trash. Thrift stores are a great way to pick up containers, too.  Basically, any clean, well-sealed container will work.  The idea is to keep the freshness in and the insects out.  We’re not going to worry about oxygen absorber packets at this point because I’m assuming you’re going to be using these supplies in a relatively short time.

My favorite way to store prepared food before I had all the equipment needed to can and dehydrate was freezer bags.  They’re readily available, easy to use, and don’t require a degree in brain surgery.  Of course, this also means you’ll need some kind of freezer, even if it’s just that bitsy thing above your fridge.

If you’re one of the Broke Folk, organic may be out of your financial reach.  And you know what?  That’s ok, because the only thing worse than consuming GMOs and pesticides is going hungry.  So, don’t stress that everything you eat isn’t “pure”.  Get real food in your belly first!  You’ve got enough stress in your life already anyway, right?

In my neck of the woods, we have grocery stores that we have the convenience of running too and they usually have some great bargains. So, familiarize yourself with your bargain grocery stores for your area.  If you’re reading this, you obviously have Internet access, so get thee to your local bargain store’s website and sign up for a customer loyalty card.  Before you go grocery shopping, take a few minutes to look over the coupons and customer loyalty deals they offer.  Avoid coupons for pre-made crap and stick to basic foods.

The Magic Spoon

Sometime before I turned ten-years-old, I read the book, Stone Soup.  It had a huge impact on me, especially since I found myself in charge of my two-year-old sister while my divorced mom was at work and the only thing we had in the house to eat was a couple of slices of bologna that were beginning to dry and curl at the edges, some unappealing scraps of iceberg lettuce, a few bullion cubes, and a couple of eggs I had found by chance from our hens that never wanted to lay in their nest boxes.  I was just young enough and just hungry enough to believe if soup could be made from stones, it could certainly be made from these scraps of food.  It wasn’t organic, it wasn’t nutrionally complete, but it filled our bellies until mom got home.

I’m 50 years old now and find this is just as true today as it was forty years ago.  You CAN make nutritious, appetizing meals on a budget. If you’re a Broke Folk and working hard, your body needs carbohydrates.  It’s fuel for your body to run on.

“A diet that provides sufficient amounts of carbohydrates keeps your body from eating its own muscles. Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet because your body converts them to glucose and your body runs on glucose.” Source

“…keeps your body from eating its own muscles.”  Well, that’s scary as hell, isn’t it?  One of the most widely eaten food combos that provide carbohydrates on a budget is rice and beans.  And bonus! It also provides a complete protein for those times that you just can’t afford meat.  This website provides some great ways to make your food do double duty: provide the carbs you need to keep your body from eating its own muscles AND provide the protein your muscles need to stay healthy.  Make a double or triple batch, put the majority of it in a freezer container of your choice, and you have the foundation of a tasty, frugal meal that saves you time without having to resort to those crappy pre-packaged, store bought meals.

So, start looking around your home at the containers your processed, prepared foods come in and see how you can re-purpose them for free into storage containers for your food supply.  Hit up some thrift stores and see what they have on the cheap that would work for dry food and frozen food storage.  Purchase some dry staples in as much bulk as you can afford and have containers and room to store, and then make up some double or triple batches to put in your freezer to save you time and money.

Up next, we’ll explore some more grocery store bargains and some recipes for frugal cooking that will take you on your next step of self-sufficiency.  Stay tuned!

Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published October 7th, 2015
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