I originally wrote this article April 30th 2008. Today as I was working on my garden plans this topic came to my mind. Really not much has changed since I wrote it. Yes food shortages have dropped off the mainstream media headlines. The prices in our stores have come down slightly from a high 2 years ago. However a little digging through news articles will show that much of the “third” world countries have never recovered from spiking food prices. Each time I go to the grocery store prices are higher.
The only ways I have to combat that price jump is being as frugal as possible, buying in bulk and growing as much of our family’s food as I can.
Is Your Families Food Secure?
Feeding our families healthy food at a good price is always a parents concern. With the rising food and energy crises in the world prices are jumping sharply. While we have seen the increase in food prices in North America it is the developing countries that have been hit the hardest. In North Korea the price of rice is up 186% since April 2007, its overall food price has soared 70%. In Pakistan wheat is up 66% and it’s overall food price has gone up 35%. Many countries are in a similar or worse position and I believe that it will soon be affecting our families more. The bulk store/flour mill I buy from has been affected by the grain prices. For years I had been able to by a 10 kg bag of unbleached white flour for about 4.50, this was half the price the grocery stores charged and the flour was much fresher. Now the same bag is almost 12.00 and the price of name brand flour in the grocery store is around 15.00 for 10kg. It is not only wheat that has been effected but all grains including corn and rice. Many areas of the world have been hit by repeated years of drought and now much of the grain crop in Africa is being damaged by a new stem rust Ug99.
Image via Wikipedia
The rising prices of grains will effect all areas of our food. As rabbit farmers we have seen the price of our feed jump. Many farmers are dumping pigs and other livestock on the market because of the high price of feed. This is causing a temporary surplus in meat and lowering prices farther. However in a year or so we could see a sharp jump in the price of meat due to both feed cost and a shortage of supply.
The best way to find out how venerable your family is to food supply inflation is to ask your self some questions. When most people think about food we tend to think :
Am I hungry?
What sounds good?
What will it cost me?
But we need to get much deeper then that.
Where does your food come from?
Try thinking about the individual items you buy. Where does the tomatoes and lettuce come from? What about your bread, potatoes and other staples? How much of your food comes from your garden?
How much does your garden produce?
Keeping a garden journal is a huge help here. A small investment in seeds often under 20.00 will return hundreds of dollars in fresh, healthy vegetables for your families table. In your garden journal record what varieties you planted and were. Keep notes on what mulch you used, what the weather was like and how many pounds of harvest you had. Your journal will help you to see what varieties grow and produce best in your location.
How much food do you eat in a year?
According to the FDA Americans eat 1500 pounds of food per person each year.
Do you know were the local farm markets and stands are?
While many of our family farms have disappeared, taken over by large factory farms. There has been a resurgence in fruit stand, farmers markets, pick your owns and CSA’s. Find out what is in your area and take advantage of what they offer! Like produce from your own garden it will be much fresher and use less natural resources (transportation and preservation) then items purchased across the country or across the ocean.
How much food could your family produce?
If you put in a little more time in the garden, how much would your production rise? What about grinding your own flour, baking your own bread, canning and freezing your harvest. All of these things will increase your families food supplies.
Does your community work together?
Many areas have empty lots, try working together to start community gardens. Working together shares the work load and will increase the amount of potential harvest. It helps neighbours to form close bonds and keeps young people busy and out of trouble.
How large is your pantry?
Lets suppose that a natural or economic disaster cut off your normal ability to shop. How long could you feed your family on what is in your house right now?
With world wheat stores at it’s lowest in a decade and prices jumping, countries putting export bands on grains so they can feed their own people each of us should be prepared. Keeping a pantry is not a fad thing nor is it a crazy thing. It is a very practical thing to do and our grandmothers before us relied heavily upon them.
A few years ago a major black out hit the Eastern USA and Canada, some areas were with out power for days. Many people lost everything in there freezers (that’s why I prefer canning), people who had gas in there cars were driving long distances hoping to find ice. Not only for there freezers but the temperatures were in the high 90’s F. Most gas bars were shut down, you can’t pump gas with out electricity and generators were almost impossible to find. Many people had little food in the house because they like to shop every day and had no way to cook. Grocery stores were forced to destroy there supplies of meat, dairy and frozen items along with much produce. I remember it was weeks before the stores started to be normally stocked again. Why did it take so long? Because it was a wide spread problem! ALL the stores needed to be restocked, so supply was limited.
These things really do happen! Maybe not every day but we still need to be ready when it does.
How much energy does it take to produce your food?
It takes a small amount of labour to care for a well planned garden. But commercially prepared food takes 10 kcal of energy to produce just 1 kcal of food, not including home cooking energy. That means that the USA food production system uses 10 times more energy then it produces in food energy. This is only sustainable while fossil fuels are cheep.
Making a huge difference in your families food bill and health is not as hard as it may sound. Even in a small lot or patio you can use intensive method to get high yields. Wide rows, square food gardening, mulching are all things that help to reduce the work load and get the maximum potential from your soil.
Learning to use whole grains, cooking your foods from scratch will all help save you money and boost your nutrition value.