Some real-life obligations have kept me from updating this blog in the past few months. My apologies to subscribers and others who may have wondered where I disappeared to.
Things seem to be getting a bit less frenzied now, and I’ll be picking up the thread of this blog again with a lot more regularity.
One thing those of you who were following the blog a few months ago will notice is that I’ve discontinued the 46-day project. For now, that is. It proved to be just one thing too many to take on at that time, but I do hope to resurrect the project at some time in the future.
For now, the focus of the blog is going to be on the whys and hows of practical food storage along with a liberal dose of the global and national food supply situation news.
Except for people who are homeless or on government assistance, few families in America at the current time are actually in danger of going hungry. Middle-class families typically spend 10% or less of their gross income on food items so even fairly large price increases are affordable, even if annoying. The upper-middle and upper classes typically give no thought at all to the possibility of not being able to buy all the food they need. But there’s an old saying, perhaps dating back to the First World War, that says “Food will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no food.” This may be becoming more true by the day.
Let’s talk for a minute about the idea of economic security, and how it is changing before our very eyes. Until very recently, for example, jobs in the public sector were seen as very secure. Not prone to the waves of lay-offs seen in private industry as a by-blow of mergers and acquisitions, such jobs provided relatively stable employment opportunity for many middle-class citizens. Typically paying somewhat lower than private sector jobs, and usually with less chance for advancement, they made up for that by offering the aforementioned security as well as relatively good retirement and health benefits. That was yesterday. This is today:
It’s pretty clear that a concerted effort to strip employees of their collective bargaining power is underway – and it appears to be succeeding. Can anyone doubt that if public unions are under attack today, it will be private sector unions tomorrow?
What’s not so obvious, perhaps, is that it is unlikely that the assault on workers is going to end by simply crushing the unions. Many professional and managerial class employees may not see the connection between an attack on public workers’ rights and any threat to their own job security. But just as data entry jobs and customer service jobs were outsourced first, followed by IT and even management positions, the pattern of attack on workers rights and expectations to such benefits as job security and decent benefits is likely to follow a similar pattern.
It’s easy to imagine, from a position of middle-class comfort, that the comfort and security will go on forever. But there are ominous signs that the future is going to look very different for all American workers, not just the unionized ones. The combined pressures of resource scarcity, globalization, and economic stagnation are going to be pushing more and more classes of American workers nearer to a position of food insecurity. Many middle class Americans have already taken huge hits to their mutual funds and retirement accounts. Home equity wealth has been severely impacted, wiped out in some cases. The wealth that took decades to accumulate has been shredded for many families, at the same time that average family debt has risen. More and more families are living paycheck to paycheck, and even those with more of a cushion are seeing the margins growing slimmer. Only the top 1% of households are still seeing increases in wealth. That leaves 99% of us to wonder what will happen next.
I awoke this morning to the news of the protests going on in Wisconsin and the continuing actions of the Governor and was reminded once again how even people with “secure” jobs like teachers can easily find themselves in a situation where they may not be able to feed their families. Food insecurity can affect anyone, not just the homeless or those dependent on government assistance.
Yesterday went better than I’d hoped. I didn’t find myself obsessing over fresh foods or tempted to “cheat”. The meals I made were tasty and satisfying. In fact, much to my surprise, a little too satisfying. After baking biscuits for breakfast, I let the rest of the family eat them and instead ate a handful of sunflower seeds and some dried prunes. When lunchtime rolled around, I was pretty hungry for the Salmon, Corn & Barley chowder, but found it very filling and was satisfied with a fairly small portion. I didn’t even feel very hungry again at dinnertime, but I did manage to eat a serving of Red Beans and Rice with Cornbread. The snacks I had planned to ward off hunger went uneaten.
As near as I can tell, I ate barely 1400 calories yesterday. Whether this was just a fluke and my normally robust appetite will kick back in soon, I am not certain. It certainly wasn’t because I didn’t like the food, it was very good. But maybe I didn’t realize how filling foods like seeds, barley, beans and grains really are when they aren’t just a “side dish”, but the main attraction. This could be good news, in the sense that maybe I don’t need to store as many food calories as I thought to be satisfied, but it may be bad news in that it might be actually difficult to eat enough calories in the long term to maintain normal weight.
I’m a 5-7″, 55 year-old woman whose caloric needs compared to an active male are quite small. But I am wondering just how hard it would be for a man doing hard physical labor to eat enough grains and legumes to meet his needs. The caloric burn of a large man doing fairly hard work could approach or exceed 3500 calories a day. That is a lot of beans and rice! I’m beginning to see why homesteaders of a 100 years ago always made sure to raise animals for meat, eggs and milk. Those foods are relatively caloricly dense as well as supplying plenty of the protein and fat necessary to health
It remains to be seen if I continue to have difficulty meeting my target of 1800-2000 calories a day. Since I wasn’t tracking calories before I began this experiment, it is entirely possible that is way more than I would normally eat. But just thinking about what a normal day’s eating looked like before beginning this experiment, I think not. I think certainly I was averaging at least 1800 calories a day. This is a very important lesson to be learned, because in planning a long-term food storage it is important to know how many calories you need daily to maintain a normal weight. Even 200-250 calories below your body’s “set point”, and you could lose as much as 2-3 pounds a month. At the moment, I have a little extra “fluff” around the waistline so that wouldn’t upset me, but in a situation where my family was trying to survive off stored foods, it could be dangerous.
The first thing to pass my lips during the 46 day project is my morning coffee. Coffee would probably be considered a luxury item in most food storage plans, but to me, keeping a good supply on hand is more in the realm of a necessity. For purposes of the experiment, I am strictly limiting my coffee use, and therefore instead of my usual two or three morning cups I’m only having one.
Coffee is not particularly well-suited to long-term storage, which is part of the reason it might be considered a luxury item. Roasted whole-bean coffee, hermetically sealed, does keep a good long while, at least a couple of years, although it might not be quite as flavorful as freshly purchased coffee. Ground coffee does not keep as well, perhaps a year in sealed containers and kept cool before noticeable loss of flavor. Keep in mind these are not the recommendations of coffee connoisseurs, who have much higher standards than I would in an emergency situation.
For longer term storage, consider buying green coffee beans and roasting them yourself. This strategy seems too troublesome to me, but then I am not as devoted to my coffee as some! I have had good results simply storing whole beans in the package they were purchased in and taking care to rotate the stock frequently. Some may think even this is too much trouble, and opt to eliminate coffee altogether from their food storage plans. To me, the comfort and utility of having a supply on hand outweighs the extra care it takes to rotate coffee storage frequently.
Having a supply of coffee on hand can be comforting in a food emergency, as well as making a good potential barter item. In even a short-term food emergency, many people may run short of coffee and some may miss it more than they would many food items.