“Prepping” is a word hot in our culture right now. There is an inclination that food storage, elaborate first aid kits, and other means of preparing, is an indication someone is awaiting Doomsday. The truth is, for decades women would prepare for her family’s needs before the need came about. It’s a way to love your family, while being a good steward of your family’s income. Basically, the only new thing about it is the stigma.
Why preserve? A good home economist knows how to stretch a dollar, and stocking up on food when prices are low is smart. It’s not hoarding, and it’s not being paranoid – – it’s understanding that to assume nothing will happen is a risk.
But what could happen? Incidents of nature, an unexpected expense, or job loss can happen. If you have never watched your bank account dwindle to nothing as you continue to look for a job, you might not get it. It’s an unemployment experience which propelled me into the world of stocking up. Now that we are on track again, I continue to stock up because I’ve had a life’s lesson I’ll never forget.
The main reason in my immediate mind for preserving and stocking up is, saving money. I shop in the bulk section at the farmers market where restaurants buy their produce for a song. One time I got 38 pounds of cabbage for $5. I get cases of Roma tomatoes for $10-$12, and last fall 42 pounds of apples once for $12. What can you do with all that food, you ask? It cooks down. A lot. Thirty pounds of apples yielded only 6 quarts of apple sauce. Tomatoes cook down tremendously, and I use them for sauce and sun dried tomatoes. Ten pounds of cabbage yields 5 quarts of sauerkraut. So it sounds like my family eats like a stadium of teenage boys, but the raw numbers (if you will) are misleading. Next time there’s a sale on produce, and you think, “we could never eat that much,” you might not be thinking about the actual yield.
My family has delicious, preservative-free food for an extremely low price. We get to enjoy the seasons’ harvests all year long. And buying in bulk allows me to experiment, and if those experiments don’t turn out, I’m not out much money.
My home canned food just tastes fresher, is more flavorful, and I get to adjust the recipe to my family’s tastes. I make peach barbecue sauce, relish, salsa, and even taco sauce. It’s fun, and it’s special. As a side bonus, my family is really proud of my canned concoctions. My 8 year-old proclaimed my canned turkey soup “the best soup in the world.” My honey spiced peaches have become a winter tradition for my family. I can them each summer, and my kids stare at them with anticipation of popping the jars open when winter makes its chilly appearence.
Another way canned and preserved food comes in handy, is when produce sales are not good. Instead of paying high prices for fruit one week, I’ll either serve applesauce, frozen fruit or smoothies, canned or dried fruit. Same with vegetables. We were recently getting ready for vacation, and I didn’t want to buy food, only to let it spoil while we were gone. So, I simply used my preserved food instead.
I use my preserved food almost on a daily basis – – I don’t lock it away for years, I actually use it. With things like jams, sauces, and fruit butters, I use those within three years. But my pressure canned items like soups and pork barbecue, I like to use within a year, even though they are safe for eating well beyond that.
If my husband comes home and tells me we have a $4,000 car repair, I can tell him I won’t need to grocery shop for a few weeks, and after that I’ll just need some incidentals. If we get snowed in, I’ve got it covered. If someone in my family gets sick, I’ve got homemade chicken soup all jarred up. When my neighbor had surgery, I had an extra meal in the freezer I could share.
There is a blog I really love called “Hickory Holler.” The author talks about how people consider her a “prepper” and mock her for it. But an ice storm blanketed her town, and there was no electricity for weeks. So, the author warmed her canned food over a fire, since they were prepared with fire wood. They delivered the food to neighbors, who were not prepared. Here is a quote from her blog:
“So the next time someone remarks negatively about your lifestyle choices or makes comments about your gardening addiction, quilting addiction, food hoarding or canning addiction. The next time someone tells you that you can buy it cheaper at Walmart than you can grow or can it. Or better yet how old fashioned you are. Just smile and think to yourself that there may come a day when those Walmart shelves are empty and plant a little extra for the neighbors.”
It’s interesting how stocking up on food is seen as extreme, when people spend money on flood and other emergency insurance, when the chances are slim something will ever happen. But there’s a chance, so it’s better to be prepared. I consider my children not eating for a couple weeks as the same level of risk. It likely will not happen, but why take a chance?
If you are a prepper, good for you. I consider you to be a hard working, self-reliant person who understands FEMA may take three weeks or more to feed your family in an emergency, if they even get to you at all. Preppers don’t feel entitled to what others have – – they are providing for themselves ahead of time. They won’t be breaking in people’s homes for food, or blaming their children’s empty stomachs on the government. They won’t be expecting neighbors to take food away from their children to give over to them, because they didn’t plan. I have respect for preppers.
As for me, I’m just a traditional housewife, stretching my husband’s paycheck, and stashing away provisions. I’m about to restock some items we’ve consumed, and my goal is to have 3 months of provisions. It’s not obsession, or paranoia – – to me, it just makes “cents.”