Food Shortages and Inflation: How to Survive

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Economic Uncertainty

If you’re an average American, nobody needs to tell you that we are in a very unstable economic environment right now. You’re seeing grocery costs go up and the phenomenon of “shrinkflation,” and you practically have to sell your first-born in order to fill up your gas tank. If you have an infant, chances are you are having problems finding formula. You may be changing your driving habits and foregoing certain products or foods in order to stretch your budget. Very few people are unaffected by inflation.

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Unfortunately, we probably haven’t seen the worst of it yet. According to a report by pollster Frank Luntz, we are less than 2 weeks away from an “inflation explosion.” See video embedded below. But the bottom line is: you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Coming Food Shortages?

In the video above, Mr. Luntz points out that while prices are outrageous, we’re still able to at least get the food we need right now. They’re available for the most part. But the real problem comes when we can’t even buy food because it’s not there. I write this in order to prepare you. We must be aware of what’s happening so that we can steward our families well.

We’ve already heard about the coming global wheat shortages due to both the war in Ukraine and crop failure in the U.S., particularly in Kansas. According to an article by NPR, “many fields planted with wheat months ago now look like barren wastelands.” They won’t have any wheat to harvest, let alone sell. Combine that with the crop failure in the Ukraine, and the result could be disastrous.

The average American consumes around 180 pounds of wheat in a year, or 0.49 pounds per day. This is not just bread consumption: wheat is found in many products at the grocery store, as are other major crops like corn and soy. Now, if you’re a family like us where you have a family member (I, Malori) who needs to be gluten-free, wheat consumption is considerably lower for us. We hardly buy any products with wheat in it since I do the majority of grocery shopping and cooking. The same goes for soy since it is not a healthy food product.

There are a couple ways to deal with this coming scenario: 1) change your diet so that wheat is not part of it (i.e. go gluten-free); or 2) stock up on flour or preferably wheat berries. The latter lasts a much longer time (flour can go rancid quickly) and it is much healthier to grind your own fresh wheat. (If you do store wheat berries, make sure you have a grain mill in order to grind it into flour!)

Wheat is not the only major food source failing in the U.S. – Kansas again in particular. Just last week, thousands of Kansas cattle died due to extreme heat. (The website estimates about 10,000 cattle.) This couldn’t have been worse timing. Beef is a major staple for Americans as well and is a great source of calories, protein, fat, and nutrients.

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How to Have Food Security

So you get the picture that things are turning dire. You are now probably wondering: what should I do to avoid famine conditions and to provide for myself and my family in the months to come? Taking steps NOW is key to not only your survival but thriving through the storms ahead. The sooner you start acting on these tips below, the better prepared you will be. Starting yesterday is best, but starting today is better than tomorrow.

  1. If you haven’t started a garden, start TODAY! Gardens can be grown spring through fall in most places of the U.S. You don’t need a lot of land to produce a significant amount. Use fences, wire panels, or wooden pallets to create vertical gardens for plants that grow tall or like to climb (like beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, peas, and winter squash). Consider a community garden if there is a parcel of land shared by several neighbors. If you have very limited space, use your front/back flower beds for growing edible plants instead of ornamentals. If you live in an apartment or don’t have any yard, use a space-saving vertical growing container on your porch or deck, like the Greenstalk. (If you use our referral link to buy a Greenstalk, you will get $10 off your purchase of $75 or more!)
  2. Start learning different food preservation techniques as listed below.
    • Canning: The basics to know is that there is water-bath canning and pressure canning. Water-bath is for acidic foods or foods that can be made acidic: tomatoes, jams, and pickles. Pressure canning is for non-acidic food: meat, soups, beans, carrots, and most other produce. You can have separate water-bath and pressure canners, but to save money just get a pressure canner and you can also use it to water-bath. We have the 23-quart Presto pressure canner. (Use our affiliate link and coupon code TAKE20 to get $20 off your purchase of $150+ from Lehman’s.) It’s important to always follow USDA-approved recipes for food safety reasons. Canning books by Ball are reliable resources (this is the one we have). I also love Melissa K. Norris, a 5th generation homesteader. She has a blog, YouTube channel, and podcast. Make sure to stock up on canning jars and lids/rings! If you see them on sale, GET THEM. There have been canning supply shortages over the past couple of years.
    • Dehydration: This is an extremely easy and cheap way to preserve food. It’s my go-to method for preserving fresh herbs! Leafy greens can be dehydrated for making into greens powder, fruits can be made into dried fruit or fruit leather, and you can even make jerky in a dehydrator. (The Excalibur is a favorite in the homesteading community.) We have a simple round dehydrator machine that was a hand-me-down. You can also dehydrate using dry warm air or in the oven that is turned down to a very low setting.
    • Freezing: This is another easy way to preserve food, though it’s not the most reliable way in an emergency. Think power outages, rolling blackouts during the summer, etc. We like to keep a deep freezer stored full of meat from a cow share. I also like to freeze shredded zucchini and pumpkin puree since those are not safe for home canning. But don’t rely solely on freezing.
    • Root cellaring: Many types of produce can be stored in their whole, raw form for many months if kept in the right conditions. Each item will have its own specifications – some like drier air and some need a little moisture, some need colder air than others, some need to be cured, etc. But some examples of produce that can be stored in a root cellar are: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, onions, and winter squash like pumpkins, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash. (Think about how long whole fresh pumpkins last just sitting out on your porch in the fall!) Root cellaring is by far the least expensive and easiest way to preserve food, if you have the right environment for it.
    • Freeze-drying: Going to the other end of the spectrum, freeze-drying food is definitely the most expensive way to preserve food because a freeze dryer costs several thousand dollars. (The Harvest Right freeze dryer is a dream purchase for us!) But if you have the means to procure one, freeze drying is by far the BEST way to preserve food because it can last decades if stored properly, and it’s light and doesn’t take up much space. You can use it not just for emergencies but for easy meals on camping and road trips. It would also be more economical to make your own freeze-dried emergency food rather than buying the big buckets. (However if you don’t have the capacity to freeze dry food, buying emergency food from a place like My Patriot Supply is a fantastic idea.)
  3. Create planning space (aka breathing room) for a food emergency. This means purchasing (or making) a one month supply of emergency freeze-dried food, as mentioned above. One month is the bare minimum of emergency food you should have. If you can afford more, then get more. In addition, begin to stock up with shelf-stable foods every time you grocery shop. Just yesterday I bought canned corn, carrots, beets, and spinach – each can was between 67 and 85 cents each. Other shelf-stable items would be: dry pasta, rice, oats, other grains like wheat or quinoa, dry beans, instant potatoes, dried fruit, canned tuna and chicken, canned or jarred tomato products, coffee, tea, applesauce, crackers, cereal, dry milk, etc. Keep in mind to only buy what your family likes and will eat. If you’ve never eaten canned oysters before, an emergency is not the time to try them (though they are nutritious!). If you have a baby that needs formula (or might need formula in the future), stock up on that. For our 10-month-old, we use Mt. Capra homemade goat milk formula. The recipe meets all FDA guidelines for infant nutrition and the ingredients are high quality. Stock up on all these ingredients, as they are shelf-stable. (Make sure to use our referral link and code BRHGOATMILK for 10% off as a new customer!)
  4. Ensure your water sources are clean. This means having a way to purify water even if you have no power. Our favorite is the Berkey water filtration system. Not only does this filter your water, but it can also purify. You can pour dirty pond water into it, and it will take out bacteria, viruses, particulates, and bad odor (among other things). It works without electricity and it’s our day-to-day water filter. The filters can last several years as well! Other ways to ensure clean water are with water purification straws and water purification tablets. We recommend having all three methods – you can’t be too prepared when it comes to life-giving water. In addition, if you don’t have access to a natural source of water (well, lake, creek) keep gallons of spring or purified water on hand as a last-resort. The recommendation is 1 gallon of water per person per day. So for our family of 4, we would need 112 gallons of water to last us one month. Right now the average price of a gallon of water is about $1, so if you slowly buy them over time you will eventually get stocked for a month.
  5. Have your favorite resources printed off from the internet or in book form. What if the power goes down and we can’t access the internet? A family prepper I follow on YouTube suggests printing out all your family’s favorite recipes. Books on medical basics and first aid are good to have, as are books on plant identification and survival skills.
  6. Stock up on basic medical supplies. A basic first aid kit is the least you should have. Make sure to keep things like basic OTC meds (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, Gas-X, Tums, Imodium, Benedryl, stool softener, guafinesin/cough medicine, children’s versions of these things), Bandaids, gauze, medical tape, Quick Clot, medical scissors, tourniquet, topical meds (Neosporin, benzocaine gel, aloe vera gel, sunscreen, anti-itch cream, bug spray), thermometer, blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, tweezers, and any natural remedies your family likes. Colloidal silver is a must for us, as are essential oils and manuka honey. If you can, keep extras of any prescription medication your family takes. Some doctors may be willing to write prescriptions that are larger quantities. A couple times a year, go through your stash and discard anything that is expired – and then restock!
  7. Have other basic necessities stocked on your shelves: bath soap, shampoo/dry shampoo, lotion, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, diapers, baby wipes (even if you don’t have a baby), diaper cream, disinfectant spray and/or wipes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, fire starter and matches, batteries, flashlights, dish soap, laundry detergent, bleach, etc. Consider having reusable products like cloth diapers, cloth feminine hygiene products, and rags in case it’s not possible to buy disposables.
Having Peace and Being Prepared

All of this might seem overwhelming at first. If you mostly live week-to-week with groceries and only have the minimum of what you need on your shelves, all this might seem like a LOT of products to buy and have on hand.

But the truth is that whatever you buy this week is most likely going to be cheaper than what you buy next week and the week after that. If you have more than you need right now, then if we get to a point where some foods are unaffordable or completely unavailable, you’ll be able to ride it out with your stockpile. One way to cut down on costs is to shop at places where you can get money off fuel, like the Kroger brand of stores. The other day I got a dollar off gas which made it $3.69 per gallon – a massive discount these days!!

Shop at membership warehouses like Costco. Buy in bulk from a food co-op like Azure Standard – they have things that stores don’t. If something is on sale, buy double or triple of what you’d normally buy. Keep an eye on circulars and store coupons. Shop from your local farm or farmers market – with fuel increases, staying local will reduce how much the farmers have to charge based on fuel. Consolidate errands in order to use less fuel. Buy 1/4 or 1/2 cow for your freezer. We are still eating on beef we bought in December 2021, when food was vastly cheaper than it is now!

There are endless tips we could give, but that’s it for now. In the end, do the best you can with the resources and knowledge you have. You might be thinking, “But what if it’s not as bad as you’re saying?” To that I say, “What if it’s worse?” Don’t let this instill fear and trepidation. We are called to trust in God and steward our families to the best of our ability. Do what you possibly can, and leave the rest to God. It is possible to have peace in the most turbulent of times!

If you use any of our affiliate/referral links, THANK YOU so much! Nobody is paying us to write these blog posts and it does take time, so affiliate income is one way we make money. It costs you nothing extra and is an easy way to support Black Rifle Homestead. We appreciate you! If you want to hear about any topics in particular, please comment down below! We look forward to providing more helpful and relevant content in the days and weeks to come.

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