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August 2014

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3 Things You Should Know About Food Before The Zombies Attack

Written by , Posted in Food, Sustainability

Deliciou ingredients

Congratulations, you’ve done it. You’re now off the grid. Or in case you’re reading a printed copy of this because the power’s gone out … Congratulations, you’re still alive. OK, now with that out of the way, in a few weeks you’re going to die. It’s sad I know, but unless you have a magical chest freezer the likes of which Harry Potter would covet, you’re going to run out of food and although some may try, you can’t live forever on the giant cans of refried beans you liberated from Costco.

So, what’s a newly minted prepper supposed to do? Well, might I suggest getting a time machine? Food isn’t something you think about ten minutes before you throw it in the microwave. To some, like the French or Italians, cooking is an institution like church and state. You don’t open the cupboard at 5 and sit down to watch TV at 530. Preparing dinner is just as important as eating it.

The three most important things you should know about food before the zombies attack.

Food growing

Food growing is easy right? You have a green thumb with all your house plants. That Mother-in-Law’s tongue looks fabulous. It only stands to reason you’ll be able to supply your home with awesome bounty. Well, I have a question for you before you start. Do you know what a climate zone is? If you don’t, the Cole’s notes version is this. You can’t grow some foods in Canada because it gets too frigging cold during the winter. You have to choose fruits and vegetables that are suitable for your climate. Other elements to consider are: growing days available in your area, the type of soil you are planting in, the yield of the crop you are planting, and pest control; especially if you’ve decided to go organic.

Veggies aren’t the only thing to slide onto your plate however. If so inclined to eat meat, you better shore up on your animal husbandry. Having animals is moderately difficult. Having happy animals is more so and be aware, it isn’t just a moral choice to suggest you have happy animals. Happy animals begets the best product. Happy = healthy. Trust me.

As with your non-mooing flock, you have to think about your space available, nutrients you feed them and who’s going to feed them when you go to Cancun. The self-feeding upgrades aren’t available just yet. And don’t forget the winter shelter for those animals without hide.

Growing food isn’t something you wake up in the morning and know how to do, nor is it something you can plant at sunrise and harvest at sunset. It’s a long term strategy that involves heavy planning for this year and next. Some farmers know what they’re putting in specific fields for the next five years because of the nutrient management of what by product marries up well with the subsequent crops. Like I said, growing the food is moderately difficult, but doing it well takes time and effort.

Food Preservation

Woot. Wipe that sweat off your brow because you did it. You managed to keep your food long enough for the lettuce and cabbage to mature and the chickens to start laying eggs. You should be proud. There are lots of pitfalls out there that could have taken you down. All you need to do now is eat it. You get a feast for about a week and then… You go hungry again because what you can’t eat rots. You weren’t prepared to actually store your food.

Storing food isn’t just about throwing it into an old deep freezer and expecting it to be there next week or next year. Food has an expiry date. There are a few things you can do however to stave off the inevitable. Some people may not have a vacuum sealer, but at least they can get it packaged with as little air and water as possible. Your veggies and fruit will thank you. Speaking of veggies … Blanching, the concept of pre-boiling is an absolute must. That way you don’t get extruded mush from your packaging.

Meats CAN actually stay in the freezer much longer than people suggest. Beef can last for several years and still be okay. To do that you, must have that ugly brown paper and a good folding job to make sure your steaks are snug. Your cuts are going to last longer than your ground however so get used to it.

Freezing isn’t the only solution you have though. To my own chagrin, and a little gag reflex, there are more than pickles to be made by canning. Some people, like my wife, enjoy a … Well I’m not going to say good pickled beet. Nonetheless, you can can fruits and veggies … and meat. As long as you have a cool, dry, and dark place to stash your stash you’ll be having your pickled carrots until they come again in next year’s crop.

That cool dry dark dungeon is just as good to store your fresh veggies as well. They may not last as long as their sealed brethren, but there’s no substitute for cooking your own vegetables, especially if the Farmer’s market is a desolate wasteland. When it comes to meat, you can also go old school. Find a vat of salt and you can make magic, and a lot of jerky. It might taste like leather, but they did it for years before someone invented the freezer.

Food Cooking

I have to tell you now that when it comes to cooking this delicious bounty, I have a distinct advantage. Not because I am a better cook than you, but because I clean a mean dish and for the most part that’s the deal I’ve made with my wife. She cooks and I clean. Granted, my cleaning skills aren’t as good as her cooking skills, but I still win.

Preparing food isn’t just about throwing it on the grill however. You need to marry the type of food up with the best cooking option. Baking, frying, bbq’ing and even raw; every food is different. Some foods complement others too. Apparently rice and pasta don’t go on the same plate, but you can add apples to salad. There are other things you should stock up on before you think about disappearing into the mist. Always have some spices of various strengths and tastes. You can’t just put Franks Red Hot Sauce on everything.

When it comes to meat, get a thermometer. I’m sure your grandma told you to cook your beef roast for ten hours. Don’t. Just because you might like it well done doesn’t mean you need to eat shoe leather.

People always wonder why it was perfect when they pulled out of the oven but it was too dry when they ate it. Newsflash. It’s a hunk of hot meat when you take it out. It’s still cooking. With a thermometer you pull it out at the right time, tent the roast and eat after it sits. Oh, and one more tip, figure out the direction of the grain because how you cut your meat has a huge impact on your perception of its quality.

There’s a lot that goes into bringing a feast to your plate and whether your off the grid or not, you can gain from doing a little bit of the cooking yourself. Not only will your doctor like it, but so will you pocket book.

Do you have a garden? What’s in it? Want to know some places to get some fresh #natural or #organic produce in Eastern Ontario? Drop me a line. In the meantime, think about how long you’ll have to survive on refried beans while your garden grows.