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Abundance Through Food Preservation & Economy

I was humbled by my mother's sense of frugality. Taking after my grandmother, she could make money stretch at the grocery store and prepare a meal with little, so we were always well fed growing up. In some ways, "fast food" and "factory farms" have made the knowledge and preparation of food a lost art...

While it might seem obvious, it is important to eat fresh food and avoid anything rotten. Fresh food often has a higher concentration of nutrients and is more flavorful, whereas rotten food can make us very sick (e.g.: "food poisoning"). There are many different signs that food is becoming spoiled or is already rotten. For example:

• changing color or consistency (e.g.: it may start to look pale or become soft)
• a pungent or rancid odor (i.e.: it "stinks" when it normally wouldn't)
• the presence of mold (usually appearing as fuzzy spots of a different color)
• insect contamination (such as ants or weevils)

Some signs are less obvious. For example, a loaf of bread may have a tiny spot of mold on it, but that is only the part that is readily visible. Most of the bread available at the supermarket will contain "preservatives" (i.e.: chemicals added to "preserve" its freshness), but if moisture gets trapped within the plastic bag that it is wrapped in, it is the perfect breeding ground for mold. If we don't store the bread in the refrigerator, we might store it in a "breadbox" or "bread bin" to keep it dry, avoid the growth of mold, and protect it from insects.

It is helpful to learn when food could and should be salvaged. As another example, some foods can still be eaten if any insects that have managed to get into them are carefully removed. In other cases, it is better to just get rid of it. Flies, roaches, and mice can carry incredibly harmful bacteria that is not worth the risk.

One might be tempted to toss everything into the refrigerator / freezer in order to preserve it, but different foods will last longer if they are stored in specific ways outside of those devices. Jihyun Ryou gives a few examples in her wonderful lecture "Save Food From The Fridge":

• Potatoes should be kept in a cool, dark area. [The coolness keeps them from growing "eye" sprouts, and the darkness keeps them from turning green. Green potatoes are toxic.] Apples release gases that make potatoes keep longer, so store them together. [This trick can also be used to help some fruits ripen faster.]

• Root vegetables (like carrots) should not be touching one another, as they have a tendency to rot wherever they come in contact. Further, they should be stored vertically (not horizontally) in some clean, dry sand.

• Vegetable-like fruits (such as aubergine / eggplant, cucumber, and zucchini) become damaged from too much cold (e.g.: refrigerator temperatures). [Notice the similarity to the conditions in which they are grown. Zucchini, for example, is a warm-season crop that should avoid frost. We lose this type of knowledge when we become disconnected from our sources of food.]

• Eggs have tiny pores in their shells that allow them to "absorb the smells" of the fridge. Instead, we can keep them on the kitchen counter and check their freshness with a jar of water as we use them. If the egg sinks, it is still edible. If the egg floats, it has gone bad.

People often end up wasting a huge amount of food by forgetting what exactly is in their refrigerator / freezer or food pantry. An easy way to avoid waste is to hang a small calendar or dry erase board on each of them. Write the date when any food is added to them and cross it off as it is removed. Most leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days, but other types of food can last longer. The "best by" date is often printed directly onto the packaging of processed food items. It may not necessarily be an indicator that something is rotten if it is past its "best by" date. It may just be "stale" (i.e.: lacking in flavor or texture because it is not as fresh now). If you decide to eat it, check it carefully for spoilage first! [Since many organizations, like manufacturing plants, grocery stores, and restaurants, deal with incredibly large amounts of food on a regular basis, checking for spoilage has been broken down into a science. Although, most people probably won't need this level of detail just to inspect the food within their kitchen. ☺]

If at all possible, do not simply throw out rotten vegetables, but make compost with them instead. Some vegetable scraps can also be regrown into more vegetables fairly easily! When we are starving, whether because money or food itself is scarce, it is important that we learn how to maximize the resources that are available to us through efficient use. And moreover, making our food sources self-sustaining as much as possible can help prevent food shortages and the types of malnutrition that lead to sickness and death.

There are many things we can do to prepare for survival situations (e.g.: "natural disasters" like wildfires, droughts, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.). One of these things is to store a large amount of food for future use. We can use several different methods to prepare food for long-term storage (e.g.: drying, curing, pickling, canning, jarring, and so on). There are also tools that we can build to help us to do these tasks (e.g.: a solar dryer / dehydrator, a bicycle-powered grain mill, etc.). And there are other ways of safely storing food when we don't have access to a refrigerator / freezer (e.g.: a zeer pot, an ice chest, a root cellar, etc.). All of these methods and tools help to protect the food from becoming a home for harmful microorganisms and insects, or from being eaten by hungry animals.

It is important to keep in mind that "survivalist" skills are not limited to disaster siutations, whether real or hypothetical. They can also be easily integrated into day-to-day life to provide ourselves and our families, friends, and neighbors with an abundance of useful resources. We don't have to wait until after things fall apart to start building a wonderful community now.

We hope that this article may assist you in both surviving and thriving. Thank you for reading!

"And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." - 2 Corinthians 9:8