6 Ways to Supplement Your Food Pantry

Reader Contribution by Tess Pennington
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There is no better feeling than growing your own food, in my opinion. Now that it is summer, it’s the perfect time to get a garden growing. An added benefit to doing so is that you can bulk up your pantry. In turn, this will get your mind on more sufficient ways of living.

As discussed in previous articles, dehydrating foods only minimally affects the nutritional content of food and is a cost-efficient way to bulking up the food pantry. By growing your own food and dehydrating it, you are literally saving hundreds of dollars in your budget.

Here are six ways to grow food for your food pantry.

1. Herb garden – Herbs are almost foolproof and one of the easiest additions you can make to a garden. Best of all, they like a little abuse and don’t require as much water as vegetables do. As well, apartment and small home dwellers can grow these herbaceous plants and reap the rewards. Further, since they are usually small in stature, you can easily trim them and make more room in the middle of the garden for vegetables. When the herbs are ready to be harvested, get your dehydrator ready to make teas, spice blends, herbal extracts, emulsions and medicinal tonics.  

2. Vegetable garden – There is a lot of pride in knowing you grew food for your family. As well, there is nothing like the sweet rewards of tasting fresh picked vegetables. Start with the easiest seeds to grow and then consider adding a berry patch and perennial vegetables (wild leeks, sorrel, rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus) to help you make the most of your time. By growing perennials, you’ll create a more diverse garden that ultimately needs less from you.

3. Legumes – Legumes make up a large portion of our food pantry. Beans, peas and lentils are the richest source of vegetable protein, as well as a source of fiber, calcium, and iron. Aside from using legumes in the usual manner, legumes can also be ground into an alternative flour source, sprouted for a fresh vegetable source, or made into spreads such as hummus. To learn more about why having a protein in your shtf diet is essential, click here.

4. Fruit trees – Having fruit trees in abundance not only provide edible food for humans and livestock, but they also attract needed pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds. The crab apple tree, mayhaw tree, mulberry tree, pear tree, persimmon tree and plum tree offer food for animals such as the deer, quail, goose, pheasant, and turkey. Most of the fruit from these trees can be dehydrated or made into tasty jams, jellies, and fillings for pies. Because space is always an issue when growing fruit trees, find dwarf-varieties to cut down on growing space. There are many varieties of small fruit trees including semi-dwarf, dwarf, dwarf, mini, and colonade trees. It would seem that you can grow fruit just about anywhere, but there are some catches to it. For instance, you will need more than one fruit tree variety to produce fruit. Also, you need to look into what zone you are living in to ensure the fruit trees can grow there. Fruit trees can also be grown in a greenhouse – if you have sufficient ceiling height and space. Some people put them in large pots on wheels, to move them in and out. Others plant them in the ground in the greenhouse.

5. Grains – Grains are essential to any pantry; they can be ground into flours, added to stretch meals or made into delicious cereals. Start growing the easy to grow grains and learn how to incorporate them into your favorite recipes. Growing grains such as wheat, spelt, oats, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, barley, millet, and rye in your backyard doesn’t require any special machinery, and you may be surprised at how little space it takes to grow a substantial supply of homegrown grains. A typical family uses about a bushel of wheat (60 pounds) a year, plus about ¼ to ½ bushel of other grains. Given reasonably good conditions, you should be able to grow a bushel of wheat in a 20- by 50-foot plot (1,000 square feet).

6.Nuts and Seeds – Although a majority of nuts and seeds come from trees, there are some seed producing plants that can be grown in the garden. Sunflowers, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and peanuts can be grown in the garden and used to make cereals, added to dishes or eaten all on their own.

Growing your own food sources does not require an immense amount of space to start. We can all be sustainable – even if you’re living in the city. Those living on properties as small as a 1/2 acre can easily make use of the land you have to create a sustainable garden. Self reliance is not an unreachable goal – it requires planning, patience and initiative. Begin stretching yourself and take this preparedness journey to the next level.

Next time, we will discuss how canning can be a great addition to your food pantry.

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