A major challenge when living from your stockpiled foods is getting enough fruits and vegetables. Without produce, your family can be at risk for nutritional deficiency diseases like scurvy and their immune systems will be compromised. A minimum of 5 servings per day is recommended, but during the long winter, how can you meet that goal with the contents of your pantry?
Supplying your family with produce that will provide the necessary nutrients that their bodies need to thrive is a twofold process. Not only should you preserve the summer’s bounty for the winter ahead, but you should also come up with ways to add fresh greens outside of the growing season.
Building a Produce Stockpile
When creating your produce stockpile, you have to look at what actually constitutes a “serving” for the people you will be feeding. It may not actually be the amount that you expect. For example, a child’s serving of green beans is anywhere between a quarter cup to a half a cup (depending on their age), but an adult’s serving is a full cup. So for a child, plan on 1-3 cups of produce per day and for an adult, plan on 5 cups of produce per day.
Whenever possible, focus on organic produce. The use of pesticides in conventional farming is rampant. Even the hijacked Environmental Protection Agency has to admit that the ingestion of pesticides can cause health problems. They warn of the risk of “birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time.” (Keep in mind, however, that despite this warning, the EPA just RAISED the acceptable limit of glyphosate at the behest of Monsanto.) Especially at risk of harm from pesticides are prepubescent children and fetuses.
It’s also important to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Particularly avoid anything non-organic that contains corn or soy ingredients. (Learn more about why GMOs are not even safe in moderation.)
What to shop for
At the grocery store, look for sales to build your supply of produce:
Dried: Dried fruits such as raisins, banana chips (without sugar), and dried cranberries can pack a lot of nutritional punch into a tiny serving size. Think of them as concentrated vitamins. An adult serving of raisins is only 1/4 cup, which means that you can pack a lot of nutrition into a small amount of space with dried fruits.
Canned: Canned goods such as tomatoes, green beans, and peas can go a long way towards providing nutrition. The benefit to those rows of tin cans is that you don’t require power to store them safely, and they are fully cooked so you don’t even have to heat them up in a grid down situation. You can also find many varieties of canned fruit but beware of heavy syrups, which are often made with GMO corn syrup.
Frozen: Frozen fruits and vegetables are the closest to fresh that you can get. This is a great way to build a stockpile for good times, but don’t put all of your produce in the freezer. During an extended power outage, you stand to lose a large portion of your deep freeze contents. If you do purchase a large amount of produce for the freezer, have canning jars, lids, and an off grid method for canning them if the electricity goes down for the long-term.
Freeze dried: This is a more expensive option, but freeze dried fruits and vegetables maintain nutrients, require little storage space, and need no special storage conditions. You can add a great deal of variety to your pantry with a selection of freeze dried ingredients and the foods, if sealed correctly, can last up to 25 years.
Preserving fruits and veggies
There are many effective ways to preserve fruits and vegetables that you acquire fresh. Whether you harvest them from your own property, buy them at the farmer’s market or a local orchard, or even make a bulk purchase from the discount bin at the grocery store, having the supplies and skills to quickly preserve them can allow you to make the most of your windfall.
Dehydrating: Whether you use an actual dehydrating machine, hang the items in a sunny, dry place, or use your oven, dehydrating can be an easy way to store a lot of food in a small amount of space. One drawback to dehydrated food is that you require a substantial amount of water to reconstitute it. Fruit roll-ups are an exception – they are a healthy, dehydrated treat that requires no soaking time and they make a great addition to backpacks and bug-out bags. For more information on dehydrating fruits and vegetables for your pantry, check out this handy chart for instructions and click HERE to find out how to store the food once you have dehydrated it.
Canning: As always, canning is my favorite way to preserve food. Many fruits can be canned using the water bath canning method but vegetables (with the exception of tomatoes and pickles) require pressure canning to be safely preserved. I have row after row of sliced fruit, colorful veggies, pickles, salsas, jams, and applesauce lining my shelves and waiting for their turn on the table.
Root Cellaring: Another way to store produce is by root cellaring. Many fruits and vegetables will last the entire winter if they are stored under the proper conditions. Autumn harvests tend to do particularly well when root cellared – apples, garlic, hard squash, potatoes, and carrots can all last for many months.
Fresh greens: anytime, anywhere
If you are anything like my family, fruits and vegetables make up a huge part of your diet. When we did a one-month pantry challenge, the first thing that we realized was how much we missed fresh produce. No matter how big your pantry is, it’s important to be able to provide yourself with some fresh nutrients too. In the off-season or in an apartment or other place with no outdoor growing space, learn to adapt and provide your family with some fresh produce. Grow herbs and lettuce in a bright window. Set up a hydroponics system in a spare room (but look out for the SWAT team – they like to come after indoor tomato growers!) Go even further and look into aquaponics. Create a little greenhouse with a grow light for year round veggies. Sprout seeds and legumes for a healthy addition to salads.