Food

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When it becomes generally known that worldwide oil production is declining, we will enter the Age of Scarcity. Just like in 1973 and 1979, supermarkets will have difficulty keeping their shelves stocked of certain products and we will wait in lines for many highly sought after products. Add to that the burgeoning world population on a finite planet and the insane policy of turning corn into ethanol, and food will not be as abundant as it is now. Perhaps this is why in April of 2008 the Wall Street Journal wrote:

I don’t want to alarm anybody, but maybe it’s time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

You’ve seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they’re a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

The author didn't mention peak oil, but oil is playing a large role in the increase of food prices. That's because every calorie of food we eat requires about 10 calories of energy from oil to grow it, harvest it, store it, process it and deliver it to the supermarket — and that doesn't include the energy to cook it.

For food, follow two strategies. The first strategy is to stock your pantry. This has always been a good idea in case you experience a natural disaster, but it's even more important now. (Here in the Bay Area of California, we have about four days of food in the supply chain. It's probably similar where you live.)

Stock up on:

  • dried pasta
  • rice and beans to make a complete protein
  • flour
  • cooking oil
  • canned tuna and chicken
  • canned fruit and vegetables
  • freeze-dried food
  • seeds

Food Storage

The next section contains more in-depth information on food storage, but here are the key facts:

  • Where did I purchase my freeze-dried food? I bought from Nitro-Pak. The food comes in 10-pound cans and they have all sorts of different entrées.
  • Does it taste good? I haven't tried it. If I'm dipping into that food, it's clear to me that all my other plans have fallen through. My goal is never to eat that food.
  • Where did I purchase my bulk food? Mostly at Costco, especially the dried spaghetti, which is very dense (macaroni has lots of air).
  • Are you starting to can food? Not yet but I expect to soon, if only to learn how to do it.

If you would like some additional guidance on storing and canning food, this book is very good. Pay special attention to the chapter on food spoilage. Lots of people who improperly store food can get sick because they were sloppy.

Cooking

If you don't know how to cook, now is a good time to start learning. For instance, it's easy to make pasta if you have the right tools (a higher quality but more expensive version is here). Pasta recipes are online, but if you prefer a book, there are several good ones (each previous word is a link). If you don't want to use a broomstick across two chairs like we did in my house as I grew up, you can buy a nifty drying rack in different shapes.

Growing Your Own Food

The second strategy is to grow your own food, either by yourself or in a community garden.

During the Second World War, up to 40% of the nation's vegetables were grown in Victory Gardens. At the turn of the last century, the city of Paris was producing so much food using the French intensive farming method that it was a net food exporter. That means that peak oil does not mean that we will starve, but we have to get busy making gardens in our backyards, public parks and other areas with arable land.

One system that specifically addresses urban farming is the SPIN Farming system but there are others.

Which seeds are best for where you live? This book will help.