Today we see a nation facing economic downturn and hardship. As individuals, we need to have a firm grasp of the realities of the world around us; as parents, there is a decided sense of urgency to that reality. Children must be fed, clothed and educated regardless of these uncertain times. In November, seeing four more years of hoping for change to magically appear in the couch cushions, I decided it was time to wake up, stop burying my head in the sand and put away my rose colored glasses. I realized that I needed to consider the question of character Jim Malone in The Untouchables – “what are you prepared to do now?”
Ironically enough, the answer was in the question – prepare. But, what to prepare for and how much preparation? The answer to the first question was easy identify, the changes in economics that were making caring for my family more difficult. But, the action required was not. We’d already cut back on bills, made errand journeys instead of short jaunts back and forth, and bought off of craigslist and from thrift stores where practical; what else could be done? Less expensive options for food, perhaps; a daunting task considering we had already cut back there also. Secondly, how much preparation and what would that look like? I found survivalist forums online which discussed such things as canning and vacuum methods of food storage, 5-gallon containers and mylar bags.
Reading these forums was helpful, but again, it was easy to get overwhelmed, intimidated, and I almost gave up before I started because it seemed so costly, space intensive (it can be), and overwhelming. Every person seemed to have a different idea of what preparation for economic changes looked like and that is the point – no book, adviser or online catalog can determine what best suits the needs of an individual or family.
To that end, our family decided that instead of a cold turkey, eat it or starve strategy which could be necessary in an outright emergency, we would take a single night of the week to try a new menu item or items, which could be either long-term storage food items, or less costly alternative menu items which could be incorporated into our regular family meals. In that way, we would have inexpensive, familiar items, with honed recipes, in the event long-term economic need, and whittle away at an expanding food budget. With the help of a LDS friend, I learned about grains, beans and legumes, what will store well for extended periods of times, what combinations of food items make complete proteins (although I admit, I still don’t understand it all), and various storage methods. She was extremely helpful and encouraging. And, although this experiment remains ongoing I would say we have gotten off to a good, although slow, start – with a few keeper recipes and many nights with kids leaving the table saying “yes, I’d eat it – I wouldn’t starve”. Loosely translated, they didn’t like it enough to eat it once a week – but maybe once a month – and keep on trying. Today I know that my son, who always said he didn’t like rice, just doesn’t like certain rice recipes, my children will eat beans if they are prepared correctly, and old fashioned oatmeal is a healthy addition when ground up into oat flour for homemade bread.
The point here is not one of doom and gloom, and that everyone should be amassing food in great store, digging underground bunkers, collecting water by the 100’s of gallons; of which we have done none of these things. It is simply to illustrate that if one is still wearing rose-colored glasses, as I was, now may be the time to take them off and consider what is really happening around us. It is not only gas prices; it is the exponential increase in any number of items that the rising fuel prices have caused. Take a moment, although I would suggest an hour or even a couple days, to be truthful with yourself about your situation.
In those moments of honesty, look about you and examine your own unique circumstances. What is your Achilles’ heel? Is it a lack of economic preparedness when you are wasting resources on three pairs of the same shoes – all in different colors? Is your weakness lack of spiritual preparedness, in that you do not know where you stand or what you believe, so that you are easily led astray? Are you distracted from your purpose by bright and shiny objects or ideas?
Of all these, I admit my guilt at one time or another. These things and many more can keep you from making progress to shoring up a safer tomorrow for yourself and your family. We cannot be 100% safe in all things; but we can ready ourselves in case they come. Preparedness means honesty in our evaluations of the world around us and acting upon those evaluations, for ourselves and those we love – even if it means cooking and trying a variety of less expensive dishes to find out if we really like them or not – and keeping an open mind while doing so. In this way, we are deciding to answer the challenge of a hostile food market as determined to have us for dinner, as we are to have it.