Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard to reduce my reliance on the grocery store. For the most part, that was a matter of convenience – I’m busy, and the less often I have to make the 40-minute round trip excursion into town, the better.
One major crisis can impact literally every aspect of your life and will make you realize how important it is to be self-sufficient.
Sure, toilet paper doesn’t grow on trees (well, it kinda does…but I’ve yet to find a way to make it at home) but there are plenty of staples that can easily be made at home or stockpiled for the long term.
Self-sufficiency starts, in my opinion, by reducing your reliance on the grocery store. Whether you’re in the midst of a global emergency or simply want to reduce your overall grocery bill, there are multiple steps you can take to begin a more self-sufficient life today.
Reasons to Cut Ties with the Grocery Store
1. Time Saving in Self-Isolation
Knowing how to cope and take care of yourself during both the short- and long-term is an essential part of homesteading. If there is an emergency, it is crucial that you have the ability to take care of yourself and your family.
The unfortunate reality is that, even if the crisis does not affect your family directly, there is going to be a serious trickle-down effect. Products that once lined the grocery store shelves are rapidly disappearing, and it’s likely that food shortages and other problems are going to occur.
Although you may not be able to follow all of the advice in this article to the letter if you’re reading it in the midst of a crisis, the good news is that there are some simple steps you can take today to help you cope with the next six months (or longer).
Reducing your overall reliance on the grocery store can help provide for you and your family during times of self-isolation, like this. It will also help you reduce the frequency with which you need to visit the shops, a helpful benefit in this time of mass contagion.
2. Saves Money
When you actually sit down and crunch the numbers, how much money are you spending at the grocery store each month? What about each week? If you think about it, how many of those items could you have made for yourself at home, like homemade bread, yogurt, and so much more?
Sure, there are items you probably can’t make at home, like the aforementioned toilet paper along with things like sugar and perhaps tropical fruits, if you live in a northern growing zone.
But there are plenty of other foods and other staples you can make at home. A packet of seeds costs a couple of dollars and you will be rewarded with enough of that vegetable to feed your family for a year.
There are significant savings when you reduce your reliance on the grocery store, even if you can’t cut it out altogether.
3. Reduces Waste
When I started analyzing how much money I was spending at the grocery store each month, I quickly realized that a lot of those purchases were not necessary.
We were throwing out fruit just because we didn’t have time to eat it before I went grocery shopping again or it went bad. Reducing your reliance on the grocery store can also reduce your household waste.
4. Improves Confidence
Finally, when you’re able to lower your reliance on the grocery store, you will likely find a renewed sense of self-confidence. Not only are you able to provide for yourself all year-round, but there is a sense of security that comes in knowing that, when disaster does strike, you are able to take care of yourself.
Reduce Your Grocery Store Reliance – You Can Start Immediately
1. What to Do Now
Right now, as we are in the midst of a global pandemic emergency, you might panic. If your house is empty and not stockpiled with emergency food stores, how are you going to feed yourself and your family?
Take a deep breath and calm down. There are some things you can do right now to help get you through the next months.
First, take a thorough inventory of your home. What do you have in stock and what are you out of? Make a general meal plan for the next month or so.
You can duplicate your recipes so that you buy twice the amount you would need to get by. Make a list of everything you need to buy, and think of where you might be able to buy it inexpensively in bulk.
Now is not the time to get fancy. Think simple recipes made out of staples that aren’t likely to go bad – things like rice, pasta, and canned goods. If you can get to the stores now, make one final trip and stock up.
If thinking ahead by a month or more has you feeling jittery – or if you don’t think you’ll be able to purchase all the items you need – don’t worry. There are a few other things you can do now – which I’ll break down below – and luckily spring is the best time to begin taking all of these actions anyway.
You can begin building your stockpile of food – and reduce your grocery store reliance – immediately even if you don’t have access to grocery stores.
When you stock up, don’t forget that you’ll want to have a reliable supply of food for any pets or livestock you have, too.
2. Plant a Garden
Spring is the best time of the year to plant a garden. Stockpile some seeds, and start planting. Many of these need to be started indoors, and some can be grown entirely indoors. You can easily grow an entire salad garden right on your own windowsill or patio.
Many people grow their entire food supply on a balcony in containers, so you don’t need to live in the country in order to grow your own food, either.
If you really want to look forward and reduce your reliance on the grocery store, save your seeds at the end of the season. That way, you won’t even have to rely on seed catalogs to grow your own food next year. You will be totally self-sufficient.
3. Preserve Your Food
Got that garden going? Great. Now you need to figure out a way to make the bounty last.
Freezing your produce is a great idea, but think about what you will do if you run out of freezer space or if there are power outages. You might want to consider canning or dehydrating some of that produce. You can also store much of it in a root cellar. Some vegetables and fruits that can last six months or more in cool storage areas like a basement or root cellar include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
Besides that, you can process virtually any type of fruit or vegetable in a water bath or pressure canner. Canned goods last indefinitely and experience a marginal loss of nutrients, so you won’t have to worry about them losing their value over time.
Find out here what to plant for a root cellar garden.
4. Eat Seasonally
Something that I have tried to improve in the last few years is eating seasonally. Eating seasonally can be challenging if you live somewhere that experiences harsh winters and a lack of growth for at least five months out of the year.
However, it can still be done. By preserving a great deal of your food from the summer and fall harvest and eating only what you already have in storage, you will reduce your reliance on trucked-in food supply.
There’s also evidence to support the idea that it might be better for your health. Our bodies evolved to eat what was growing in the wild during certain times of the year. Therefore, eating fruits and vegetables when they are at their freshest and ripest – so strawberries in the spring, beans in the summer, and acorn squash in the fall – might be better for us overall, too.
5. Learn How to Cook and Plan Meals
You cannot become self-sufficient unless you learn how to cook your own meals. Instead, you need to be able to make the most out of what you have, even if all you have is a can of carrots and a package of ground beef.
You don’t need to become the next top chef, either. All that you need is to understand the basics of cooking. Take advantage of the billions of free recipes that are available online and educate yourself on how to make basic meals like:
- Spaghetti and meatballs
- Roasted chicken
- A few basic casseroles
Master the essentials, and you can get more advanced from there. During an emergency, it may benefit you to have “instant” meals prepared and ready to go in the freezer. You might also want to make a list of recipes you could make with on-hand ingredients that don’t need to be cooked (in case of a power outage).
Meal planning is especially important during an emergency that restricts your access to the grocery store, like a quarantine. Carefully plan out what foods need to be used up within the week so you won’t waste any food because you forgot you had it.
6. Buy Directly From Another Farm – Or Trade
Raising your own livestock for meat, eggs, and dairy is a great way to reduce your reliance on the grocery store. But what if you live in the city, or you are otherwise restricted in the types of animals you can raise?
Start by making a list of what you do have. That could be in terms of skills, money, or products. Can you buy meat, milk, or other commodities from nearby farms – or trade something you do have? My father has a sawmill, for example, so he will trade wood for things like chicken, eggs, and bread.
When you work directly with another farm to get your food, you not only reduce the amount of time and money you need to spend at the grocery store. You also give yourself a safety net and a support system to rely on when the grocery store is no longer even an option.
7. Learn How to Forage
Look around you. What resources can be found in the wild?
There are all kinds of foods you can find growing naturally, like apples, crabapples, grapes, dandelions, stinging nettle, walnuts, mushrooms, and more.
Mother Nature does a great job of providing for us, so take some time to learn what she has to offer. Just make sure everything you forage is safe for you to eat – there are some edible mushrooms that have toxic look-alikes.
8. Learn How to Make “Store Bought” Products
One of the things I had to do when I began analyzing ways to reduce my grocery store reliance was to look at how much money I was spending on “convenience” items. Many of the items we buy at the store, from cleaning wipes to cake mix, can easily be reproduced at home for a fraction of the cost.
This makes it easier to store in bulk. Many can be made from items you already have lying around. Here are some of the most common grocery items that you could be making at home:
- Spaghetti sauce
- Cake mix and pie crust
- Granola bars
- Laundry detergent
- Dishwasher detergent
- Cleaning wipes
You can find a more complete list here.
9. Replace Your Landscaping With Edible Landscaping
This was another big one for me. How many hours do you spend each week mowing your lawn or tending to your ornamental plants? Sure, everybody wants to have a lawn that looks nice and adds curb appeal – but you don’t need to waste that space with single-use plants, either.
Instead of growing ornamental grass on your lawn, why not grow thyme or clover? Both are edible and are great sources of food for beneficial pollinators. Instead of planting high-maintenance ornamental shrubs, why not line your raised beds with kale?
An edible landscape not only makes the most of the limited space you have, but it also makes the most of your time, too.
10. Think Outside the Box
There are plenty of other products you can make for yourself at home, too. Start tapping your maple trees for maple syrup, and you’ve got your sweetener taken care of. Brew your own beer at home. Get a beehive. Make your own wine.
There are plenty of ways to reduce your reliance on the grocery store. Not only will these techniques give you supplies for your own family, but they’ll help create a stockpile of valuable goods that you can trade with others later on, too, if necessary.
Start Small and Do What You Can
When all is said and done, the best thing you can do right now to reduce your reliance on the outside world is to stay calm and start small. You won’t be able to replace all of your grocery store staples.
However, by replacing the big expenses like meat and produce in particular, you can reduce your reliance on it enough to make your family self-sufficient – and well-provided for in the case of an emergency.