#22 – Feeding Freedom: Building Your Home Grocery for Self-Reliance

Published by: The Ready Life

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What We Covered

Picture a grocery store and all the various departments. Now picture what those departments could look like in your home grocery. It’s an exciting thing!

On this episode, Nancy Meissner joins us to discuss what it looks like to have a well-rounded plan for food security.

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Hi, I’m Lisa Meissner. And I’m Nick, her husband. Welcome back to the Ready Life podcast where we show you how to make your home and family as independent as possible for things like your water, power, heat, and food. That’s right.

You know, I was thinking about back in March of 2020, We were visiting family down in Southern California for several weeks. Our kids were getting old enough that we needed to waterproof them where they’d be safe in the water and they’re getting to that age. And we had heard about this ISR, Infant Swimming Resource Program, and there was an instructor down there, and it was a great experience, but anyhow, we were down there, and for several weeks we had to be there for those lessons, And while we were there, this thing called COVID started being talked about everywhere in the media. And as we sensed the tensions escalating, we were getting kind of mildly concerned, but it really hit home for us when we’d go to the grocery store and we’d watch the aisles becoming more and more bare. And here we were, far from home, with no pantry, no independent power system, no independent water system, no independent heat, none of this.

And to be honest, we were afraid that other states were gonna shut down their borders to stop the flow of people heading out of California. And I can think of few places that I’d rather not be during a disaster. Sorry for those of you from California, that’s just my opinion. But it was a really helpless feeling and it helped us to understand what many other folks are experiencing every time a disaster or something like that happens when they’re in finding themselves in a very vulnerable position. And so, needless to say, we decided to get home while the getting was good, and I must say It was such a relief to get back where we had these independent systems set up and where we could function for some time, even if the grocery shelves were bare or the power was off or whatever.

And, you know, where we can have our own little grocery store of sorts here at home. And I think of those eerie images of the bare shelves and they kind of just imprinted on my brain. And I don’t think I’m ever gonna forget that and that helpless feeling. And I’m hoping that those images are still in your head too and that they’ve imprinted on your brain also and that they can serve all of us well as a impetus to become our own little home grocery. And that’s our topic for this episode.

That’s right. And I can’t think of anyone better to speak on this issue than my mom, Nancy. She worked for years to implement a home grocery on their homestead and she’s taught classes on this very topic across the country many many many times. So mom welcome to the Ready Life podcast. It’s about time we had you on here.

Well thank you. What are some of the reasons, you know, why would you want to go to this effort of becoming your own home grocery? And you know, we mentioned 1 with the whole COVID thing, which emphasizes fragile infrastructure, things like that. What are some other things, reasons why a person would want to go to the effort of becoming their own home grocery? When you think about it, most everybody, in our country at least, is dependent upon either the huge corporations and groceries and restaurants for a basic necessity of life.

And that’s not very smart. For thousands of years, reasonable people have all known that they needed to have a way to grow and preserve food so that they could feed their own family all year long, and often other people too, because many times people have others that are dependent on them. So it’s not a very smart thing to be dependent upon someone else, especially an unknown entity, for a basic necessity of life. We’ve gotten into this situation slowly, but the generations that are now living Really probably don’t even remember a time when they did have to Prepare each year to make sure that they were going to have food for the next year. Yeah, that’s true.

That’s true. And I mean, how many times through history has food been used to control and manipulate people? Well, there’s a saying that says, he who controls the food controls the people. And there’s other reasons, too, that we would want to have an independent food supply. I’m thinking of power grids going down.

Years ago, when Congressman Roscoe Bartlett was still in Congress, we interviewed him. He had started the EMP commission in Congress to make people aware of what could happen with an EMP. And we actually showed good portions of that interview on our DVD Urban Danger, which is on YouTube now and can be seen. He was very adamant about people getting prepared and knowing how to provide for their own family in an independent way. Things like the weather.

I mean, there’s all kinds of floods and tornadoes and things like that that send, that close down groceries. Wars. I’m thinking of a war that’s going on right now and I’ve been reading where the borders have been closed, the infrastructure has basically been shut down, and people that are living in there that may be innocent people don’t have a way to even access the power grid and can’t get water and things like that. It’s extremely wise to set up a way that you can survive, that you can get your basic necessities of life, of which food is a major 1, if everything else is shut down. And the health benefits too, you know?

You just think about in this age of, here in America, big agribusiness and GMOs and all these things that you have no idea what’s in your food unless you grew it. And so yet another reason. And so much of the soil that our food is grown in is nutritionally deplete, which if you have your own home garden, then you can make sure that your soil is healthy and vibrant and full of all the things that your plants need, and not just the things your plants need, but the things that we need also when we when we consume the food that we harvest out of our gardens. Right, which that would be the produce department. That’d be the fresh produce department of our home grocery store.

And really when you think about it that because folks might be thinking well when you say home grocery store what do you mean well we’re basically we’re trying to replace these various departments in the grocery store that you see that are there, we’re, you know, trying to recreate that to a certain extent in our own home. And having a home grocery is really the ultimate food experience, if you want to think of it that way. It’s the ultimate in food preparedness. A lot of people think by buying a bunch of dehydrated food and storing it somewhere in a shed or something that they’re prepared. No such way.

Really, Having a home grocery is a wonderful way to live, whether there’s a crisis going on or not. And it does start with meal planning as anything else, researching and planning, and really making a list of what your family likes to eat. I think maybe like a two-week meal plan list showing what foods your family enjoys eating. You don’t want to start eating a lot of things you’re not familiar with or don’t even like in a time of need or crisis. Have foods that you like that you know your family will eat and then take that list, break it down into the ingredients that would go into each item.

Let’s just say you wanted a spaghetti meal, You’d need pasta, you would need a pasta sauce and things that would contribute. Then you then you break that down into what are the ingredients that would go into each thing. What would be in a pasta sauce if you made it from scratch? Could you make pasta at home? You can.

And things like that. So then you make your list, you break it down into the ingredients, And then you take that list of ingredients, such as the pasta sauce. Well, you’d need tomatoes and you’d need onions and garlic and some whatever else you add in your pasta sauce. What of those things could you grow in your garden? And what things could you produce on your property that you maybe didn’t grow?

Things like items that needed sweeteners. You can learn beekeeping, you can have produce your own honey, you can get spouts and buckets, and if you have maple trees and actually a number of other kinds of trees, you can have a little maple syrup factory on your property. So there’s things you can produce in addition to things that you grow. But the core of your home grocery is definitely going to be the fresh produce department. And then you need to be able to preserve what you’ve grown so that you can eat year round from that garden.

Otherwise, you’re just going to eat during the growing season, and that won’t get you through the whole year. Yeah, back to that food store or the menu planning, like you mentioned, is kind of where you would start with your food storage program, we actually did a whole episode walking people through how to do that, because that might seem overwhelming. If you just think of 1 jar of pasta sauce, that’s great, but then you’re not gonna have any more tomatoes out of your garden until next year. And so you want to figure out how much pasta sauce you’re going to need for a year to get you through until you harvest your tomatoes from your garden again. So Anyway, we went through all of that.

We actually put together a food storage planning calculator that you can use. And do you remember what podcast that was? Let’s see. You did that? You know, I was just looking it up.

I was thinking I should have looked it up ahead of time. And let’s see, it was pretty early on. Number 5. So thereadylife.com. It was a little while ago.

Yeah, so if you go to thereadylife.com forward slash 5, the number 5, that’ll get you to that podcast. And there’s also a download there with a calculator that helps you, walks you through how to plan out, you know, what mom was talking about with making a two-week menu and then you know eating that menu for 2 weeks and then notating the ingredients that you use if you plug all of that into the calculator then it’ll spit out for you your totals at the end of that 2 weeks and then you can multiply it out and know how much food it takes to feed your family for a given period of time, for 3 months, 6 months, whatever. And that download you can actually get for free or that spreadsheet calculator you can get for free by going to thereadylife.com forward slash food planner. And that’s all 1 word, all lowercase, thereadylife.com forward slash food planner. So yeah, That’s the foundation to all of this because if you don’t know what you need and how much of it you need Your home grocery store is going to be a disaster So that’s step 1.

So we’ve planned we’ve created our menu now. We’re looking at the various I guess Departments we’re talking the home grocery. So going along with that allegory. What are the what are the various departments in our home grocery? I’ll grab my cart, let’s start moving through.

Okay, well as we mentioned, the core of it is going to be your fresh produce department. That’s where you’re going to have veggies that you’ve grown in your garden, fruits from your orchard, berries from your berry patches, nuts from the orchard too. And then you also want to be able to have fresh produce year round. You won’t be able to grow all of those things year round that you grow in your summer garden. But there are some things you can grow year round and have fresh in December and January.

If you have a hoop house, some people will have a greenhouse, but a hoop house is much less expensive. High tunnels you can use. You can extend the growing season by having a fall garden and starting really early in the spring, especially with cold frames or things like that. So your fresh produce is going to be the core. Then you want to have a cold storage department, which is where you can extend the life of that fresh produce up to weeks and months and that would be a root cellar or a cool room.

I have a cool room and I like that. Root cellars are better in the often in the colder climate or cool rooms definitely are better in the colder climates. But they’re very easy, very accessible. I love mine. And that extends the life of my fresh produce.

Then as you’re strolling through the home grocery, you can come to the preserved food department. That’s where you would have your dehydrated or dried foods and canned foods. And those are things that you can preserve for up to 12 months and many times much longer So that’s a longer form of storage of what you have grown that you can eat from year-round And then there’s the home bakery department, which I love because it adds so much to your home grocery If you just think about it if you only ate the fruits and vegetables or nuts that you had grown and preserved, you would get kind of tired of a lot of things. It wouldn’t be as filling as a regular meal. But if you have a home bakery, you can make breads and you can make muffins, you can make pancakes, you can make all kinds of incredible things to go with what you have made.

So in other words, instead of just sitting down to a table with a bowl of apricots that are that you canned and that being your meal, that wouldn’t be very fulfilling. But if you could warm up those apricots and maybe thicken them and put them on top of biscuits or toast and then on top of the toast you could have some almond butter or pecan butter whatever type of nuts that you have grown, you can make nut butters and you can put that on your biscuits or your toast and then the apricots on top of that. Now you’ve got a nice supper or breakfast, either 1. And if you have a home bakery, you can make pizza, you can make a pizza crust, and you can top it with your pizza sauce that you made from your garden and canned or fresh if it’s summertime. You can put all kinds of veggies on top in the summertime.

You can even make a really good cheesy sauce from vegetables. Lisa was the 1 that gave me her recipe for that. I served it a couple of days ago for a meal with guests here and they loved it. It’s an incredible way to have that cheesy factor if you don’t have a way to have dairy products. So I’m just talking all the possibilities here.

It makes your meal so much more interesting. It makes it extends what the amount of foods that you have put up will go a lot further if you have a home bakery and can add to each meal with those things and make your food more delicious, more interesting, and it’ll go a lot further. Yeah and of course you’ve also got in the production areas if you’ve got chickens, you’ve got eggs, you know if you’ve got goats or cows or whatever you know you’ve got all these other items that can also be produced, the things that people are used to buying that could potentially be produced if that’s part of your diet, you can add it, you can produce your own, which is really awesome. Any areas that we can produce our own is a huge win. But I’m assuming that there’s some areas where it’s either not gonna be feasible or practical to produce yourself.

Yes, But believe it or not, it’s not a real long list if you’ve carefully planned I did a cookbook a few years ago and at the very end of that cookbook I made a list of various items that you might need to purchase depending upon the area you lived in and what you could grow. And it was a quite a short list, but for sure you would pretty much need to buy different kinds of salts that you used. Salt, baking powder, I don’t know any way to make my own baking powder. I mean you can combine baking soda and all but you need to purchase those things. You can actually make your own yeast.

You can use starters and you can, there’s various ways you can you can make your own yeast. It may not be quite as, your bread may not get quite as tall or full as with the commercial yeast, but there are ways. Spices you would probably need to buy. Oh, I’m sorry, but I guess what I was meaning this is coming from a total non baker So ignorant question here could you use since you can do your own yeast? Could you use that in place of like the baking soda or baking powder?

Oh Yes, yeah in certain things I think you know you would learn to make do but I Just have a supply a nice supply. It’s not real expensive. And then other things that I can think of, unless you live In a place where there’s rice paddies, you might need to buy rice and store it. And the white rice stores quite well. Oils you would need to buy, but you know what?

They can go rancid in a couple of years. And so there are, there is a way to make your own oil, believe it or not. In Europe, they came up with the idea of making something for third world countries where people could use seeds and nuts to make their own oils. And the piece of equipment that you need for that is called the petiba press PITEBA Petiba press and it it’s an expeller press and I took a class a few years back on how to use that It was amazing. We put some flowers seeds in the press.

The oil just came pouring out. We put pecans in the press. Pecan oil was my favorite. It was delicious. So you can make your own oil, but if you don’t have a petiba press then then buy some as Nick mentioned the yeast sugars, but you have alternatives you can Do beekeeping and have honey you can very possibly do maple syrup or some other There’s many other trees that you can get syrup from, but it’s quite a process, so you may want to store that.

If you don’t live in places where there are lemon trees, you might want to have some lemon juice on hand, because Lemon can be used for pickling. It also is used in quite a few recipes for its flavor. Pectin, if you’re making jams and jellies, I don’t use pectin anymore. I really like to make my jams without pectin now. I like the flavor and I like the consistency.

However, if you’re going for quantity and you want as much jam as you can get from those strawberries that you grew, then you would want to use the pectin. And Pomona pectin is a type of pectin that you can get that doesn’t require a certain high amount of sugar it it thickens in a different way and so Those are things like that Nuts the kind of nuts that you don’t grow in your area you might want to purchase in store. Yes. With pectin, haven’t I heard you talking about ways that you could, if you were in a pinch, make your own pectin? Oh, that’s true.

I forgot about that right then. Yes, you can make your own pectin from crab apples or green unripe apple and it is it adds a nice touch to To your jam. So there is that aspect too Grains are another thing like wheat you you can grow your own wheat. It’s certainly possible It would take up space in your garden area. And most people have found that since wheat in particular stores incredibly well, you can store wheat for decades, centuries.

I mean, King Tut’s tomb was opened and there was wheat inside and that wheat sprouted, believe it or not. So wheat can be stored and many people choose to purchase it because it’s rather inexpensive in quantities and store it. Beans the same thing if you’re in an area where beans are iffy as to whether they’re going to grow to full to harvest you may want to buy some dried beans and store those too. So those are some things. But there’s not a lot that you can’t figure out how to grow, preserve, produce, or whatever.

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Yeah, It’s so cool to think of all the different ways that you could make your own even for some of those items. Some of them, if you don’t have a salt mine on your property, I don’t know of any way around that 1. But thankfully, salt stores really well.

In fact, salt is used to store other things, preserve other things. So that’s a good item to stock up on. But I was also thinking about infrastructure, you know, just like a grocery store has a certain amount of infrastructure for its systems in order for things to function properly and be able to do what it needs to do, our home grocery is probably going to need some infrastructure too, wouldn’t you say? Absolutely. It’s an important thing, and that’s 1 of the first things you want to do when you start on this ultimate food adventure.

You’re going to try to figure out what your own infrastructure is going to be. You’ll need to decide where on your property you’re going to place your garden in your orchard. It needs to be really wherever the most fertile soil is, but preferably on a slope. Elliot Coleman, a well-known organic farmer and author who lives in Maine, says in 1 of his books that if you put your garden, If you’re in a climate similar to his, which is in Maine, and your garden is sloping 5 degrees to the south, that’s just the same as having a garden on flat land 300 miles further south. So where you place your garden is important and then you want to improve your soil you want to get garden tools You want to fence the garden in?

We learned the hard way that when you don’t fence your garden in The deer and the moose have a rodeo there. And so it’s not a not a very wise idea. You can learn to even grow your own fertilizer and you can stock up on other fertilizers there’s several that I think are super good. Soft rock Phosphate is 1 that we highly recommend because it is so excellent for your plants and it’s an organic amendment too. And so your infrastructure will have all that kind of stuff.

It’ll have the location, the tools and equipment you need, and storage spaces. But an independent water system is a very key part of that infrastructure. Because if, for some reason, the grid goes down for any of the reasons we’ve talked about, and many more, then here you’ve put a lot of work in. You’ve got a garden going. It’s not going to survive or thrive very well without water.

And so you need an independent water system. And there are various ways to do that. I’m not going to go into all that detail now, but it needs to be not dependent on public utilities and so that you can keep that garden going and That’s part of the infrastructure that you’ll set up It’s not a hard thing to do and it’s been done before. So I want to encourage you. This whole experience is actually can be extremely fun, rewarding, enjoyable, and a wonderful way of life.

Yeah. And what about kitchen tools? I mean, are there any things that you can think of that would be necessary or important for somebody to collect so that they could have their own home grocery? Yes, in fact these are some things that People can do if they haven’t made the move to a country property yet, or if they have either way But you can start collecting these tools of course canning supplies a grain mill if you’re going to store your own grain to make it into flour you’ll need a grain mill. A victorial strainer is a wonderful little piece of equipment, non-electric, and it will help save you hours and hours of time in the kitchen when you’re making applesauce, tomato sauce, or seedless jams, that kind of stuff.

A pasta maker is something I love. I love to make my own pasta. It’s super easy. Just takes a very short period of time to do it. And a lot of these things, when I have the choice, I’d rather just make it myself than go to the grocery store it’s so much easier.

So a pasta maker, a little non-electric Atlas brand is great, a really good blender like a Vita mix is invaluable, Dehydrators so that you can dehydrate your produce. X-Caliber is a very well-known high-end model, but I’ve used cheaper ones too and Nick and Lisa you guys have made your own solar 1 and it was fabulous. Yeah. A wood cook stove is 1 more thing that would be a nice thing to get to be more independent. A wood stove at the minimum with a flat surface can also be used to cook on but not to bake.

And if you want to be able to bake and you don’t have a wood cook stove, then cast iron pots with lids like a Dutch oven with a lid, are they’re designed where you can put charcoal briquettes or hot coals on the top and you can actually bake in them. Probably not the easiest thing in the world, but could be a lot of fun. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more about the wood cook stove. Such an all purpose tool. I mean, not only cooking and baking, but it’s also heating your house and you can set it up to heat your hot water you can dehydrate food over top of it you know with hanging racks and stuff it’s just all sorts of amazing things you can do with that tool.

But yeah, that’s an awesome list of items. And a lot of these are not super expensive. A lot of these are relatively small items, and they’re gonna last. It’s not disposable stuff, most of this. It’s buy it once and as long as you buy quality, then you’ve got it and you can use it for years to come.

Any other thoughts or words of wisdom you wanted to speak on on this topic of home grocery and and just making your home more prepared from a food standpoint? Well, yes, because it probably sounds overwhelming to some people. And it’s just like anything else. You take it inch by inch, a day at a time. You start where you can and you go forward.

But start And don’t just read and research about it. Actually do some things. If you’re still in a city, get pots. Find a place maybe where you can community garden or something where you can get started or fix a little grow box somewhere near you. Get started.

But smart planning, I guess just to kind of summarize all the different things we’ve sort of been talking about, smart planning is important. Get your own infrastructure going, figure out where you want to put your garden and orchard on your place once you have a country property. Build up the soil, get it all ready while you’re just getting started. That’s your ideal time to amend the soil, to get to create a wonderful garden with deep topsoil and things like that. So build up the soil then learn to grow.

That’s an experience in itself. Each plant is so different and it’s just a challenge but a good challenge to learn how to grow each plant. There’s things that you’ll learn about pollination and fertilizing and things like that. Learn how to preserve what you grow then, because that’s an equally interesting thing to do. And there’s all kinds of ways.

Some are old traditional methods. Some are modern methods. But they’re wonderful. You can preserve what you grow for year-round eating get tools that make it easier We’re really blessed to have all kinds of equipment now that actually can make this much easier than our great-grandparents and then purchase the things that you absolutely cannot grow and You know, You have to just kind of estimate those are going to be limited. They’re not sustainable everything else.

We’ve been talking about Is is quite sustainable, but not the things you purchase and but that will round out the stock in your home grocery You know there’s challenges of how to store it all and all, but those can all be handled and it’s an incredible experience. And like I said, I think it’s just the ultimate food experience. Right, and I think the the thing that keeps hitting me is do what you can now. You know, whatever that might be. And so if you’re in a situation where you can’t grow, well, like you said, mom, you can, almost anybody can grow in pots, grow a few things on a small scale.

But if you don’t have space to grow on a larger scale, then 1 thing that you can do is start a food storage program. You can be doing the food planning and the food storage and that side of things where you’re placing yourself immediately in a much better position right now where if those grocery shelves are bare, you’ve still got a good supply of food to carry your family through for a while. And that’s something that anybody can do right now is start stocking up a little bit at a time. I know food is expensive. I know you may not be able to go out and just boom, buy 3 months of food or 6 months of food or whatever, but you can start building your supply a little bit at a time and store what you eat, eat what you store, these kinds of things.

Those are things that you can do right now and starting to collect this equipment that you were mentioning and all of these things, any of these things that that mom’s mom’s been talking about that you can do now start whittling away at it. And I think that’s the cure for overwhelm is to to do what you can now and to do our part, do what we can and leave the rest in God’s hands. And 1 final thought, I’m so glad you mentioned that because you know, our God is a God of abundance And when you are out in the soil working, and your hands are in the dirt, and you’re watching those plants come out, and then you see when the season is over, and things are going to seed, and you’re starting to collect your seeds, You are amazed at the tens of thousands of seeds on lettuce plants and things like that. He wants us to have plenty and he wants us to have plenty to share. And so like Nick says, you know, do what you can, even if it’s small.

And I always think of a story in the Bible of the little fellow who went out to see Jesus, and There were 5,000 other people that went with him, and they were all there by the seaside listening to Jesus, and they ended up getting hungry. And as far as we know, there was only 1 person that had prepared, and it was that little boy. He had the 5 loaves and the 2 fishes. And he was not only prepared, but he was willing to share what little he had. And because of that, well over 5,000 people were fed.

Jesus can do the same thing with us. And I’ve already experienced that happening. Well, I heard a little birdie told me that somebody was writing a book on having your own home grocery store. Could you tell us just a little bit about it? Well, it just follows along with what we’ve been talking about today.

I’ve been really enjoying putting it in book form because the way I’m made up, it’s very helpful to me to kind of have things laid out in steps. And how do you get started? And what do you do first? And what do you do next? And then what happens after that?

And so that’s the format. I’ve just finished the first draft and I’m working on it hoping to to get it done before the end of the year and and where where it will be out about the home grocery to just take a person from the point where all of a sudden they’ve awakened and said, wow, I hadn’t even thought about how dependent I was. And then they want to go from there. How do you get started? What would be the first things you would do and from there.

Awesome. Well we’re excited we can hardly wait until you finish I’ve already seen a little excerpts here and there and it looks really amazing. We’re excited. Well I hope you enjoyed that as much as we did, and just a quick reminder that if you want to access that food planning calculator that we mentioned earlier, you can get that by going to thereadylife.com/foodplanner, and our podcast episode that discusses that whole thing and will give you more detail on the whole system of food planning. You can find that at episode number 5.

So you can either navigate there wherever you’re listening to this, or you can go to thereadylife.com/5, and that will get you to that episode. Thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll see you

Listen anywhere. anytime.

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