How to Prepare Your Family for a Food Shortage

how to prepare your family for a food shortage

Would you know how to prepare your family for a food crisis, should one happen?  Or, do you think that because you live in the US that such a thing would never happen?

Unless you’ve been in a cave for the last few months, you’ve watched the world become an entirely different place due to a virus called the “coronavirus”.

Not since the Y2K crisis have I seen such wide-spread, worldwide panic.

But it seems that every year brings it’s challenges.

Last year, we dealt with certain food shortages due to #noplant19, brought on by catastrophic rains that kept farmers from planting their spring crops.  Grocery shelves were empty of many fruits and vegetables that we take for granted.

This year, we’re dealing with quite a different crisis.

Global Pandemic

Coronavirus isn’t a situation that effects just the US.  We’re talking global, folks.

People’s reactions to this virus vary widely.

Whether you think that the coronavirus is part of a larger conspiracy and not a serious risk or you feel that the coronvirus is truly a threat that you need to be serious about, the outcome is the same.


The National Guard has been called into a “hot spot” area just north of New York city, to curb the spread.

Countries (Italy), schools, universities, businesses and even professional sporting events are closing down and canceling entire seasons, as we try to curb the spread of this virus we know so little about.  The effects on the economy will be felt soon, as large sources of income will be lost due to fear of contracting this virus through crowds.

Parents are left scrambling as they try to deal with their school-aged children being at home, as they try to work and keep income coming in.  There have been runs on the grocery stores as people panic all over the country.

The Democratic Presidential debate will be held without an audience!  TV shows that are usually taped in front of a live studio audience are now filming in auditoriums with no people.

As fear and misinformation take hold, people aren’t sure what to do!

At the end of the day, there isn’t much you can do in a situation like this but ride it out.

But you still have to feed your family!  How will you do that with runs on the grocery stores?  Or without income due to the face that your workplace has closed down due to the virus?

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There are Three Components to Food Insecurity

“Availability”, “Access” and “Utilization” of food must all be present to create “Food Stability”.

“Access” is the second level of food security and that will be the focus of this post.  Food will be available, but with panicked people hoarding, it won’t last long.

All of this begs the question “What should we be doing NOW to protect our families from a food crisis“?

woman upset and worried

Don’t panic

There is nothing to be accomplished by allowing fear to enter our plans.

If there’s one thing that history has shown is that there’s an “ebb and flow” to life on this planet.  Some years are better than others.  Things just happen.

Food shortages in terms of “availability/prices increases” doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.  People have survived much worse in the US during World War I and II when food was rationed!  Actually, people have survived food crises and shortages all throughout history!

Being aware and prepared is the key.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone over the age of 70 talking about how rough things were during the Great Depression. 

Clara’s Kitchen, a YouTube channel, features stories and recipes from someone who lived and thrived through that time period.  I love listening to Clara and her accounts of walking home from school and picking dandelion leaves for that evening’s meal.

Things have changed a lot since then, and not necessarily for the better.  We’ve become so distanced from our food, expecting someone else to grow it and make sure it’s available at our fingertips at Walmart…at discount prices.

If anything, these sorts of “food crises” are a wonderful opportunity to wake-up and take responsibility for producing at least some of your own food!

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woman writing notes in journal

Get a Plan

How and to what level do you want to be prepared for your family’s food security?

Before we get too far, let me offer what I feel is a sound and achievable goal.  Actually, it’s MY goal that I work towards every year, regardless of what food prices do.

Most cultures throughout history and currently, including the US until the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, have had economies that revolved around agriculture.

The people of that time knew how important it was to preserve enough food until the following year, when the harvest would come around again.  Some would go so far as to preserve two years worth of food, just in case of inclement weather the following year.

This makes sense to me and speaks of balance with nature.  There’s peace in this kind of preparation and that’s how I prefer to live my life.

Here in Ohio, we have all 4 seasons.  In the spring we sow our seeds, they grow over the summer and we harvest in the fall.  Canning and preserving are a huge part of our harvesting season!  Why?  Because we won’t be able to pick from our gardens again until next year.

Purchasing a whole beef is something that we do once a year, usually in the late fall.  This assures us of fresh, organic beef for an entire year.  I never buy beef from the store, nor do I care what the prices are, because I set aside funds to pay wholesale on bulk beef, one time a year.  I love the security of that! (This year, I’m trying my hand at raising our own beef!)

Canning/preserving enough food to get you through until the next year makes perfect sense.  There’s no fear or panic involved, you are simply following nature’s lead.

dollar bills

Embrace Frugality

It’s time to get serious about not only reducing everyday expenses, as well as your debt-load, but to re-consider “consumerism” as a way of life.

Living in a frugal manner brings freedom is so many ways….not just financial freedom, but emotional freedom.  No worrying about bill collectors or the power being turned off!

Further, frugal living brings “margin”!

What is margin?

Think of a page in a book for a minute.  The page has words on it, but it also has blank space all around the words, called the “margin”.  The blank space, or margin, allows you to focus on the words and understand what’s being said.

What if the book just had words all over the page with no order, covering every single square inch of the page?  Would you enjoy reading that book?  Would you even be able to read that book?

I wouldn’t.

Some of our lives look like that overprinted page in a book.

Financial margin means that you have something left over at the end of the month!

Financial margin is where you find the money to do the things you want to do, like save for a house or vacation, setting aside money for retirement or to make your family more resilient against a food crisis by stocking a food pantry!

How do you get there?  Keep reading….

12 Strategies to Become Debt-Free

woman shopping in grocery store

Expect Higher Prices

The stage is set for significantly higher prices for food this fall.  It’s all but a given.

This is the time to begin to stock up your “regular” staples as finances allow.  When you’re shopping, pick up a few cans of beans, meats or vegetables and store them away.


Set Aside More Dollars in Your Budget for Food

We all have a limited amount of money to work with each month.  Now that we understand that shortages and price hikes are eminent, it’s time to create some margin in your household budget.

What non-essentials could you give up on your grocery trips, in order to purchase extra food to store?  Maybe skip the candy/cookie isle?  Give up soda?  Chips?  Beer?

We all have “fat” in our budgets that can be cut and redirected to create that food storage pantry!

It’s just a matter of making the decision that food storage is important to you!

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couple cooking in kitchen

Cook from Scratch

Maybe you’re like me.  I left home unable to boil an egg or separate laundry.  I was a complete domestic nightmare.

Boy, I wish I had the internet back in those days.  The only hope someone like me had to learn how to cook was to read books and/or hope grandma would step in to help.

Today, YouTube has tons of cooking videos if you find yourself without cooking skills as an adult.  Start simple and just try something!  Keep practicing and stay with it, you’ll get the hang of a few things and gain some confidence.

Learning to cook from scratch is so important in running a financially resilient household!

Convenience food is not only unhealthy most of the time, but it’s seriously overpriced compared to the cost of making it from scratch.

Food is one of the largest budgeting items in any household!  This is one area that always has a lot of room to improve, so why not improve the bottom line by disciplining yourself to cook (at least more than you do now!) from scratch?

Start Stocking a Pantry

Make it a priority to find a space in your house to store extra food!

I cannot stress this enough.  Too often, folks never get a pantry going because they simply can’t figure out where to put it.  Having a working pantry is going to be your greatest asset in a food crisis situation!

Think outside of the box!  Even though it might not be the perfect place, at least you’ve started!  You can switch things up later.

Food Storage Space Ideas:

  • Under the bed
  • Under the steps
  • In the laundry room (think shelves up the walls!)
  • Under the bathroom sink
  • In a bedroom closet, on floor or shelf above clothes
  • In a hall/linen closet
  • Hang organizers on the backs of doors
  • In the basement
  • Create some space in a kitchen cabinet by minimizing what you have in there!

How to Minimize your Spice Cabinet

food crisis

Eliminate Food Waste

Americans waste 40% of their food each year.  Over $218 billion dollars worth of food is thrown out every year in the US.

Wait, what?!  Forty percent?  That’s like, almost half!

Yep, it is and it needs to stop.

First of all, we waste precious food and the resources (human labor, water, fossil fuels to deliver it) it took to grow it every time we let something go bad before we eat it.

Second, we would save so much money on food if we just took advantage of our leftovers!

13 Clever Ways to Manage Leftovers and Save Money

Grow at Least Some of Your Own Food

Starting a garden is paramount.

If you have no gardening experience whatsoever, I suggest “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew.  If you have some gardening experience but need more direction, I cannot recommend Elliot Coleman’s books enough.  Learn to embrace winter gardening as well, especially after a summer of crazy weather that didn’t allow for a fabulous harvest!

Best Edible Perennials for the Lazy Gardener

smiling couple with chicken

Get Some Chickens!

Oh my goodness, chickens are fabulous!  One of the hottest trends right now is backyard chickens, so it’s a great time to get on the bandwagon.

Many cities and municipalities are changing their zoning laws to allow 4 hens per household.  Towns that I never would have believed, in a million, zillion years, would allow chickens are doing it.

Why chickens?  Let me count the reasons…..

First, they lay wonderful eggs for you to eat!  Second, they eat most of your food scraps.  Third, they eat up bugs in your yard.  Fourth, they’re so funny to watch!

Check out your town and see what you’re allowed to do…here’s a good place to start.

cute bunny

Raise Meat

There are many ways to raise your own meat, even if you live in an apartment!  Check out how to raise rabbit or fish.

Get Serious about Food Preservation

Learning the skill of preserving food is vitally important to any type of food stability!  It won’t matter how much food you grow in your garden if you can’t preserve it.

Learning how to preserve food is very achievable with the internet!  YouTube has zillions of videos that teach the basics of canning, dehydrating and fermentation!

There are volumes of books on the subject as well, but I limit myself to canning books that are reputable.  My Ball canning books are well worn and are worth their weight in gold!


BEST Edible Perennials for the Lazy Gardener


If you want to supplement your food supply and off-set the effects of a food shortage, learn the basics of foraging in your area!

Every year, I forage a number of herb, plants and berries to eat and preserve!  Some examples here in my part of the country (Ohio) are elderberry, purslane, dandelion, violet, mulberries, raspberries and chickweed, but I’m certain that I’m forgetting a few!

Do your research by picking up a field guide and learn how to identify a few key plants in your area and you’ll be hooked!



Finally, when you can’t fill your needs with a monetary exchange, bartering can change your life!

Back in the day, people used bartering all the time and I’m so glad that it’s making a comeback!

Even today, I read about physicians who trade their services for tech work in their offices!

If you find yourself short on funds, or just don’t want to spend money ( like me), think about what you have to offer folks…what are you good at?  You could trade labor skills, garden tilling, baking, babysitting, home-canned goods, farm-sitting, or homemade bread!  You are only limited by your imagination!

I have a friend who just got the hang of bartering, by using her skills of music and hairdressing to acquire things she needs.  So far, she has traded for a vacuum cleaner, headphones and some new hair clippers to improve her skills!


In Conclusion

I’ve got to be honest.  In my 57 years of life, the world was supposed to come to and end several times (Y2K and Chernobyl come to mind), I’ve seen a few national security crises (from Bay of Pigs to 9/11), countless tornadoes and hurricanes, and few Wall Street shake-ups (Crash of 2008 being most recent).

But guess what?

We’re still here.  We made it.  We’ll always make it.

Let’s just keep the focus on taking care of our families and making the ride as enjoyable as it can be!  Be prepared, because it won’t be the last food crisis you see, but you’ll be wiser for having gone through it!







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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. jim

    i had to redo how i shopped a few years ago.on account i kept running out of certain foods before my next primary shopping i have enough store bought canned vegables to do me some time.i also got into home canning.. i have enough soups n chilli and canned chicken to do me a few next months shopping trip.will mainl be meats and bottled water.I’ve also been stocking up on 1st aid supplies on account i figure..who knows?

    1. Kelly

      Hi Jim! Sounds like you’ve got a good plan going there and I’m glad to hear that you’re into home preservation too! Take care and thanks for reading!

  2. Laurie J Cooper

    I love making my own relish, jelly and some sauces. I cannot wait to retire so I can do more!

    1. Kelly

      Hi Laurie! Good for you! I’m glad to hear that your love canning as much as I do! Thanks for stopping by!

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