A major, if not the most important part, of being a self-sustaining prepper or homesteader is having the skills and knowledge of how to prepare food. That includes how to raise, catch, and cook and preserve your own food.
Everyone has to eat!
As a prepper, you should be ready to be involved in the process from start to finish — so understanding the different ways to put and keep food on the table is essential.
Here are the basics you need to know:
Having your own livestock to rely on, gives you a variety of ways to use the animal to supplement daily life, from supporting yourself to providing to your community.
Chicken and Turkeys
Chickens are a good example of that. Hens, besides being a good source of protein, can lay eggs. Eggs provide you with not only a highly nutritional supplement, but a major component to baking and cooking.
Turkeys can also be used for their eggs, and they tend to get along with the chickens if they’re raised together. Turkeys can provide a greater amount of meat on average, and they are the classic Thanksgiving meal!
The birds require the same living amenities so setting up the pens and feeders is nearly identical. In the end, the birds can provide a lot for your home and are a very profitable animal to invest in.
Rabbits are also a good source of protein, and relatively easy to raise. The few key components that go into raising the rabbits are a clean pen with clean water daily, and a lattice bottom (this will keep the waste from contaminating the pen).
You also need to make sure to feed the rabbits good quality hay, and limit their access to greens (which can cause the animals indigestion).
Finally, you have to keep in mind that any time a female rabbit comes into contact with a male there is the possibility of pregnancy due to no set estrous period.
Goats and Sheep
Goats and sheep can be key to life as a preparedness enthusiast since the animals can provide milk, meat, and wool. And while the two animals are known for foraging, they eat quite differently.
Sheep prefer grass, while goats prefer twigs, shrubs, and even poison ivy. So while you’ll need to make sure each herd has their own grazing spots, raising them together within the same fenced area isn’t a problem.
If you are on the move for some reason or don’t have permanent roots, then hunting will be the best way to keep protein in your diet.
Trapping using snares can be a very effective type of hunting if approached properly. When trapping you need to be familiar with the type of animals in your area, and the type of animal you’re trying to catch.
You can easily figure this out by scouting for tracks and droppings, as well as nesting areas. Once you determine what’s around you, you can then set the right type of trap.
Bow and crossbow hunting is another important hunting technique, that when done properly can provide a lot of meat. First and foremost, you should become registered and licensed with your local municipality.
And, when choosing your bow or crossbow make sure it’s tailored to you, it should be the correct size, draw weight and draw length. Having these key bow components down will make it a lot easier, and a lot more likely that you’ll catch game.
Cooking Off The Grid
Now that you have meat, you need to cook it. Everyone should be able to cook on a gas, electric, or wood burning stove or oven – so let’s look deeper and see what we may need to do when the grid is down.
Smoking is an easy, and delicious way to cook and preserve your food. You can use anything from wood and coals, to smoke barrels or drums and smoke boxes — so you have a lot of options.
When smoking, the preferred method is low and slow. But when preserving, you should combine smoking with another form of preservation like salting or drying. While smoke acts as an antimicrobial, it only penetrates the first layers of the meet, so to keep that in mind.
Campfire Cooking – Open Fire
Campfire cooking is another essential to cooking as a prepper. Meat and veggies over an open flame is a fast and efficient way to grill, or just throw a kettle over the fire and let a soup stew. Traditionally, a cast iron Dutch oven is used for cooking over an open fire and it served the pioneers and frontiersmen well.
Slow Cooked Underground
Another low and slow method is underground cooking. Simply dig a pit, throw wood inside and let it turn to coals (about 1 to 2 hours), and put your meat in on top.
You can wrap the meat in anything from tin foil to large sturdy leaves (usually used in more tropical areas) or clay or pottery.
Once you get the food, chances are that you will need to store it. Whether it is fresh crops or a deer you hunted, the bounties are normally large and come all at once. Here are a few ways to preserve food to ensure it is safe to eat for as long as possible.
Dehydrating is a widely used food preservation technique that takes a bit of time, but produces a delicious product that’s well worth the wait. It can be used for fruits and veggies as well as meat, like beef jerky. You can dehydrate red meats fairly easily – go for the leanest cut of meat as possible since fats can go bad fast. Wild game is normally very lean (deer and elk for example) so they can make outstanding jerky.
The best part is afterwards there’s no refrigeration needed. Methods of dehydration vary from sun dried to using an oven — and you should always research the best ways to preserve different foods.
Water Bath and Pressure Canning
Canning is a key component of prepping because it means you can make your harvests last longer. Getting started is easy, and once you have the basics of: cans, lids, and a pressure canner you’re ready to go. Make sure to always sterilize your jars, and to research the best ways to preserve your harvests.
Easy to Learn With Practice
These are skills that every prepper can easily learn, and are essential to daily life. Everything from raising livestock to canning is going to take some practice, but in the end the fruits of your labor will provide a lot for your home, and can even become a supplemental income.