What happens when all of the food that you carefully gathered and stored runs out? If one situation or another arises, you might need to rely on stored food for an extended period of time. But you know that it cannot last forever.
You could buy food, but at that point in time, food may be expensive or limited in availability. You might barter for food with your neighbors. But if you were well-prepared, and still ran out of stored food, chances are that your neighbors have no food left either. You could rely on government assistance — just kidding. Don’t bet your life that FEMA, or any other government agency, will do any better than they did after Katrina.
Your main option for obtaining food is going to be extensive gardening — basically mini-farming. While you are living on food that you buy or that you stored, you can grow whatever you like in your garden: fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, it doesn’t matter much. But if/when you have to live off of what you can grow, choose carefully. You cannot survive on lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and many other typical backyard garden mainstays. Most fruits and vegetables have too little carbs, protein, and fat for survival.
The human body needs three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fat. See this article: Food Storage for Survival: Carbs, Protein, Fat. Without substantial amounts of all three macronutrients, you cannot survive in good health, for the long-term. The CDC has some basic information of macronutrients: Carbs, Protein , Fat.
So what should you grow? A few suggestions follow. This is not comprehensive.
Soybeans are a good source of protein and dietary fat (36% protein, 19% fat) — but only if you let the beans mature. The fresh young green soybeans (Edamame) are only 10% protein, and 5% fat. Also, soybeans should be boiled or steamed to reduce anti-nutritional factors.
Peas, the fresh green kind, are only 5% protein. But pea plants can be very productive, continuing to produce over a period of weeks or months. Mature dried peas (a.k.a. split peas) are 24% protein, and have a better essential amino acids profile.
Pumpkin seeds are 30% protein, and the several hulless varieties available make getting that protein much less work. The seeds are about 50% fat, so pumpkin seeds provide two of the three macronutrients. The flesh of the pumpkin provides carbs, making pumpkin an excellent survival crop.
Peanuts can be grown in a backyard garden; they are 26% protein. Proper drying and storage is essential. Peanuts are about 50% fat, so they are similar to pumpkin seeds in the macronutrients that they provide.
Potato is only 2% protein, but what it lacks in percentage, it makes up for in volume. Potato produces a large amount of protein and carbs in a limited amount of space and time.
Chick peas are 19% protein; lentils are 25% protein. Dried beans are also high in protein, depending on the variety, in the range of 25% protein. However, beans, lentils, peas, etc. (pulses) can only supplement your dietary protein. They are too high in fiber and anti-nutritional factors to be a main source of protein.
Grains are typically good sources of both protein and carbs. However, wheat, rice, barley, and most other grains need to be hulled. The additional labor and machinery needed for hulling makes them less attractive as backyard sources of macronutrients. Most grains are lacking in lysine, and so need to be complemented with a source of protein high in lysine, such as soybeans, adzuki beans, dried peas, beans, pumpkin seeds, etc.
Instead of the more common grains, you might want to try growing amaranth or quinoa. These pseudo-cereals have no hulls, and so are much less work to process from field to table. Each is high in protein, with all essential amino acids, and high in carbs. Each produces up to a few ounces of grain on one stem. This makes the plant easier to harvest and thresh. Remember to rinse the quinoa thoroughly before cooking, since it is coated with bitter saponins (a soapy substance). But the saponins also keep birds and animals from eating the grain.
Maize (corn) is problematic to use as your main source of protein. Most varieties are both low in protein and in lysine, which will lead to protein deficiency health problems unless you supplement your diet with substantial amounts of protein from other sources (pulses, pumpkin seeds, etc.). A new variety of corn, called ‘Quality Protein Maize’ largely solves the essential amino acids problem, but I have not found any U.S. sources of this type of corn.
The most difficult macronutrient to grow in a garden is fat. I’ve already mentioned a few sources: soybeans, peanuts, pumpkin seeds. These foods provide fat to the body when the whole food is consumed.
Another option is to buy a small oil press, like the Piteba oil press. If you search on YouTube, you can find many different videos of this press in action example). Canola seeds, safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, camelina sativa seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts and more can all be manually pressed to produce vegetable oil for cooking.
I should point out that gardening is not easy. It takes skill and knowledge, gained over some period of time. If you are prepping for any type of disaster that will make food scarce, it is not sufficient to store food. You should get at least a small garden started now, so that you can learn which plants grow in your climate and soil, and so that you can develop the skills needed to produce your own food.
There are really only three sources of food: bought food, stored food, and food that you produce yourself. When you run out of stored food, and there is not much food available to buy, your only option is to grow your own food. Don’t overlook gardening as a prudent and reasonable way to prep for difficult times.