Is Cooking a Survival Skill?

Food is one of life’s most basic necessities. Relying on someone else to prepare your meals be they restaurant meals, take out/deliveries or prepared convenience foods such as frozen pizzas and entrees is far from being self-reliant. So yes cooking is a survival skill. In a worse case scenario, knowing how to cook so you can feed yourself and your family is one of the most basic survival skills there is.

The Makings for Many Winter Meals

The Makings for Many Winter Meals

During the Covid pandemic, we were amazed at the number of seemingly helpless people who relied on take out food to sustain them despite being stuck in their homes for days on end with not much to do. Why they didn’t use some of their time each day to prepare simple meals for themselves is beyond our comprehension. Was this due to ineptitude, lack of cooking skills, fear of failure or just simple laziness? Perhaps it was a combination of all the above. Regardless, the circumstances related to them being stuck at home should have served as an eye opener. What if take out meals picked up at curbside hadn’t been available? If the pandemic had been a truly worst case scenario would many folks have gone hungry because they didn’t know how to cook a meal for themselves? If so, how pathetic is that.

If anyone is truly serious about being self-reliant and/or being prepared for a worse case scenario, then knowing how to cook is an invaluable skill. It’s best to learn now before a crisis when it’s not a matter of life or death than to wait until cooking a meal becomes a necessity. There is no need to be a chef. Meals need not be fancy or elaborate. Simple home cooked meals that are healthy and well balanced will suffice.

How To Plan A Meal

It seems utterly ridiculous to me that there may be some folks who don’t know how to plan a meal. But figuring out what to fix is the first step to getting a meal on the table so let’s start there.

To plan a meal consider using the MyPlate.gov as a guide. This pictorial food guide was developed by the USDA to aid in planning nutritious balanced meals. The “plate” is divided into sections. Each section represents a food group. There’s a section for vegetables, a section for fruits, a section for protein foods and a section for grains/starchy foods. The visual food guide also includes a “glass” of dairy.

The size of each section denotes how much of your plate should be filled with that particular food item. Note that half of the plate is to be filled with a combination of fruits and vegetables. This is good news for those of us who raise gardens as half of our plate can and should be filled with the fruits and vegetables we can grow.

No Cooking Required for the all Homegrown Salad

No Cooking Required for the all Homegrown Salad

Examples of Garden Produce that will Appear in our Winter Meals

Examples of Garden Produce that will Appear in our Winter Meals

The protein portion of the plate can be filled with any type of meat, fish or poultry, eggs, peanut butter, beans, peas, lentils or soy products.

Eggs-a Good Protein Source

Eggs-a Good Protein Source

The grain section includes anything made from cereal grains such as wheat, rye, oats or barley. Foods such as bread, pasta, crackers, rolls, biscuits, bagels, muffins and rice fall into this category.

So when planning a meal, think about filling up your plate with something from each food group. Look at what foods you have on hand that fall into each food group and let those foods determine your menu. Doing so will ensure a well balanced, nutritious meal.

BLT Sandwich on Homemade Bread and Homegrown Vegetables

BLT Sandwich on Homemade Bread and Homegrown Vegetables

If you’ve grown and stored food for your yearly supply as we do, incorporate the more perishable items into your menus first saving the longer storing items for later. For example, sweet Spanish onions are not good keepers compared to yellow onions. So I’ll use up the Spanish type first and save the yellow onions for later. Acorn squash stores for only 3 to 4 weeks while butternut will store for months so acorn squash would appear in my menus before I’d tap into the butternut stash.

Homegrown Spuds are a Staple in our Menus

Homegrown Spuds are a Staple in our Menus

Get Cooking

Now that you have guidance on how to plan a meal, how do you go about cooking it. Well first understand you don’t have to be a chef. The meals need not be fancy, elaborate or complicated. Simple home cooked meals are fine. In other words, you don’t have to spend hours a day in the kitchen preparing the evening meal.

If you’re raising a lot of your own food as we do you’ve likely already figured this out. The meals I prepare generally aren’t fancy or complicated. But they are homemade and feature foods we’ve raised. For inspiration on how to utilize produce, see the tips in this post, Make the Most of Your Garden’s Bounty

If you’re new to cooking, start with easily prepared items. Let’s face it. All of us have to start somewhere. And starting with a souffle isn’t the best choice.

Pasta dishes come to mind as being easy to prepare. Dishes made with ground beef are also usually pretty easy. When I was a teen my mom returned to the work force and I started cooking a lot of the evening meals. I had no skill, experience or knowledge but I managed to get a meal on the table using Shake and Bake for chicken and pork chops. I threw some potatoes in the oven along with the meat, cooked a vegetable or two either fresh from the garden in the summer or from the freezer in the winter then rang the dinner bell.

I hate to admit it, but I also remember fixing Hamburger Helper as a kid. Now I wouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot pole, but making it helped me gain experience and confidence which enabled me to expand my culinary horizons so that eventually I was looking through mom’s cookbooks for ideas on what to make for dinner.

Set Realistic Goals; Employ Helpers

Like anything else we’ve ever talked about, we recommend starting out small. Keep meals simple. If the thought of planning and cooking meals for 7 days a week is overwhelming then set a goal of making 1 homemade meal a week then increase to 2 meals a week followed by 3 a week and so forth. Pretty soon meal planning and cooking will no longer be a burden.

Get other member of the household involved too. Have the kids set the table. Have them help with meal prep by giving them age appropriate tasks to do. (don’t give a 4 year old a sharp knife and tell them to chop up vegetables for instance). Have kids clear the table, help with the clean up and/or do the dishes. Teens are old enough to be responsible for cooking a simple meal. That is when and how I learned to cook. Rotate the jobs around so the same person isn’t stuck doing the same task each day. Doing all this means you’ll be arming your kids or other family members with a basic, critical survival skill….cooking.

Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!

Ron and Johanna

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