Winter is a great time to take stock of your pantry. Now that we are about the halfway point through the cold season, how are your doing? Did you lay in enough supplies or do you see areas where you should have planned better?
One of the questions that I hear from time to time is how to plan a garden that will feed your family for a year. Growing a garden of that magnitude takes a great deal of thought & planning. You can easily plant too many of some things, while planting not enough of others. With the slower pace of winter, you have the opportunity to take a thorough look at your food supply & garden planning.
A easy place to start is to consider your family's eating habits. Each family has specific vegetables that they enjoy eating and those that they do not. Make a list of the produce and vegetables that you buy on a regular basis. Include the vegetables bought in cans and frozen in this list. If you plan to home can tomatoes, you may also want to consider including things such as spaghetti sauce in the list.
Now, how often do you use these foods each month? If you keep your grocery receipts, you can find this information on them. Another way to know is to write down your weekly menu. I use a combination of these two methods. We do a bulk shopping trip once a month and buy everything for the month's meals except for fresh produce which we buy locally as needed.
Once you have this information, you can now start reading up on the growing of these vegetables. Look in seed catalogs and find varieties that are heavy producers that grow well in your area. The reason I suggest a heavy producer is that it allows you to plant few plants or seeds and still have a large harvest. You can also look on websites such as Hume Seeds that has a wonderful chart that shows how much you need of each vegetable type to feed a family of four. This chart can be altered to fit the size of your family. If you need ideas on how to garden in small spaces, I highly recommend the Square Foot Gardening or container gardening methods.
Dried beans and other items that your family uses, but you may not want or be able to grow can be purchased in bulk. I buy the dried beans, lentils, and grains. I store the dreid beans & lentils in gallon size plastic containers. Each container will hold approximately 6 pounds of dreid beans & lentils. Grains, such as wheat and rice, are stored in 25 lb. buckets. I found a nice food storage calculator online that you can use. You type in teh number of people in your household and it will calculate the amount of dried goods that you will need to feed your family for 1 full year. I used the calculator to see what it recommended for my family. I will have to make several changes in that we do not use processed sugars. I would eliminate the processed sugars and replace them with increased amounts of raw honey & molasses. In the fats category, I could eliminate mayonnaise and salad dressings as I have been collecting recipes to make my own as we need it. You can make similar changes to fit the needs of your family. Overall the calculator does give you a good guideline to go by.
As you plan the pantry for next winter, consider including garden seeds as a part of your pantry. Buy seeds when they are on sale and store for planting next year. This will give you a head start on your garden planning as well as save you money.