Now's the time for us notherners to be putting things by for winter, and as I've written before, I get kind of "squirrely" this time of year, wanting to gather up my nuts. But while we're filling our pantries, let us prioritize locally grown, small farm products whenever possible. That way, we support our community's farmers and agricultural infrastructure and reduce the emissions that our food produces in production.
Now is the time to plan ahead. Do you eat apples until the rhubarb and strawberries come around in spring? Well, you'll be needing a few bushels at least (we buy 10, but we eat a *lot* of apples, and there are six of us). Instead of buying a big sack of sugar, how about local honey, or sorghum or maple syrup, depending on where you live. Instead of 50lbs of generic white beans, how about local tepary beans or black soy beans or Jacob's Cattle. If you eat meat, consider local lamb, beef, fish or poultry. What about wine or beer? Pick your own berries to be made into a winter's jams and pie fillings?
Explore your local options, and if you can't find something locally, at least buy direct from farmers whenever possible. It is often possible to encourage local farmers to grow something you want if possible. I'm working on this right now - a local farmer I know about 15 miles from me grows grains for mixing animal feeds. I'm trying to persuade him now that I could help him expand his markets (he grows soybeans, wheat, barley, corn and oats) if he would consider planting some grains next year for human consumption with no spraying. Right now I'm getting my oats from over the border in Montreal and my soybeans and wheat from PA, and only corn l
really locally, and if hard times ever hit, I'll feel happier if our region produces more of its own grains.
Instead of grains as your primary staple, consider potatoes and other root crops if they grow well in your region. And again, consider adapting your diet to a truly regional one - that is, focus on the crops that grow well naturally in your area, not the ones that require greenhouses or extensive irrigation. In many places, it is not yet too late to plant cold weather crops that will mature in winter or early spring, so that you can be less dependent on the supermarket.
Storing may not be necessary if you live in easy walking distance of a year-round farmer's market or coop that pays farmers fairly, but for the rest of us, it cuts down on driving trips to get local food, it saves us money to buy in bulk and when availability is greatest, it puts more dollars into the pockets of local farmers and in the local community, and it enables us to have a personal security, more to donate to local charities, and a freedom from the supermarket.
A lot of this is mostly just planning - figuring out what you will want and need through the long winter, and getting it now, from farmers who will make a decent profit on your purchases, rather than from a supermarket chain where most of the money will be taken by middlemen, and where your food will travel countless miles, producing emissions all the way.
Where do you put all this food? For those with tiny spaces, under the bed is great for buckets of dried food or squash and pumpkins (which like to live where we do), a cooler or old fridge in an unheated garage or shed will keep potatoes and other roots, apples (don't store them together if possible - apples speed up rot in most root crops), or even a closet with a small vent cut into the wall. Many basements will work. If you rent, consider asking a friend or neighbor nearby with more space or more options to store your food for you. If you buy meat, perhaps you can barter some for space in a freezer if you haven't got one.
Stored food can also beautify. I collect glass mason jars, and store much of my immediately accessible foods in them, an idea I stole from my step-mother. The jars, on wooden shelves built into the kitchen, look lovely, and everyone who sees them comments on them. I also use old large metal popcorn tins to store grains - these are often available at yard sales for a quarter. Consider building something to store potatoes and onions. A pantry is a beautiful thing, and should be treated as such. A house kept cool in the winter will store much food quite well in the spaces people live in.