Once upon a time, heading on down to the grocery store to fill the pantry whenever you needed to was not an option. Pioneers who traveled west in pursuit of religious freedom and a better life in the early days of U.S. settlement aimed to settle in areas where chances to buy supplies were few and far between.
This meant that they had to be self-sufficient, which required bringing along and preparing food that would last a long time, tending animals and hunting as needed, and eating what the land provided them.
While this self-imposed self-sufficiency is truly a measure of how passionate and hardworking the pioneers were, it’s also a glimpse into a future without the modern-day amenities we all enjoy in 21st-century America. If ever a situation arises that leads to the collapse of society as we know it, those pioneer foods may be more like our bread and butter (pun totally intended). Here are some foods that we’ll all have to become familiar with if doomsday happens.
A favorite of Native Americans, cornmeal was often used in place of today’s more traditional wheat flour because it could be easily ground from whole corn while on the move. Bread, cakes, and pancake-like products were often made from cornmeal. It’s got the added bonus of a little sweetness that could be hard to come by in a SHTF situation.
Dried or Cured Meats
Without refrigeration, meat from large animals like cattle, pigs, deer, and so on will have to be handled differently than it is today. Smoking, salting, and drying were all techniques employed in the pioneer days to keep meat from spoiling, and they’d be a handy way to keep our families fed for the long haul if we lose access to refrigeration. While cured and dried meats are more a novelty today, you can bet they’d quickly become a staple in more trying times.
Wild Game, Especially Small Game
You don’t find a lot of people eating squirrel and wild rabbit these days. However, a squirrel or rabbit that was happened upon and harvested in pioneer times surely wouldn’t go to waste. Fresh meat was few and far between, with the bulk of protein coming from dried or cured meats, and taking large game wasn’t very practical if you were on the move as you’d likely wind up wasting much of the meat. Small game was perfect for feeding you for a day, though. That’ll be very important, especially as people are likely to take on more nomadic lifestyles post-doomsday.
This also includes fish and native shellfish. In many places, fish may be even easier to get your hands than rabbits and squirrels. Learning about the local varieties could make it much easier to add some protein to your dinner.
Lard and other fats rendered from animals are definitely not the go-to these days, but they were far more readily available in pioneer society – and they were also a lot easier to process than the vegetable-based oils you’ll find in the average cabinet today. Because fat is a crucial part of our diets, animal fats are likely to make a comeback after doomsday.
Dried Fruits and Veggies
We know that drying produce is a great way to preserve it. People enjoy dried fruits and veggies even in modern times. However, if our society breaks down and leaves us with zero access to out-of-season produce and more modern preservation methods like canning and freezing, dehydrating fruits and veggies is likely to become common practice. You can even preserve produce this way using only the power of the sun.
Beans tend to be fairly easy to grow, and dried beans can last a very long time. Pioneers packed dried beans to provide protein and fiber along the trail, and they’ll likely be popular for their high protein count and filling nature if ever the SHTF. You also don’t need much to prepare dried beans; a pan, water, heat, and a little patience is all it takes. Bonus: When you settle in somewhere, you can plant those babies and get a whole new crop ready for the next year.
Squash, Tubers, Onions, Garlic, and Apples
What do all of the above have in common? Aside from being fairly commonplace now, all of these produce items can be stored for fairly long periods in cool, dark places. As long as a little care is taken in storage, these will last through most of a winter. You commonly see references to these items in all sorts of literature written in earlier days, and root cellars were commonplace up until a few decades ago. If fresh produce was out of the question, wouldn’t some delicious fried squash or potatoes be an absolute treat?
Maple Syrup and Honey
While we as a society are pretty dependent on modern sugar, it was much harder to find in the days of the pioneers. In fact processed sugar was an expensive luxury for most people. Instead, they used other sweeteners like honey and maple syrup to help sweeten their dishes. Those items will likely become much more common in a SHTF situation because they’re easier to process than white sugar. With a little knowledge, and very minimal equipment that could be improvised easily, the common man can get syrup from tapping trees. A little bravery would certainly be necessary to collect honey, but it’s not impossible.
Obviously the foods you’d be able to forage vary from region to region, and the same was true for the pioneers, too. They’d forage local berries, greenery, wild fruits, mushrooms, and herbs to supplement their diets and add variety. If the SHTF it’ll pay dividends to be aware of the edible plants found in your region and have an idea of where to find them. These wild foods may also be propagated for home gardens if seeds and plants are unavailable for planting the more common gardens we see today.
If society collapses, you can bet that the foods the pioneers ate will become dietary staples. Those foods were wholesome, nutritious and, most importantly, available. Do yourself a favor and learn a little about how to find, prepare, and store these foods now, so that you’ll be prepared to feed yourself and your family in a SHTF situation.