Z-Day has arrived in all it's chaotic horror. There is no room left in
Hell and the dead now walk the Earth. Of course the first thing you do is panic. Everyone does so don't feel ashamed. But once your hysterics are over it's time to think seriously. You've got all the water you can manage and a secure place to lay low, at least we'll say so for the sake or argument right now. But what about food?
In spite of what you've been told no one outside of a movie lasts long without nutritional food on at least a semi-regular basis. Naturally the first place you look for food is going to be your own kitchen cabinets and your refrigerator. Good choices, for the first few days. Eat the frozen and refrigerated foods first so they don't spoil, follow up with your canned goods until those run out. It'll happen sooner than you think.
Once your home is empty of edibles then what? Well, there's plenty of options. You can try raiding nearby homes for food stores, but you'll likely run into your Zombified neighbors or obsessed survivalist types (you'll be one yourself before you know it).
There's always the option for abandoned grocery stores but again, Zed-heads will abound and chances are that many people will have gotten there first and taken as much as they could carry leaving very little for you to scavenge. Now comes the hard part, turning yourself into a hunter/gatherer quickly and safely before you become someone else's idea of a hot lunch.
When it comes to the gathering part, you have to consider first what season it is. If it's spring you can gather edible roots, early plant shoots, young leaves, and early fruits and vegetables that grow wild. It's also a good time to plant quick growing, hardy plants for later consumption.
Radishes are the vegetable equivalent of "instant gratification." They're one of only a handful of veggies a gardener can sow from seed at the beginning of a month and harvest by month's end. The only way to get a bunch of radishes faster is to bring one home from the supermarket. Other quick-crops include baby salad greens, turnips and scallions. And, if the weather cooperates, it's sometimes possible to pluck a few baby beets in the time it takes radishes to mature. So that's a good start.
Don't forget when raising crops to consider canning, pickling, and making preserves with your fruits and veggies. Pickling is easy, simply add water and pickling spices to your fruit or vegetable and seal the jar with way. Canning is slightly harder and requires more time. The simplest way is to place your goodies in a jar, seal it, and cover in boiling water and cook until the item is fully cooked. Seal the jar with wax. There are other ways so don't be afraid to look them up now before the brain eater come looking for you.
If it's summer when the dead start to walk, well i feel sorry for your sense of smell. But for fruit and veggies you're spoiled for choice. Everything germinates faster in the summer and grows well from the combination of sun, heat, and rain. The best plants for summer are ones that continue to produce as they are harvested such as, cucumbers, squash, okra, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and assorted melons. Also continue to forage for wild grown goodies like onions and berries.
In the fall you've got the widest variety of grown goodies as just about everything is coming to fruition. Winter though, winter is the harshest time for a zombie uprising. There is little you can grown in winter unless you're keeping it inside and watering liberally. The few exceptions are broad beans, snow peas, garlic, and asparagus. But beyond that you'll have to think about other things to eat. I know you're thinking, "Why can't i just kill an animal and eat that?".
Well there's no reason you can't add meat to your diet but you need to think cautiously before dining on whatever living beasties happen to be around. If you can hunt large game such as deer you'll be well supplied with meat for some time to come. But there's a hazard or two. You can't afford to chase the prey to the ground and get too far from your shelter. Secondly the Deadites are going to be just as meat hungry as you and will be just as likely to eat your dinner as you. And third, you can't afford to drag a carcass back to your shelter because it'll leave an appetising little trail for any brain eating zombie or redneck hick to follow.
Bigger isn't always better, I don't care what your girlfriend says. Think small for your meat sources. You can set out snares for squirrels and rabbits, trap fowl with nets, and fish if there's any viable source of inhabited water. These options are less likely to get you hunted down by the living dead and are quicker to field dress and cook than the larger game. You can find links where I've previously discussed these issues here and here.
There's also some good advise for preserving food for later use. For meat you can smoke it over a fire if you have a secure place to spend some time. Smoked meat lasts a long time and can even be eaten when it begins to go green. Yummy. You can smoke or salt preserve fish to keep it good longer. And a great idea for fish is to gut it fresh and then wrap the whole thing in river clay and bake it until it's hard in the ashes of the fire. Once the clay hardens it' ll keep your fish hot and fresh for some 24 hours and when you break it open the scales and skin will peel off with the clay. Yay! Hot fish and a hand warmer, what more could you want...besides a few automatic weapons and an Army battalion?
There are other things you can prepare to serve as a portable source of food as well. Consider Pemmican, no not the stuff in cans at the grocery store. Pemmican was a staple of the Canadian fur trade many years ago that can easily be made from nothing more than wild resources. This food was used by the Metis, the Voyageurs and various Plains Natives tribes as a staple of their diet. It was originally sourced from Bison. This food will keep and will harden with age.
What you will need: a sizable amount of lean meat, a knife, cutting board, mallet, wild fruits and nuts, and a small pot to render fat in. Render down your fat and mix with meat in a ratio of two parts meat to one part fat. Stir in dried fruits and nuts. Generally speaking you ought to be using about 4 cups of lean meat, 2 cups of fat, 1/4 cup of dried berries, and 1/2 cup nuts of ground nut flour. Sew the resulting mess into a rawhide pouch lines with wax paper and turn every few minutes until it's fully cooled. Then slice and eat as required. It doesn't even taste as bad as it looks.
Spruce Tea is another great thing to consider if you've been away from civilization for a while. This tea is simple to make, It could save your life because in the wild Vitamin C is in short supply. Early explorers of the North such as Samuel de Champlain owe their lives to this simple concoction. He and his men were suffering from scurvy and this tea was given to them by the Wendat. Spruce tea can be drunk hot or cold. The steps to make it are simple. Take 2 handfuls of spruce needles and put them in a pot. Add 1 liter of water (that's about one quart), bring water to a boil and allow to boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from flame, pour into a container and drink. Lasts for days before going bad.
The last thing i want to tell you about is called Hardtack. Hardtack built empires. Without this handy food the golden age of exploration and sail would not have occurred. It was part of the standard ration of Royal Navy and countless military forces in human history. Hardtack has many names but what makes it so special? It is dry bread which can be sourced from any grain with an indefinitely long shelf life if properly stored and kept dry.
There are surviving examples dated from the American Civil war, which are estimated to still be edible, in The Wentworth Museum in Pensacola Florida. (Yum, hundred year old stale bread.) There are historical references of Civil war era hardtack being reissued for the Spanish American War 35 years after it was made. The most important virtue of Hardtack is that it is simple to make. Take any grain and grind it into the finest flour you can. This can be accomplished by placing the grain between two rocks and grinding the rocks together until the grain appears to look like dust. Mix the resulting flour 6 parts to 1 part water. It makes a pasty, thick sort of dough. Cook thoroughly and eat for as long as you can stand it. (Hint: soaking hardtack in water before eating it makes it less likely that you'll break your teeth on it.)
The very last resource you want to consider, and only at extreme extremis and as a last, last resort, is cannibalism. Before you jump to conclusions I'm not saying go all Donner party on your buddies. I'm saying if all else fails and it's you or him...well whatever it takes to survive. You can eat zombie too as long as it's fresh and you prepare it just right. First it has to be so fresh you almost can't tell the difference. Best to look at those who've been bitten but haven't turned yet. Cut off the afflicted area, place a piece of...we'll just call it meat shall we...anyway place meat on a pine board, cook very, very, very well done. Then throw away the zombie meat and eat the pine board. It's safer.
Remember you heard it here first, now....Survive This!