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In my culture we place a high value on self-sufficiency. This means that according to tradition at least one meal a year must be prepared from ingredients that have been grown at home. This is going to have some impact on the type of housing available in our culture as it will be impossible to sell something that doesn't provide the space to grow this single meal.

What's the minimum area that needs to be dedicated to reliably be able to produce a meal for a single person and/or a five person family at a specific point (this can be anytime, I'm not fussy) in the year? And what are we going to be eating? Local climate can be adjusted, so a solution that fits anywhere on earth is acceptable.

Meat is not a requirement, but equally it has to be a real meal not just whatever pea-pod currently looks biggest, or a single plain baked potato.

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    $\begingroup$ One meal? You can grow more than enough wheat / beans / tomatoes on the balcony of an appartment in a block of flats. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 12 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ @ProjectApex I'd like absolutely everything to come from the family home. I'd make allowances for oil to cook, but any herbs or seasonings should come from home. Which will probably make salt difficult. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Jun 12 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Jontia you mean inaccessible. Salt isn't something that can be grown, only harvested through salt mines or seawater. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Jun 12 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ Don't understand the objection to a single baked potato, that's a routine lunch for some of us? If you're simply looking for impossibly elaborate, Japanese cuisine does great things with minimal ingredients. $\endgroup$ – David Hambling Jun 12 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ Please define "meal". As others implied, "meal" can have a huge variation. Is it acceptable for it to be completely vegetarian/meat required? How "good" a meal must it be? Does it have to be such that if you ate it for 3 meals a day on every day of the year you would suffer no nutritional deficiencies? Must you feel full after finishing? Does it have to have more than one type of food? There are lots of people in our world who routinely have a single type of item for a complete meal (e.g. a bowl of oatmeal/rice/etc., a potato, etc., etc.). Is the beverage included (e.g. water, juice)? $\endgroup$ – Makyen Jun 13 at 5:27
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It takes 1300 square meters to feed a vegan for 365 days, it might take more than twice for meat eaters. So the vegan option is better if you want to save space.

For one single day, we get 3,5 square meters, a really small garden is enough to feed a human for one day for 3 meals. It gets down to less than 1.18 meters for one single meal.

But what about efficiency? Hydroponics and vertical farms exist, which means you could make the walls of a house to be a living garden. Or build an enormous garden on top of each persons roof.

enter image description here

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Vertical farms can yeld up to 20 times more crops per square meter, therefore a small sleeping room of 12 square meters might be enough to feed a person for 207 meals, roughly 69 days.

This is all approximation since different crops have different nutritional values, but if you wanted to be really efficient. I suggest soy.

Soy beans are the highest proteic food on the entire planet and rich in fat. 36% of soy is pure protein by weight, more than any meat and it's close to protein powders.

This is what a hydroponic vertical farm of soybeans looks like,and remember soy is objectively speaking the most nutrious food on the planet by sheer numbers alone

Together, protein and soybean oil content account for 56% of dry soybeans by weight (36% protein and 20% fat, table). The remainder consists of 30% carbohydrates, 9% water and 5% ash (table). Soybeans comprise approximately 8% seed coat or hull, 90% cotyledons and 2% hypocotyl axis or germ -source

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Soy can be cooked in many different ways.

  • Soy mince with tomato sauce, resembling an Italian ragu.

  • As plain cooked beans or chilly

  • It can be made into a paste and make tofu grilled, roasted, fried, boiled or even raw

  • it can also be used to make bean stews.

  • it can be used to make cooking oil

  • it can be used to make sweets

  • it can be roasted and eaten like peanuts

Soy beans alone have been a staple food sources for many Asian cultures for millennia.

spices

  • garlic grows in agglomerations, it doesn't care about space as long has it has enough water and light, you could get one garlic bulb for every 1.5 centimetres of space, which is the average diameter of a garlic bulb

enter image description here

  • Peppers/tomatoes grow vertically but can also be compressed into small spaces And produce up to 60 fruits per plant if fertile source a single plant can be grown 40 centimetres apart source but can be scaffolded as shown in the images above.

  • onions, they grow just like garlic but being bigger require more spacing apart, you could grow one every 11 centimetres based on their diameter

  • tumeric, sugar and other tubers are like growing potatoes, you can get a dozen or more tubers from one single plant. And it requires little space.

For a single meal option with diverse foods and spices, 1.18 square meter might still be enough.

If meat must be an obligatory option then the most economic choice both in therms of space and feed are insects,rats or small lizards as they are really small and can feed themselves by eating smaller organism or things like paper/clothes or hairs.

Filther feeding fish might be an option too, but they require some water source.

Does finding a small animal in your home and cooking it count as growing it?

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    $\begingroup$ The one day feed is a really good idea. Again it increases the difficulty in trying to get different meals and food types grown at home. It will help with the status aspect, a more varied meal plan provides you a higher status. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Jun 12 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ If you grow your soybeans indoors you are not restricted by weather. If soybeans take 2 months to mature then you can harvest your bedroom wall 6 times per year, dry and save the beans, and eat them all at once. $\endgroup$ – Daron Jun 12 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ This is really amazing, thank you. I was already thinking of meat as optional, but the insects are a nice idea too. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Jun 12 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ Starchy vegetables are a bit more dense than e.g. leafy salads; if I start thinking about a hearty vegetable stew recipe that would last for a family for a few days, probably a single square meter might be sufficient if you really want it to. A couple potato plants, a single tomato plant, a dozen carrots, a few onions and some herbs might just fit in a single m^2. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Jun 12 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ Some systems have a tank with fish at the bottom of a growing wall, allowing for some fish to grow, 'free' food for it from what the plants drop in the water. I do not know how much fish can grow in such a system, but it should be enough for one meal for one person. $\endgroup$ – Willeke Jun 13 at 15:54
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It used to be common for most homes in rural or even suburban homes to have gardens. If you have never gardened, you might be surprised by the amount of food they can produce. Even in an urban setting, a couple of planters on a balcony or a portion of a roof top garden can easily produce food for several meals a year. Two zucchini plants can produce enough to feed an entire neighborhood. Ask anyone who has ever planted them how they managed to give them away. Potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, onions, pumpkin (takes some room), strawberries, all are easy to grow.

As for meat, many people today keep chickens. They do it of for the eggs, but once a hen stops laying, it either becomes a pet or Sunday dinner. You certainly don't want or need multiple roosters so they tend to become dinner much sooner then hens. While not common in many countries, some people raise rabbits or even Guinea pigs as food animals.

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Absolutely nothing.

In fact, less than nothing. If people of this culture aren't picky eaters and can eat anything, they can turn house cockroaches into a nutritious meal. Normally, people may have to work hard to eradicate them - now they don't have to do it! When the time comes, they only have to catch as many of them as needed, and that's all.

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    $\begingroup$ Sounds grim. But plausible. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Jun 12 at 17:59
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A few square metres.

This depends on the exact definition of ingredients that have been grown at home. If you keep animals must you also grow the feed for them or can you buy it? If you are allowed buy the feed two possibilities are

Chicken Coop

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Your chicken coop does not need to be as nice as this one. Just fence off a few square metres of your garden. The chickens will provide eggs all year around. If you eat enough eggs at once it can be an entire meal. For an easier option just buy chicks or pullets a few weeks before the big day, feed them up, and slaughter them.

Rabbit Hutch

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A rabbit hutch like this is small enough to go indoors if you don't mind the smell. Again buy baby rabbits a few weeks before the big day, feed them up, and then slaughter.

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    $\begingroup$ Fish/frogs are a good option too, they don't require much care and a pond is enough. $\endgroup$ – user76358 Jun 12 at 12:52
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Anything big enough for a bucket, you can grow most veges in a pot including quite large ones. Definitely pumpkin and potatoes but plenty of others. Examples

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Nobody's mentioned mushrooms. They're handy because they can be grown in the dark, and in fact prefer it. You can get quite a lot of mushrooms from a small space:

oyster mushrooms growing in a bucketbutton mushrooms growing in a box

If you want something more exotic, there's the giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea). This monster grows to the size of a football usually, and in rare cases to as much as 90 centimetres across! According to Richard Mabey's Food for Free, it can be stuffed and roasted like a chicken, and tastes rather like one too. The snag is that nobody seems to have yet cracked how to cultivate the things, according to https://www.mushroom-appreciation.com/puffball-mushroom-identification.html . But if your society could master that, that'd be an impressive dish for a special occasion.

Of course, for the very reason that they are so undemanding, relying heavily on mushrooms and not much else might not be considered doing the thing properly, since the object is to commemorate being able to grow your own food. Rather like relying on ready-made things out of packets for Christmas dinner - it's Christmas dinner, but it doesn't have the same bragging rights. One can imagine a hard-up student in a small flat making their Whateverit'scalledmas dinner off nothing but fried mushrooms and windowsill lettuce, while people who have big gardens and take the whole thing seriously - or just want to show off - serve up omelettes, crusty bread or rabbit with three veg.

Don't forget about pudding. You sometimes see absurd little dwarf apple and pear trees advertised, that can be grown in a large tub and produce quite a few pounds of fruit. Or you can stick to smaller plants such as currants, raspberries or strawberries. (Some of these, such as strawberries, can be grown as trailing plants in hanging baskets, which may be useful if you're trying to fit a lot into a small or awkward space).

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    $\begingroup$ Mushrooms are a good call. And you've hit on the cultural status issue I really want to bring out. The food vs good food thing. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Jun 15 at 7:33

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