I am not a prepper, but last December I started to build a stock of extra food. I was aware of the impact that the Ukrainian war was having on food and was hearing that the ‘pandemic’ and Brexit had impacted on food supplies also. I didn’t go mad as my food budget is low, but I just got a few extra items each week. I also bought dried milk as I had heard that the price of milk would increase. I have always had a full pantry anyway as experiences when I was younger, and not having enough to eat through lean times have encouraged me to stock up when times are good.
This year I continued. I grew twice as much food as I normally do, preserved more of it, increased my foraging, decided not to have weeks when I didn’t spend on food as I normally do, but spent the money on adding extra items to my stock. Each week during the summer I tried to mainly eat from my garden and continued to add to my stock with my food budget. I now have enough food to last me for a while if I am careful and having all this stock has helped me inflation proof myself.
I am still using oil that cost 79p rather than the £1.99 it is now, and my freezer has butter and cheese in it at February prices. From watching news from other countries and listening to farmers I have been able to stay one step ahead. Two weeks ago, I read that pasta would soon go up and so bought 3 lots of spaghetti and 3 packets of penne and sure enough within 2 days even the cheapest makes went up by 5p each. I bought loads of sugar in January, and it is nearly 30p more expensive now. Friends and family who were smiling indulgently at my prepping are now starting to believe me as they see the empty shelves, and listen to the news, and even hear farmers talking about it on Countryfile on TV. Animal feed is so expensive that many are not able to make a profit anymore. I am not trying to scare anyone as there is still plenty of food in the shops, but I always like to hope for the best and plan for the worst. These people are now asking advice on how to build a food stock.
These were some of my ideas based on my own experience.
1. STORAGE SPACE. How much space you have to store food will dictate what you can buy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the kitchen (I have some under the bed and in the conservatory). There is no point in bulk buying rice or something if you do not have the space or the containers to keep it in, which I don’t. The space does need to be clean and free from damp and insects. Include your freezers in your storage space. We have two and one is in the spare bedroom. This is so I can access my garden produce all year.
2. HAVE A CLEAR OUT. Before I started building my pantry, I tidied my food cupboards and got rid of all those things that I would never eat or were really out of date. I knew I would not want to waste room on things that I would probably never eat. There were a few unlabelled things at the bottom of the freezer and tins I had bought on impulse years before.
3. ASSESS YOUR GOALS. Ask yourself why you are building a stock of food. Are you are wanting to have enough food to last you through a winter storm, enough to get you through the expensive months of the year, or just a stock of your favourite foods, or meat products, or staples in case supplies run low temporarily as they did with flour and toilet rolls a few years ago? That will help you determine what and how much you will buy. I haven’t concentrated on meat but have stocked up on staples, grains, a few tins of fruit and tuna and bought pasta and beans. My goals are to save money and to be able to feed us nutritional meals until the risk to food supplies has reduced. My intention is to bulk my stocked items out with home grown produce.
4. MAKE AN INVENTORY. I wrote different categories eg. Meat, grains, fruit, vegetables, spices and herbs, sauces, dairy, cereals etc and wrote down every product that I had already in my cupboards and freezer. I didn’t realise how much I had of some items and so it stopped me wasting money buying items I didn’t need. As I use items or buy them, I add and take away from the list in the inventory. It is important to put dates on your inventory and rotate your stock cupboard so that you do not waste food. Some people do this on their phone, some on computer spread sheets but I am old fashioned and just write it in pencil in an exercise book so that I can rub it our when something is used.
5. MAKE A LIST OF THINGS THAT YOU WILL NEED. Early in the year I bought things that I knew I would need for Christmas baking, and for meals generally. I made some normal meal plans of things that we like to eat and looked to see which were my most used and favourite ingredients, or which I would miss the most if I could not get hold of them. Tomato puree, salt, sugar, flour, oil, cocoa and pasta were on my list. I know one of the grandchildren could not live without tomato sauce and so that is on the list too. There is no point in buying things you do not like. If the family turn their nose up at lentils don’t buy them. You will just waste them.
6. STOCK UP SLOWLY. I bought things when they were loss leaders or on offer. I also bought things that I heard would be increasing in price. I built my stock slowly and concentrated on different items each week. There is no point in bankrupting yourself now by going to a wholesaler and buying everything you need now. All my stash is from buying or preserving half a dozen extra things a week. It soon adds up. You don’t want so much food that you can’t access it or can’t keep track or eat it. You also do not want everything going out of date at the same time. You will end up wasting a lot.
7. USE YOUR STASH AND REPLACE IT. My food stock is part of my pantry and I use some of it every week. It is not just there to be admired. It needs to be rotated with new stock. I am slowly using my preserves and will replenish next season. If I use something like a tin of tuna I will look out for good deals and replace it when I can. Every week I put everything that needs using up in a small cupboard or in the top drawer of my freezer and make a meal plan around that.
Have you built a stock of food up as well? What tips would you give anyone that was wanting to start one? What are the items that you could not live without?