People who have followed me for a while, know that I have a stock of food that really helps me to keep ahead of inflation, but is also there for the months that we have little money to buy food due to large financial outgoings (February to May). It has helped during times when we have been snowed in, or times when I have been ill and have not been able to go to the shops. Other times a food stock comes in handy is when unexpected guests have arrived, or if I have had to bake for an unexpected occasion like a birthday party. This stock of food helps me feel food secure and so I never worry about feeding my family.
I have been asked how I built this stock of food up when my budget for food is very small. The answer is that each time I shop I will buy something for the cupboard as well. It might just be a 28p tin of beans, or a bag of sugar, but all these things if left untouched, soon add up. I know people that spend £3 a week of their food budget on buying things for their food stash. This £3 is rarely missed, but has provided a good back up stock of food for when times have been hard. I also live some months from food mainly from my garden, or foraged, and during these summer months most of the food bought is for the store cupboard to help us through the winter. It is things that I can not grow or produce like flour, oats, sugar, olive oil, canned fish, powdered milk, rice, pulses, yeast, tuna and honey.
I regularly go through my stock cupboard to rotate items and put them into my normal food cupboard so that things do not go out of date, and any new items bought I place back into the stock cupboard. I probably do this every couple of months. My stock cupboard also has items that I have preserved from my harvests and from foraging. Examples are pasta sauce, apple sauce, herbs, tomato powder from dried tomato skins, pickles, jams, chutney, piccalilli, sweet chilli sauce, passata, cordials and bottled fruit.
Often I will buy items when they are on offer, or I see a good deal. This time of year is an excellent time to think about building food stocks for next year, as many things are reduced for Christmas. November saw lots of joints of meat being reduced to half price (these can be cut up and frozen into meal sized bags), some times we find whole salmon at half price that we can fillet and cut into portions. The cheap Christmas vegetables are due in the shops soon and these also save us a lot of money. Various shops have different vegetables and so I shop around and buy lots of different vegetables and then store them so that they last us until at least the end of February. I always make jars of pickled cabbage with the 19p red cabbage as this provides nutrition and colour to our meals throughout the winter and the summer.
In the days after Christmas and New Year we look for reduced bargains with short sell by dates. Cream will be made into butter, and cheese will be grated and frozen. Last year we got some smoked gammon joints at silly prices which we sliced and froze for ham sandwiches, and to put into meals like macaroni cheese, or a dish with slices of potato in a cheese sauce. Reduced mince meat and Christmas puddings also get bought, and are stored away for the following Christmas. All these things reduce the money that we have to spend on food the following year, and add joy, nutrition and flavour to our food. It is about thinking about the future rather than thinking about what we need now, and thinking outside of the box on how we can use and store the items.
There are often nuts on sale after Christmas. Last year I got two large bags of mixed nuts greatly reduced in January. I separated all the nuts and had cashew nuts for future stir fry, almonds for baking, peanuts to make peanut butter, and hazel nuts to bake with and to make some chocolate hazelnut spread. The salted peanuts I save and then rinse and use them instead of pine nuts when making wild garlic pesto in March.
Do you have a food stash that helps you? What kinds of things do you store? How about thinking about starting one this year if you don’t?