Three Months on Stores – Part One

The last time I got a lift to the frozen food shop, I incautiously pronounced that I reckoned I could live for three months on my stores.

Go on then,” said my friend, and there was the challenge!

The Rules

The main aim was to avoid doing any large shopping run. The big supermarkets were out of bounds. I could buy fresh foods, and replenish single items which had run out, only from the farm shop, produce markets or the small grocery stores in the High Streets of local towns. These latter increase footfall by 40%, so are worth supporting, unlike the out-of-town money pits.

Furthermore, I could only walk or cycle there, which severely limited the amount I could carry! The nearest shop to my house is over three miles away. Deliveries from large supermarkets were also against the rules, but a vegetable box from an organic farm or a milk delivery would have been acceptable. I didn’t need to resort to these, however, having a few root vegetables left in the Resilience Garden.

The Extras

I cycled to the tractor shop every fortnight or so, to pick up fresh milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and eggs. Towards the end, I added apple juice, but as they sell this in glass bottles, it was rather heavy. Occasionally they stock bread, which I’d slice and use to bulk out the diminishing freezer stock. It’s uneconomical to cool empty space – it causes a noticeable increase in the electricity used.

From the grocery – the Spar in Wells or the Co-op in Glastonbury – I’d get cleaning supplies, coffee, fresh fruit and meat. Although going to the local butchers was allowed, I had a lot of meat to use up in the freezer. Half-way through the project, I’d added a subsidiary aim, to empty the freezer ready for its annual defrost. On these trips, I’d buy a few treats like biscuits or cake, observing that these were now a luxury instead of a regular feature. If I wanted cake, I’d make my own from stores.

The Finances

I carefully noted all the money I spent on extras. From 16th December to 16th March is thirteen weeks, during which I spent an average of £11 a week on all food, drink and cleaning requirements. Calculating the cost of the stores used was a bit harder.

As the freezer was nearly empty at the end of the project, from being at maximum when it began, that was an easy calculation. It costs me £90 to fill it up from scratch, which translates to £7 per week.

The tinned and dried store cost is more of an estimate. I didn’t use very much, as I was concentrating on the freezer, but these are the items I drew upon :-

Dried milk* (1 carton)

Evaporated milk* (1 tin)

Coconut milk (1 tin)

Tins of baked beans* (small, 8)

Instant coffee (I ran out of this after 2 months!)

Pasta* (one 500g bag)

Rice* (half a 250g packet)

Suet* (one pack, but the birds ate a lot too)

Flour (Plain and self-raising – about a pound weight each)

Tea (I’m now using loose tea made in a pot)

Jams (replaced with no cost in season)

Sugar (mainly for elderberry syrup)

Oats* (again, helped by the birds!)

Dried potato mash* (three packets of 2 servings each)

Tins of fruit (about a dozen)

Dried fruit* (several packets)

Tinned custard (3 tins)

Bread mix* (2 small loaf packets)

Items marked with a asterix needed used up in the normal store rotation as they were close to going out of date. I estimated that the value of these stores amounted to about £5 a week. That’s probably an overestimate, as I don’t think it’ll cost me £65 to replace them. There’s still plenty left, and I’m not an extravagant prepper.

So, adding up my entire bill for food, drinks and domestic cleaning products for three months, I was spending an average of £23 a week. Now, I’ve no idea how that compares to other households, though the UK average for one person is said to be £25.80. Most statistics refer to families, couples, or budget-reducing projects which can get this down to £15.

However, most of what I buy is either organic or locally produced, and often both. I only buy quality produce from sources which benefit resilience. I use Waitrose or the larger Co-op store for general bulk buying, as they are owned by customers and staff rather than conventional shareholders. For freezer foods, I go to Iceland, who have a strong ethical dimension.

I learned quite a lot from this project, which I’ll continue with in my next post. Some of it was rather surprising!

How much food can you access within walking distance of your home?”

from The Handbook of Practical Resilience, page 3.

You can buy a copy of this book here, and ‘Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century’ here.

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