Category Archives: Food

Three Months on Stores – Part Two

From December 16th 2020 to March 16th 2021, I didn’t set foot in a large supermarket. Not having a car, I usually get a lift with a friend every couple of weeks to replenish my stores and buy fresh food. On my last freezer trip, I took up this challenge, with no warning nor special preparation, just going into it cold. Thus the project was closer to a genuine prepping event.

The rules allowed me to buy fresh produce or single items within walking distance of my home. I could use farm shops, small grocery stores and local markets, but not larger outlets. Deliveries from the latter were also out.

I learned a great deal from this project, and here are the other highlights…

The Addictive Nature of Supermarkets

This was a genuine surprise. A few weeks into the project, I began concocting excuses for myself. I should keep my stores replenished. I was missing out on bargains. All ways to trick myself into a supermarket trip. It was comparable to the strategies I’d used in the past to avoid giving up smoking.

I resisted. There was a pandemic going on after all, and 16% of infections were said to be linked to supermarket trips. Not going there was a sound decision in many ways. Good prepping.

After about two months, these feelings wore off, replaced by a reluctance to return to my former behaviour. Although I had always maintained that supermarkets were addictive, I’d considered it a bit of a joke. I never expected to realise it was the truth!

Vitamin C

There isn’t any fresh fruit in a British winter. The farm shops and local markets rarely buy in imported produce and, with their low turnover, such goods are frequently of poor quality in the small groceries. Apart from apples, I couldn’t access much fruit apart from my frozen, tinned and dried supplies. All the Resilience Garden had to offer was a dwindling supply of carrots, parsnips and leeks.

I noticed I was drinking more fruit juice than usual, got through my fruit stores faster. The take-away here is that a large bottle of vitamin C tablets is essential in your prepping stores. The sell-by isn’t great, but it’s probably worth throwing an expired pack away and replacing it to keep this crucial item on hand.

Freezer Stores

I always shunned the use of freezers for resilience supplies. Too many people clog theirs up with batch-cooking which they’ll neither use nor throw away. As these shouldn’t be kept for more than three months, they’d be of no use in an emergency either. As with all stores, the key is rotation. If you don’t eat it, don’t keep it.

With few exceptions, I only freeze ingredients – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit. In a sudden defrosting event, these can be cooked and refrozen if the power is restored in time, or preserved in other ways. Ready meals just become a waste disposal problem. My freezer plan held up well, and I made little use of the longer lasting tinned and dried stores (apart from the fruit). I could last another three months just on these, but I’m resisting this new challenge for the time being.

Transport

As I mentioned, I don’t have a car, just support the existence of one I can use. I can bulk buy if I need to. However, if I only needed to do this every three months, I could easily afford a taxi home with my shopping. The rest of the time, I’d be walking or cycling. Even less need to maintain a personal car!

Summary

The main lesson from this three month project was ‘Eat what you’ve got, not what you want.’ It’s unreasonable to expect fresh strawberries in January, to insist on salads in winter. In a very real sense, these demands are destroying the planet!

In addition, I learned:-

  • avoiding supermarkets saves money
  • supermarket shopping is a real addiction
  • vitamin C is an important item in the prepper’s cupboard
  • my freezer strategy is sound
  • I need more fruit in my stores (and more instant coffee!)
  • I could live for a long time on the food within walking distance of my home

If you ran a test of your prepping stores right now, how would it go? Try it and see!

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.

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.

In the Bleak Midwinter…

‘Go for a walk and see how much food there isn’t….’

Recipes for Resilience, page 42

ice on rhines

Imbolc at the beginning of February may have heralded the inexorable rise of Spring, but it was immediately followed by a spell of savage cold. Here in the Shire, we didn’t get much snow, which can provide an insulating blanket over the soil. Only endless days of constant icy wind. The broad beans may not have made it through!

The only vegetables ready to eat in the Resilience Garden now are the hardy leeks. I dug up the last of the parsnips and carrots just before the cold snap. Emerging slugs were nibbling at the exposed carrot tops, and the parsnips were thinking of growing leaves. This, of course, is why they lay down that valuable store of carbohydrates in their roots.

I’m proud of my self-seeding parsnips. It’s apparently very difficult to get them to do that. My struggle is to get them eaten! On my own I have small meals, and it’s not been possible to host roast dinners. Apart from potatoes, I just don’t eat a lot of root vegetables. I’ve learned to finely grate raw carrot into mayonnaise as a kind of coleslaw, which gets through them, but the unused parsnips troubled me.

My daughter provided me with a recipe which solved the problem:-

Chop a couple of medium, or one large parsnip into pieces and simmer till very soft. Drain and mash thoroughly. Stir in a couple of ounces of grated cheese, a teaspoon of made mustard and a little black pepper. Form into thin, flat round cakes on a floured plate and fry in shallow oil till golden brown on both sides.

The mix is quite soft, almost like drop scones (page 102), so get the oil quite hot before sliding the patties in. Turn with care and a good fish slice. They go very well with bacon and baked beans, or with any meal which involves gravy.

On the positive side, the long frost has nailed those emerging slugs, and it might be another bad year for molluscs. My raised beds are cleared and dug over, so the birds have had a good chance to raid the soil for other pests.

Resilience garden in spring cleared for planting

I’ve bought my seed potatoes, and a couple of asparagus roots to plant. The soil has to warm up a little more first. The onion sets should go in soon, perhaps this weekend if it stops raining! The autumn planting is doing well, though nothing like a crop yet. The allium family are a hardy lot. It’s not surprising that the first recorded recipe (Babylon 3000 BCE) was for onions!

Even so, you can’t live on onions alone. To survive in a Northern climate, you need to have mastered the art of storing food over the winter. The supermarket-to-dinner strategy adopted by many modern people is a potentially fatal regression.

Learn to survive in the 21st century with ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’ and ‘Recipes for Resilience’.  

Imbolc – the start of the growing season

Imbolc is a festival very closely tied to agriculture. As people moved away from the land, from being one of the key events of the year, it fell into obscurity. Six weeks after the Winter Solstice, in the first few days of February, Imbolc celebrates the beginning of Spring. From the perspective of a high-rise window, this may not be obvious. Down at ground level though, green shoots are appearing, buds are swelling. Even in the city, the days are clearly longer.

As lambs arrived in the pastures, so did a new supply of milk for hungry stone age farmers. After months of living on preserved food, with little access to sunlight, this source of vitamin D was essential for health. Imbolc customs often involved milk. The name itself may come from ‘oimelc’, an old word for ‘ewe’s milk’.

Imbolc lambs

The winter was over in the minds of these early farmers. Whatever the weather, their thoughts had to turn to mending fences, digging the vegetable plots, putting plans into action. There was much activity around holy wells during Imbolc; weather oracles were anxiously consulted. The American tradition of Groundhog Day on February 2nd has its roots here; once it was a badger who popped out to test the air.

Imbolc snowdrops

In the evening there would be a modest fire ritual. Great bonfires and loud parties weren’t appropriate. Survival was still not certain, but depended on the coming season’s crops. Candles were lit; it was a festival of hearth and home. Women encouraged the goddess of growing things to visit, sometimes by making a special bed for her.

An element of ritual cleansing also goes back a long way. It survives in the tradition of ‘spring cleaning’, but may once have been far more important. Some stone circles are directed at the Imbolc sunrise, notably at Newgrange in Eire. The inner chamber of the Mound of the Hostages there shows such an alignment.

Although we don’t know how these Neolithic people celebrated, we can imagine how they must have looked forward to the coming of Spring!

From ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’.

Contents Recipes for Resilience February

It might seem odd to be talking about greenhouses in February, but this is when they’re most useful. Many of your ordinary vegetables can get a head start, protected from cold soil and freezing winds. The trailing exotics of summer are just a bonus! As for fresh greens, I’m not talking about Iceberg lettuce here, but wild garlic, sorrels and nettles. These start showing just as the root vegetables which kept you going through the dark months are sprouting.

For each month in ‘Recipes’ I provide a short list of seasonal foods. You need to know these to plan your stores. After Imbolc, one can expect to have eggs and milk again, so I’ve gone into a little bit of detail about our historic relationship with milk. This shouldn’t be underestimated; it’s shaped the rural landscape of Britain for thousands of years!

Finally for each month there are the recipes, all relentlessly seasonal. See how much food you haven’t got at this time of year! Leaf through the contents of your copy and see how the available ingredients expand as the weather warms up. There’s over 130 recipes, many of which are directly related to the food you can grow, or which will be in season and cheap.

For resilience tips about other essential resources, consult ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience – How to Survive in the 21st Century’

Your Resilience Plan – Transport

Begin this part of your Resilience Plan by considering how you transport yourself, for this is the easiest thing to change.

Most people can walk. Do so. Walk around your neighbourhood regularly. Exercise yourself as you would if you had a dog. Walk with a purpose as well. If it takes an hour’s round trip to get a pint of milk from a local shop, do that instead of the ten minute drive to a supermarket.

farm shop reception

The plague has trashed public transport, so it’ll need your help to recover. Once it’s possible again, use a bus or train at least once a month. Travel to the nearest city for a day’s sightseeing. Take a bus to one end of a scenic walk and a different bus home at the other end, thus freeing yourself from being tied to circular walks.

Cycling has many of the same advantages as walking, but is generally faster. However, you need a better surface, and are often forced to share the road with motor traffic, which can be dangerous. There’s a plan in Britain to develop a fully connected national cycle network, promoted by Sustrans and others.

A bicycle for hire in Amsterdam

Another key aspect of transport which you can influence directly is the movement of goods. The concept of food miles is familiar in the context of global warming. Buying local is one of the most resilient actions you can take.

So far, we haven’t mentioned the personal car. This is an undeniably convenient resource, which is why its use has been allowed to create so many problems. Pollution of land, air and water; gridlocks in cities; an annual fatality rate of over a million globally.

Decades of car use have fragmented our communities. Friends, family, schools and work-places can be many miles from your home. This complete dependence on being able to maintain a personal car isn’t resilient. Floods, snowfall or fuel shortage can bring your entire lifestyle to a halt.

traffic jam

How could you begin to mitigate this? Start by keeping your car serviced for efficiency. This reduces pollution, as well as personal expense. Consider alternative way of reaching your key destinations. How could you adapt if you couldn’t use a car? Make a personal transport plan for such eventualities. If you don’t have a bicycle, you can’t cycle anywhere!

Maybe you could exchange your current car for a smaller, more economical model? Hire a larger vehicle for family holidays? Perhaps swap for an electric or hybrid car? Many showrooms will let you test drive these. Identify the barriers to making this change.

When you’ve got your copy of the full Resilience Assessment included in ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’*, you’ll see there’s a default score of 30% in this section simply for not possessing a car. Score even if your family has one, but you’re not the main driver, because then you’re doing car-sharing.

Lift-sharing is a way of reducing the transport burden, especially in cities. People who travel to work can offer space to others, thus saving on congestion and parking costs. There are a number of schemes which you can explore, or encourage your workplace to set one up. Working from home is obviously better all round, but some jobs require your physical presence.

Community vehicle ownership is another avenue. A group of drivers club together to own a single vehicle for the personal use of each. This is complicated, but there’s advice available. Think how often you need the exclusive use of a car. How long does it spend doing nothing?

Throughout the Transport Resilience Plan, you may have noticed links to other sections of the Resilience Wheel.

Links from the Transport section to other parts of the Resilience Wheel

All sections of the Wheel are linked, but it’s particularly clear here. For your final task, we’ll cross to another quadrant entirely. How would you design a community transport hub?

You won’t be able to do this alone. You’ll need to enlist the Community Quadrant. Such a hub wouldn’t have to be a building. A strategically placed rural bus shelter could be extended to provide covered bike racks. People could cycle there from outlying villages to catch the main bus to town. Add a noticeboard, a book exchange, solar panels, a litter-bin divided for recycling. Provide wall maps for touring cyclists and ramblers, a wi-fi booster for linking to train timetables. All this is achievable with few resources, and the support of the surrounding community!

the resilience wheel

As I’ve described in the Handbook (p178), once you’ve completed the basic Resilience Plan, you can develop your resilience by specialising in areas which particularly appeal. One of my specialities is food production and supply. My current project is to last on stores for three months, with occasional visits to the tractor shop where I can stock up on dairy produce. I can reach this easily by bicycle.

I made my last large shop at Iceland (to fill an empty drawer in the freezer) in mid-December, spending only £50. If I can last out, the next supply run where I’ll need the use of a car will be mid-March. I’ll let you know haw I get on with this challenge!

If you want to read my advice on food security, please buy yourself ‘Recipes for Resilience – common sense shopping for the 21st century’.* You’ll find tips on growing vegetables, storing food and over a hundred basic, adaptable recipes!

Recipes for Resilience book in leeks

*Also available on Amazon if you really must go there.

Notes on a Resilient Community

I made these notes some years ago, while researching for ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’. A whole sheaf of writing was condensed into a ‘mind map’, as pictured below, and set aside.

rough notes on self-sufficiency

If I need this information for an article, book or story, this serves to remind me of the conclusions I drew from the research. It underpins the description of a resilient village on page 198 of ‘Recipes’ for example.

However, other people don’t find it quite so clear, so I’m just going to expand on these notes a little.

I began the project by musing on how much land a single person might need to grow all their own food. An acre of vegetables is said to be sufficient, but you’d want more variety, more redundancy, perhaps extra food to trade for other necessities. This is what I came up with:-

One acre of vegetables

About a third of an acre for chickens – you’d get both eggs and meat here

One acre for a horse

One acre for a cow

A quarter acre for a sheep

One square yard of grain gives you one loaf; 200 square yards of grain crop should suffice.

A quarter acre of pond supplies fish

Barns, workshops and housing would occupy another quarter acre.

That’s about four acres, adding land for paths, fences, windmills and suchlike.

By that time, I was considering fuel as well. Four acres of coppiced woodland can provide enough to heat a house all year in a temperate climate.

This was looking like a lot of work for one person. Suppose you got ill? A house can accommodate several people. Farm animals don’t like to live alone. Resources and practical skills are only half of the Resilience Wheel. Community is important. Let’s add more people!

With four adults living in the house, the amount of woodland required remains the same, but we need more food:-

Four acres of vegetables

About eight acres of pasture. There’s now enough land for a serious rotation. The sheep follow the cows and horses, the chickens follow the sheep. You could bring pigs into the mix too.

Add a couple of acres of orchard, with fruit and nut trees. The sheep and chickens can forage here too. There will be beehives for honey and wax.

About half an acre of pond is probably still enough. Any more and the fish may be too hard to catch! If you have a flowing stream as well, there’s water power to consider.

An acre of grain gives extra for fodder.

Your buildings will still take up about the same area; a quarter acre

And the four acres of woodland.

That’s about twenty acres all told. The single person had to manage eight alone. I notice I’ve randomly added a few more acres into the total in the original notes. I forget why, so let’s do the same. Call it twenty-four acres to support four people, that gives us extra land for crop and pasture rotation. The animals are much happier in their little herds. The extra labour opens up possibilities.

Now we’ve almost certainly got a surplus of produce. This tiny community could even support an elderly person and children, who each need less than half the food of a working adult. Not many children, as a two-child family is the only way to sustain this group long-term. Land does not multiply itself.

Now they need some company. Let’s give each household of six a thirty acre plot, just in case they temporarily expand to eight people. Fallow meadowland is easy to grow and pleasant to have, easy to cultivate if needed. Twelve of these plots, as segments of a circle with the houses and valuables at the centre, form a circle a mile wide. We’ve now got seventy to a hundred people in a little village, bordered by a band of woodland.

how many people can live on three square miles of land

That’s quite a small community. Could it get bigger and remain resilient? Let’s double the diameter of the circle to two miles. The houses are still only a mile, twenty minutes walk, from the edge. You’ve got horses, renewable energy for tractors, you’ve laid paths. According to the expanded calculations in the picture, up to 72 households could be accommodated, or three to four hundred people of all ages from babies to the very old.

Below is a diagram of how the cultivated land could be laid out, with crops needing more maintenance closer to the houses. Sheep graze the edge of the forest, to discourage saplings encroaching. Water as in ponds, streams, rivers or even canals, may have to be worked around. Perhaps a couple of segments must be left unclaimed to host these common resources.

layout of a self sufficient plot

The coppiced woods form a circle around the village. It’d be useful to have a zone of natural forest beyond these. Fungi and game were always a fall-back plan if crops failed. Lets say a thick band of woodland, a couple of miles across, separates one of these villages from another. Your neighbours are only four miles away, an easy journey on foot – though you have horses and electric vehicles.

All the elements are in place for a fully sustainable, completely resilient lifestyle. Add skilled crafts people making luxury items, remote working because you haven’t forgotten technology and still have the internet. Unlikely? It’s surprising how resilient the internet is now that it’s been discovered!

What you can actually do right now may bear no more relationship to this than an acorn does to a full-grown oak. Remember – every majestic tree was once a nut that didn’t give up!

A Seasonal Recipe – Potato and Leek Soup

Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century’ is the book you need! There’s over a hundred basic recipes, arranged to make use of seasonal foods, plus gardening advice to help you with your vegetable patch. Learn how to combine food stores with fresh produce, and your food bills could end up as low as mine!

Here’s one of the recipes from the book, using the ingredients you find in the winter months:-

Leek and potato soup

A couple of large leeks from your resilience garden

A couple of medium potatoes from winter stores, chopped small

Stock – half a litre (one pint) for two people (use a stock cube from stores)

Optional – some dried wild mushrooms. Practice with commercially available types

Acquiring the skills to collect and preserve wild mushrooms safely is quite a task. Try eating some already prepared first. You may not like the taste or texture! However, if you don’t eat animal products, fungi can be an important source of protein.

Dried foods need a lot of cooking water, so it’s best to add them to a stew or soup. Follow any instructions about pre-soaking on the packet, or online.

Slice up the leeks and sauté them in a little oil with a dash of tamari (optional). Pour in the stock, add the potatoes and mushrooms. Simmer for about 20 minutes; it’s ready when the potatoes are soft. If the mushrooms need longer – there are many different varieties – the rest of the soup is fine with that, as long as you keep the liquid topped up.

You can make this into a ‘cream’ soup. Allow it to cool so it won’t scald you, then blend it. Warm it back up, stirring in 4 fluid ounces (100 ml) of single cream. Don’t let it boil. Serve as soon as it’s hot enough.

Although richer and more nutritious, this soup won’t keep as long as the dairy-free version; it’s best eaten up at one meal.

Recipes for Resilience book in leeks

Now here’s the seriously resilient version:-

War Soup – a modern famine recipe

4 tablespoons of dried milk

1 stock cube

2 tablespoons dried parsley or whatever green leafy stuff is around, shredded

Mix the dried milk with 2 tablespoons of water until it’s creamy. Make up to half a litre (one pint). It should look roughly like milk. If it seems too thin, mix up another tablespoon of powder with a very little water in a cup and stir this in slowly to thicken it. Adding more dried powder straight to any mix often results in lumps.

Of course, if you have the packet, follow the instructions given to make up a pint.

Heat the milk gently, stirring in the crumbled stock cube and the leaves; serve at once.

Note the similarity to the ‘cream of potato and leek soup’ above. Both involve milk and stock cubes. Both can be expanded with garden forage or wild edibles. You would tend to use these recipes if protein from meat or pulses was in short supply. Milk supplies extra Vitamin D in the dark winter months.

Recipes for Resilience‘ doesn’t just cover the skills of buying cheap for stores, and growing food to supplement your monthly shopping. (Yes, that’s monthly! I go to the supermarket once a month, to buy in heavy items like tins. I spend about £40 there, including a few expensive treats. Every four months, I spend another £50 on stocking up a small freezer. That’s it. My store cupboard’s always full.)

It also explains how to cope with very serious emergencies, where the power and mains water could be out for some weeks. The sister publication, ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience – how to survive in the 21st century’ goes into more detail. You don’t have to have a cabin in the woods – and you probably won’t – to use the survival skills outlined. They work right where you are.

Can you afford not to have these books?Handbook of Practical Resilience and freezer with labels

You can also buy them on Amazon, though supporting my helpful publisher is better!

‘Recipes’ is here

The ‘Handbook’ is here

Or you can contact me and I’ll send you out a copy.

‘Recipes’ at £9 plus £3 p&p UK

the ‘Handbook’ at £10 plus £3 p&p UK

Important tips for storing food

  1. Having a good supply of stored food is a useful habit to acquire and cultivate. It’ll see you through a time of bad weather, provide a back-up in case of sudden financial difficulties, sort you out if you can’t go out due to personal illness or accident. And it will be very useful in a global pandemic where a trip to the supermarket is fraught with danger.

  1. Keep this store separate from kitchen cupboards. As described in ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’, you can fit your core supplies in a 32 litre plastic box, which will fit under many beds. This box can also come with you if you have to evacuate in your car, for example if your home is threatened by flooding. It could be vital if you have serious dietary needs.

a box of emergency food supplies

  1. Don’t store food you never eat in everyday life. All stores go out of date, usually before there is an emergency, and you’ll end up wasting food. Keeping foods which you use means you can take advantage of bargains to stock up, reducing your overall food bill.

  1. Store tinned and dried foods. Don’t buy large packets, which are tedious to use up once opened. If the packet gets broken, you’ll lose a lot of food. Get more smaller packets instead. If you have a freezer, that’s a bonus. If the power goes off though, your stores will quickly transform into a waste disposal problem.

  1. Buy survival foods if you must. Pay attention to the cooking methods. You may need to be able to prepare your emergency meals on a single cooker ring, or even an open fire. Go camping to use these up and practice being outside your comfort zone – see ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ for adventure suggestions.

  1. Get yourself a copy of ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’ where you’ll find all this advice and a lot more. Learn to build food storage into your general routines so you’re never caught out. Panic buying can be dangerous!

upload R4R price by onions june 19

A Craft Interlude – Grape Juice

In the twenty years since I planted a tiny little stick, it has become a huge grape vine, sweeping around the side of the house and smothering the shed roof.Large grape vine in garden octoberAlthough it produces a tremendous amount of fruit, the grapes are small. Most of their insides are occupied by two large seeds.  They’re not much use for eating, but with a bit of effort can provide a lovely juice.

The first task is to pick the grapes and leave them in a basin covered with cold water for about ten minutes. This allows any insects among the bunches to escape, and some of the debris to float to the top where you can scoop it off.

washing grapes ready to make juice

Take the bunches out one at a time, strip off the grapes and compost the stalks.

stripping grapes from their stalks ready to make juice

Now you need to squish the fruit to extract the juice. We tried a small fruit press, but it wasn’t any faster than crushing the grapes by hand through an ordinary sieve.Small hand press for fruit juice

crushing grapes sieve and strain for juiceThe picture above shows two stages. First the grapes are squeezed through the sieve in the centre, then the juice is poured into a larger sieve lined with muslin. The smaller sieve needs frequent rinsing out, and the muslin has to be changed quite often. Sterilise the cloth by soaking in brewers’ grade steriliser (or Milton fluid) and rinsing well in clean water. Wear a plastic apron if you have one, as the whole process can be very wet.

The pictures below shows the muslin clogged with fine particles. Move the cloth around to use clean areas, but you’ll need a good half dozen pieces ready to use.

muslin used for straining juice gets clogged with residuemoving clogged muslin around the sieve to make grape juiceThe juice collected in the second pan can now be pasteurised. Always use stainless steel pans for making fruit juice.  Non-stick will work, but not cast-iron. If you use enamelled pans, make sure there are no chips in the surface.

Heat the juice gently to at least 70 degrees Celsius and hold it there for at least a minute.  Stir it to make sure the heat is distributed all the way through. You ought to use a cooking thermometer for this. However, we brought both our batches to nearly 100 degrees (boiling point), by not paying enough attention, and it didn’t harm the juice.  So if you can’t get hold of a thermometer, it should be okay to just let the juice gently bubble, then turn the heat straight off.

If it’s not done enough, it’ll ferment in the bottles, so always use proper swing-top beer bottles, or corked wine bottles to store home-made juices. Never use screw-top bottles, as they might explode.

pasteurising grape juice in a panThis is the juice just after being heated.  Note that it still has impurities in it even after the straining. We pasteurised one batch in the bottles, but these impurities rose to the top and made a mess, so we redid that batch as above.  We strained the pasteurised juice through clean muslin again, and decanted it into sterilised bottles.second straining of grape juiceNote the second straining doesn’t leave so much residue. Even with these precautions, there’s still a little sediment in the finished bottles once they’ve settled for a few days!

Rinse out the bottles, preferably with hot water.  Glass can crack if it’s too cold when you pour hot liquids in.  Note the work surface is covered with a towel; this had to be changed for a dry one at regular intervals. It isn’t a fast process; with the first batch it took me about 8 hours to fill a dozen bottles with the finished juice!

filling the bottles with grape juiceIt’s worth the trouble though. Home pressed grape juice is delicious, free of additives, and thoroughly resilient. Our next project is to try and extract grape seed oil from the residues, but we might leave that for next year!

 

 

Your Resilience Plan – Food

In Chapter Three of the ‘Handbook for Practical Resilience’, the Food section is used as an example to describe the role of the tasks provided in achieving your personal resilience.

Ideally, you would be sourcing many of your basic foods from local suppliers either directly or through shops, deliveries and markets. You’d know most of the people involved in the food chain personally. You’d grow a lot of fresh produce yourself, or harvest it from your community garden.”

If you have reached this level of food security, you are doing very well. However, not many people in Britain will be able to tick all these boxes, so we’ll look at the other end of the scale.

You buy all your food from a large supermarket, eating mainly processed meals. You can’t cook and don’t know anyone who can show you how. If you have a garden at all, your landlord won’t let you grow vegetables. In an emergency, you would depend on food aid being brought to you rather than being able to support yourself on surrounding resources for a while.”

This is not a resilient position to be in. You don’t have any control over your food supplies.

empty shelves 1 mar 18

Imagine a scale from one to ten, with the highest score being for the ideal situation. Where do you think you are on this scale? What actions could you take to improve your score, and what barriers might you need to deal with?”

The first strategy you need to consider in the worst-case scenario is storing food. Supermarkets – and cash and carry shops – are useful for sourcing large amounts of tinned and dried produce. They have handy car parks, so you can transport these easily.

Ready meals are a waste of space. You need to be able to put basic meals together from ingredients. This is far more economic, both in cost and storage. With cooking skills, you can make the best use of the sort of random selections available during shortages. You can also plan ahead, shop with a list and work out how to use up leftovers.

It’s unlikely that you’ll have enough land – several acres – to supply all your food needs. Even a pot of herbs on the window sill can provide essential vitamin C if you are obliged to live on stores for awhile. Using whatever growing space you have will help you cultivate the skills required to grow food. At the very least, this will help you partake in informed decisions about community or national farming strategies.

An important factor in your personal resilience is the amount of food grown in your immediate area – within walking distance! At present, food growers have difficulty selling their products at retail prices. They are forced to go through commercial buyers, who take most of the profit.

If you move your food shopping away from supermarkets and towards local markets, high street shops and farm deliveries, you are moving a considerable amount of money back to food producers. This will enable them to continue, and food will remain accessible to you.

The first five tasks in the Resilience Plan for each section are achievable with no extra resources, just a few changes of habit. The fifth task in the Food section is to research a balanced diet. This is useful for your general health, but more important in a prolonged food shortage.

Vitamins and minerals are rarely scarce in normal circumstances, as people can eat a lot of food. Where you have to ration stores though, it’s very important to be aware of these. ‘Recipes for Resilience’ covers this in more detail, and outlines a simple list of food stores which can fit under a bed, or other small space. You can build on this to fill any available space you have.

a box of emergency food supplies

There is more that you can do as an individual to support local food production. Some community initiatives may exist in your area. Join a buying group or food co-op, learn about community supported agriculture. Start your own scheme, referring to the Community Quadrant for help.

Take your growing projects further. If you have a garden, dig up unproductive lawn areas and start growing vegetables. Apply to your local council for allotment space. Encourage the planting of food trees in public spaces.

Many people think the height of survival skills is to be able to forage on wild plants. There will not be enough of these. With practical resilience, you’re better off learning how to determine whether out-of-date tinned food might kill you or not.

A knowledge of native edibles is useful in your Resilience Garden. With selective weeding, you can ensure that you have a base layer of these hardy self-seeders. If you have to neglect the garden for awhile, they will carry on without your help for several years.

The final task is a research project, designed to lead you into more complex issues around food. The concept of default meatis that which can be produced by feeding domestic animals on the waste created from growing one’s own vegetables.

You will observe, when you do this for yourself, that there is a great deal of leafy material, peelings and other by-products. These can be composted directly, or fed to livestock for meat, eggs and milk. In Russia, 40% of food comes from individual small-holdings.

So these are the ten tasks to accomplish in the Food section of the Resilience Wheel. You can hurry through them, or take your time, gradually increasing your food security skills. Remember that you only need to score 70% in each section, so even if you have no chance of accessing land in Q8, you can still pass.

The Food section of the Resources Quadrant is one of the subjects I’ve chosen for further development (as described on page 178). As you work through the plan, think about your own areas of particular interest. Where would your personal skills and experience be best applied?

Page and chapter numbers refer to ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’.  The ten tasks relating to the Food section of the Resources Quadrant are listed in Appendix One (Your Personal Resilience Assessment).

Food security, storage and growing are covered in detail in ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century‘, along with over a hundred useful recipes.

Both books are available from Amazon and Waterstones, but it’s more resilient to support the publisher direct.