Category Archives: Prepping

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.