If you want to download the book version of this blog, so you can wander around with it on your phone or whatever, Amazon are now offering it for £1.99/$2.99 USD.
You can read it on a Kindle, iPad, iPhone or PC just by downloading the Kindle App, which is free. If you do download the book, it would be great if you could leave a review on the Amazon site. Every review helps to build the Austerity community.
The student version of the book is currently in production and should be out during the autumn of 2018, so if you would like to know more about this, or have any special student-related topics you would like to see covered, please get in touch.
In modern houses without cellars, pantries, larders and outhouses it can be very difficult to find space for storing emergency foods so they are easy to access but out of the way when you don’t need them. Here are some ideas:
- Clean the tops of your kitchen wall cupboards, line the tops with brown paper or clean newspaper to keep them from getting dusty and sticky (paper is more easily changed than it is to scrub cupboard tops), and then stack your emergency supplies in logical groups on top of the cupboards. If you can, store them in plastic tubs so the tins and cans themselves don’t get dusty and sticky on the outside, or at least drape clean cloths over them to protect them. Avoid using areas near cookers and boilers.
- Remove the plinth from under your floor-standing kitchen units, clean the floor well underneath, and replace the plinths with pull-out drawers, shallow plastic tubs, or baskets (not near the cooker). If this is impractical, try to re-engineer the plinths so they can be removed and replaced quickly and easily when you need to get something. You can always remove them altogether if you really need to, and stand cans and jars on shallow trays under your cupboards so you can pull the trays forward easily to access any supplies at the back.
- The spare room option. If you are lucky enough to have access to this kind of space, you can install a pantry cupboard to swallow up extensive supplies. This could be a simple utilitarian bookcase (choose one designed to have a lot of weight on it), a specially installed kitchen cupboard in a style that you can just about get away with in a bedroom or home office, an attractive old dresser or sideboard from a charity shop, Freecycle, or bought from Ebay (old brown vintage furniture can be cheap and really sturdy, which is useful for this kind of purpose, or pull-out plastic storage boxes on wheels under the bed (if you put lids on them it saves putting your hand into the supplies and pulling it out covered in dust, which is never a pleasant situation). Another possibility is to run shelves all the way around the room at the side height as the top of the door and stack items here, but again, make sure the shelves you buy are sturdy and suited to having quite a bit of weight on them.
- Garages and sheds. This gets a bit more complicated as you have to contend with vermin, flies, rodents, etc competing for your stuff. Everything needs to be cans, jars, or in solid plastic tubs with lids, and kept immaculately clean so wildlife have no idea what is in there.
- Tiny home? Try renting a storage unit! It’s a possibility if you want to buy in bulk and stack things ready for emergencies, and you are prepared to make one or two discreet visits a week to collect supplies.
- Chest freezers don’t have to be huge. There are 60cm wide chest freezers suitable for normal kitchens, and one of these will hold an entire lamb or half a side of pork specially ordered from the butcher and prepared to your requirements before being vacuum packed and pre-frozen (the cheapest way of buying high quality fresh meat).
In this post I try to identify the foods that we are used to using frequently, or having in our store cupboards as useful gourmet additions to our normal cuisine, and list them so that you can stock up in advance of them becoming difficult or more expensive to obtain. There may be problems either for customs delay reasons, tariffs, disruption to the manufacturing supply chain in the UK, or because there’s trouble finding pickers in the UK.
Fish soup and lobster bisque
Bread mix (our wheat travels around half a dozen countries before ending up as a loaf in the supermarket)
Fast acting yeast
Cooked peppers in jars
Olives in packets, tins and jars
Tinned chopped plum tomatoes
Herbs and spices
Very lazy garlic in jars
Very lazy ginger in jars
Anchovies and anchovy paste
Pulses: canned kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed beans, borlotti beans
Dried porcini mushrooms
Gourmet dried pasta
Stuffed vine leaves and other meze
Sea salt and black peppercorns
Frozen mediterranean vegetables
Frozen seafood, especially things like monkfish, sea bass, squid, etc
Frozen fruits and smoothies mixes
Following on from the previous post, this is a straightforward plan of what you might need to have in stock to feed one person for two weeks, so that meals are reasonably varied and everyone stays as healthy as possible. Brace yourself, it’s quite a lot, particularly when you multiply the list by the number of people in your household. The list is adapted from the official emergency food supplies list – the ‘hamster purchase list’, as it is nicknamed – issued by the German Government for its own population (who are luckier than those of us in the UK as they normally have cellars to house all the stuff). You need to budget £55-£65 per person, depending on whether you can get economies of scale from buying for larger numbers together, and the quality of food you choose, so a family of four using some basic brands and a few more expensive favourites here and there could expect to pay £150-170 for a two-week supply, in normal supermarkets.
1kg long life brown bread (or bread mix so you can make it yourself)
This can be bought canned for 3.95 euros for 500g from https://shop.conserva.de/en/canned-bread/749-dosen-bistro-mixed-wheat-bread-320g-5060428432864.html
400g French toasts
These can be bought in Tesco for £1.29 for 200g https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/266291362
1 kg crispbread or vacuum-packed bread
1 kg fresh or canned potatoes
800g canned beans
These can be baked or green beans
800g canned peas and/or carrots
700g each of red cabbage and sauerkraut in a jar
If you don’t like red cabbage, get extra beans, peas and carrots instead. But the cabbage has masses of vitamins.
400g asparagus in a jar
Cheaper in Germany, admittedly, but if you can afford it, this adds variety to meals
400g canned sweetcorn
400g canned mushrooms
400g gherkins in a jar
Again, a German favourite but very useful if you can acquire a taste for them. Otherwise choose another pickle you prefer.
400g cooked or pickled beetroot in a jar
500g fresh onions (because they keep well)
Fruit and nuts
700g canned cherries or fruit pie filling
250g canned pears
250g canned apricots
350g canned mandarins
350g canned pineapple
200g raisins or sultanas
200g shelled nuts or nut butter
250g dried prunes or figs
610g approximately of fresh applies, pears, bananas and oranges
28 litres of water or another way of preparing fresh drinking water if power supplies are interrupted at pumping stations.
You can buy 5l still water packs at Tesco for £1.10 https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/266291362
1 x Jif lemon juice or similar
Milk and milk products
3 litres long life milk or milk substitute
You can buy normal UHT-treated milk or alternatively powdered milk such as Marvel, or emergency milk for 8.85 euros from Convar https://shop.conserva.de/en/milk-products/774-ef-basic-organic-whole-milk-powder-350g-yields-3-liter-de-oeko-039–5060428433328.html
700g hard cheese
You can buy something like cheddar or parmesan, wrap it in greaseproof paper and put it somewhere cool, or you can buy canned cheese for 4.79 euros from Convar (it tastes good, I have tried it) https://shop.conserva.de/en/canned-cheese/592-dosen-bistro-gouda-250g-5060428432345.html
Meat, fish and eggs
150g canned tuna
100g canned sardines
100g herring fillets (more popular in Germany but still probably acceptable to the British palate)
250g canned corned beef or ham
300g canned or tinned hot dogs
300g sandwich paste or pate in tins or jars
360g canned stewing steak, chilli or similar
10 eggs, or alternatively you can buy egg powder from Convar for 6.58 euros https://shop.conserva.de/en/119-powdered-whole-eggs
Fat and oil
250g of butter or margarine. You can buy canned Ghee in most supermarkets, or powdered butter from Convar that will probably outlive most of us at 24.50 euros for 500g. https://shop.conserva.de/en/butter-powder/594-butter-powder-650g-4015753702015.html
300g sunflower, maize or light olive oil
To the above list you can add chocolate, cakes, children’s snacks etc as required, if you have the space. Convar do lots of canned cakes which are delicious (yes, we took another fall for the team and taste tested them for you!). It’s also possible to buy packets of jelly, dried rice pudding, semolina, custard power, jam, honey and so on, to add something sweet to the diet for morale-boosting purposes. Army 24 hour ration packs often have a muesli bar and boiled sweets in them for this purpose (and it is also a compact form of calories). I would also add a 500g bag of granulated sugar to the list, for the same reason.
Please note: All Convar prices are without VAT. They have not sponsored this post, we just like them because their products are excellent and for survival food the prices are competitive. At the moment they are manufactured in the UK. I know, irony, right?
It is with a heavy heart that I am posting details today of how to do proportionate forward planning in case there is a disorderly Brexit, with related disruptions to food supplies. In post 1 I am going to cover a preparation timetable, in post 2 a list of emergency items that you might want to put by for the first two weeks, in post 3 a longer term storage plan for the subsequent three months, and in post 4 some hints and tips for fitting additional supplies in the average small British house without a cellar. The emphasis is on buying things you can use later anyway, to avoid the worst excesses of the millennium bug mentality where people were left with more baked beans than anyone would want to eat in a lifetime. This is partly resilience plan, partly anti-stress plan for busy couples and parents who like to be self-reliant as far as possible and anticipate any hassle
7th February 2019 Start booking supermarket delivery slots three weeks ahead of time if you prefer to shop this way
1st March 2019 Big shop no 1
8th March 2019 Big shop no 2
15th March 2019 Big shop no 3
22nd March 2019 Big shop no 4
29th March 2019 Brexit day, stay close to home
INTO EMERGENCY STORES USAGE (2 WEEKS)
These are absolutely essential items without which it would start to make it very difficult to feed a family via conventional means.
15th April 2019 End of emergency stores usage period
INTO LONG TERM USAGE (3 MONTHS)
These are items that are likely to be sourced from within the EU, without which meals become less appetising. They could suddenly become a lot more expensive.
1st July 2019 Likely end of any serious food supply disruption
24th July 2019 End of UK school summer term in many areas; consider trip abroad for favourite gourmet/cooking supplies
A little bit late, but I just wanted to repost a really splendid Austerity Christmas Dinner, which works out at £1 per person (if there’s about four of you sharing packets of vegetables and chicken legs, etc). This comes from a book called One Pound Meals by trained chef Miguel Barclay and there’s a film of how to prepare it on the BBC website. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37985164
The reason I wanted to post it here is that it’s clear the high level preparation skills of Miguel have really turned the chicken leg (and the infamous sprouts!) into something remarkable here. It’s also clever how his lateral thinking has created a meal that’s highly economical, but which also has the feeling of being special. Using a chicken leg instead of turkey, and using a special stuffing instead of little sausages means the meal’s cost is minimised. His knives are really sharp, making deboning the chicken leg easier, and he fluffs open the sprouts before (I think) steaming them and possibly roasting or giving them a quick saute, which will add flavour.
This would make a tremendous Sunday lunch dish – I would stuff the deboned leg with my stale bread, egg, sage and onion stuffing (find the recipe in the Christmas section of this website) and replace the bacon wraps with a creamed swede puree for seasonal good value, and the sprouts with frozen peas cooking with a little fresh mint for variety.
If you are feeling the pinch financially after the Christmas holidays, there are a few things that you can do to raise extra funds but if you have the space, renting out a room is likely to make the most difference to the housekeeping budget, as it’s effectively cash in hand. This is because the Inland Revenue has revised the Rent a Room scheme so that you can now make £7500 a year tax free (£144 a week) from renting furnished spare rooms in your main home (i.e. you have to be living in it). The details are here: https://www.gov.uk/rent-room-in-your-home/the-rent-a-room-scheme.
In terms of preparing for your lodger, you might have a suitable room already that requires minimal expense to set up. This is ideal, but if not, start with a fresh coat of light coloured, neutral paint and some neutral, thermally lined curtains from a shop such as Dunelm. These £15.99 ones are in the sale in their shortest version http://www.dunelm.com/product/cream-toledo-thermal-pencil-pleat-curtains-1000014042 but floor-length ones always look classier (even if they do block the heat from radiators a bit).
Then you need to ensure there is sufficient good quality furniture, and here, if you can’t repurpose things from the rest of the house, or find things on Ebay or in charity shops that work, Argos is your friend, because their things can be good value for money and their customer service is so excellent it kicks IKEA into the long grass, along with their Express Delivery options. Today, the code FURN15 entered at checkout will get you a discount of 15% as well (Argos periodically runs discounts of this type, by the way). This £89.99 white, Shaker-style Aspley bed comes in different sizes and gets excellent reviews; http://www.argos.co.uk/product/4989622. There is an optional under-bed drawer for £39.99 if the bedroom is really tight for storage space. Then Argos sell good quality £189 foam mattresses, which are delivered rolled up for rapid and simply delivery – you just need to let them expand and air for 48 hours after delivery. The Dormeo Antigua hybrid single mattress is excellent and again gets rave reviews – we have one at home and were delighted with it. http://www.argos.co.uk/product/4291107 It also comes with a free pillow but we gave that away as it was a bit high. You don’t have to provide any bedding or towels if you don’t want to – that can be the responsibility of the lodger.
In addition, your lodger will need a wardrobe, so you might want to look at the new £87.99 Malibu one, which has small drawers as well as a hanging space http://www.argos.co.uk/product/5609712. Finally, a bedside table, lamp and chair will all be appreciated. If you don’t have anything that matches already, try the half price Osaka £29.99 bedside table with three drawers (extra storage) https://www.argos.co.uk/product/5488696, the reduced £4.49 ColourMatch lamp in cream http://www.argos.co.uk/product/9103056 and so your lodger can relax in the evening, this £79.99 Bentwood chair with matching footstool and integral magazine holder (extra storage again) http://www.argos.co.uk/product/5717336.
Once all these are in, your room will look very bland, but airy, and you can decide whether you want to style it more artistically with accent colours such as dark blue or wine red, or whether you prefer to leave it for your lodger to make their own mark. If your budget permits, you can also put in useful items such as a wall-mounted flat screen TV, bookcase, additional chair, coffee table, and so on, or a desk and chair if you are having students lodge with you. A large cork pinboard is also very useful in terms of discouraging Blu-tack on walls and subsequent redecoration. A row of hooks on the wall or on the back of the door is great for coats/bathrobes, and a steel towel airer on the radiator good for them to dry their towels and little bits of washing. This one is sufficiently classy http://www.argos.co.uk/product/4615604
So a budget of £500 would allow you to decorate and fit out the room in an appealing style that would look good in letting photographs and allow the lodger to enjoy the basics, leaving you to make up to £7000 from rent. (Outside expensive cities, you might only make half of this, so you might want to consider that and budget a bit less accordingly for redecorating your room, but a light, airy room means a fast let and few voids).