Food and cooking
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?
Here are some ideas for using leftovers in a simple, imaginative way. For more, see http://tinyurl.com/zodf8st
Christmas pudding ice cream
Mix leftover custard with equal amount of double cream and stir in crumbled leftover Christmas pudding. Put in the freezer for 2 hours, then take out and stir before putting back into the freezer overnight. Take out an hour before serving. Tastes like rum and raisin ice cream, and great with a dash of Bailey’s over the top.
Boil turkey carcass in 2 litres of water with 2 sticks of celery, 2 peeled onions chopped in half, and 2 carrots, for about an hour. Strain into bowl and then pour into plastic containers for storage in fridge or freezing. Use for soup, stews or gravy.
Turkey and banana balls ( baby or toddler food)
Steam an unpeeled banana. Chop a few teaspoons of leftover turkey in a food processor and add the banana and a little butter. Remove the mixture and roll into little balls to make finger food for a baby or toddler.
Hot winter fruit salad
Boil satsuma or clementine slices in water, a little sugar and a bit of brandy or Cointreau if you have some to hand, along with anything to hand such as dates, grapes, and dried fruits. Serve with cream or ice cream.
Chestnut and coffee mousse
Mix together leftover chestnut puree, a small amount of instant coffee to taste, and double cream in a food processor or blender until the cream has thickened. Sweeten with vanilla sugar.
I have recently come across a really terrific gardening book from the Second World War period, written by Richard Sudell, and while most of it was fairly predictable, there was a excellent chapter on ‘How to Adapt Your Garden in Wartime’, that has some relevance for this blog. I’m therefore looking at the chapter here to see what we can glean about what they call ‘cropping’ round where I live. The idea of gardening wearing a shirt and tie also appeals to me; this is a phenomenon we see in many early DIY books as well. In those days, clearly Britain Had Standards.
First of all, the garden it appears to be based on is large by modern standards (100ft by 35ft), and unless you live in the middle of nowhere, or are lucky enough to live in a house build before 1960, I doubt you’ll have enough space for most of their ideas. He also regards the average family as having 4-5 people, which again is large for present times. However it is possible to work from the same principles and develop a productive garden that might not meet all your food needs, but which will let you harvest something fresh and tasty to eat most days of the summer and early autumn.
Richard starts by suggesting you allocate half to two-thirds of the garden to the cultivation of fruit and vegetables, leaving an area with flowers and shrubs near where you are planning to sit, and near the bits of the garden you see most closely to the house. He also suggests widening the beds and reducing the size of the lawn so you can also grow flowers for cutting fairly easily (garden flowers rather than shop-bought flowers being a staple of this blog, so obviously we approve of that idea). I would add to his advice that there might be a case for losing the lawn completely, as they are high maintenance and the space might be put to better purpose with other things, but if you have football playing children this will be regarded as sacrilegious.
You then lay out your garden with gravel paths near the house (I would recommend putting landscape matting underneath gravel to stop weeds poking through, by the way), and grass paths in the vegetable area. In the vegetable patch he recommends growing potatoes, cabbage, beans and so on as staples to last you through the year. In addition he suggests adding fruit trees and bushes, and having a good compost pit. A small greenhouse will allow you to raise seedlings (vegetables being cheapest when they are grown from seed), early vegetables, salads, and also force rhubarb (probably the easiest plant to grown in the country, and when you put a cover over it, you get early tender pale stalks that are delicious in a rhubarb fool (recipe in the Austerity Housekeeping eBook if you need it).
He goes further and suggests your Anderson Air Raid shelter might make a good chicken coop ‘on the intensive system’. Please could any readers of this blog discovering an Anderson shelter in their back garden, and who are planning to try this, get in touch immediately as the television production company I word with will most likely be both flabbergasted and impressed enough to send out a cameraman to record it for posterity. From the way this chapter reads, it appears you would be bedding down with the chickens should Jerry fly overhead, so I wonder if he was implying the chicken stage of development would be better achieved after the war.
Now in relation to the actual vegetable patch, you apparently need to divide it into three portions.
- Greens (cabbages, sprouts, cauliflowers)
- Legumes and root crops (peans, beans, carrots)
You also need a section for salads such as lettuce, celery, onions, small herbs and so on.
The beds are divided this way as each year you will need to rotate the crops, or in other words, only grow vegetables in the same bed once every three years. This is a method of avoiding pests and diseases, and not exhausting the soil. You’ll also need to feed the soil regularly with good compost from your pit, and he also recommends using an incinerator for burning garden waste to create good potash as extra soil nutrition.
Other additions from the Sudell book – a shallow pond can apparently become a watercress bed. I would never have thought of that. Also growing fruit up trellises and walls/fences is a real option to save space.
Overall it’s lovely to come across gardening books like these, as they take us back to a time when the craft of gardening was done in a more earthy way, working from basics, rather than the present convention of going to a garden centre and filling a massive trolley with expensive seedlings and plants somebody else has reared for you. I have a feeling that in the Sudell garden, growing your own fruit and vegetables might even be economical compared to that, which is presumably how he could afford to garden in a shirt and tie.
Incidentally, if you want a copy of this book for yourself, Ebay has several for sale at the moment.