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Week 1 – Crisis diet for when the cupboard is bare

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Baked-beans-007

(This post was originally published in January 2015. The price of the recommended Asda shopping basket has gone up from £33.89 to £46.63 in the subsequent four years. That’s an increase of 38%. During the same period, the UK’s average wage has only risen 8%, if we look at the official data from the Government’s Office of National Statistics).

Baroness Jenkin recently announced (admittedly while being ambushed by the Press, but still …) that the poor don’t know how to cook, and went on to claim that you can sort yourself out with a few 4p bowls of porridge. Anne, you are wrong. As an affluent person, you can afford to live frugally, but many people are forced to pay what we call a ‘poverty premium’ for their goods and services. For example, sometimes people live nowhere near a food shop and have no transport apart from expensive buses. Sometimes people can’t afford to buy in bulk as their cashflow is too limited. Sometimes people have no money for the meter (and remember that if you use a meter, you pay more for fuel than people who are able to pay via direct debit). Others have disabilities or depression and are unable to put in the time and effort it takes to organise a healthy diet on next to no money for years at a time. So you would do well to remember that next time you are insulting your fellow citizens.

In the meantime, here’s an emergency meal plan designed for if you really are up against it financially, and need to spend as little as possible for a week or two without missing meals, or compromising your nutrition levels too much. In planning this menu, I am assuming you have access to a cooker and fridge with a freezer compartment.

If you shop very carefully you could feed family members for £1-2 per person per day on this plan, less if you prowl around several supermarkets near closing time for reduced price special offers, use coupons wisely, and ask for free fruit and veg when market stalls are closing down and have overripe things to give away. Other tips include choosing frozen and tinned foods over fresh, as nutrition levels are usually better than with things that have been languishing in your fridge. Also make sure you choose full fat dairy products over skimmed or semi skimmed, to maximise vitamins and calories.

Breakfast

Porridge with full fat milk, optional raisins.

Lunch

Tinned soup – choose a different type every day. Do not substitute with packet soup.

I piece of brown toast with sunflower spread

If there’s no protein in the soup, also allow 25-50g ham, spam, tofu, tinned fish or cheese

Supper

1. Baked potato and full fat cottage cheese, sliced tomato

2. Corned beef hash and frozen peas

3. Vegetable curry with lentils and rice

4. Spaghetti bolognaise made with Quorn, turkey or pork mince and tinned chopped tomatoes

5. Frozen sausages with mashed potatoes and frozen mixed vegetables

6. Fish fingers with oven chips and baked beans

7. Cauliflower cheese with bread and butter

Still hungry?

1. Tinned fruit and custard made from powder

2. Stewed or baked apples and custard

3. Rice pudding with full fat milk

4. Natural yoghurt and a little sugar or overripe banana

5. Jelly

6. Blancmange

7. Home made jam tarts

Shopping list – cost it out at http://www.mysupermarket.com and take note of any ‘Switch and save’ suggestions they make. Currently the best place to buy it is Asda and this costs up at £33.89 at the moment.

Large bag of porridge oats

2 pints of full fat milk per day – make sure you all drink it if it’s not used in cooking, including the adults

Small bag raisins/sultanas/currants/dried mixed fruit (optional)

14 tins of soup – look for multi buy offers, favour vegetable-rich ones

About 1.5 to 2lbs of any of the following: cheese, ham, spam, tofu, tuna or other protein

8 oz tub sunflower, olive or other vegetable oil spread

2 x 800g loaves brown bread

4 large potatoes

8 oz full fat cottage cheese

4 large tomatoes

2 large tins corned beef

3 onions

5lbs regular potatoes

2 lbs carrots

Bag of frozen mixed veg suitable for curry (root veg especially useful, and you can include some fresh carrots and potatoes)

Small bag lentils

Small bag long grain rice (use with curry and also in rice pudding)

Packet spaghetti

1 lb Quorn, beef, pork or turkey mince

12 frozen fish fingers

Tinned chopped tomatoes x 3

12 frozen sausages

Bag low fat oven chips

Bag of frozen peas

2 tins baked beans

1-2 cauliflowers, depending on size

2 tins fruit, eg pears/prunes/mandarins/peaches

Bird’s custard powder

4 baking apples

Small bag of plain flour

1 pint natural yoghurt

1 packet jelly

1 packet blancmange

(2019 update: Since the original post in 2015, more and more people are being forced to use food banks. If this happens to you, the experience is more positive than you might think, so don’t hold back from using this service. You are sat down with a hot drink and a biscuit, while the volunteers find out about the types of food you need and like. You are sent away with three days’ supply in normal shopping bags, so it’s discreet. If you are suffering with fuel poverty as well, they can supply foods you don’t need to cook. There are people available who can offer financial counselling if you need that as well).

If the cupboard really is bare, try the Trussell Trust food banks. Their website is here, and you can get referrals from GPs and other community professionals who are part of the scheme, to receive three days’ worth of food:

http://www.trusselltrust.org/

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How much extra are you spending on food in anticipation of Brexit?

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Austerity Housekeeping eBook available FREE on Amazon from 4-9 January

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If you want to download the eBook version of this blog, so you can wander around with it AHon your phone or whatever, Amazon are now offering it for free from 4th January 2019 to 9th January 2019. After that it will revert to its normal price of £1.99/$2.99 USD. Just click here. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Austerity-Housekeeping-Sandra-Bradley-ebook/dp/B00ASDW1U6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396735758&sr=8-1&keywords=austerity+housekeeping 

You can read the book 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.

 

 

Store cupboard planning for Brexit – Capacity building at home

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).

Store cupboard planning for Brexit – Longer term plan (three months)

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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

Preserved lemons

Marmalade and marmalade ingredients

Coconut milk

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

Tomato paste

Passata

Tomato ketchup

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

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Dried porcini mushrooms

Canned mangoes

Gourmet dried pasta

Stuffed vine leaves and other meze

Polenta

Sea salt and black peppercorns

Tinned salmon

Pine nuts

Nut butters

Frozen mediterranean vegetables

Frozen seafood, especially things like monkfish, sea bass, squid, etc

Frozen fruits and smoothies mixes

 

 

Store cupboard planning for Brexit – Emergency stores

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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.

Carbohydrates

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

500g pasta

250g rice

750g oats

1 kg fresh or canned potatoes

Vegetables

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

Drinks

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

250g coffee

125g tea

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?

 

One Pound Meals

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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.