Organisation

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).
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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?

 

£144 a week tax free? Rent out your spare room(s)

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rentalIf 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).

 

 

Boxing Day Sales! Stock up your present cupboard

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With a lot of sales starting today, it’s a good time to start thinking about next year’s birthday presents and parties and stocking up your supplies. This means you won’t end up spending more than you need to on a last minute present in a panic. Here are some gifts for under-fives that hopefully won’t duplicate existing toys and which only cost a couple of quid. Remember to stock up on wrapping paper and cheap cards at the same time!

One-year-olds – Card books, posting and stacking toys, balls, simple bucket and spade set for the local sandpit.

Two-year-olds – Colourful sports drinking bottles, fizzy bath tablets, character bubble bath or bath foam, flap books.

Three-year-olds – Small models of knights, princesses or animals, Lego minifigures, toy cars, bubble blowers.

Four-year-olds – Simple card games, stickers, colouring books and crayons, craft kits.

Five-year-olds – Novelty swimming goggles, fancy dress accessories, character mugs and socks.

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Christmas Countdown

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CHRISTMAS TO-DO LIST

Deadline Adult 1 Adult 2
Wrap presents for children’s teachers and take to school Last day of term
Organise family visits. 15/11
Book hair and beauty appointments 15/11
Inform relatives of presents children would like, and ask parents of other children the same 15/11
Order Christmas tree (by 1st December for 10% discount) from company such as http://www.thechristmastreefarm.co.uk for delivery on 22nd or 23rd December. 30/11
Buy Christmas cards 1/12
Buy Christmas stamps from Post Office 1/12
Buy gift wrap and ribbons, brown parcel paper, sellotape 1/12
Create address labels for Christmas cards 1/12
Invite people for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. 1/12
Make sure dates for children’s Christmas events are in the diary (usually last week of term) 1/12
Organise leave or early departure from work to attend children’s carol concerts and/or Christingle services. 1/12
Plan for bad weather with extra de-icer sprays and screen wash. 1/12
Clear out kitchen cupboards to make space for Christmas supplies. 4/12
Secure online grocery delivery slot for 23rd December and/or 31st December. NB:  This must usually be done first thing on 4th December and 10th December, the day the slots are released three weeks ahead. 4/12
Help children write their Christmas cards. 7/12
Plan menus and order groceries for later delivery 7/12
Order turkey from the butchers for collection on Christmas Eve. 13/12
Post UK Christmas cards by 17th December (see Post Office schedules for overseas and second class posting deadlines) 17/12
Present shopping (see spreadsheet) 17/12
Present wrapping 17/12
Write Christmas cards 17/12
Bring down decorations from loft. 23/12
Check groceries delivered don’t have short use by dates. 23/12
Decorate Christmas tree. 23/12
Collect turkey from butcher 24/12

Morning has broken

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The ‘habit of schooling’ our society has developed over the last 150 years means that we send nearly all our children to school for 190 days a year. This brings with it a degree of domestic mayhem every morning, and this post is designed to help you conquer this disorder. In terms of time management, allow yourself about at the very least 30-60 minutes in total for all the jobs listed below, depending on family size, age of children, and how well everyone is trained to assist. So just to reiterate, if you work outside the home, you will need to plan for at least an hour in total of bustling activity to get everybody up, dressed and out, on condition that school bags, uniforms, briefcases and packed lunches have been prepared the night before. Therefore for most people, if they get up around 7-7.30am, that will fit in with most day to day commitments during the week, whilst allowing time for a well planned start to the day. Therefore that may be something to aim for in the first instance, while you are getting used to an organised regime. (I’d be interested to know how long you spend getting out the house in the mornings – look in the Polls category on the right hand side of the screen to vote on how much time you spend on this).

  • Make sure family members open their bedroom windows when they get up, and throw back the bedclothes to air. (10 seconds)
  • Once you are washed and dressed, go straight downstairs to set the table very simply and make breakfast (porridge and toast is best if you are on a budget, along with juice or milk for the children and tea/coffee for adults). This job could also be done the night before. Bread rolls and spreadable butter are probably the laziest option if you really aren’t a morning person. (5-10 minutes plus eating time)
  • After breakfast, clear the dishes (use a tray to speed this process up, and also at the same time send someone around the house to collect waif and stray mugs and so on from the previous evening ), stack dishes ready for loading into dishwasher, wipe table and sweep under table if necessary. (5-10 minutes)
  • Next load or unload dishwasher as necessary, or do washing up and put away most or all dishes (if you are going to be out at work all day and only coming back just before supper, you might want to recycle some of the clean dishes immediately so you can leave the table set ready for the next meal, as they do in hotels and restaurants). (5-10 minutes)
  • Wipe kitchen sink or kitchen worktop as necessary. (1 minute)
  • Next empty kitchen bin if necessary, and put in new bin bag, wipe bin if it needs it. (3-5 minutes depending on the state of bin, but probably not every day)
  • Make children’s beds (preferably with their help). (5-10 minutes if it’s just duvets)
  • Make own bed and hang up errant clothes. (5-10 minutes)
  • Clean and tidy bathroom as necessary (eg hang up towels, check there is enough toilet roll and soap). (2 minutes)
  • Close bedroom windows, finally remember to lock up everything if you are going out – OK, I know I’m sounding like a mother of four now. (5 minutes)

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