So you’ve decided to start a stockpile. Nice move. It’s something every household should have in my opinion. Not just in case of a doomsday Brexit, but just a generally helpful thing in case you lose your job, or we get heavy snow like in 2017, or any number of other scenarios. Heck, sometimes life is just hard and it’s nice to have a few easy storecupboard meals up your sleeve.
But what should you stockpile, and where are you going to keep it all?
The simplest approach is just to buy a load of tins and plonk them in a box in the shed. This is better than nothing, but it’s far from the best way to stockpile. There are a few simple rules you can follow to make the most of your stockpile.
In fact, I don’t even think of my stores as a stockpile, I think of it as an extended larder. Most importantly it’s not some locked away thing that’s bound to be forgotten while it slowly goes out of date. Instead, it’s part of the way our house works.
Here are some tips on making the most of your stockpile / larder.
The larder lives inside the house.
Your house is relatively temperature-stable which is better for long term food storage. Outbuildings and lofts are not good for this. A basement larder is OK, but personally I’d prefer to bring the larder nearer the kitchen. Having the larder in the house means you can keep an eye on it for spoilage, leakage, pests, and stock levels. Also you’re just generally more aware of it if it’s in the house. I use the cupboard under the stairs for mine, but you might want to set aside a cupboard in the kitchen or utility room for yours. Try to avoid sealing it up in storage boxes, you’ll be using it every week. More on that later.
Build your larder quickly by buying in bulk.
So you’ve set aside a cool dark place for your larder, and now you have an empty shelf staring back at you. Fill it. I’ve created a ‘first steps shopping list’ that should total under £100. If that’s not affordable for you that’s OK, you can reduce the quantities, or skip this entirely and go straight to the next section. But if you can afford a few hundred up front I strongly recommend you do so. Don’t neglect the pets either; a few extra sacks of dry food and bedding can’t hurt. You’ll now be more prepared than most, but you’re not done yet. Spending £100 on tins will probably see you through a fortnight or so – enough to cope with a short illness that makes going shopping hard, or severe weather that keeps deliveries from getting through, but we want more. Once you’ve got a good base, you can start doing what’s called “copy canning”.
Build your larder slowly by copy canning
Copy canning just means that every time you go for your normal weekly shop, buy an extra can or two for the larder. You’re making pasta and pesto for lunches this week? Lovely. Buy double quantities and stick it in the larder. It’s a low-cost way of expanding the range of meals in your larder, and it also means your larder will be full of meals you actually enjoy and know how to cook. If you can’t afford double quantities just buy 1 extra item per shop. That can be a 30p tin of tomatoes some weeks, or more expensive items for other weeks. You’ll build up slowly but before you know it you’ll have an impressive stock of cupboard meals.
Use your larder every week.
When I’ve used the last tin of tuna from the kitchen cupboard, I replace it with one from the larder and add “tuna” to my shopping list. When I next go shopping I buy a replacement tin of tuna for the larder. If you’re familiar with FIFO warehousing it’s literally that but for your kitchen cupboards. This means that everything in the larder is constantly being rotated, with older cans getting used and replaced with shiny new long-dated cans.
By using your larder as part of your regular household routine you get to turn it into something tailor-made to your actual dietary needs. Going a little deeper into stockpiling strategies, I like to keep my tins in rows arranged by type. This way when I buy that new tin of tuna I’ll shift the row forwards and insert the new tin at the back. The theory being that newly-bought tins will have longer BBE dates than what’s already in the larder, so it would be a shame to use them straight away. It makes more sense to put them at the back so that the stock is constantly extending its BBE date.
Resist the temptation to run the larder down.
It’s so tempting to think “I don’t need to buy that, I’ve got loads in the larder” when doing your weekly shop. But if you do, you’ll find your larder empty before you know it. It should act like a buffer between the shopping trolley and the kitchen cupboard. Instead of unpacking your shopping straight into the kitchen to be used, you’ll now unpack most of the long-life items into the larder. This way if you can’t shop for a while, the larder provides some slack to tide you over. How much slack is up to you but the longer the better in my opinion.
Incorporate tinned-meals into your normal diet.
If you don’t already, start using tinned food in your day-to-day meals. The amazing Jack Monroe has a brilliant compilation of tinned-food recipes. By making these meals part of your normal diet it means you won’t be at a loss if the time comes to start relying on the larder. You’ll also reduce your food expenditure, and you’ll start to be a more confident cook. Best of all, you’ll find yourself using and expanding your larder more and more as tins become a more important part of your meal plans.
Plan for things to go out of date.
Even if you’ve bought a shiny can rotation system and use your larder as part of your regular shopping routine, things will still go out of date from time to time. To avoid wasting this food, I use a simple reminder system; I’ve taped a piece of lined A4 paper on the inside of the larder’s door and written month names for the next two years down the side. Whenever I add a new can to the larder, I write it down next to the month it expires. This means I have an at-a-glance view of what’s expiring this month in the larder. I can then plan to either use it up or food bank it before it goes out of date. It’s great having a fully stocked larder that never wastes a can.
Wrapping it all up!
I hope this has given you some inspiration and reassurance that stockpiling is easy and beneficial. It’s not driven by overblown hype. Even if Brexit comes to nothing, your larder will be an invaluable tool in your day-to-day life. It’s a great feeling knowing you’ve got a few months food tucked away into a neatly organised, no-waste larder. Come rain or shine, at least you know you’ll have food on the table to tide you over.
The next step is to start growing your own. Follow along as I start my Brexit veg patch!