With more and more people building up a food stockpiles, should you be buying some emergency supplies?
I first wrote this article in 2019 when stockpiling became a hot topic around fears of a no-deal Brexit, but it’s getting a lot of traffic again now as people begin to worry about the effect of Coronavirus. Everything I’ve written below is still relevant if you’re thinking of getting some emergency food and toiletries in.
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If you’ve been into a supermarket or shopped online recently you won’t have escaped a growing number of sections with no stock. The reason? People are stockpiling for Brexit. And quite a few of them too. A survey last month found one in six Brits had already started or was about to start doing it.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s even more people now, worried about stock running low due to others stockpiling, or news that big retailers like Sainsbury’s and M&S are concerned about the supply chains in the event of a no-deal Brexit. And it’s not just food. There are already reports of shortages of some medicines, while I’ve seen entire shelves cleared out of toilet roll.
But I’ve been sceptical of getting involved. The more people stockpile, the more there will be empty shelves. This, in turn, could panic others into taking part too. Though supermarkets are stockpiling themselves, this run on the supermarkets could lead to shortages. And that’s even before the chaos of a no-deal Brexit. So I’ve held back writing about this so not to fan any flames.
However, when both Becky and I were recently ill and hardly left home for a week, we very quickly got through a lot of our everyday storecupboard and frozen supplies. It actually surprised me how poorly prepared we’d be for any prolonged period where we couldn’t get food.
Plus, though we don’t know how badly Brexit will affect our access to food, there are daily news reports out there which suggest even if the government manage to negotiate a smooth departure there will still be higher prices and stock problems. Both are reasons to begin stockpiling, especially if you’d struggle with the cost of food going up or if you have dietary requirements.
And as our illness showed, all sorts of emergencies could force you to delve into your stockpile. For example, if you live in an isolated area it only takes some heavy snow or flooding to stop you leaving your home.
So for all those reasons we’ve now started to build up our own supply of food and toiletries. Here are some basic rules you need to follow to make sure you’re not wasting money or food.
Buy what you’ll actually use
For the most part, only buy things you’d usually have and use. As you use them in normal life you can just replace them in your stockpile.
There will, of course, be some things where the long-life version isn’t something you’d normally buy. For example, you might usually get fresh milk, fruit or fish rather than UHT or tinned versions. But it’s important to make sure you’ve got a supply of vitamins, protein and calcium.
Stock up to on herbs, spices, stock cubes and so on. Plus oil for cooking with.
However, avoid buying food you won’t eat. I’m thinking about things I wouldn’t normally touch like pot noodles or tinned all-day English breakfasts.
Check what you’ve already got
A lot of the things you think you might need might already be in your cupboards and freezers, so it’s just a case of replacing them as you use them.
Only spend what you can afford
Don’t get into debt by whacking a year’s supply of tins on a credit card. Work out what you can afford and stock up as and when you have more cash.
You’ll get more for your money if you downgrade to own branded items, and obviously, look for special offers. And look for reduced food to fill your freezer.
Check expiration dates
Some food won’t be suitable as it’ll be out of date sooner rather than later. But it’s worth checking everything.
We picked up six tins of tomatoes on special offer with a date of Dec 2019. Which is more than long enough. But we already had some in the cupboard with a date of Dec 2020! So do check for the longest dates possible. Also, remember that you can still eat anything past its best before date, but not anything past its use by date.
You’ll need to keep track too. Use any food which is nearing its end date and then replace it.
Think beyond food
Toilet roll, toothpaste, cleaning products and the like could all also be affected by problems with the supply chains or trade deals. These products will all last for ages. You should also think about your pets, and things like batteries, cling film and foil.
If you read any of the Brexit Prepper forums you’ll see people talking about water purification tablets, solar chargers, gas stoves and tents. I think this is extreme for Brexit, but as I said earlier, you should think about stockpiling for any kind of emergency.
So say water supplies were contaminated or energy supplies cut then some of those things could come in handy. I won’t get into it here, but you can search online if you want to take your stockpiling to the next level…
What if there’s no need to use your stockpile
There’s little harm buying supplies of things you’re going to eat anyway. If Brexit is delayed then you just won’t need to buy your supplies for a while. So pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes, etc are likely to all be storecupboard staples that you’ll get through.
Of course, you might not use everything. For example, if you bought powdered egg but there’s always a supply of fresh eggs, then you’re unlikely to use this alternative. Or if you’ve got huge numbers of some items – some people are stockpiling for a year – then you’re not going to want to solely eat these if you don’t have to.
In either of these cases, you can donate surplus supplies to a food bank. Aim to do this at least three months before the expiration date. You can find many local foodbanks via the Trussell Trust, but there could be others too.
Do you have a stockpile? What’s in it? Let me know in the comments below