Yesterday we got off the phone after speaking to some elderly relatives and it really got me thinking about the importance of having a well stocked storecupboard. They’d been stuck indoors for a couple of days because of heavy storms and high winds, and a local store had almost lost its roof, but fortunately they were okay. It reminded me of last winter when people around the UK got snowed in for days, some of them also lost power to their homes, and supermarkets started to run out of milk, bread and other staples.
If you have a little extra cash to spare, it’s worth organising and adding to the contents of your storecupboard when you can, as well as doing a little checking and maintenance from time to time to ensure that nothing goes off. Having a thought-through store of food and drink can help keep your home running smoothly in many ways, but the main areas are:
- Getting through an emergency, such as extreme bad weather or power cuts
- Having quick, easy meals when you’re ill, tired or home unexpectedly late
- Saving money by cooking from scratch, bulk buying, or stocking up during sales and offers
I regularly write about checking that stored food is in date, and working out how to use it up before it goes off in my Empty the Storecupboard challenges, so let’s look at the stocking up side of things for a change instead. First of all, how could you stock up in case of emergencies?
Emergency storecupboard staples
A full on emergency scenario might include three or four days’ worth of food and drink, and an assumption that you could be snowed in, local shops are empty, the power lines are down, or the water pipes are frozen. Essentially, you need things you can eat or drink right out of the box, bottle, carton, packet or can – no cooking required. The more remote your location, the more you should think about stocking up.
Consider stashing some bottled water, and if you’re a tea or coffee drinker then maybe get a bottle or two of iced tea or iced coffee if you need a caffeine boost to wake up in the morning. You might also like to have some longlife milk or fruit juice on hand.
Other things to keep for emergencies:
- Breakfast cereal (goes with the longlife milk)
- Biscuits, energy bars, flapjacks or breakfast bars
- Crackers, melba toast, tortilla chips or rice cakes
- Jam, honey or peanut butter
- Jar or tin of dip, salsa, sandwich spread or pate
- Tinned fish, corned beef or vegetarian alternative
- Tinned fruit, tinned bean salad
- Treats: chocolate, crisps – not essential but good for morale
You’d only need a few bits and bobs really, just enough to get by for a short period of time. Buy items with a long expiry date so they’ll sit quietly on a shelf for a few months or longer, rotate the stocks regularly so they don’t go off, and if something’s nearing its Use By date then replace it before using the original one up. Ingredients like this can happily be used up in picnics and packed lunches or on camping holidays during the warmer months if you don’t need them for wintery emergencies, so they won’t go to waste.
While we aren’t likely to get snowed in here, the area where we live has seen several power cuts in the last three years, and I used to live somewhere a few miles away that had semi-regular issues with burst water mains so it’s nice to have a small amount of no-prep food and drink put by. Fingers crossed we won’t get a harsh winter this year, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared just in case the worst case scenario hits. You don’t have to buy everything all at once either, just add one or two things to your weekly shop and try to pick them up when they’re on offer.
We don’t have a huge amount of stuff like this on our food cupboard shelf at the moment, but I have just put some savoury crackers and vegetable pate to one side, along with some water, a couple of tins of Greek-style meze food from Lidl, and a couple of cans of tuna pasta salad, just in case the power or water goes off again. That should be plenty, although I could be tempted by a supermarket deal on breakfast bars or cereal bars.
We’ll most likely end up eating them on a day trip somewhere nice next June, but for the time being they’re tied in a small bag out of the way so nobody in the house ends up snacking on them by accident…
Semi-emergency storecupboard staples
In the absence of a full on emergency, it’s also a good idea to have just a few easy-cook ingredients to hand in case of being stuck in the house in bad weather, being extra tired or ill, or being stuck at work or in traffic and getting home late. In other words, things you mostly can’t plan ahead for. It saves hassle, feeds you quickly – ideally 5 minutes or less – when you’re extra hungry, and although rarely super thrifty it potentially saves cash that might otherwise be spent on a takeaway.
Quick-cook longlife foods are rarely gourmet, and in an ideal world we’d all eat less processed food, but sometimes circumstances can conspire against you and you need a fast snack or hot meal, especially during the colder months. It’s great to have some home cooked dinners in the freezer or a prepped meal in the fridge if you know in advance that you’re going to be home late, but plans occasionally go awry.
For example, like when your train breaks down in the snow and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere for an extra three hours, and you also need to be up at 6am the following morning for an important meeting. You aren’t going to want to wait for your dinner while it cooks in the oven or defrosts and then reheats in the microwave, nope, you need to eat *right away* and cereal or toast won’t hit the spot.
Look for long life products that can be microwaved, warmed through quickly in a pan, or made up fast with boiling water, rather than anything that needs you to wait while the oven or grill heats up. You only need to have a small amount on hand for little emergencies, but they could include:
- Baked beans or beans with sausages
- Cous cous (plain or flavoured) or a sachet of microwave rice
- Instant mash, tinned potatoes or long life rosti potatoes
- Tins of chunky soup, stew, corned beef, meatballs or casserole
- Canned chilli, dall or curry
- Quick cook noodles, cup noodles
- Tins of macaroni cheese, spaghetti bolognese, ravioli etc
- Instant custard, tinned custard, rice pudding
The idea is that you can have a hot meal on the table within five minutes of coming home, or with the absolute minimum of fuss if you’re very tired or feeling poorly. You get bonus points if you also manage to use up some leftovers in your fridge at the same time.
Quick meal ideas could be:
- Chopped tinned potatoes added to an omelette
- Beans on toast
- Soup and bread
- Stew and mash
- Spicy chickpeas and cous cous
- Curry and rice
- Macaroni cheese with cheddar on top & a side salad
- Rice pudding with tinned fruit
- Corned beef hash with rosti potatoes
- Instant noodles with leftover chicken or vegetables
- Bananas and custard
Think about what you like to eat when you’re feeling under the weather, and shop according to that, also taking into account the general tastes of everyone in your home.
I always keep some plain cous cous in the cupboard here, the kind you just pour boiling water over, cover and leave, plus some mixed beans or chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce. These keep for ages, aren’t full of nasty additives, and they can be thrown together very speedily for a filling and nutritious meal. Although I much prefer fresh homemade soup, I usually keep a can or two of something hearty on the shelf as well, to be eaten with savoury crackers or bread from the freezer. The other thing I sometimes stock up on when it’s on offer is Thai-style microwave rice which I heat up and serve with a quick stir fry and soy or sweet chilli sauce, depending on which leftovers I have in the fridge.
These have all been worth their weight in gold during times of illness, tiredness and getting home late. I should probably get a couple more cans or packets of stuff in before the flu season starts, maybe some baked beans and veggie sausages, or a carton of lentil dal and plain rice for easy eats. Not necessarily meals I’d tuck into on a regular basis, but it never hurts to have a little something on standby.
The next article in this series will be about saving money on your everyday meals by having a well stocked storecupboard, so please join me for that in a few days.
Do you keep any longlife food or drinks on hand in case of emergencies? Are you thinking about adding anything else to your stash?