09 December 2020

Don't Stop Stockpiling! Be Prepared!

I'm watching the people around me, especially now that the hard lockdown has been lifted here, and I am shaking my head in confusion.

People have become complacent. In just a couple of weeks, they’ve forgotten the need to build pantries and keep them stocked; to keep on learning and practicing self-reliance; to build their skills (homemaking, gardening, cleaning, cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, preserving, budgeting, even basic mechanical skills (can you check your radiator? Steering fluid? Change a tyre?) and home maintenance skills.

Don't be complacent. Don't stop watching the world around you. Don't stop building your pantries. 2020 is almost over, but the effects of this year will linger for a long, long time. Unemployment is still high; there are still food shortages (yes, there are - next time you're at the supermarket pay close attention to what is and isn't available).

I don’t know what the coming winter will hold, but if we are prepared, if we've been wise enough to build our pantries, then it won't matter. Lockdowns can happen, we'll be able to eat. We'll have the meds we need. We'll be able to keep our homes clean. The garden will be OK because we've prepared with extra seeds (great to use but also handy to barter).  Complacency wasn't our problem; we are preparers.

Take this summer season to build your pantry. To restock. To get ahead! Summer is the perfect time to do this. Fruit and vegetables are plentiful and cheap; you can often find them free if you keep your eyes open. Be prepared to barter - offer a jar or two of lemon butter for a bucket of lemons. Or a jar of pickles for a bag of zucchini and capsicums. Perhaps a jar of jam for a bowl of peaches or nectarines or plums. Watch markets for very cheap produce, then preserve it.

When you get 500g of fruit, turn it into a small batch of jam or marmalade. Or puree it and dehydrate it for a fruit leather. Preserving doesn't mean you need to have kilos and kilos of produce and spend hours and hours working in a hot kitchen.

I'll often do a small batch of jam while I'm cooking dinner. It takes about the same time.

When I get a tray or two of tomatoes or carrots or a couple of bunches of celery, I'll slice them and put them in the dehydrator.

Working in small batches is easier than trying to find a whole day to dedicate to jam making or dehydrating or canning. And preserving small batches stops waste too; you're less inclined to have the zucchini in the fridge go soft while you wait for the rest on the plant if you make a single batch of pickles to use them up.

But don't forget the things you need to buy too. Are there gaps in your pantry? Do you have enough yeast? If not, add it to your shopping list and buy it now. Put it in the freezer if you're worried you won't use it in the next few months. If your dried fruits are running low, now is the time to replenish them. Aldi still have 1 kilo packs of mixed dried fruit for $4.99 - this is a great price. I like to keep at least 12 packs on the shelf at a time. That's enough for me to make one fruit cake a month during the year. If I have the spare cash, I'll add more for puddings too.

What about tinned soups? I keep tomato and cream of chicken/celery/mushroom in the pantry. On my yearly shopping list I have 8 trays of tomato soup and 12 trays of chicken (they come in trays of 6). That's enough for a year.

This year, due to the weird shortages, lockdown, and a dozen other things thrown at us, I've been restocking as we use things from the pantry. I won't be doing a big yearly shop between Christmas and New Year. Oh, I'll still be stocking up, and filling the gaps, but my focus will be on getting things that we use that will run out fast in a crisis.

You may well be feeling normal, or almost normal. You might think that life is almost back to what it was like in January 2020. That's great. Just don't become complacent.

We have seen empty supermarket shelves. We've seen the limits on medical supplies and the restrictions on OTC and prescription meds (and in some areas these are still in place). We have seen the empty butcher stores, and paid the high prices for basic cuts of meat.

Right now, life in Australia is good. That doesn't mean it can't all change in the blink of an eye. Don't be scared, be prepared.

Take the opportunities that come your way to build your pantries, and secure your  food supply. Then you can be assured that if another lockdown happens, or some other emergency (sudden unemployment, illness, a flood or cyclone or whatever), you'll be able to feed your family and keep your home clean.

Whatever you do, don’t become complacent.

Be prepared!

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