A few months ago I was approached by several newspapers asking me to write a piece on stockpiling for Brexit. I refused, saying that I didn’t want to contribute to food shortages, panic and alarm across the country.
This afternoon, I took a deep breath, and changed my mind. I have been overwhelmingly sad about the future of this country for two and a half years. I spoilt my referendum ballot, after campaigning for Remain, because the weight of the decision overwhelmed me on the spot. I went into the booth to mark my X in the Remain box, looked at the paper, and just scored a line through it so hard with my pen I tore it almost in two. I practically ran home, then to a bar to watch the results come in. I sat there with a notebook in my hand, with my predictions for each constituency in. I shouted at Jude Law for standing in front of the large television, braying with a bevy of beautiful women, to ‘sit the fuck down, I need to see fucking Redcar!’ I sat snapping biros, glued to the screen, overwhelmed with fear and guilt and a tiny, tiny pang of hope.
That hope was dashed. Picked up and shattered and smashed to smithereens, and it has never quite recovered again. From the revelations about shady funding, to the bastard bus, to the hideous racist overtones in the Leave messaging, to todays resignation of the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, this is a disaster that has been snowballing for two and a half years. Four months to leaving, and the UK is an international laughing stock.
I have just finished writing my next cookbook, Tin Can Cook, which I pitched to my publisher as ‘the post-Brexit apocalyptic cookbook’. I wasn’t joking. On news of its announcement a few weeks ago, it went straight into the Top Ten on Amazon. People emailed me asking what they should be stockpiling for Brexit. I filed their emails in a folder and put my head back in the sand.
And then yesterday, I cleared the shelves of my 20 foot outhouse in the garden. Today I went online to my Asda account, and ordered tins of food. Many, many tins of food. Because if you want to stockpile for Brexit, if you share my concerns about potential food shortages, lorries backed up on motorways, hold-ups at the borders, delays, rotting fruit and vegetables, and lesser availability of fresh food, you may have started stockpiling yourself. I have heard from many people who have been putting a tin or two to one side ‘just in case’.
I am writing this not to alarm anyone, and not to cause any kind of food crisis. To address some of the common criticisms of stockpiling; suddenly buying a lot of tinned tomatoes probably won’t make the price go up any more. Supermarkets are ridiculously competitive with one another about the prices on their basic items, and if you aren’t greedy, you should leave enough for everyone else. Supermarket ordering systems are reactive and reflective – I worked in a supermarket many years ago – and the stock adjusts according to buying patterns and popularity. Overstock is stored in a massive warehouse usually the size of the store itself. Stocking up now gives supermarkets time to replenish and recover their stock, so that come March, we won’t all be fighting over the same tin of tomatoes in the aisle. Hopefully.
In the event that all is fine and dandy and we were all just being cautious, well, hoorah for that. I’l take the punch on the nose from the trolls who will crow that I was a paranoid leftwing remoaner – I’d rather be prepared than starving, after all. And if the stockpile isn’t needed, I’ll donate it to the Trussell Trust, and you can do the same. Or gradually munch your way through it and enjoy not having to spend any money on your food shop for a while! I mean, they’re tins, they’re hardly likely to go off.
But this Government has proven itself time and again to be duplicitous, selfish, disorganised, shambolic, and without the slightest idea of the fears and traumas that austerity has inflicted on ordinary citizens over the last eight years. I live in real terror of ever going hungry. If I miss a meal and start to feel faint, I withdraw into myself and completely shut down, mentally, physically and emotionally. I am lucky to be surrounded by good people who recognise the signs and know to thrust food at me, or order me into the kitchen, or pretend they are hungry so I make them a snack, and by default, myself too. Trauma changes you, as a person, and the fear of hunger grips me like icy fingers around my neck. I’m holding my breath as I type this. It’s a long time since I have been so candid, so publicly, but I need to purge myself of this terror rather than carry it as a lead tennis ball in my throat for any longer. I’m sorry I’m so anxious and messy, but I am. But I’m trying to make it into something potentially useful.
And so, I’m writing a list of what I’m stockpiling for the worst-case Brexit. I hope beyond all hope that we never need to draw on these reserves. But I am no longer prepared to take the risk. Leave your ideas in the comments below.
Several kinds of pasta
Brown and white rice
Self raising flour
Fast action yeast
Tinned potatoes (Fibre, Vit C, Vit B6, Iron, Potassium)
Tinned mandarins (Fibre, Thiamin, Vit A, Vit C)
Tinned pears (Fibre, Vit C)
Tinned peaches (Vit C, Vit E, Folate)
Tinned prunes (Fibre, Potassium, Iron, Retinol, Vit K, Beta-Carotene)
Tinned cherries (Vitamin C, Potassium, Antioxidants)
Tinned grapefruit (Vit A, Vit C, Calcium, B6, Magnesium)
Tinned pineapple (Calcium, Vit C, Folate, Niacin, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc)
Tinned tomatoes (Vit A, Vit B6, Vit C, Lycopene, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium)
Tinned corn (Vit C, Vit B6,Protein, Calcium, Fibre, Potassium)
Tinned spinach (B6, Phosphorous, Zinc, Fibre, Protein, Vit A, Vit C, Riboflavin, Folate, Calcium,
Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper, Manganese)
Tinned carrots (Vit C, Vit E, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Fibre, Vit A, Vit K, Vit B6, Copper, Manganese)
Dried mushrooms – (Fibre, Vit B6, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Manganese, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Copper, Selenium)
Tinned kidney beans (Folate, Fibre, Copper, Manganese, Phosphorous, Vit B1, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium)
Tinned chickpeas (Fibre, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vit B)
Tinned cannelini beans (Protein, B12, Iron, Potassium, Zinc)
Tinned chickpeas (Protein, Iron, Fibre, Vit B6, Magnesium, Calcium, Vit C, Vit A)
Tinned borlotti beans (Fibre, Protein, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Vit B6, Iron)
Sardines/Pilchards (Delivers 148% RDA of B12 per 100g, also rich in B6, Magnesium, Iron, Vit A, Calcium, Vit D and Protein)
Mackerel (Delivers 251% Vit D per 100g, and 200% B12 per 100g, plus Protein, Vit B6, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Vit A)
Herring roe (Iron, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vit C, Calcium)
Stewed steak (Protein, B12, B6, Iron)
Spam Lite – (Protein, Iron, Vit C)
Dried yellow split peas (Protein, Iron, Vit C, Vit B6, Magnesium, Vit A, Calcium)
Dried red lentils (Fibre, Protein, Iron, Vit B6, Potassium, Magnesium, Vit C, Calcium)
Dried brown lentils (Protein, Fibre, Folate, Manganese, Iron)
Dried black beans (Protein, Iron, Fibre, Vit B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium)
Dried cheese (grim)
UHT milk (Protein, Calcium, B Vitamins)
Coconut milk (Vit C, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, Fats)
Flavours to make it bearable:
Chicken flavour stock cubes
Basic curry powder
Bottled lemon juice
Canned soups – can be used as pasta sauces/stew bases
Olives – jars and cans are cheap!
And another thing:
Washing up liquid
I hope we never need this list. But if you do, well, here it is. And it would be remiss of me to pass up the opportunity to mention that Tin Can Cook is available to order here, too. With the heaviest of hearts, I’m off to sort out my outhouse. If only our wretched Government could get their own in order.
I’m on Twitter @bootstrapcook, Instagram at @bootstrapcook, and in bed, screaming into my pillow, mostly.
Note to journalists – this was a lot of research and is my own work. If you want to write about it, feel free, but please credit me, it’s rude not to. Thanks! I can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org for journalist queries and clarifications, etc.
All text copyright Jack Monroe.