Thursday 11 June 2020

Lockdown Day 80 -Small Steps-Part 4

In yesterday's blog I looked at the circular economy and the more sustainable purchase of goods and services and previously I have covered local food and recycling .

Today I want to look at, particularly at a time when there is so much disruption to normal life, how one can become more resilient and perhaps deal with the unexpected.

The dislocation of trade that perhaps many were expecting by now was a no-deal Brexit. This is still very likely (please take this seriously!) but having done some prepping for possible food supply disruption in the event of no-deal we were very well prepared for the situation that arose in March 2020 where there was panic buying ahead of the coronavirus lockdown and many foods became unavailable in the supermarket overnight. Even our local butchers was cleaned out on one day! However, our freezer was well stocked, we had cans of various vegetables and beans, pasta and various other foodstuffs so we could manage pretty well. The only thing we should have restocked was gluten free pasta but we managed to get some eventually.

Consider what you use over a two week period in terms of fresh foodstuffs, what vegetables and fruit and meat you use. Many vegetables will store for two weeks in a fridge and a sack of potatoes will keep for a few weeks. Fruit such as apples and pears will store well in a fridge or indeed in boxes in a cool, dark place - we store our own apples and pears from the allotment for - in the case of apples - up to four months or so. However, such as mushrooms are only able to be kept for three or four days and it is these sorts of foods that don't keep that are worth looking at having in a more preserved form. Any wholefood shop has dried fruit for sale and many fruit and vegetables are easily available in tins, jars or frozen. Take advantage of any offers in supermarkets to stock up or bulk buy online from wholesalers if you have the space and need.

If you have space to grow food, then look at crops that can be preserved - beetroot and gherkins can be pickled, soft fruit can be put into jam or put in sugar solution or frozen. Tomatoes can be dried or turned into puree, chutney or sauce.

Keep a good stock of dried food, pasta, noodles, rice and cereals as well as foods that - although not that healthy if you eat too many - provide lots of energy in a small, cheap boost such as biscuits, chocolate or indeed trail bars combine energy and goodness.

Other items such as jars of ready made sauces such as for curry or Chinese food will add variety. Plenty of canned items including oily fish. Oakcakes are a good substitute for bread. Keep some long life milk and some mature cheese which will last longer.

My one major worry is if we had a power cut for longer than around six hours which would start affecting the fridge-freezer. Kept closed, a fridge-freezer will keep food cold for some time and a tightly packed freezer will also help keep food frozen for longer. If you have money and the practicalities are right for solar or wind energy then a system combined with backup batteries may well be a good investment if you are going to be staying put in the same property for many years. I am going to look at this again when our combination gas boiler - now twelve years old - gets to the point of needing replacement as being able to convert one's heating system to using renewable energy - whether that be own generated or from the grid - is a good carbon emission cutting measure too.

Make sure you have some alternative means of heating food whether that is a barbeque or camping stove or even somewhere you can light a fire for cooking on and keep some fuel handy for these. We have a small camping stove in the shed and if the weather is fine and dry I have plenty of wood from allotment tidying for making a fire.

Keep your car (if you have one) at least half full of fuel, or if electric then make sure there is enough charge to get you to a nearby town with medical facilities. Keep your first aid kit topped up and know the basics of first aid and assistance. I had to stop a relative choking once and having attended several first aid courses in which this was covered I was able to immediately offer assistance and sort the issue out promptly. You never know when the knowledge will be needed.

Give your finances a good look over. The cost of basic items is rising all the time, and indeed I have noticed recently that, for instance, the council tax bill has risen quite a lot over the past few years. It all cumulatively erodes your finances. Of course, not everyone has the means to be able to put some money away for a rainy day but everyone can at least look at all their contracts, all their spending, take advantage of offers on food and other goods that need replacing, and consider what is necessary spending in your lives. Make a will and make sure that your affairs are in order so that someone else can, if necessary, deal with those things that need to be dealt with in a straightforward manner. I've known of someone who went to work one day and didn't come back, hit by a bus.

If you have spare cash, then consider a donation to those causes that help those who don't - food banks, homelessness services and other charities that support people in such need. If you know someone in your community that needs assistance, first of all ask them what they need, and then if you can't help directly, try and signpost them to services that can. I once encountered a homeless man in a nearby town and if I have the opportunity I will in such situations often go and buy some food for these people. In this case I did that, went to a bakery and got them something warm and came back to discover that many people had already had the same thought and there was a huge pile of bakery items in his bag behind him! Whilst of course it is good to make sure people are fed, there was more food there than what he could reasonably manage before it went off! Sometimes what someone actually needs is someone to talk to.

Ask yourself what you actually need. It is of course good to treat oneself now and again, and we shouldn't all live like hermits, but - as I said in my previous blog - buying clothes secondhand contributes to the circular economy and will often help a charity, a lot of the larger charity shops have furniture, electricals and many other items for sale, in the one I work in you could get most of what you need to kit out a house in one go. Advertisers of course want to lure you into buying something new, get the upgrade, buy now, pay later, but - apart from the mortgage - I have always only bought with money I actually have. Credit has its place of course if something unexpected happens and you need to spread the payments for a replacement, but it is in my opinion better to save up for something if you can. If you can put away a bit of money against a "rainy day" then so much the better but I do recognise that many can't do this.

Make sure you have a list of emergency contacts on your phone or in a notepad. A bit of cash handy - I know that of late there has been encouragement for safety reasons to go cashless and contactless but glitches can and do occur with the banking system. A multi-tool penknife and a set of other tools for basic repairs and spares of various items such as batteries, light bulbs, fuses etc as well as torches and candles. A wind up radio and torch are good items to have too as well as a rechargeable power pack for a phone. I have tried mini solar recharging kit and whilst it is good while it lasts the ones I used several years ago had a tendency to blow their discharge capacitors with long term repeated use but I suspect improvements have been made now.

Two go-to people I follow on the internet are James Patrick and Guy Dorrell and they have put together some resilience documents and podcasts which can be found from here . There is of course plenty of prepping resources on the internet and you can go into it as far as you want depending on your circumstances or needs. But everyone can make improvements and you never know what situation might arise.

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