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Is it weird to keep a well-stocked larder?

Posted by on Wednesday 10 October 2012 in meta | 9 comments

Karen (hi Karen!) commented on my last post (Winter IS coming) saying her main winter prep concern now is stocking up their larder. She lives somewhere rural and they regularly get snowed in so having a well-stocked food store is critical.

I often feel a little silly keeping a packed larder here though. While estate agents might claim the woodland and numerous fields of cows close by make our area “semi-rural”, it really isn’t. There are two decent-size supermarkets within less than five minutes walking distance and while our road is rarely cleared of snow, the nearby main road is kept gritted so we can still get about (even on public transport) quite easily. And yet… Last time I was unpacking a big shop, I remarked to John how it soothes me to know the cupboard is full of beans, and tomatoes, and pasta, and whatnot. It’s not like I’m anxious all the time when it’s empty, I just feel better knowing that stuff is there.

Around this time last year I wrote a list of our store cupboard “essentials” and I think that list is still the same now, with the addition of extra tinned fish and pickled/in oil roasted peppers. Like many things on the list, those items aren’t “so we don’t die” essential but would allow us to maintain a relatively varied diet in a strange situation (which would help keep our immune systems perky) or means that we will use up the stores in our normal rotation. I don’t know how we’d be manage if the fit really hit the shan but I think we have more than enough to last through a normal-abnormal situation, if you know what I mean, be it related to the weather, illness or a financial hiccup.

But, for me here with my supermarkets and main road & mains gas, it still does feel silly to keep a pantry full of (almost entirely) shop-bought items. It feels like I’ve been reading too many of my post-apocalyptic books again, or I’m paranoid, or I’m expressing some mental unrest issue through hoarding behaviour. It felt silly admitting to John that I had, no matter how small amount, felt anxious about the more-empty-than-usual cupboard and it feels even sillier admitting it here, even though I know from the post last year that many of you keep stores too. The photo is not our larder, I wish it was – I can understand “putting up” your own, that makes sense – but buying stuff from a supermarket to store it “just in case”…? I know about crop failures and “just in time” logistics so the rational part of me knows how fragile our food chain is but still, it feels robust enough to make me feel silly for keeping a store at home.

But for all of human history up to, what? 20? 30? years ago, keeping a well-stocked pantry was the norm so it also seems silly to think it seems silly. ;) It’s very odd.

Does anyone else know what I mean or is this me being strange again? Have you had funny reactions when people find out you keep stores or do you feel a bit weird about admitting it? Should I start a “pantry-keepers anonymous” group? ;) Or, on the other hand, do you think it is actually silly to keep a stock of food at home when you live in an urban/supermarket-adjacent area? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Teresa

    Hi Louisa

    I don’t think you are strange at all! Even if it is store bought items keeping a stock of them actually saves you money. Half the time buying in advance gets you bulk buy deals and the rest of the time the price goes up shortly after.

    Maybe it is because I come from Zimbabwe where we went through the worst inflation in history but I always feel better if we have a stock of essentials. At one point a year or two ago people reverted back to the bata system just to get food back home. Now I’m not suggesting that Britain will go that way but prices are increasing all the time, so put your guilt in the pantry and save it for a rainy day :-)

  2. fran

    I don’t think you are strange either! I live on a boat and yet I probably have enough food around to feed an army, even though I don’t have a freezer and the fridge is tiny tiny! I had many years as a single parent with very little money and as Teresa said, I often stocked up when things were cheaper. I also now have a fear of going back to those days when options were limited and I think that is why I like to have plenty around me now(not that any of it goes to waste) x

  3. datacreata

    I too don’t think it is silly but is reminds me of ‘nesting syndrome’ but with food. I think it is a genetic inbuilt safety system of having standby food or whatever, ‘just in case’. The year our son was born (1987) I had to come home early and the next day, our village was snowed in for a week. No-one or thing could get in or out at all. Luckily, my ‘storing just in case’ paid off as the village shop was ‘ransacked’ by panic buying within 2 days! I could feed us easily for a week or two with what we have in yet my cupboards are not as stocked as some. I, along with other, know how to whip up a satisfying meal with just a few (often tired) ingredients. More power to us I say!!

  4. PipneyJane

    No, you aren’t strange. It’s about giving yourself food choices, shopping wisely to make the most of your money, and not having to shop just so that you can make dinner.

    Once upon a time, I had £25 to feed two adults for the entire month of February. If we hadn’t had some essentials in the pantry, we’d have starved. As it was, we didn’t have much but we did have rice, flour, sugar, some dried pulses, spices, some frozen veg, etc.

  5. Rachel

    I know where you’re coming from with the “Is this really rational?” feelings, though for me they go somewhat the other way round. Since moving, I’ve had an increasing sense of the fragility of the whole system. I’m not sure if things have really been getting more unsettled, or if I’m just talking to different people these days. Either way, I look back at the way I used to happily assume that everything would keep running, and wonder how stupid was I to be so complacent? At the same time, I don’t actually keep a well-stocked pantry because my dream of harvesting and storing my own produce gets in the way. It doesn’t feel the same if it’s shop bought, but I know that’s just emotional silliness ;-)

  6. Lynsey aka Swirlyarts

    Nope, not at all. I have at this moment, 8 tins of tomatoes, two bags of pasta, 10 (!) tins of tuna, 3 of sweetcorn, 4 bottles of olive oil (the price is due to go up soon due to bad harvest) and multiple other tins and jars. If i went through my freezer I would easily have enough food to feed us all (2 adults, 2 children) for a week comfortably with bits and bobs left over. And that’s only 1 double cupboard of tins/jars etc. imagine what I would be like if we had more space!

  7. Karen

    I am in the process of restocking my larder. I am in rural North Norfolk and get snowed in frequently over the winter so I need to be prepared. As we have no gas supply to our village I have learnt to cook on the open fire when the power goes out. I have lots of easy to prepare and one pot cooking is the norm especially this time of the year.

  8. Karen

    Wow, I’ve just realised you’ve used my larder idea. I feel silly submitting the last post as I didn’t read the top of this feed. I usually freeze alot of my own veg but as its been a rubbish crop year I’ve had to resort to buying frozen stuff. Our nearest large supermarket is over 15 miles away and we’ve lost our village shop.

  9. Hazel

    I was brought up by a mother who felt slightly panicky if you didn’t have to rearrange the tins in the cupboard to get the door shut, so I had no idea that keeping a well stocked larder wasn’t what everybody did. It was only as an adult I realised that other people often just kept that weeks shopping in their cupboards (through choice not poverty).
    I still can’t look at their (admittedly much tidier) cupboards without thinking ‘but what if…?’

    I think a few friends think my bulk buying and larder stocking is a bit odd, but I think I do other things they find stranger(!) It’s cheaper in the long run with less packaging waste and I don’t have to run to my next door neighbour every 2 minutes because I’ve run out of eggs/flour/pasta/pesto/baked beans/cheese/dog food. (Sore point! This happens regularly with our neighbours, but probably more to do with their lack of organisation…)
    Like Karen, we get snowed in quite easily and get frequent power cuts, though we’re not nearly as rural as her, and it’s nice not to have to worry about that.

    I think the whole ‘9 meals from anarchy thing’ justifies keeping a basic stock level even if you live next door to a supermarket. Just because they operate a ‘just in case system’ doesn’t mean we have to. I think I like the small sense of independence it gives me. I mean, I know I’m still buying from the supermarket, but on my terms, if that makes sense!

    Talking of which, have you read ‘Independence Days’ by Sharon Astyk? She advocates a middle route of storage in between ‘piles of MRE’s and ammo’ and don’t store anything because you either need to ‘grow it all yourself’ or ‘use the shop to store your food- that’s what they’re for’. I’m aiming for that balance.

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