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Organising Your Brexit Cupboard: Let’s Get Stockpiling!

By Hannah Sole | Politics | July 19, 2018 |

By Hannah Sole | Politics | July 19, 2018 |

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As the Brexit arguments rumble on, and the MPs’ summer break approaches, it seems like we are running out of options. As one Twitter user puts it:

What would a No Deal Brexit look like for the UK? A piece from the New Statesman provides a nightmarish vision of a Brexit Day presided over by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, complete with stranded flights, gridlocked ports and empty supermarket shelves. They are all plausible, sadly, but it’s the last one that has picked up some press attention over the last couple of days.


We’ve had supplies cut off before, back when Nazi U-boats were sinking supply ships and trying to starve us to death. Back then, we had rationing, plus a thriving black market and whatever we could get from our American allies, to tide us over. According to Wikipedia, rationing made the nation healthier and thinner — though there were some unfortunate side effects ‘downstairs’…

In December 1939 Elsie Widdowson and Robert McCance of the University of Cambridge tested whether the United Kingdom could survive with only domestic food production if U-boats ended all imports. Using 1938 food production data, they fed themselves and other volunteers one egg, one pound of meat and four ounces of fish a week; one quarter pint (0.14 litre) of milk a day; four ounces of margarine; and unlimited amounts of potatoes, vegetables and wholemeal bread. Two weeks of intensive outdoor exercise simulated the strenuous wartime physical work Britons would likely have to perform. The scientists found that the subjects’ health and performance remained very good after three months; the only negative results were the increased time needed for meals to consume the necessary calories from bread and potatoes, and what they described as a “remarkable” increase in flatulence from the large amount of starch in the diet. The scientists also noted that their faeces had increased by 250% in volume. (Wikipedia)

That last part is ironic, given what Boris Johnson said about the Chequers plan, huh?

Rationing lasted another 9 years after the end of World War 2, and forced us to get a bit creative in the kitchen. How do you make desserts when you don’t have much sugar or fruit? You use root vegetables and your imagination! After rationing ended, people remembered the shortages and quietly stockpiled canned goods at home, just in case. Churchill had had a War Cabinet; at home, there may have been a War Cupboard. Fastforward 60 years, and it might be time to bring back the War Cupboard…

As Steven said on Slack, “War Cupboard sounds really metal until you realize it means a bunch of canned vegetables to save you from scurvy when Boris blows up the Chunnel.” Yep, pretty much. It’s like rational prepping. It’s practically state-advised prepping, so you know, NO NEED TO PANIC!

Mrs May told the Commons Liaison Committee: ‘The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU will be setting out today that over August and September we’re going to be releasing a number of technical notifications to set out what citizens and business need to do in the event of a no-deal scenario, making more public awareness of the preparations. ‘We imagine there are going to be around 70 of those notices.’ (Daily Mail)

Those notices are expected to be our early warning to brace for impact and to get prepared for times to be tough. It’s not quite at Dig For Victory levels yet, but give it time. How bad is it going to be? Well it depends. Do you like turnips? There should be plenty of those!

You know how we feel about cheese here at Pajiba. So imagine my response to this, from The Independent:

Everyday products such as butter, yoghurt, cheese and infant formula are likely to become “occasional luxuries” unless the UK secures a favourable Brexit settlement, the dairy industry has warned.

A study by London School of Economics Consulting, found the additional costs of trading dairy products with the EU were likely to be much higher than the 2 to 2.5 per cent previously estimated.

Arla, a co-operative of thousands of farmers across Europe which commissioned the research, said the findings meant UK consumers would either face higher prices, shortages of certain goods or lower standards after Brexit.

Every extra seven minutes of port check times will cost a minimum of £111 extra per container, the LSE research found. Additional fuel costs, lorry maintenance and a shortening of the available shelf life for products are likely to push that number higher, according to the study.

That’s it. Start the revolution. No-one warned us about the cheese! THE CHEESE! We’re out of here.


The Guardian released this handy stockpiling guide, which is the most (intentionally) hilarious British middle class stockpiling guide ever:

While you can, for example, source British-produced flour, oats, sugar (from beets), salt (by Maldon, for example), vinegar (apple cider, say, as opposed to balsamic), mustard (although the Colman’s factory in Norwich is closing next year), Marmite (the Burton upon Trent factory isn’t going anywhere but, frankly, who can risk a run on their supplies?), lentils and more, you’ll want a stash of your high-quality EU goods, too. Start with olive oil, pepper, pasta and rice. For flavour, you’ll want spices, chilli and herbs, anchovies and tomato (paste, tinned and passata).

Then you need bulk and protein: canned and dried pulses (kidney beans, butter beans, black beans, chickpeas) and tinned fish (sardines and tuna). Add to that tinned olives, pickled capers and jarred peppers, and you’ve basically got a cheat’s Ottolenghi.

Thankfully, I feel like Pinterest has prepared me for this very moment. Finally, I have an excuse to use all those pantry organising hacks that I’ve got saved. And we can bring back those ironically cheerful songs, like Yes, We Have No Bananas!


What would be the essential items in your Brexit Cupboard?

(Image via Getty — a poster about ration coupons, from 18th July 1946)

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Hannah Sole is a Staff Contributor. You can follow her on Twitter.