Food, Freelancing and Brexit Shortages

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One of the things I realised quite rapidly when I first started freelancing — and it’s an obvious one, really — is that you’ll have good weeks and bad weeks. I say weeks, not months, because with the up and down nature of freelance income it really can be that volatile. While everyone else is moaning that January is 456 days long and the first pay cheque of the year is miles away, you rapidly become accustomed to dealing with that sort of feeling on a regular basis.

Although there are ways to avoid the flood/drought cycle of being a freelancer, and indeed this is surely the sign of someone who’s “got it all figured out” (I definitely haven’t), there are also ways of lessening the blow of each drought cycle.

One of the ways I choose to make it easier to get through shit weeks (and months) is to have a plentiful food store. When the going is good, I stock up on pantry basics: flour and sugar, tinned tomatoes, tinned beans and fish, dried pastas and rice, herbs, spices, onions etc. Stuff that form the basis of several filling meals, or will bulk out more expensive meaty meals. It might just mean adding an extra couple of tins to a shop one week, or if I’m really rolling in it, re-stocking at a more general level and adding tinned fruits, puddings etc. This kind of re-stock pantry system means that when I’m having a bad week, I don’t have to worry about me or the kids going hungry (something that affected me deeply as a child.)

I cook the vast majority of my food from scratch: partly because it’s cheaper, and partly because it tastes better. Because I cook from scratch, and have done for so many years, I can open a store cupboard containing a few random tins of miscellaneous items and produce something edible. This skill is incredibly useful when you’re surviving on dust particles from the bottom of your purse (and whatever I thought to stock in advance in the weeks or months prior). If I don’t have to do a food shop and can rely on the cupboards, I have one less bill to pay until my next invoice is paid.

It all sounds a bit ‘wartime ration-y’ but it’s really not that bad. In fact, I’d even go so far as to argue that it’s better for us (pulses and tomatoes and rice etc over pre-packaged convenient food, that is).

So what’s this got to do with Brexit? Well, putting aside the politics and my personal preference for EU membership, you don’t have to go too far down any journalistic politics-y rabbit holes to see both sides of the fence discussing predicted (and probably inevitable) shortages. I am privileged and in good enough health to not need meds, but the potential for food shortages is on my mind. Not because I think shelves will be empty and we’ll all by dying of starvation and malnutrition, but more because of a series of ‘what ifs’:

  • British grown fruit and veg stores tend to run out around Feb/March, and we’re heavily propped up by foreign food supplies. What if we struggle to get a plan in place for fresh food (which has a v short shelf life) between now and Brexit ‘doomsday’?
  • Even if a plan is in place, this may have short term effect on quantities of stock. What if stock is only in when I’m having a bad week and can’t afford to get to the shops?
  • Many outlets and experts are discussing price rises due to a combination of last year’s weather and Brexit uncertainty, what if I end up having more shit weeks than good weeks in the near future and/or can’t stretch the money because of these price rises?

…and so on.

I don’t think things will go full zombie apocalypse/war-time rationing, and I don’t agree with panic buying, but having a back-up of basic tins and dry goods is giving me peace of mind.

My little food store means that in the worst case scenario we have a stock to see us through a short period while the ‘powers that be’ sort themselves out. Best case scenario? We eat out of our stocks a lot through spring, and my local food bank gets a big donation. And all for the cost of an extra tin of tomatoes or an extra bag of rice. On a good week, of course.

Lead photo by Daria Volkova

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

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