The average dwelling in England has a floor area of 80m2 (860 ft2) (http://www.architecture.com/Files/RIBAProfessionalServices/ResearchAndDevelopment/Symposium/2008/MikeRoys.pdf). The average US dwelling is over 2.5 times larger at 214m2 (2,300 ft2). I like this diagram from BBC News at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8201900.stm, which gives you an idea of the difference in space, between European countries, Australia and the USA.
Our 4 bed-roomed 1980’s detached house is fairly roomy at about 120 m2 (1,290ft2), but like many nowadays, it was built without any storage spaces. There is a loft, which is not tall enough to stand up straight in, but certainly no cellar (basement) or pantry. The single garage is our only storage area really, but it is already full of bikes, tools, camping gear, archived documents, business equipment, sledges and leftovers from DIY projects. (It was a very tight fit for a car anyway!)
We are a family of 6, 4 adults and 2 growing kids, although my oldest daughter is now at University for 30 weeks of the year, which means that everyone gets their own bedroom whilst she is away, but we still have to store her stuff while she is gone. We also run 2 businesses from home, so the traditional dining room is our office, and the kitchen table becomes a product preparation area.
I can’t store beans under the bed, because there is already spare bedding and clothes under there. The kitchen cupboards are full to bursting with at best 2 weeks worth of food for the family, a months supply of rice and 3 months supply of dog food. (Ok maybe I have got my priorities a little mixed up there :-) ) There is no utility area and every cupboard, drawer and shelf is full. There are many older properties in the UK which have cellars and traditional pantries though (A traditional pantry was built on an outside wall, with a small window or vent. It was common to have a low shelf, which was built of solid brick/ concrete and tiled so that it stayed cool for longer and was used to keep butter or cheese fresh before we had fridges.) Maybe building a lean-to against the house, that is pest-proof, would be a solution for us.
Does anyone store food in the UK? It seems to me that shopping for that evening and the next day is now quite common. Sharon Astyk talks about storing 2 years of supplies!
I suspect part of Sharon’s reserves are based on a ‘survivalist’ tactic. They appear to live in a more remote area, whereas my region isn’t normally prone to getting cut off by snow, or floods and doesn’t experience hurricanes. Groups going on Strike seem to present the most likely risk to supplies, and have done in my lifetime. Strikes can result in loss of power, so shops and food production facilities may be forced to close, or fuel (gasoline) restrictions preventing deliveries, or blockades such as at the French ports, restricting imports. Two years supply seems rather extreme to me, whereas one season’s worth seems more achievable and realistic. That way there is space to store any produce, from the previous season, and it gives some leeway if there is a poor harvest. It could also provide a safety net to help you survive a loss of income. It is certainly somewhere to start and aim for.
There is a significant upfront cost to storing a large quantity of food, unless it is your own produce. Sharon Astyk suggests spending an extra $10 on supplies every time you shop. Bulk purchases of some items can reduce the cost (which is why I have dog food and rice ;-) ) Encouraging local bulk buying schemes, could help reduce the price and may also encourage more people to have food stored locally increasing the resilience of the neighbourhood.
I can’t say I eat much out of a tin and not much that is pickled either. Virtually all our meat, fruit and veg is eaten fresh. When I have a glut of rhubarb or raspberries I would freeze them to preserve them for later, and when cooked there is very little difference compared to fresh produce. However my freezer is quite small, so there is a limit. In the book ‘Low Cost Living’ John Harrison describes how he saves lots of money bulk buying discounted fresh products from supermarkets at the end of the day and then just freezes them until required. Lots of the produce he grew was also harvested and frozen. The downside is that he described having 5 freezers! Many were old second hand ones he picked up, and I just cringe at what his electricity bill must be. Adding more electrical appliances is not an option if I want to reduce my emissions from electricity by 90%.
The alternative is to start including more preserved food into my family’s diet. This includes pickles, chutneys, jams, dried fruit, dried beans, smoked and preserved meats, tinned meats, tinned fruits and tinned vegetables (not just baked beans and tinned tomatoes!). The thought of tinned vegetables is the worst for me, because the process degrades the taste and texture, but I’m sure it won’t be so bad cooked with other things. Changing people’s taste and food habits is a tough one. Just experimenting with cooking with these ingredients more is somewhat daunting, but definitely worth a try. It might even lead to discovering new delicious dishes!
Eating more preserved foods, will also help us to eat more locally. The fresh food we eat in winter is clearly shipped in from warmer climates, and comes with a heavy carbon burden. If we can preserve our own produce or even locally grown produce and make it last longer, it will help to reduce the carbon burden of the food we eat. This isn’t to say that we should give up the bananas completely, but the more we can find locally grown, tasty alternatives the better prepared we will be for a future of expensive transport costs.
Food storage does need a bit of thought and planning, and the solution will mean that the bulk of produce may not be conveniently at hand in the kitchen. This is still more convenient than having to nip to the shops, and it builds personal resilience to food supply disruptions. It is a chance to rediscover more traditional foods and cooking / preserving techniques. Best of all it is about not letting any of your produce go to waste.