In the past month, Samantha Bond estimates she’s spent at least £300 stockpiling groceries.
At 10 times her average weekly spend on food it’s a significant sum of money, but money she has felt compelled to spend to mitigate the food shortages and price rises she fears could arise on 29 March.
“At the end of March we’ll be relying on EU countries for the supply of things like lettuce, tomatoes and other salad produce,” says the 33-year-old from South Wales.
“I felt that having extra tinned stuff of this type would be better than fighting people in the local shops trying to get basic things. I have even turned my understairs cupboard into a Brexit pantry.”
She is far from the only one. Research carried out for The Grocer revealed that 11% of consumers are stockpiling food, while 38% are worried that grocers will run out of food and drink in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
On the Facebook group ‘48% preppers’, around 10,000 members discuss daily their concerns about price hikes and delays at the ports, swapping suggested items and concocting recipes out of tinned, long shelf-life foods.
Baxters’ Fray Bentos pie has been dubbed ‘Brexit pie’ by many, laughs one of its early members, Jo Elgarf.
‘Life or death’
The group began as a general, non-political discussion group in 2018, she says, with a few members sharing thoughts on how best to prepare.
Much of the early discussion centred on medicines, a particular point of angst for Elgarf as her daughter suffers from severe epilepsy. While “if your normal cereal isn’t there you can switch to another brand,” she says, ”if your medicine isn’t there, in my daughter’s case it’s a life or death situation.”
In recent months, though, the focus has gravitated to food.
“We’re not saying learn how to build a fire, we’re saying buy what you can now while prices are cheap.”
“We’re not a prepping group in any sense you’d normally imagine,” she says.
“We’re not saying to people ’learn how to build a fire’, we’re saying buy what you can now while prices are cheap. While food manufacturers are still producing and things are getting through, build yourself up a larder of food so if we have food shortages you’re not dependent on the supermarkets.”
Price rise fears
Many members, she adds, are living off low or fixed incomes and couldn’t absorb any price rises as a result of a falling pound.
“I am absolutely shocked at how little worry there is. They’re talking about a 20% decrease on the pound. Well, if you’re someone that only has £10 to shop for food that week, for a family of four, and there’s a 20% decrease in the pound, how an earth are you going to cope?”
Unemployed as a result of her struggles with mental illness, Bond lives off a fixed income herself.
“I honestly think supermarkets know more than they’re letting on”
“Price rises would mean I’d have to scrimp and save elsewhere,” she says. Be it buying clothes or going out with friends. “I honestly think the supermarkets know more than they’re letting on. It’s quite worrying. Nobody knows how long the shortages will be or how the supply will be affected.”
As a result she’s packed her larder with tinned fruit & veg, about 20 UHT milk cartons, milk powder, pancake mixes and 17kg of dogfood. A second shelving unit she’s bought will provide extra room for more. “It’s not just food but laundry powder, toothpaste, shower gel and deodorant. I was reading the label on my deodorant and it said it was made in Denmark, and something else was made in Poland. You don’t realise how many things are made abroad.” In total, she thinks she has provisions to manage for around four weeks.
In Cardiff, Helena Adams reckons her decision to stockpile has turned out pretty much cost neutral. “In a nutshell I’ve gone for anything that I regularly consume which is non-perishable. I’m creating a no-lose scenario for myself, where either there are shortages and I’m glad I’ve bought up food in advance, or there aren’t – and I’d be thrilled if that’s case – and I’ll eat the food anyway. I’ve bought early, not extra.”
She’s spent a “healthy three figures” so far, she estimates. That includes lots of “tins and packets and jars” as well as dogfood (“If there are supply problems, is the government going to prioritise dogfood?”) as well as some powdered milk and EasiYo mix, which allows you to add hot water to create yoghurts. “I’ll use that even if Brexit is cancelled, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Stockpiling is something Adams had been considering since spring 2018. “I voted Remain, but I wasn’t thinking at that point in time around the supply chain. I don’t think many people were. Then I started to read some of the earlier coverage about the impact. It was a gradual realisation that this might be a proportionate response to what’s going on.”
Her father is doing the same, she adds, as well as stockpiling groceries for her 97-year-old grandmother. Other than that she’s not sure about how far it goes.
“It’s not really something I discuss with the neighbours because if there are shortages I don’t really want them knocking on my front door. I can’t feed the whole street.
“If there’s panic buying I’m going to be sat at home. I’m not going to be fighting over the last loaf of bread at Asda.”
But Elgarf, who has been adding a “little extra to [her] shop each week” and now has an estimated four to six weeks’ supply of basics, is concerned it could be too late for others to start stockpiling in the same way.
“It looks like food prices are already going up. So far we’ve been advocates of little and often but now, it feels like we’re running out of time.”
She manages the features desk and writes features, big interviews, news articles, blogs, and the Critical Eye TV column. Her particular areas of interest include the environment, food waste, health, and business ethics.
Prior to joining The Grocer in 2014 Megan worked as a regional news reporter in Essex for two years, after studying with the Press Association.
Outside of work she enjoys cooking, wine and travel.
Follow Megan on Twitter: @1988_megan