Crisis Shopping: Food Storage When You Haven't Been Storing Food

Sharon October 2nd, 2008

Several readers have asked me to do a piece on what to do if you have been procrastinating about food storage, but plan to stock up before the end of the world (I’ve heard that Paulson and Bernanke have scheduled that for this weekend, but it could potentially be moved due to a conflict with some other disaster ;-) .)  So for all you procrastinators out there, here are my suggestions.

 Now let’s note - my first suggestion is not to procrastinate.  Because unless you are fairly well off, procrastinating and buying a lot of food probably means putting it on your credit card and paying it off. Not only is this extremely risky (I would not bet on any version of the apocalypse that doesn’t actually involve real zombies to get you off the hook with your credit card - and I’m pretty sure that they have zombie collection agents already, so maybe not even then.), it means that you will pay interest on the food, thus mitigating much of the benefit of even having it.  But I do also know that sometimes one gets a big check, bonus, windfall, sells something or maybe the food is worth the price.  So let’s assume that you all know better, and are doing it anyway.

Let us also assume that you are doing this shortly before everyone else starts their panic buying or shortly after (which makes it harder and makes the selection of stores more crucial), and that one or two stop shopping is the name of the game - you need to get as much that is useful as possible, as quickly as possible, perhaps not using much gas.  So let’s start with where to shop.

 My top few choices, in no particular order:

1. BJs/Sams Club/Costco: This is probably the most accessible (ie, lots of people have these reasonably nearby) and has most of the things you’ll really want.  The downside is that often the bulk prices aren’t really very much or at all cheaper than smaller sizes, that the warehouses are huge and shopping there annoying and that they probably won’t have anything ethnic, or a large selection of nutritious things.   Also will probably be mobbed if there’s a real or perceived immanent crisis.  My tip for shopping here: if there isn’t an immanent apocalypse, you can probably get a free 1 shot membership to do a stockup even if you can’t/don’t want to pay the fee - they usually offer trials, and if you say you’d like to check it out, this can often be arranged.

 2. An Asian grocery store of some sort.  Best grain source for rice and often some kinds of noodles in quantity and quality, often have large quanties of spices and useful flavorings quite cheaply.  The downside is that unless you cook asian food you will be confronted by many unfamiliar items, and you may find yourself with all the ingredients for Nasi Goreng, or Palak Paneer and no recipes, or idea whether you like it ;-) .  Also, not common in areas without large Asian or Indian subcontinental populations, so it might not be available.  Tip for shopping here: go when it is quiet (weekends are tough) and ask for help - there’s usually someone who can help you figure out what you are buying.

3. A feed store.  If a panic has already begun, this might actually be your best bet for getting large quantities of edible grains and pet food (plus livestock feed if you’ve got this).  If you buy organic, whole feed grains, they should be adequate for human eating - and they come in 50lb quantities.  Pick up your emergency supply of dog or cat food, some seeds for spring, and cracked corn and whole oats for you (and your horses).  The downside: feed grains may not be especially tasty, organic feed is pricey, feed mixes may have things you don’t want, unless you live in a reasonably rural area, there probably won’t be one.  Tip for shopping here: human consumption grains would be a better choice - save this option for food for yourself for a true crisis.

 4. A coop or bulk food store.  Coops are great because they tend to be run by good people and have reasonable prices. Privately owned bulk food stores also have good stuff - the thing is, most of these won’t have large quantities of staples in large bags - you’ll have to empty out the bins or place an order in advance.  Still, not a bad place to get unusual ingredients, seasonings, yeasts, salt, nutritional supplements and meet special dietary needs.  Tip for shopping here - you might ask if they have any bulk grains they can sell in larger quantities lying around - instead of asking for “50lbs of wheat” you might come at it the other way, asking what they’ve got a lot of.

5. Odd lots store/dollar stores: These are unlikely to have large quantities of things, but if you’ve got a big enough vehicle, you might be able to buy a pallet load of weird cereal by a a manufacturer you’ve never heard of for $1 box.  These are good places to get canned goods and to pick up bug out bag foods that are light, nutritionally dense and portable.  Soap and shampoo are often cheap here as well, and you may be able to get a few needed household goods, a couple of extra flashlights and whatever.  Tips for shopping here: if you see something you want, snag it then - inventory changes fast.

6. Supermarkets - this is the classic crisis food shopping space, and the one that tends to get ripped into pieces until all that is left is Preparation H.  These are to be avoided if you can avoid them during an actual crisis.  If not, get there as early as you can, avoid the bottled water aisle (store some water in empty bottles instead and save your money for food).  If you must hit one of these, choose one with a health food section and bulk bins, and ideally, a supercenter sort of thing, where you can also pick up anything else you need.  Tip: Even if the crisis is likely to be long term, most people see supermarkets as a place to get short term needs met - so you are likely to find that staple foods and things like vitamins sell worse than boxed chocolate chip cookies.  This is good, since you want more staples than cookies.

7. Drugstores, hardware stores, etc…:  I’ve included these because you may have to stop at one - you may need a refill of your medication, to fix up the family first aid kit, or to buy flashlights.  If you do need to stop, and are doing them in a rush, take a couple of minutes and think about other needs you might meet in such a place - drugstores may have some food and cheap spices, hardware stores may have other useful things at reasonable prices, like seeds.  I’m not saying you should buy everything in sight, just working under the assumption that you may be able to make a limited number of stops.  Generally speaking, though, if you can, you might want to consolidate trips the other way, and get your meds at a place that also primarily sells food.

Ok, now what to get.  This assumes you mostly eat a regular American style diet (which ideally you don’t), that we shouldn’t push you too hard, and that you will be shopping at the above sorts of stores.  That is, if you normally eat a lot of dal or mung bean noodles, please do add them to your plan.  This is meant to cover mainstream ground - it is not meant to imply optimalization.

Here’s what I’d concentrate on.  I am not including quantities here, because I don’t know how much you can afford, how big your household is, etc…  What you should do is get as much as you can afford/haul and *manage* without spoilage.  That means, get only what you can find a safe, bug and rodent proof spot for.

I’m also assuming that you don’t have a lot of fancy equipment - ie, I think life would be better for you if you had a grain grinder, but I’m going to assume no.

1. Vitamins.  Get enough for everyone in the household.  Regular, generic mulivites are fine, and any special supplement you take (although if these are optional luxuries and money is tight, forego the vitamin E capsules for more food instead).  Yes, it is better to get your nutrients from food, but this is important.  Also make sure you pick up children’s or prenatal vitamins if anyone in your household has a special need for these.  You might also want to pick up a couple of bottles of vitamin C tablets.

2. Rice - as much brown rice as you can eat (and remember, you may be eating a lot more of it than you have been) in 3 months, plus as much white rice as you can.  Why rice?  It is widely available - even supermarkets sell it in 10 or 20lb bags in many cases.  It is comparatively cheap, it is hypo-allergenic (ie, nearly everyone can eat it including infants and the ill), and it is familiar to people in just about every culture in the world.  Brown rice is dramatically more nutritious, but it is also prone to spoilage - maximum storage is about 1 year, and it often goes rancid before that.  A not-insignificant percentage of the population can’t taste rancidity in grains at all, so won’t know if the rice is still good to eat.  So it is safest to get a short time supply of brown rice, and then mostly use white rice (supplemented with more nutritous grains). 

2. Flour - get as much whole wheat flour as you can use in 6 months, and then get unbleached white flour.  Again, you’ll be using the less nutritious form of the grain, but at least you’ll  have food.

 3. Rolled or steel cut oats.  Get as many packages as you can.  These are fairly nutritious and will help balance out some of the white stuff in your diet.  This is breakfast. 

4. Legumes: These include beans, split peas, lentils, cowpeas, pigeon peas, etc…  Buy 1/3 of the weight of your combined grains (flour, oats and rice) in dry form.  Check out the ethnic foods section for large quantities.  These will provide protein, fiber and a host of other goodies.  Don’t be afraid to try unfamiliar things here - they have a fairly wide taste range, but if you can eat one, you can eat another.

5. Something that sprouts.  If you get stuck eating off your stored food in the winter or a summer dry season, when not much is going on, sprouts can save you.  Ideally, you’d have a variety, from broccoli to onion to mung bean…  In reality,  you may not have much of a choice.  But a lot of things in the bulk bins at whole foods or your health store, or available other places will sprout.  They include whole wheat, alfalfa sprouts (just make sure you aren’t getting seed that is treated, and only use organic), untreated sunflower seeds, and a host of designated sprouting seeds. Nutrionally, if I had a choice I’d get broccoli, alfalfa and sunflower, as well as wheat, but you’ll be fine with just one.

5. Some other protein food - unless you are quite odd, you probably will not enjoy rice and beans for dinner, bread and beans for lunch and oatmeal for breakfast every day.  You will be fine eating this - maybe even healthier, but you would be happier if you had something with a bit more fat, flavor and protein density, particularly if you are shifting from an average American diet.  You do not need a lot of this - you might prefer a lot, but it

Best choices:

1. Whole nuts, flaxseeds or sunflower seeds in the shell

2. Peanut butter.  Not the natural stuff - you want it shelf stable and in large quantities.

3. Canned fish - don’t overdo this if you have kids, are pregnant or nursing.  But canned fish does have important nutrients, is tasty and makes people happy.  Canned wild salmon is lowest in mercury, but can have high levels of PCBs.  Don’t forget sardines, mackerel and other unusual fishes.  Don’t go crazy also because it isn’t good for what’s left of the oceans, but occasional fish is good.

4. Shelf stable tofu, dried tofu sticks (asian groceries) or other stable soy protein. 

5. Canned meat - I’m not a big fan of this, generally speaking, because unless you have a ton of money, canned meat is always from horrible sources, often troublesome in environmental ways, and doesn’t taste good.  But others love their spam, and I won’t try and turn you away from it.  Again, though, you don’t need that much - think occasional treat, and enjoy the flavoring and fat.

 6. Fat: Olive oil in metal tins keeps several years if kept cool - that’s what I’d get of the choices available, with a bit of coconut oil to provide a tasty, shelf stable fat for piecrusts and “butter.”   If you have to go cheap, get what you can afford that’s not too awful. 

7. Dried fruit - if you are at a Sam’s Club type-place, you can buy big sealed bags of dried raisins or cranberries or something.  Otherwise, you can take what’s available at the dollar stores or go hunting in the bulk bins.  You want this for nutritional reasons, and so that you don’t get so constipated you can’t breathe.  Also good for kids, to help them transition, or picky adults who are kind of like kids.

8. Powdered milk, soy, or rice milk.  This is for calcium, protein to enable you to bake, to add creaminess to things, etc….  It will never taste like real milk, but you can live with it.  It lasts a long time, and you can use it baking if nothing happens, so you might as well get as much as you can. 

9. Salt - get a bunch, iodized for eating (you only need a little of this - and if you don’t want to store iodized salt or want something better, you can also buy dulse or kelp supplements to meet this need, but the easiest, most stable source is iodized salt) and uniodized for preserving, livestock if you’ve got it, brushing teeth, etc…   This is cheap, and necessary to life.

10. Sweeteners - unless you have weaned yourself off of this entirely, you will want these.  Sugar is probably cheapest, a lot of bulk honey is watered down or sugar syruped up.  But you can use maple syrup, sugar, sorghum or whatever is most easily available.  You may also need to stretch it - so work on reducing sugar now.  We don’t need anywhere near as much as we eat.

11. Canned vitamin rich vegetables.  Get a couple of flats each of pumpkin/squash/sweet potatoes, and some kind of canned green (mustard or turnip greens hold together better than spinach).  If you are used to eating fresh, these will not taste as good as fresh - but can be mixed into things in the background to add nutrition.  Make sure that you use the liquid from the greens as well.  Some canned fruit is nice too, if you have room/can afford it.  Canned pineapple is, to my mind, the best tasting commercially canned fruit.

Alternately (and better), you might be able to hit a farmstand and get sweet potatoes, cabbage and turnips, which would be much better for you, tastier and local, but the assumption of this discussion is that you aren’t doing that.  Still, if there’s anyway to buy fresh food that can be root cellared, you’ll be a lot happier than relying on canned veggies.

12. Something(s) to flavor water/powdered milk.  This depends on your preference, but if you are using non-traditional water sources, or drinking powdered milk for the first time, making it taste better will be worth a lot.  Plus, if you are a tea or coffee person, you will be sad without them.  So get vacuum packed cans of coffee, or lots of tea, cocoa.  And if you have kids, or vitamin C worries, or the water tastes horrible, you might want to get some Tang or HiC powdered drink mix.  The stuff is icky, but will add some sweetness, and also some nutrition, while covering the taste of bad water. 

13. This is controversial, but you might want some alcohol.  There are a couple of reasons.  First, if things are bad enough and you have no major responsibilities, you might want to get drunk.  Second, and more practically, a small amount of alcohol in your water will kill many bacteria, and is safer than inadequately filtered water.  Oh, and you can probably use it like money to get other things.

14.  Lots of seasonings.  Varying your meals is key.  Buy lots of spices, and you may also want ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, chili-garlic paste, fermented black beans, chutney, worcestershire…whatever. Depending on what you can afford and where you are, don’t forget this. 

15. Get some treats.  You will need them.  So put some smoked oysters, a few bags of chocolate chips, some beef jerky, peanut brittle - whatever you or your family crave.  I’d also suggest some kind of small candy that stores fairly well (we use those tiny dum-dum lollipops which come in bags of a zillion) to be doled out as rewards for children who are eating their new diet reasonably graciously and responding to their new reality - they are small and sweet and ease transitions.  Adults might need other bribes.  Also, don’t forget the ingredients for your special Easter bread, matza balls, or whatever other special occasions your family will still want to remember.

16. Some things that are dense and require minimal cooking in case you have to evacuate or if you are under stress - some ramen, some dried fruit, energy bars, instant bean soups, canned soup, etc…

Then add some extra batteries (if you aren’t already stocked), gas for the car and the can, a way to cook without power (sterno, camp stove, woodstove, more propane for the grill), and water purifiers (it will be easiest if you get this first).  Ta da!  You are ready for the zombies!


85 Responses to “Crisis Shopping: Food Storage When You Haven't Been Storing Food”

  1. Lydia says:

    My daughter just had her paycheck bounce. I think we will see more of this kind of thing. It is better to prepare for the absolute worst and it not happen, than to do no preparing at all. The Mormons store food for a year. Good idea no matter what. Power outages have been more and more common here in the winter than they used to be, and for longer periods of time. Last year two weeks in the freezing cold drove people to hotels they couldn’t pay for, and eating out that hurt them financially as well. There are many things that could and do happen, it is the human condition. Illness, no power, extra bad winter, no money, car breakdowns and can’t go anywhere, biological “terror” by ?,
    job loss, no unemployment or very little, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, the list goes on and on. Nothing is more comforting than having stores of food, medicine and extra warm clothes.

    It may not be TEOTWAWKI but a horrible winter storm with downed 50 foot fir trees on your roof at 2 am and rain or snow coming in will still kick your ass. :0).

  2. Meadowlark says:

    Maybe that’s what we’re all saying “the world is uncertain”. Some people feel better with money in the bank, some with food in the pantry. My mom had a terrible case of storing blankets and pillows! I mean, how many can one family really need :) But it was something she remembered from her childhood and visiting family and it make her feel more secure. With me it is food in the pantry. If you check out my ‘shopping list’, you’ll see that it didn’t include first aid supplies, camp stoves, needles, etc. While I have those things and more, they are not what make me feel “good” about taking care of my family. Food is. So when I get stressed over my job (some not-so-good stuff economy-wise happened yesterday) I stockpile food. At least it’s not handbags!

    Peace to you all in your preparations for whatever bogeyman hides under your bed at night. :)

  3. Ani says:


    I appreciate all that you do, and your writing, or else I wouldn’t be coming here ;-) . I was just getting concerned that some might take it as a sign that they should panic and start a buying frenzy. I saw that happen with Y2K- including someone who spent her whole IRA on storage food, etc and someone else who bought ridiculous amounts of stuff and felt like an idiot later. So my whole point is just to not get consumed by fear and crank into shopping mode. By all means one should put food by, have some cash on hand etc- but I just hate to see anyone take this as an urgent crisis that is going to cause everything to implode this weekend or something- not that it won’t for sure of course…..

    I do understand that some folks have just been sitting there with bare cupboards and not taking any action and so maybe this will propel them into doing something and your list is certainly a good one- I just was hoping for some reassurance that while it is good to get going on this, maxing out the credit card is perhaps not the thing to do….. I guess I just see all of this as steps in the unfolding economic and energy descent so am not unduly alarmed when the DOW tanks or something.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Everything is so uncertain right now. Last Friday I had a couple of checks I needed to deposit. My paycheck and a check from one of my odd jobs. I didn’t need the money in the bank until this Wednesday when the bills were due. So, I was trying to decide whether or not to go ahead and deposit it on Friday or wait until Monday. I kept thinking what if my bank goes down over the weekend? Then I’ll have lost the money. But what if one of their banks goes down over the weekend? Then I’ll have lost the money that way.

    Strange times we live in, and they’re only getting stranger.

  5. WOW Trainee says:

    Sharon’s September 24th Column on Ordinary Poverty and responding comments give me comfort. The airline safety talk about putting on our oxygen masks first before helping others also applies to the here and now. No matter what our age, having some things put by not only increases our physical and spiritual wellness but also those of coming generations. Human history contains many periods of chaos, diseases, disasters, wars, famines and death. Yet some people survive and multiply.

    Today, the House of Representatives vote on the Bailout/Rescue Bill. The quality of our lives here in the United States continues changing. Perhaps this has been one of those mythical golden ages. I am concerned. Although a lot of factors exist we cannot control, I believe we influence our future and survival. Helen

  6. Aaron says:

    I think fats are generally not emphasized enough in food storage preparations. Fats, ideally high-quality ones, are especially important for children:

    “Experts say kids older than 2 should get about 30% of their daily calories from fat. Here’s how that works. Every day, you eat a certain amount of calories. For instance, some kids will eat 2,000 calories in a day. If 30% of 2,000 calories comes from fat, that means that 600 calories will come from fat.”

    Obviously the highest quality (Omega 3) fats are generally derived from fish. Stocking up on fish/cod liver oil capsules is a good idea. (Fish oil capsules are devoid of toxic metals unlike canned fish) Another option is dried banana chips (available for long-term storage in #10 cans) which contain a lot of coconut oil - although not as ideal as fish oil, coconut oil is unusually rich in short and medium chain fatty acids which the body can convert into long-chain fatty acids. And, as Sharon mentioned, a can of olive oil is an option as well.

    If you don’t have access to your own grass-fed milk cow, it’s important to include some source of saturated fat in your food storage plans. Personally, if I was making a run on the grocery store I’d be hitting up the aisle with the oils first.

  7. Eva says:

    Remember that the stores you buy from are the ones most likely to survive. If you only support big box stores which sell food from big business farmers thats what we’re left with.
    Consider buying locally produced food from locally owned stores. Even if it is a little more expensive.

    We are working towards sustainability here and not just day to day survival, aren’t we?

  8. valereee says:

    Re: alcohol. Anyone have any idea how long this will store? I’ve been treating alcohol the same way I’ve been treating other nonperishables/long storing items: when I buy it, I buy double my normal amount unless there’s a REALLY good sale (like the BOGO I found for my expensive brand of toothpaste last week) when I basically buy what they’ve got stocked on the shelf. I’m sure my local liquor store wonders how in the world I’m managing to still walk with all the gin I’ve been ‘drinking’ lately. :D But I’m wondering how long it will last? I know that beer and many wines don’t store well (wine is particularly tricky unless you know wine well) but what would be the theory on gin? I’d be willing to store 5 years’ worth if for no other reason than in anticipation of prices rising, but of course I don’t want to store that much if it won’t store. It seems as if I remember my parents’ liquor cabinet contained open bottles of liquor that were in there for YEARS, so can I assume 5 years on an unopened bottle of gin is no problem?

  9. Meadowlark says:

    Valereee, I just want you to know that the phrase “unopened bottle of gin” is a true oxymoron.

    And I have no idea how long it stores - I’m like Mr. Owl answering how many days Gin can be stored… “1. 2. 3… YUM. Three.”

  10. WOW Trainee says:

    Shamba, I want to express my condolences on the death of your mother.

    Lydia, I hope your daughter and family are okay. Having your paycheck bounce must be very frightening for now and future.

    I want to add to our lists pest control. Rats and other vermin are very adaptable. I think cockroaches are supposed to have survived from very ancient times. So we need to be prepared. I know rodents can chew through plastic and wood. Old people used to talk about hanging things from the ceiling or putting them in tin cans etc. Even our clothing, bedding etc can become infested with all sorts of stuff. Helen

  11. WOW Trainee says:

    I must be a Wise Old WomanTrainee. I just realized that I online ordered food & the money has left my account. I now have to trust that our system continues to exist. Something to think about. Helen

  12. WOW Trainee says:

    If you don’t have alcohol, Orlov has a receipt for homemade Vodka. With precautions, that high potency stuff should work for lots of things.

  13. Christy O says:

    You mention people not being able to taste when brown rice has gone rancid. I bought a huge bag of brown rice not realizing it had a limited life span. What is the consequence of eating rancid brown rice?

  14. Deanna says:

    This is a great list. I’m definitely going to link to this from my blog. Too many people aren’t looking ahead and getting prepared, some out of a fear it’s just too late to make a difference, some feeling they can’t afford what they need now, let alone later on.
    Everyone should put this list to use!

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Lisa Z says:

    I believe alchohol will store *forever* unless it oxidizes then it will just disappear into the air. It would only oxidize if, simply put, it gets oxygen into it! Like from a leaky top…

  16. Kati says:

    Some thoughts on the “paniced food buying” theories versus those who believe it’s just being prepared.

    I was considering at work yesterday how sick I am of the constant fear-mongering our Government has been doing. (It was the title on a book about how 9/11 changed our world, for the better as far as the author was concerned.) I grew up pretty unafraid of much except spiders and needles. I didn’t live in a world where I was constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid I might go hungry (well, not TERRIBLY hungry anyway, though Dad had a tendency to ground me to my room without dinner when I’d done something wrong.) Now, it’s not the GOVERNMENT saying “stock up and garden or you’ll be facing hunger” but the government is STILL fear mongering. We’re still hearing every day that if we don’t keep our troops in Iraq, we’ll be bringing down worse problems for ourselves. That if we don’t give the financial giants a $7 trill. pay-out, we’re facing extreemely hard times. If we don’t send our children to (sub-par) public schools for a public school education, they won’t be able to get jobs. If we don’t take that Economic-stimulus check and buy a big-screen, our economy will tank. If we vote for a democrat, God’ll turn his back on our country. (Or worse, if we vote for a guy who’s Dad was muslim, we’ll be inviting terrorists in to dinner and women will have to start wearing burkas.) At the same time, of course, the governmental types keep telling us all that “nothing is wrong, everything is peachy keen, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

    The one thing that the GOVERNMENT isn’t doing with their fear-mongering is actually giving us a REAL way to fight it. And they’re keeping the fears so vague and overwhealming that you wonder how you COULD fight it.

    Sharon’s “fear-mongering” on the other hand has a point and is a very solid “this is what YOU CAN DO to hedge against bad times. Sharon’s pulling that curtain aside a bit, showing us what’s REALLY going on behind the scenes. It’s a bit scary, yeah…. But it’s also a REALISTIC thing to worry about. And it comes with some very realistic ways to DEAL with the fear.

    Am I tired of living in fear? Yeah. Do I wish I didn’t have to think about where my food is coming from next summer? You bet! Who’s “fear-mongering” do I feel better about paying attention to? SHARON’S!

    And beside all that, Sharon encourages her readers to take her words with a grain of salt, to read and research and think for ourselves as to what we’re being told. She welcomes folks disagreeing with her, when there’s a valid -though differing- point of view. The government tells us to keep our head’s down, go on about our work, keep pumping money into Uncle Sam’s pockets, send our children off to be indoctrinated by public schools that aren’t even teaching our kids to read anymore, etc, etc.

    Naw, if I’ve gotta live in fear (what else IS there for a thinking person these days?), I’d rather go with Sharon than with the government.

    THANKS FOR THE LIST, Sharon!!! Using it to polish up my grocery list for the week.

  17. TheNormalMiddle says:

    All jokes aside, even if this economic crisis is not the end of the world, there are MANY reasons to be prepared for all sorts of reasons. Job loss is number 1. If you have a well stocked pantry, it will get you thru alot of hard times.

    Sickness. A well stocked pantry/supply at home will keep people from going totally bonkers when mom or dad is in the hospital or a child is chronically sick and mom/dad have no energy to always go to the store and cook some really convenient, pre-packaged meal.

    War, crisis, draught (water, anyone?) hurricanes, floods, snow, ice storms (here in NC we lost power for 2 weeks once due to an ice storm and let me tell you, a stocked pantry and gas grill outside would have been a GOD SEND!)

    Then there are silly simple things like your county’s water supply was temporarily tainted and all the “clean” water which has been deemed “safe” by “experts” is too brown for you to stomach—-or someone stole your debit card and your bank has frozen all your cards and accounts and you have no way to buy food until the crisis is resolved. Or you have a stupid husband who forgot to pay the power bill, and it is a weekend and you can’t get it turned back on until Monday—-

    It is never a BAD thing to be prepared. The naysayers are just jealous it wasn’t their idea and/or are guilty for not being adequately prepared.

  18. Gracie says:

    I don’t think that trying to help people decide what they might truly need in an emergency is ‘fear mongering’ in the least.

    We are only two generations away from the greatest depression this country has ever seen (to this point). And many other countries are in far worse shape than we are. Until this last generation, people almost always kept a stock of food on hand. They did it because they knew that they could ONLY rely on themselves. We have lost that reliance, and have instead transferred it to corporations who want nothing more than for us to spend our daily allowance at their store.

    It is completely arrogant of any of us to think for a second that this economy cannot, or will not ever fail. I’m sure that Egyptians thought that in the time of Cleopatra. Romans thought that in the times of Caesar and afterward. The English, French, German, Spanish empires all had that mind set at one time.

    And now Americans have this mind set. Nothing is going to fail. Things will be fixed.

    Well, things may be fixed. But then what happens when we have a terrorist attack. What happens when we have the worst winter on record. What happens when there is no oil to heat homes, or people have to spend their food budget to stay warm. What happens when a great hurricane forces people from their homes, with no food. What happens when a large earthquake hits? What happens when the economy does fail?

    These are possibilities. To fail to consider them, only makes us more like the ostrich than humans. Now, I’m normally an optimist. My cup is almost always half full. Every day that my eyes open is a good day, considering the alternative. But even I have to admit, I would be much better off, my family much better off, my friends much better off, in any of these situations if I were prepared to help as much as I can.

    That’s why I have a pantry. The same reason my grandmother had a pantry, and her mother before her and her mother before also. It’s not about ‘fear mongering’. It’s about survival.

    And believe me, those stores that are available for citizens looking for a place to spend their daily allowance, will not be stocking for you if hard times come. Nor will the government.

    My two cents.

    Until next time.

  19. Gracie says:

    Forgot to add a big thank you to Sharon for her insight. It’s invaluable.

  20. jerah says:

    Just to clarify (and thank you, Sharon, for the clarification, as well): I was not saying that being prepared is somehow a bad idea. We have a bunch of staples tucked away in our closets too. We can fruits. We have a grain grinder. We (ok, my husband does this, I don’t really help) make our own wine. And we live in the big bad city, where it’s an uphill struggle to do this.

    I just thought maybe this post had a little tinge of “we’re reaching a tipping point soon, folks, be prepared”. And while I’m not necessarily disputing that (God knows the pace of stuff has been picking up recently), I just don’t want to fall into being a perma-alarmist. I want to be a reliable witness for my friends and family, so that once something significant does come up, they can look to me and say, hunh, she’s been warning about this for a while, and here it is. You know?

    And that’s why I visit this website in the first place. I take the LATOC breaking news with a grain of salt, I take the forums with a grain of salt. I just like having at least one site I don’t have to take with a grain of salt. This is that for me. :)

  21. Old_Grey_Mare says:

    Three years ago this month, we bought a basic year supply of storage food. I was perusing the website where we bought it and saw that we paid $299.95 and it is now $620.30. Just sayin…

  22. Becca says:

    For those whose main place to get food is a grocery store or drugstore, keep an eye on the sale flyers. November and December are generally a great time to stock up on flour, sugar, canned pumpkin, raisins and dried cranberries, canned evaporated milk, chocolate etc. because stores do their holiday baking sales around then. Also, the “ethnic food” aisle of the supermarket often has cheaper spices, beans, and rice (and large sacks of the latter two) than the other aisles.

  23. Sharon says:

    Ani, I’m not in any way offended by you questioning me - same with you, Jerah. I didn’t intend to come off as though I was rushing people, but I can see how it might look this way, and I genuinely appreciate the questioning and critique - I want this to be clear and useful, not needlessly frightening.

    Shamba, I forgot to say before just how sorry I am about your mother.

    Meadowlark, you cracked me up! Like you, gin is a favorite and doesn’t usually sit on the shelf that long ;-) - tequila seems to have a rapid turnover as well, whereas the unopened bottle of scotch isn’t that tough. But most hard liquors will last pretty much forever. If you are just trying to kill the bacteria in water, cheap vodka is probably the best balance between palatable and icky. I’ve also read somewhere that if you have Brita filters lying around, running very cheap vodka through a brita several times produces something that is much more like good vodka. I can’t vouch for this, since I haven’t yet tried it, but since I have some someone gave me and don’t use them for water (our Berkey is better), I may.

    Christy, rancid grains can upset people’s stomachs, and large quantities of rancid oils over long periods of time have been linked to stomach cancer and contain free radicals linked to other cancers. Since grains that haven’t been de-germed have oils in them, this could be a concern if you were eating them over a long period. My suggestion would be to keep the bag no more than 1 year - after that, you could feed it to the birds or animals.


  24. marian says:

    Hi to you brothers and sisters of light, love and positive energy in the US:-

    I lived for 4 years around the US in the 80′sand love your country and spirit, even tried to emigrate but they wouldn’t have us because we were not oppressed! in those years you left without going through immigration, just walked out and onto the plane, seems unbelievable now.

    I also live in the country and have food stored and garden planted, watching the events unfold through the internet is quite heart rending but finding your website Sharon has been very enlightening and fascinating. When America catches a cold the rest of the world is just waiting to catch it.

    I felt pretty silly buying things to store but came to the conclusion that any storing of non perishables is a saving because each time I go back to buy them they have gone up in price - a lot. So it is always a gain. Learning how to preserve food and convert excess fresh food into your own stored commodity is not only sensible but exciting, to pull back your life from the pit of the multinational illusion. I get great satisfaction from gradually divorcing myself from that reality and as the years go on have managed to limit my exposure to sheer necessities.

    I think that as scarey as the whole world situation looks at the moment it really is an illusion. The scariest reality has been the one we have all lived with for so long, expand, expand, expand, consume, consume, consume and give all our hard earned money to an evil system that milks us perpetually.

    So, finally we can all begin to live in a more sane reality, stop buying all the plastic baubles and junk that fades instantly we unwrap the paper, and discover the joys of life that are free. Sitting on the verandah and watching the universe cycle overhead, walk on the beach and breath fresh air, watch and ant carry home food for his nest, read to a child, watch a garden grow, its infinite isn’t it, the pleasures we can have life that don’t involve money.

    I’m sending all my love and and positive energy to you beautiful American people, it’s very comforting to know that the heart and spirit of your great country resides within you - not the sham masters that are running the show…. keep your faith and hearts strong, and we will all learn from you…………..marian

  25. Meg says:

    I am a college student who works on a small, family-run goat dairy in the mountains of western NC. I made a comment earlier about not freaking out. About thinking before you act. About not letting your mind run away with you. I should let you all know that I say this because I am feeling the crunch too, and I that I have, perhaps, an even smaller safety net than most of you, as I am not yet in a stable living or career situation.

    My job pays $8/hr and is seasonal. I am a French major who is not getting a teaching licensure. I have spent the past two years of my life learning how to be self-sufficient because I know that ultimately I will have to be. Even if I am able to find a stable job (and I am hoping that I can work with this same family indefinetely), I can guarantee that I will be considered poor by those who might judge me based on my income and possessions.

    I do not stockpile food. I stockpile skills and ideas and relationships that I know will help me when things get bad. I know how to grow my own food (both plant and animal). I know how to cook good food with a few, cheap ingredients. I know how to preserve food both by canning methods and fermentation. I can make cheese, yogurt, and kefir. I am learning to spin wool. I can sew and mend and knit and crochet. I am learning how to identify and use medicinal herbs and alternative healing methods. I say this not to brag, because really these things are quite simple to learn, and anyone can acquire these skills. I say this because every time I learn a skill I know that I am learning how to keep out the cold, the hunger, the loneliness and disappointment that we are all going to feel and that many of us feel already.

    I can’t afford to freak out. I don’t even have a pantry. If I bought a 25lb bag of flour I’m not sure where I would put it. And so I choose not to freak out. I choose to learn everything I can while I can and hope that my skills serve me well. And I genuinely hope that all of the time and money and energy that you wonderful, concerned people have put into safeguarding the wellbeing of your families serves you well and that you can find peace in spite of the turmoil.

  26. Niki says:

    Someone wrote: “and the government is trying to figure out how to bail us all out of this”

    As far as I can tell, and I am by no means an expert, the government is bailing business out, not the common folks who are already suffering. Nothing in the bailout addresses help for all those losing their homes, victims of Katrina who are still waiting for solutions that have never come, the elderly and disabled whose meager benefits continue to provide less and less as prices rise and benefits decrease. Like many have said here, whatever the reason, we need to find a way to provide a cushion for ourselves until this all shakes out.

    I believe things are going to get worse…probly much worse, than they are now. Whether it is a “Depression” or they call it something else, I see many of the same things happening inasfaras having to make limited resources for all of us go as far as they can. I don’t see our government moving very quickly to help if and when things like food become critical, (based in part on the lack of gas in the southeast and their lack of response there). I help support several elderly disabled family members, all on a fixed income. I do not generally tell anyone what I really think is going to happen, because it does sound a bit nutty…but just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean I’m wrong. :)

    I do the best I can to continue to store basics for all of us. Many of them came in handy when the remnants of Ike blew through and we didn’t have power for eight days. Lists like the one Sharon posted reminded me of a few holes I hadn’t covered yet, and will. Panic buying? No. But I will choose to focus more on food and less on frivels this month and for the rest of the year, that’s for sure.

    I hope each of you find your way through this with as little negative impact as possible.

    Thank you for a great list Sharon.

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