Sensible Prepping, Panic Buying

I'm decidedly grateful covid dropped in. It forced me to see where the holes in my armor lie. We were better prepared than I expected, months before the panic took hold.

What surprised me most about this year is that the panic was more debilitating than the virus.

While covid is real, it's deceptively not as lethal as is claimed. A little common sense is all that's required.

Having traversed three quarters of this year, I've learned a valuable lesson. People overreact, and that's dangerous.

Thankfully, we live in the boonies, far away from populous cities. We also live in a community where we share similar values.

We take care of our own and we mind our own business. We watch out for our neighbors and look in on the elderly. (It's bugging me a little that we're now considered the elderly--but it's nice that our neighbors check on us.)

With that in mind, I've decided to start a new series called Sensible Prepping. When I started to disseminate what was breaking down in society, I found that it was a combination of misinformation and a general naivety on how stuff (infrastructure) works. People panicked. They didn't understand the danger, so they bought forty cases of toilet paper. 

I get it. Panic buying is a coping mechanism. It makes you feel like you're doing something proactive. That in itself is not a bad thing, but first you have to focus on what's really important.

If you're going to panic-buy, buy smart. Here's how.

Take inventory. Even though I have a good idea of what I have in stock, I regularly inventory my pantry and freezers. Knowing what you have keeps you from wasting money and time.

Focus on things you can't make at home. My list is pretty small now. There are only a handful of things I can't produce on the farm, but here's a sampling of what you should consider.
  • Gasoline
  • Alcohol 
  • Medications
  • Oil/other Fats
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Rice
Under normal circumstances, these are cheap and readily available items. But try finding a bottle of alcohol now without spending a small fortune.

Shop early in the day. Most store clerks will tell you they never know when their trucks come in. If you are dangerously low on necessary items it might be beneficial to hit those stores daily until their shipments do arrive. I found alcohol by dumb luck. There were a dozen boxes on the shelves. Only one box still had a couple of bottles left. The stocker told me she had just put them up within the hour. That's how fast they disappear.

Put your family to work. You can't be everywhere so make sure your family knows what it needs. Everyone should have the same list just in case one of them gets lucky.

Inventory your closets, garages, and workshops too. Don't narrow it down to food and medicine alone. While we were in isolation, we stayed busy but we had to get resourceful with our resources. Lumber ran out, or wood screws, or plumbing supplies. If you're a DIYer, you know those bits and bobs have to be replaced.

Look into the future: Where will you be in a year's time?  Are you getting married or divorced? Are you moving? Are your pets, spouse, or parents getting old or need extra care? While we can't actually know what we'll need in 12 months, you can probably make a fair guess. Any big, potential changes should be first on your radar.

Partner with your doctor: If you're on lifesaving medication, talk to your doctor about getting your meds in a bigger allotment. Doctors are increasingly aware of the shortages, and they don't want you to go without important meds.

I like to plan a year ahead. It's why we didn't run out of isopropyl alcohol or hand sanitizer. We'd been using hand sanitizer for years before covid. (Didn't help us, since we got sick anyway. 😕 But you do what you can.)

If money or space is at a premium, plan ahead by at least six months. I don't see us going into lock down again unless it's self imposed, but I don't trust product availability. Several sources are saying our supplies might be unstable until the end of 2021, so let's get started now.

I can't speak for other countries, but the US has raised several generations of helpless idiots. I can't say it any nicer than that. I've met people who can't sew on a button, let alone live on a budget. It's scary. What if this had been a real disaster where you couldn't get immediate help? How would they survive?

We have to be responsible, each and every one of us.

Call me a skeptic, but I've never trusted my total welfare to government agencies, bosses, landlords, my accountant, doctors, or even family. Well...I could trust my family, but I would never, ever burden them on purpose.

It's just more comforting knowing we can take care of ourselves. Someday that might change, but today is not that day.

If we are facing another 15 months of instability, start taking charge of your welfare now. Follow along as I break down how we managed to stock up and stay safe on a retiree budget. It's not hard. Your first assignment: Do an inventory. Know what you have and what you still need.

Next up: Non-Food Essentials


Marianne Arkins said…
"...the US has raised several generations of helpless idiots. I can't say it any nicer than that. I've met people who can't sew on a button, let alone live on a budget. It's scary."

Right? Whatever happened to Home Economics? Practical Consumer Education? We had both when I was in high school.

My husband and I are starting to think about where we want to retire, and #1 criteria is away from any big city because city folks have ZERO clue how to survive anything so if anything major happens, there will be riots (not that there aren't now, but I digress...). They can't cook a meal from scratch, let alone anything else. Yes, I know I'm generalizing, but seriously. When I saw that yeast and flour had disappeared from the shelves back in May-ish, I laughed. All of a sudden all these people think they know how to bake bread? HAHAHAHA...

I have medicinal herbs in my garden. I'm learning about what mushrooms I can eat if I forage. My husband hunts. And, yes, I can bake bread. I even know how to make my own yeast from fresh air.

the author said…
I've been a very hard skeptic since Katrina. Seeing photos of Ethel Freeman (the deceased lady in the wheelchair left outside the convention center for days in New Orleans) was what chilled me. Before that I had a very different view of government and authority.

Even before Katrina I've always hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. I think when you live in a natural disaster zone like us you have to be that way. Like you, we were more prepared than most for the pandemic, and we've dealt with it better, I think. All that's really changed is how frequently we go out in public where we'll be near other people (twice a month, fully masked, just for shopping) and giving up all restaurant dining.

I'm still trying to work out the best amount of non-perishable food to stock in case of a return of shortages. I have about six months on hand now, which I've slowly built up since March, but I wonder if I should double that. I'm also researching survival nutrition, and what I need to keep on hand that will maintain us health-wise. I would be very interested in any thoughts you have on those topics, pal.

Maria Zannini said…
Marianne: And even if you didn't learn it at school, why didn't parents teach them?

Re: retirement
The best thing we ever did was to choose this place. It's close enough that I can get to stores within 30 minutes, but far enough away from traffic and people.

Re: yeast
LOL! I was this close to having to harvest wild yeast. I probably should've done it anyway.

Come to Texas, M. No snow. :)
Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: Disasters bring out the very worst and best in people. Once you've seen both sides you never go back to being naive. It opens your eyes.

Re: survival nutrition
That's something I might have to research myself. As you know we have diabetes in the house so I've had to rethink meal planning to meet dietary restrictions. Sugar substitutes are high on my list for scratch cooking and baking. I've implemented a lot of home grown veggies to make up for starches and bread, but I need to think more on how to expand that.
Jenny Schwartz said…
After the great toilet roll crisis of 2020 here in Australia (seriously, it was toilet paper that people lost their hoarding minds over) I did have one new thought - as I look over what's in the house, how much of it will I have to give away? If you know you're one of those people whom others are going to ask for help, you may have to stock up a bit extra to cover what you give away.
Maria Zannini said…
Jenny: That happened to us a couple of times this year. We sent a box of masks to my sister who has an immunocompromised husband. It was scary for her not to find a single mask in her area. This was back in April when all masks disappeared from the shelves.

Luckily, we always kept a ready supply because I used them whenever I cleaned the chicken coop or mowed. I sent her a box of masks. I was glad we were able to help even though we were a thousand miles apart.
Angela Brown said…
Re: We have to be responsible, each and every one of us.

Seems that phrase could do a lot of heavy lifting in summarizing much of how things could be better going forward or when something like this happens again. I'd say "if" but I'm not naive enough for that.

I can recall being in the midst of what I called panic-buying and being mindful of others around me...and being entertained by those who either:
- Didn't give two rat's tails about anyone else
- Stock buying to sell overpriced goods online

There always seemed to be something different in the eyes letting you know which one the overly-toilet-paper-filled-basket was for.
Maria Zannini said…
Angela: I've read a couple of articles where people hoarded hand sanitizer and masks back when they were dear. Amazon pounced on one guy--I think he was peddling the hand sanitizer. I don't remember what happened to the other guy.

On the one hand I can't fault someone trying to make a living, up until he jacks up the price and becomes a leech. There's a fine line between profit and price gouging.

I wish there was a magic wand that could make people responsible, but that's a learned behavior taught by example and experience.
Mike Keyton said…
'They didn't understand the danger, so they bought forty cases of toilet paper.' I love your zingers.

Ref hoarding, we're quietly resuming it, nothing dramatic but bit by bit. In the UK food chains are largely back to normal, and as yet it's only theory that a more devastating second wave might strike, but we also have the added complication of Brexit when the other side may play dirty. So, worst case scenario there may or may not be panic around about Christmas. Shall I wish you a merry one now? :)
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: I've never understood why people call it hoarding, even in jest. But maybe it's semantics. I've always seen hoarding as the accumulation of things whether you need them or not.

Stockpiling is so much more complex. It's a delicate balance between time, money, space, and the number of people it must provide for.

re: Brexit
You guys are facing a double whammy. Well, I guess we are too since it's an election year. In the end, no one wins.