The View From Here
Today is 7 May 2020.
As supply chain shocks continue to cause disruptions across our modern economy, many people are left wondering when all of this will go back to the way it was.
After months of trying to stay ahead of the curve, I have come to the saddening conclusion the instant just-in-time economy we knew six months ago is unlikely to return to its former state.
This is not some apocalyptic scenario from a movie. The next few years will be more like my Grandparents and Great Grandparents lives than what we have known in the last 30 years. I may finally understand why my Grandmother Nina would dry out and reuse paper towels. And why Mamaw Bert’s collection of butter tubs was so extensive.
The best way to face uncertainty is to prepare, not fear. In the spirit of that I wanted to share some tips I have learned from the broader preparedness community.
Since I am a little on the heavy side I am going to start with food. The big media companies would have you believe we are all about to starve to death. This is not the case. But the future for most Americans is eating what is available as opposed to getting to choose anything you want at any time. This is really a return to normal. It is within living memory that eating strawberries in January and citrus in July was simply not a thing.
At the end I go further in depth about items you may want to consider gathering, but here are some Main points.
Get to know your farmer. The more local your supply is, the more reliable it generally is. Join a CSA, go to your local farmers market. Learn about eating in-season. Do it as much as possible.
Expand your cooking knowledge. Figure out what can sit on shelf and what will not. Learn about root cellars, you can make them inside your house. Summer squash can rot in days, winter squash can last for a year. Find a way to use everything. This year when you thaw the turkey for Thanksgiving, maybe there IS a use for the frozen parts everyone threw out last year. Bone broth is a thing you can do at home. A turkey carcass makes perfect broth.
Plant a garden, or a container. Not because it can feed you or the family, calorically that isn’t possible. But it will teach you about food production and keep you in the seasonal mindset. And every item that you don’t have to pull thru a distressed supply chain makes it easier on others. Biggest return on effort are potatoes, corn, squash, sweet potatoes and corn. Youtube is a wealth of people who can teach you. Don’t re-invent the wheel.
Plan meals as far out as you can. The further in the future you can match your meals with your food supply, the lest waste you will have. Its also comforting for most people to know that they have food security.
Make group dishes. Right at the moment this is looked down on, but as the fear of the effects of the virus trump the fears of the virus, society will move on and take reasonable steps. I can make a giant stew with a turkey fryer and feed half the neighborhood. And I will have zero food waste too.
Be Ready to Share. This is not a few weeks event. The disruptions may be months or may be how we live. If you can score half a pig from some farmers who’s processor has shut down, share the wealth if possible. The friend might be able to help you out in the future.
Learn to preserve food. In my grandparent’s generation knowing how to can was a given. It’s an easy way to deal with mother nature’s bounty and save it for later. Like wise for dehydration (use your oven), fermenting, and sausage making. Teach your children.
Consider Small-Scale Livestock. Chickens are and easy add to most suburban yards. They convert table scraps to eggs. If you are less squeamish rabbits are an easy source of protein. Adventurous? Get into beekeeping.
Utilities & Infrastructure:
The stresses on our global supply chain exist here as well. But the problems are additive and possibly cascading. That means signs of problems will not show themselves like empty store shelves until YOU have a problem.
Electricity. Despite several senators’ fear mongering about the grid going down, that is simply not going to happen in the near term. We have too may talented engineers and linemen working 24/7/365 to keeps things running. Every possible resource will be brought in to assure the three major interconnections stay up. That does not mean you will not have local issues. Most of the physical parts of our grid are made in China and they have LONG lead times. That means the big parts that are needed at your local distribution center are going to be in short supply for years to come. Seasonal storms that are normal in most times become harder to recover from.
I am not suggesting you run out and buy a whole house generator. But a small inverter-generator and an extension cord that could run for two hours a day to keep your fridge cold for four or five days might be a prudent investment. Same for some candles or other lighting solutions.
Water. Potable water in this country is a purely local affair with the exception of California. That means conditions vary widely…. just ask Flint, MI. How well is your water utility managed? Do they have adequate stock of the various chemicals used to transform your local river to the water in your tap? Oh and just for fun…. most of that is shipped bulk from china. I would be prepared for the occasional “Boil your drinking water” order. Also should clarifying chemicals become scare the EPA will throw the regulations out the window. Meaning the water in your tap may be safe to drink from a virus/bacteria/protozoa standpoint but look less appetizing. Plan accordingly.
Transportation. For most of us this means roads. As local budgets are strained by the new normal, whatever your local roads look like, they are going downhill from there until local governments get right sized or the FED prints money to give to the states and distribute. Watch out for the potholes and plan to spend more on tires and alignments. And additional mention goes to driving less aggressively. Those parts that you need to repair your car, guess where those are not coming from right now.
Fuel. To be blunt no one has any idea where Oil commodities and therefore the price or availability of fuel products is headed. Anyone who is sure is delusional. We have almost all open crude storage in the US full, thus last months contract went negative as every trader on the wrong side had to pay someone to take delivery. Look for a repeat midmonth again. Meanwhile shale producers are going bust at an alarming rate. There is 20mmd (million barrels) sitting in the gulf with twice that in transit. But refiners are considering closing down because they are finding it hard to push product because no one is driving and they have no clarity on when/if they will ever start to drive again. This is problematic because refineries don’t turn on like a light switch. I would suggest we may have wild price swings but you’ll be able to find regular unleaded just fine.
Public Safety. Like water this is local. If you live in rural America you may have no impact. Chicago residents are noticing changes. But the blanket view is this, what ever your outlook in you local are was before this, the chance of you encountering crime is now greater. In my hood we have had car break-ins three nights in row. This is not normal. Police forces are down manpower, courts are locked up, and lower grade offenders are being released all over the country. Help that was slow to arrive in good times may not be coming. If you live in a location with rising crime, be prepared to help yourself. Take some time to think about how much force you are willing to use to defend yourself or your family in a worst case scenario. Then plan on how to do it.
Public Health. Divining here is tricky and predictions made today become invalid quickly due to so many moving variables. The first point make is that early choices about the pandemic where made on information provided by a brutal totalitarian communist government. They lie with impunity in good times, but the misinformation on the Virus is bordering on Crimes against Humanity military tribunal level bad. This disease is bad. The way the way our federal and state governments have handled it is bad. And where it ends is anyone’s guess.
So instead I will focus on useful information that isn’t about the virus. Y’all, we are going to have shortages of prescription drugs. In some areas we already do but much of that is injectables used in a hospital setting. If you take daily prescriptions research what alternatives in the same drug class exist, if there are any. If you are seeing your doctor, be preventative and ask that question. The time to figure it out is not at the pharmacy counter when you two days left.
I think the path forward for regular medicine has two major components. First telemedicine is here to stay for most minor issues. Sinus infection? Telemedicine. Secondly for acute care and regular hospitals we will find a way to run a dual system. Probable Covid patients will be treated in a different facility that is firewalled from the rest of our healthcare system. We are building an airplane while it’s flying here. We will learn from mistakes and roll with the punches.
Speaking of firewalls, I feel sorry for our seniors. In the near future we have tough decisions about quality of life for the people stranded and looking at loved ones through windows. Where the calculus between safety and quality is one I’m glad I don’t have to make. Also in longer term view I think we will move back to multigenerational living, hope you like your parents!
Items to consider:
If you are having issues finding what you need be cure to try restaurant suppliers. Gordon Food Services, Sysco, Restaurant Depot, or your local Cash and Carry.
Cooking dried items gets loads easier with an instapot
First I see lots of Costco Bags of rice. Kids let me tell you about the bugs that hatch out of those puppies. Took three months to get them outta my kitchen. Some food grade buckets and spin tops from Home Depot plus a little dry ice can prevent this. The Mormons have this figured out. Bottom of the page.
What goes for rice also goes for other bulk grains. Beans/Lentils/peas not so much.
Next up many of you are not grabbing enough protein. Think canned meats and soups. Canned fish and other seafood even if its not your fave. Food boredom is a thing. Country Ham is also shelf stable. Many dry sausages in you local deli department are as well. Also learn about rabbit starvation
Then...fiber. If you have never lived on a carb only diet (beans and rice) you are gonna need some. Whether it is a supplement or fresh / canned greens, you need it. Also when packing ones cart with pasta, throw in some whole wheat pasta.
Flavor! Hot sauces, condiments, seasonings, broth, bullion. Soy and Worcester are a must.
Fruits...there are many of these available in cans. Also many pears / apples will hold for a great while.
Fats. Ghee, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, avocado oil, (you can freeze butter) a little variety helps. If you plan on storing more olive oil than you will use right now, then get it in metal cans. Stays unrancid much longer this way. This is counter intuitive to most Americans but go back 200 years and fats were hard to come by.
Disinfection: Simple Green Pro D3 you can get instore at Home Depot.
The better choice is this:
Also if you are trying to purify water...skip the bleach. Buy a few packets of cheap pool shock and google the ratios. It goes a long way.
Other Good Storage Foods:
Powdered Milk. GFS has 5 pounds for $19
Idahoan Potatoes. Sealed in mylar. I just used a pack last night with a sell by date of 2010. Still Perfect.
Velveeta is shelf stable.
Any cheese that is dipped in wax will keep nearly forever in the fridge.
The Vigo and Mahatma Rice packets. Once again Mylar packaging holds up.
Kids squeeze tube yogurts. Store em in the freezer. Instant kinda ice cream.
Jello and Pudding.
Muffin /cookie/brownie mix packets
Big Blocks of Wrights or Costco bacon come out of the deep-freeze unscathed. Also KEEP YOUR BACON GREASE! Nothing makes canned green beans better. And a fried egg made in bacon grease is where its at.
IF you have a source for eggs from locals....water-glassing makes them store for years at room temp: https://timbercreekfarmer.com/water-glassing-fresh-egg-storage/
The Canned foods that you didn't think of: Olives. Jalapenos. All the kinds of chilis in the mexican food area. Salsa. Chicken. Corned Beef. Bulk popcorn. Not the microwave kind. Butter+skillet+lid = All the popcorn.