Thanks to “just in time” inventory practices; America has an average of just three days of food on its grocery shelves. Inventories are kept extremely well managed and tight thanks to the amazing efficiency of modern-day transportation and manufacturing systems. Depending on your age, you might remember when grocery stores had excess stock and inventory in the “back room.” Those days are long gone. If the “just in time” trucks stop rolling for any reason, your local grocery store will be empty within days, and that’s even in good times!
If a disaster were to strike – natural or manmade – you could expect those shelves to be bare within hours. The recent blizzards and snowstorms blanketing the United States are a perfect example of why it pays to be prepared. When you watch the news and the weatherman says a life-threatening cold front is coming your direction with 15″ of snow, or a hurricane is forming, do you:
a) rush to the grocery store to make sure you have enough beer, hotdogs and Doritos?
b) make a last minute stop on your way home from work to top off your supply of water, a few essentials and maybe some extra toilet paper?
c) rest easy knowing that you have several weeks worth of quality food, essential items, water and instead, spend that time getting fuel, securing cold rooms and windows and relaxing while everyone else is in a brawl at the grocery store, fighting over the last package of Oreos and Spam?
d) You’ve never given it much thought and just figure that if it gets bad enough, someone else – such as the Government or Red Cross – will take care of you.
These are very real things to think about. It doesn’t take much to break that “supply chain” that we all take for granted. High diesel costs will bring those truckers to a grinding halt across the United States. In 2009, several national trucking companies went into bankruptcy and many more could barely afford the high fuel costs. What did they do? They told their drivers to park the truck, walk away and to find their own ride back home. Luckily, that was short lived and the larger companies pulled through, along with a lot of the independent owner/operators. But their profits took a beating and I wouldn’t count on them spending their own money just to get supplies to your local store everytime.
I’m sure most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle of those choices outlined above, but why risk it? And furthermore, having supplies, food and the essentials ahead of time means that you’ll likely be spending less of your hard-earned paycheck.
If we were to experience a disaster on a national level, we would likely see sky-rocketing prices very quickly. Some of it will occur because of the actual cost but mostly because many humans are just greedy and fearful. They will exploit the free-market ideals and twist them in ways that make them feel better about their business practices. Sure, there is a valid argument for raising prices in times of limited supply, but many take advantage of this and the longer a disaster or supply problem exists, the higher the prices will go.
Enter Big Daddy Government, Stage Left
Most governments have price and wage control measures in place or waiting to go into effect at a moment’s notice. And whether you lean to the right or to the left, understand that with our current form of “division of labor” type economy, producers will stop producing if mandated price controls effect their bottom line hard enough. Let’s imagine you make a product – Widget X. This could be food items, clothing or even a service you provide. And suppose our economy starts to see some inflation, whether naturally or due to disaster. With the value of your dollar dropping by the day and items technically costing more and more to produce in dollar terms, what would you do if the Government informed you that the price was “locked in” on your Widget X and you couldn’t raise it? Period.
As the inflation or demand continues to rise, you find that your cost to produce the item at wholesale has risen above the retail price ”locked” on it. Would you continue producing your Widget X if it costs you more money to produce it than sell it? Of course not. This merely shows one example of the dangers of price and wage controls. The market – whether it’s the free market or the underground black market – will always dominate. It’s in our nature to seek out the best deal for our dollar. While some types of socialism or even communism might make us feel better about ourselves or paint a happy face on the global problem of poverty by sharing or redistributing wealth and resources, it can not succeed and maintain itself. The free market idea has its own problems, but it will inherently come out on top due to human nature.
“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” – Margaret Thatcher
The Problem with Paper Money
An important issue that needs to be understood before disaster sets in is that you will not be able to buy your way out of it. A hurricane or similar short-term event? Sure. But after a few days, you’ll quickly realize that your dollar bills either don’t go nearly far enough or people will flat out refuse them. A fiat currency has no value in post-disaster realms. During Hurricane Katrina, I was a police officer in New Orleans and it showed me that particular side of the economy and humanity. It taught me a lot of lessons. Not many people in America can truly understand the mentality and atmosphere during a total societal collapse like that experienced in New Orleans.
Unless you had fuel, food, alcohol or ice, you couldn’t really engage in many business transactions. Several people were offering ammunition (due to their own ignorance, I suspect) but as often as we see the need for post-apocalyptic ammunition and hoards of firearms in movies and books, it just didn’t exist unless you were one of the people looking for trouble. Keep in mind, this was a short-term event with a light at the end of the tunnel. The same does not apply for national, long-term collapse.
During those few weeks, I saw an incredible demand for fuel (mainly for generators), alcohol and 12v pumps of various types; those that could pump fuel from gas station reserves or those that could pump water. Along those lines, five gallon gas cans were a hot commodity, as well. In the downtown area (near the bars), I discovered that several bags of ice could be traded for alcohol, which could then be traded for just about anything, especially food. I was amazed at how many National Guard soldiers would offer four or five cases of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) in exchange for one bottle of cheap booze. I could then trade that food to regular folk or contractors coming into town for any number of items that I needed, including more alcohol, toiletries or fuel.
In short-term events, your silver and gold will not go far and will be wasted. Most people do not understand the value of these metals, especially when they simply crave the basic essentials for another week or two. Obviously, you should hold both of these metals in your inventory, but their advantage comes into full effect when it’s a national or long-term incident, along with simply preserving your wealth as the fiat currency crumbles or is refused.
So what does all of this mean? Well, let’s get into some of the food-related items that I think would be valuable from a bartering standpoint in a long-term event, such as a full-blown economic meltdown, hyperinflation, domestic war, massive stock market crash, martial law, large scale natural disasters, and the like. An important note to remember when developing an “insurance plan” is that buying or acquiring most of these items when the event happens will be next to impossible. That’s why you need to start your insurance plan right now. If nothing else, look at it as an investment – I think we can all agree that food prices will continue to rise, at least another 10%-20% over the next 12 months. Leading economists and investment firms have told their clients to expect $5/gallon gasoline by the end of 2011 even if the world doesn’t erupt into conflict. The recent freeze in Mexico has destroyed the spring crop, pushing prices of simple items such as tomatoes to quadruple levels overnight. So, buying now will offer you at least a 10% return on your investment. See where I’m going with this?
Some of this information (and more!) can also be found in my article, ‘Get Out of the Dollar and Into Tangibles’ but that focuses on preserving your wealth and finances in a collapse as opposed to listing bartering items and what is needed in order to engage in an alternative economy, feed yourself and survive.
Food Storage (or Insurance Plan)
Having a good supply of food that you regularly eat is invaluable for short or long term events. This prevents you from having to barter or trade items of value for food. And with that food storage plan, comes knowledge about what will preserve and under what conditions, how to rotate foods, how to can meats and vegetables, along with growing a garden – including livestock and farm crops. A solid food plan is a large topic by itself, but there are some very simple things you can do right now to greatly increase your wealth, insurance against disaster and supply you with bartering items.
Canning, dehydrating and hunting food –
- Purchase canning and related supplies now, not the day before a disaster. There won’t be any left on the shelves “later.”
- This includes jars, lids, rings, quality pressure canner and the knowledge to operate it safely. A trustworthy and well-respected source for this knowledge and plenty of recipes is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
- Learn the art of dehydrating, including what types of meat and preparation is required, along with what fruits and vegetables make for good snacks.
- If you think you’ll simply go hunting when times get rough, you’re in for a surprise. Every other cubicle worker and blue collar citizen will have the same idea.
- If you own land and have game available, do you have the facilities or space to process it? And even if you are a weekend deer hunter, do you have the ability to preserve that meat without power or electricity?
- You can also preserve your meats by dehydrating them, turning them to jerky which will last a very long time.
- Do you have a way to defend or contain the game on your own lands when other hunters trespass? How far will you go to protect your hunting grounds?
- If you plan to hunt public lands or wherever you can find a target, in certain natural disasters, there might not be any animals. Just you and a dozen other people in a forest with the same idea and hungry. And armed.
- Dry goods and foods that store well are a key component in most “insurance plans.”
- Basic stocks such as rice, varieties of beans, sugar, pastas, spices, wheat and more can store very well for years with minimal effort.
- Peanut butter is a great item to include in your storage. It is protein-rich, has fatty oils and can be paired with a variety of foods. Obviously, this is not the healthiest thing, but in a time of disaster, you will expend a lot of calories and peanuts or peanut butter can replenish those quickly. It is also good to have on hand for people that have insulin and blood sugar problems.
- Pastas are a comfort food for many. Easy to cook and offering an almost limitless menu, pastas go well with vegetables, meats and even basic spices. It also stores very, very well and is cheap.
- Canned cat and dog food can save you a lot of money and stress, as well. Many people forget about preparing for their animals. During Katrina, I saved more poor, ‘left for dead’ animals than humans and it was sickening.
- Powdered milk and vitamins are also great bartering items and can help provide essential nutrients.
- Buying in bulk can save you even more money right now. Many chain stores and food manufacturers have already stated their prices will rise 5% – 15% this year.
- You can spend less than $20 per week and within a very, very short time you’ll have a sizable, albeit basic stock that can get you through losing a job, natural disaster or economic problems. It will also put you light years ahead of the majority of people in this country by providing you with a 30, 60 or even 90 day supply of food.
- Water supply is another major issue when it comes to a food storage plan. Without, life becomes extremely miserable.
- Average human consumption and needs for clean water comes in at around one gallon per day, per person. This is the minimum amount for cooking and drinking.
- Factor in washing dishes, flushing a toilet, extra drinking supplies, hygiene, and you’ve reached anywhere between 3 gallons per day up to 10 gallons per day.
- Are you watering crops? Even small rows and plants need a lot of water. Rain water collection can supplement this greatly, but depends on your region and collection methods.
- Quality filters can also help if you have access to a pond, lake, river, stream, or even contaminated city water. During Hurricane Katrina, I developed a severe infection from simply brushing my teeth with water I was told was safe. It even looked clean. Turns out it wasn’t. I then had to search for antibiotics in a city where there were no doctors, no hospitals and no emergency rooms. I was also forced to simply take the word of people who said they knew what type of antibiotic would treat the infection or what I should be looking for. Only because I was a police officer did I locate some and I’ll leave it at that.
- Dirty water brings a lot of dangers with it. Basic medical knowledge, however, can negate a lot of the dangers when it comes to poor food, dirty water and their related illnesses – but a quality filter is a must!
- These can be backpacking filters, a Berkey Filter or others. Check their ratings and filtering level. Also, extra filters are a good idea!
If you didn’t have any food storage, imagine what you would be faced with and how you would have to live, even for a short while. You will have become a refugee – wholly dependent on others for your most basic need – food and water. If you become a refugee, nothing else will matter anymore because you will spend your time searching for the basics and in doing so, will encounter many more dangers from all angles than someone who can relax in their home with 6 months worth of food.
Bartering Food Items –
By having a supply of food or a food-related service, you can then barter these for other goods that you need, such as fuel, entertainment, energy, etc. The knowledge and ability to create food is highly valuable in post-disaster situations. Having even a small vegetable garden can make you wealthy in terms of survival. But with this ability comes several things to consider;
- Gardens, seeds and how to grow them –
- Now is the time to practice. Now is the time to learn what grows well and how to care for it. Now is the time to supplement your kitchen with fresh vegetables and fruits. Waiting until the disaster is knocking on your front door will lead you to doom.
- Quality garden seeds, especially GMO-free seeds (non-genetically modified) are needed for nutrient dense crops. These are key to long-term post-disaster situations. Many genetically modified crops will not produce seed for the next season. This is very important to know and realize before planting and contaminating your soil. There are also many dangers associated with GMO crops, such as liver damage, cancer in lab mice, reproductive problems – especially in men, and much less nutritional value. Couple that with a gene modified to intentionally not reproduce and it can lead you to starvation or having nothing to barter. I recommend you check out the Patriot Seed Store – they offer heirloom, non-GMO seeds in a wide variety of crops. They even have a Seed Vault that contains 5,000 seeds in order to get you started with a very large garden. But learning this now is vital. Don’t buy a bucket of seeds and think you can plant them if the economy fails. You’re setting yourself up for disaster by doing that.
- Learning how to plant, nurture and grow basic crops now can also save you tremendous amounts of money. I don’t think I have to explain the benefit in that one.
- Region, soil types and rain levels will greatly effect your plants. Figuring this out now will return massive dividends later.
- Gardening is not rocket science. Some basic knowledge about different soil types, companion planting and how to naturally fertilize your plants will give you a garden, even in a small apartment or urban area.
- Gardening can also turn into a profitable venture when it comes to bartering. I know many gardeners and farmers who make an additional $5,000 or even $10,000 a year maintaining some very basic crops or animals.
- Sustainable (or permaculture) gardening practices can also increase benefits by nurturing other plants, trees, animals and more. Remember, at it’s very core, life is a cycle. The same goes for your backyard and garden!
Even as this article is being written, food crops in Mexico have been laid to waste due to freezing temperatures, your dollar has lost a little bit more of its value, the Federal Reserve has continued an unsustainable program of buying America’s debt, and another American just suffered a personal disaster by losing her job.
Are you going to wait until the storm is on the horizon to act?
Kevin Hayden is a former New Orleans police officer-turned-political activist. He endured Hurricane Katrina’s chaos and societal collapse in the days following and after 5 years in New Orleans, he moved to Oklahoma. Kevin currently runs www.TruthisTreason.net and works on local politics and education about our monetary, food and foreign policies while building an off-grid homestead and helping people become prepared. He can be contacted directly at [email protected] or by visiting his website, TruthisTreason.net