Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
Have you ever heard of the just in time food distribution system? It’s the way empty store shelves are refilled just in time for new shoppers. Produce is picked, processed, and shipped over hundreds of miles just in time to fill those recently emptied store shelves. Animals are slaughtered, packaged, and show up in the store just in time to refill emptied refrigerated bins.
Most consumers don’t buy food for long term storage because they are able to find fruits and vegetables from all parts of the world in stores at any time of the year despite the limited shelf life. All goods sold are available in every city or small town in every month of the year thanks to quick shipping and a balance between demand and supply. No longer do you need to wait for a fruit to be in season. You can buy them any time of year from someplace around the world.
Instead of long term storage most people choose to pick up a few items on the way home from work or to shop weekly. My SIL chooses to shop monthly. She buys only enough to last a month and then will go once a week for a few extras she forgot. I do my shopping on her monthly schedule because I’m the driver for that day. I don’t do the extra weekly trips as she does. In this area there is only one food bank day a month that’s accessible by bus. I can, freeze, or dehydrate as much as I’m able for long term storage. When I do buy from a grocery I’m purchasing staples and other items never given out in a food bank line.
The just in time store strategy is all well and good until some major disaster disrupts the delicate balance between demand and supply. That would include the disruption of the supply of raw goods to food processing plants. What would disrupt that chain of food processing and store shelves? Well there are many possibilities. Suppose there is a flood or fire and the crop is destroyed so it can’t be gathered from the fields. Suppose there is an explosion at a gasoline distribution center and gas is not available for the long haul trucks. Suppose the cost of gas rises sharply which causes a slow down of distribution.
Suppose Trump puts the US into a trade war with China, Mexico, and India. Suppose those countries suddenly decided to impose sanctions on the US. Have you ever really noticed how many foods come from those three countries? Stores would sell out and the US manufacturers would not be able to keep up with demand. Foreign supplied items. if you could find them, would be very expensive. So much of what we buy is produced in other countries and relatively few from the USA that the sudden cut-off from those places would create a huge imbalance of that just in time strategy.
We all know how quickly store shelves go completely bare when there is the mere mention of snow. Say the word snow during a weather report and store shelves quickly run out of milk, bread, and snack foods. The same for a hurricane.
Our economy is in such a turmoil these days that at some point people must start anticipating their own needs and begin storing things to last through an interruption of the just in time economics. We must understand how our ancestors stocked a pantry to last from one growing season until the next growing season and go back to those basics.
I have no magic insight in to the future. All I can do is hope for the best but prepare for the worst. No matter what that “worst” might be.