Home PreppingFood Panic Buying and the Prepper’s Food Plan

Panic Buying and the Prepper’s Food Plan

by Derrick James

I don’t remember the exact date, but sometime around the middle of March 2020, Australia basically sold out of all toilet paper. Reading the news headline, I admit that I was significantly confused. How could an entire continent possibly sell out of toilet paper – and more importantly why? Because they didn’t have a prepper’s food plan.

prepper's food plan root cellar
Few are capable of a food plan this advanced.

by Steve Vose, The Maine Outdoorsman

Later that day, on my way into work, I casually stopped at the local Hanford supermarket and was shocked to see empty shelves, that had been filled less than a day ago with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper. Apparently, panic buying had indeed invaded the United States as well.

Interesting enough, one aisle over, from the mysteriously absent toilet paper, were hundreds of packages of napkins and boxes of tissue paper, as well as plenty of boxes of coffee filters. The herd mentality invoked a rather interesting response to the impending pandemic, and that was to purchase obscene amounts of toilet paper… but why?

Regaining Control

In stressful situations, in which people feel they have lost control, individuals (and society in general) search for a way to regain control and return to a place or time of normalcy. Without specific direction, knowledge and/or survival skills, the mentality of the herd is simply to follow the typically ill-informed masses. This was never more brutally apparent then during the recent coronavirus pandemic. With the hoarding food, water, medical supplies (Tylenol, masks, rubber gloves) and yes, even toilet paper. 

Making a Better, More Informed Plan

Growing up in a rural area, like Maine, most of us were likely raised knowing how to plant and tend a garden, can vegetables, cut and season firewood, hunt and fish for food, and generally maintain a basic sense of self-reliance. Prepping isn’t something Mainers do, it’s who we are.

Unfortunately, these days, a majority of our US population is not nearly as well-equipped. When these individuals are faced with adversity, the general reaction is to simply follow a strict interpretation of what they see others doing, like panic buying toilet paper.

Unfortunately, this extreme tunnel vision makes an individual blind to other viable options. Hence, the untouched napkins, tissues and yes, even coffee filters. This fear-induced response can lead to hoarding. Worse, it’s hoarding supplies that are badly needed by those who are less fortunate or those more behind on receiving critical information. 

To avoid these problems, it helps to have a well thought out plan. Part of that plan is having an adequate stockpile of essentials. That includes food, water, prescription medications, and other items that will hold over all the residents of a household for a minimum period of two weeks. An adult needs approximately 2,000 calories per day, a gallon of water, and the ability to keep a body temperature above 95 F (the level where hypothermia begins). While this describes the basic elements needed to sustain the physical health of an individual, a persons mental health is dependent on an entirely different and more complex set of variables.

Ill-Informed Masses will Hoarde

When the societal masses are ill-informed and do not understand what the necessary elements (and amounts) are for survival, the herd mentality is to hoard. How much toilet paper does a family of four use in two months? For a wide majority, this is a complete unknown and as such, when faced with a scenario where toilet paper is rapidly vanishing, the human instinct is to buy an obscene amount that will last a ridiculous amount of time.

Hoarding also provides a calming effect on a stressed individual in an uncertain situation, as they feel they are taking control of a situation in which they really have none. Also, since I am guessing everyone is dying to know, we use about one roll of toilet paper every 20 days.

Meal preparations are another huge hurdle for the masses, especially when meal planning stretches beyond two weeks. To explain the complexities around meal planning, let me ask:

  • How much milk does a family of four drink in two months?
  • How long before milk goes bad?
  • Can milk be frozen?
  • Should powdered milk be purchased, and if so, how much?
  • Will your children drink powdered milk or will they revolt?

The reader should quickly see that making a food buying decision, on even one standard item, is something that cannot be accomplished by simply walking into a grocery store and grabbing items off the shelves in a haphazard fashion. Shopping for two months’ worth of food requires a food plan. 

Developing a Prepper’s Food Plan

During the recent pandemic, many people continued to grocery shop weekly. This occurred due to many reasons, including a continued need for social interaction, monetary shortfalls (which did not allow for the purchasing of large amounts of food at one time), and lack of effective meal planning. Though two of these reasons can certainly be understood, many individuals continually put themselves into harm’s way because of poorly organized food plans, which caused them to have to visit potentially contaminated grocery stores and markets 8-10 more times often than their peers who had a food plan and shopped more effectively.  

Components of a Prepper’s Food Plan

An effective food plan starts with a meal plan. Meal plans are a written record of what meals will be consumed every day by an individual or family unit. For example:

March 20th
Breakfast – oatmeal with raisins, orange juice, coffee
Lunch – peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, milk
Dinner – spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, lemonade

Meal plans are obviously dependent on an individual or a families unique tastes; and as such, must be tailored to these tastes. It also is important to design a plan to minimize food waste (e.g., left over spaghetti sauce can be used as pizza sauce or a base for chili). 

Once meal plans are determined for each day, a food plan can be made that identifies specifically what foods must be purchased at the grocery store to make the necessary number of meals. When organizing a food plan, it is also critical to purchase “comfort” foods. These include things like chips, chocolate, soda, Twinkies and other such “snacks.” While these items contain little nutritional value, they can provide a sizable mental boost in a stressful situation/survival scenarios, and therefore should never be overlooked.

Pandemics, Hurricanes, Blizzards and Power Outages

The next natural disaster is right around the corner. While we hopefully will not see another pandemic of this veracity in our life-time, other unforeseen hazards surely will occur. Take what was learned from your time in quarantine. Get related reading materials, instructional videos, and other educational sources that will better prepare you and your family for the next time disaster strikes. 

1 comment

Frank August 18, 2020 - 5:31 am

One issue I see is that some people think that some dry foods such as crackers and breakfast cereals will keep for a while, but these foods often go stale sooner than one might think. Naturally those who prep understand the suggested and actual expiration dates matter just as much as the food choices one makes. So planning a stockpile requires consideration of the time frame involved. Otherwise one might have plenty, but it’s all bad by the time it is used. And if badly stored, that can result in ruined food, a sad situation for the unaware.

Constant and frequent rotation will solve the problem of food going bad, but just in case, some should be long term foods such as wheat, salt, sugar, honey, dry beans, rice, etc., and the rest can be canned, dehydrated or freeze dried. In this case I am assuming the person or family not to be preppers or homesteaders. Although if informed, some would gladly invest time and money and learn how to can, dehydrate, freeze dry, ferment or even grow a little food. For most weather related scenarios the time periods are short, but it’s the longer terms where I think the average person is unprepared.


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