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Friday, February 11, 2011

Empty Shelves

If your grocery store shelves went empty right this minute, how long would you be able to feed your family comfortably?

I'm writing this after coming home from a shopping trip. A week will have past by the time this publishes, but I wanted to get my thoughts down while I could. Today, after nearly a week of ice and snow, people were out restocking their larders, including me.

The weather was nice, Super Bowl was hours away, and I needed fresh veggies. I walked into Walmart, the closest store to me, and was shocked by the near empty shelves. I don't mean kinda-sorta empty. I mean entire bins picked clean.

Several varieties of canned goods were depleted and three quarters of the meat department coolers were barren. I asked one of the clerks what happened and she said several of their trucks were running late, caught in the storms of the northeast. Compound that with the big game and more people venturing out than normal and all of a sudden I go without orange juice.

It was sobering. I never gave it much thought. Like everyone else, I always assumed food will be there when I want it. A few trucks fail to meet their delivery date and within hours shelves went empty. What if this happened to more than one little town? How long would people cope if it affected a large city, or a state?

Granted, this was an isolated instance, but it unnerved me. The store was packed and people were loading up their carts like piranhas stripping a carcass.

Scary.

***

It was nice to take a week off. I got some serious writing done and I managed to visit more blogs than normal.

And I finally figured out what people meant by making a friends list on Facebook. I made a list but I couldn't find it again once I made it. I didn't realize it was within easy access in a pull down menu. D'oh! I told you I was a slow learner. So embarrassing. Maybe now I'll catch news in a more timely fashion.

***

Please come back Sunday and visit with Marian Perera. Promise, 'kay? She's releasing the print copy of her novel, Before The Storm. I asked if she would talk about the sensitive subject of slavery in fiction. As always, she tapped into the pulse of the topic.

Stop by Sunday and say hi.

***

So how is everyone? Has this winter weather thrown you any surprises?

43 comments:

Misha said...

Wow. To think that we thought it was bad that one time our CO2 supply ran out and there was a shortage on soft drinks...

brrrr.

:-)

Maria Zannini said...

Misha: It was an extraordinary event to be sure. But it just got me to wondering--what if it had been wider spread?

Madeleine said...

Ah well after the drought of 1976 my Mum kept a 'drought cupboard' to stock up on supplies just in case. I keep a 'Nutkin Store' (after Squirrel Nutkin) for the same eventuality. We have a cupboard specially dedicated to ensure we have supplies incase something happens like being snowed in when I realised we were almost out of loo paper! oops! :O)

Angelina Rain said...

Wow, empty shelves, that’s a scary thought. I never really thought about it. I guess if something happened and I couldn’t buy food, my family would be able to live on what we have for maybe a week if that. Yicks!

I’m glad you got some writing done. I can’t wait to read more of your books. I’m planning on buying Touch of Fire, but I’ll wait a little for the sequel to come out so I could read both back to back.

Maria Zannini said...

Madeleine: That is smart. I keep my cupboards full, but there's nothing I can do about a lack of fresh veggies. Maybe now that the greenhouse is in place, I can raise some winter greens.

Love the Nutkin Store!! Love it!

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: I really enjoyed my hiatus. And it gave me a chance to visit more people on Facebook, something that has scared me a bit.

Everyone, be sure to check out Angelina's blog too. She's been on a terrific blog tour. Her guest posts are short, bright, and absolutely charming.

Joanne said...

Okay, I'll let New England take the blame for those late trucks. We have been ridiculously clobbered by winter, and now all that's on the news here are the roofs caving in beneath the weight of the snow :/

Maria Zannini said...

Joanne: Oh, I know! You guys have not caught a break all winter. We'll be in the 70s by next week, though with the weather being so unpredictable, there's no telling how long that'll last.

Take care, Joanne. It can't last too much longer.

Tony Benson said...

Here in North Devon, UK we make sure, from November through to March, that we have enough of everything for a minimum of two weeks of being unable to leave the house due to snow. It's happened before, so we have to be sure.

It's made worse by the fact that our heating is by oil, delivered by those same trucks that can't get through a little bit of snow, so we have to make sure the oil tank doesn't go less than half full.

Winters are fun - until we get snowed in!

Maria Zannini said...

Tony: Wow, Tony. You have a long winter.

Ours are relatively mild--but this year all bets were off. But the folks up north had it far worse.

Thanks for sharing your story. I learned something today.

Angelina Rain said...

Maria, thank you. I’m glad you like my blog tour. I really don’t know what I’m doing, I’m so new at all this, but I keep thinking about how you did yours and just try to do something similar.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: You're doing great! You added a couple of touches I wish I had thought of.

Krista D. Ball said...

Winter here lasts from mid-Nov (when it drops to -30C for a week just to make sure you've awake) and drags on to about early May, when the last frost generally happens.

I have heard that the barren shelves often happen in places that aren't used to harsh weather. Everyone panics and clears out the grocery stores. Then, if a truck is delayed, people panic more, etc etc.

We generally have enough food for two weeks here, just because that's how it works. I only shop for groceries once a month (with the occasional pop, chips, and toilet paper runs), so there's generally always food here.

I also like making preserves, so there's plenty of sweets in the pantry, plus lots of freezer food. And since it's so cold, I don't need to worry about the electricity going out and ruining the food. I can still light the fireplace and cook a meal that way.

--

Like Tony, I grew up with delivered oil plus a wood stove. We needed lots of wood, but also you needed to make sure you never let the tank get down past half, because you didn't know when the next blizzard would happen.

Maria Zannini said...

Krista: If the wild blackberries come back this spring, I think I will make preserves this year.

The late delivery trucks remind me just how interconnected we are to the rest of the country and the world. Paraguay has a bad season for soybeans and suddenly there's no edemame in the freezer section.

Which reminds me to plant soybeans this year. :grin:

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

ooh, not long at all. We each shop once a week for what we need that week. We just don't have the space to store anything more. We're hoping to get a chest freezer as soon as we have some extra money

Melissa McClone said...

We could last a while. The kids might complain because the fave stuff would be gone, but we wouldn't starve. I was in high school when Mount St. Helens blew and we couldn't go out. Even in my single days, I had food around after that.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: I couldn't live without my freezer. (I bought an upright.) It was definitely money well spent.

***
Melissa: OMG. I forgot about Mt St Helens. What a nightmare that must have been for you.

Good for you for being prepared.

Cathy in AK said...

Due to our semi isolation and high local prices, we have a decent size pantry and a chest freezer that can keep us fed for a while. Every 3-4 months we'll make a grocery run to Anchorage via the ferry and load up the truck or van.

Fresh produce is available here, but not a huge variety. And it can be expensive, even when in season, or not in the best shape sometimes. We do have a box of organic fruits and veggies come in every other week from a Washington grower. The stuff is of better quality and variety than what's at the local store.

It would be rough if we couldn't get our fresh veggies or a gallon of milk, but we wouldn't starve : )

KarenG said...

Well, being Mormon, I have approximately a year's supply of food and two week's supply of drinking water. Our church has been teaching this for decades, to get a year's supply of food and necessities. So we wouldn't starve but we are lacking in a lot of household items, like laundry soap. But if shelves were empty for a long time, laundry soap probably wouldn't be that high on my priority list.

Joanna St. James said...

ha ha I would panic!
the only weird thing that happened in Houston where I am currently hanging out is the loss of power and this is just because they went down to like 29 degrees bizzaro hunh?

Kaylie said...

If you ever read Life As We Knew It, it will make you want to stockpile your house with food to last for years.

Maria Zannini said...

Cathy: I always worry about you way up there in the north. I imagine everyone up there plans ahead, especially when you don't know if you'll be stuck for any length of time. My compliments to you, madam. Especially since I know a lot of emergencies are left to you alone.

KarenG: I have a lot of respect for Mormon practicality and homekeeping, and also for their generosity of spirit and time. One of my favorite cookbooks is Marlene's Magic with Food Storage. An excellent book! I highly recommend it.

Mike Keyton said...

I read somewhere even 'advanced' countries are only 9 days away from starvation. Maybe I'll make space in my garage.

Maria Zannini said...

Joanna: Oh, Houston has been hit as hard as north Texas. The weather has just been unreal. And it's not that it's bitterly cold or icy, it's that our infrastructure isn't built for extreme cold. Our weather is hot 9 months out of the year. And mild for the last three.

Kaylie: You're the second person to recommend that book to me. As a homesteader, stocking up is a way of life. This is a lifestyle we chose deliberately. It's been more useful than we expected.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: I read that too! I can tell you most of my family and friends don't stock more than a week's supply of food. Mostly for lack of room.

As much as I didn't want such a big house, it's proven useful for storage. Everything always looks tidy because I have so much room to put stuff away.

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Our weather was heatwave conditions, then the last few days cool, tomorrow heating up once again. But I guess I'm a little lucky, to the north was the cyclone, south and west fires.I agree, the weather is so weird lately.

If I had to last stuck at home for two weeks there'd be enough food, well hopefully. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Suzanne: You guys in Australia have had more than your share. I feel for you.

The one thing you can say about disasters is that it brings out the worst and the best of mankind. I hope things calm down for you down under.

Clarissa Draper said...

I think about that often and on occasion have had to work with what I had. I can last about a week. Here in Mexico it's common to have near empty shelves. Especially when you're suffering from hurricanes and swine flu.

Maria Zannini said...

Clarissa: I still have relatives in Monterrey. Between the drug wars and viruses, it's been a constant battleground down there. I hope you stay safe.

Dru said...

Nothing much going on. Just surviving the cold winter days in the city.

Sherri said...

I'd be in a world of hurt. I can't even keep milk in the house between shopping trips!

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: Is it getting better? I saw on the news NY had a few snow-free days.



Sherri: That's cuz you got all dem boys. Wait until they're teenagers. You'll have to go shopping every day.

Yikes!

Renee Miller said...

We run out of food constantly. Despite making trips for a huge 'shop' every couple of weeks, I'm still at the local store daily for milk, bread, etc. So...not counting the snack cupboard, we wouldn't last longer than oh...a month? If we include my snacks...slightly longer than that.

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: It's the fresh stuff that's hard to keep. And it's especially hard for people with kids.

All I have to worry about is the dogs.

Linda Leszczuk said...

I'm going to admit I haven't read all the comments above because I'm short on time, so I may be echoing someone else's comment. Most of us have never dealt with anything less than an unlimited supply of goods. We might not have the money to buy what we want/need but there's always plenty to be found. Not so with the generation that lived through food rationing during WW II, or anyone who has lived in a country where food shortages are an everyday reality. It is frightening to think of how unprepared we are, as a sociaty, to deal with any from of real hardship.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Hmm...yeah, that would freak me out a bit. I'd probably be thinking if they knew something I didn't. LOL

Sherri said...

Don't remind me Maria...already dreading the teen years, feels like we go to the store every other day as it is :head desk:

Rula Sinara said...

Kinda scary...especially if you're feeding little kids.

Liz Fichera said...

There's something to be said for disaster-recovery preparedness. Glad you got a week off!

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Boy, you said it. When I think how my parents and grandparents lived I'm an embarrassment by comparison.

***
Jennifer: That's exactly what I thought. I looked around and wondered--what did I miss?

***
Sherri: I will start praying for you now. LOL. But think of it this way, you'll have some fine young men as escorts when you're a little old lady.

***
Rula: Absolutely. Adults can manage fine, but kids--their needs are more complex.

***
Liz: I need to take more sabbaticals. It was very refreshing and I got some good writing done.

Marianne Arkins said...

Late to the party as always ...

I was raised in the Mormon church (yep!) and one of the things they teach their members is to always have a year's supply of food stocked away.

I may have left many of their teaching behind, but that one stuck with me. My DH and I have one site of our basement dedicated to food storage. I have four bookcases full of stuff: canned beans, canned veggies, canned meats, various condiments, dried beans, dried grains (for grinding into flour), powdered milk, powdered eggs ... I could go on and on.

Fact is, we'd be set for at LEAST six months, probably longer. We may get really tired of eating tuna, but we'd survive.

I use the food regularly, and then restock (I have a list where I check off what I use, and it automatically becomes a shopping list).

Yes, I'm a bit obsessive.

Glad your time off did you good! I should do that some day ...

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: When it comes to your family's health and security, I don't think you can be too cautious.

I heartily recommend the time off. It gave me a chance to visit more and enjoy my friends.

Clarissa Draper said...

Thank you for your kind words.