When Money Can’t Buy Food

Sooner or later, it will happen. Some kind of disaster will unfold, wreaking havoc in the economy, panicking consumers, and thereby triggering a run on the grocery stores.

You might remember that, in March of 2011, an undersea earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused a power plant disaster at Fukushima, Japan. What you might not know is that, 150 miles away, in Tokyo, the population panicked, rushed to the grocery stores, and stripped the shelves bare in a matter of hours. The markets had to close, and they were not resupplied for days. Food supplies took a couple of weeks to recover. Now that immense city was not affected by the tsunami, nor by radioactive fallout. Yet the food supply was suddenly and severely disrupted.

Panic buying of food doesn’t have to be caused by a nuclear disaster. Any of a large range of disaster scenarios could put it in people’s minds that they better stock up, in case food is unavailable. And that mindset is part of what makes food unavailable. The food production and distribution system in modern society — in Japan, the U.S., Canada, Europe, and many other nations — is a “just in time” system. The grocery stores in any particular city, town, county, state, or nation only have, on hand, enough food for perhaps one week for the population they serve — and only if no one panics and buys more than usual. They rely on a constant resupply of food, receiving various shipments on an almost daily basis.

A serious prepper might have enough stored food for three months or more. At last count, I had enough food stored for 4 months for three persons. But on a local, state, and national level, society does not have more than perhaps a month’s worth of food — absent panic buying. So if some disaster disrupts food production, not just its delivery at the retail level, all non-preppers are in deep trouble.

A run on the grocery stores could disrupt food distribution for as long as a few weeks. When the stores are resupplied, the panic buying continues, until people calm down and the stores are adequately resupplied. But disrupt the food production system, and the whole commercial food supply could collapse.

If the grocery store shelves are empty, your money can’t buy food — in the usual way. But maybe you could buy food at the wholesale level, if you were willing to pay more than the going rate. Maybe you could buy food on the black market.

However, if the whole commercial food production and distribution system fails, your money won’t be able to buy food at all. A black market for food might not exist, since anyone with food will not want to sell at any price. And selling food could become very dangerous. People who are desperate for food might prefer to use force, rather than to pay outrageous prices for food.

And then what do you do? If your money can’t buy food anywhere, and you are a serious prepper, I suppose you can live for a while off your stored food. But you will need firearms to defend your home, your life, and your food. People will find out that you have food. Some friend or family member will let it slip. Or they will assume you have food, if you are known to be a prepper. The government might even make laws so that storing food would be a crime. And then they will start searching homes for food, as if they were investigating a crime.

Eventually, your stored food — assuming you can hold on to it — will run out. And that nice survival garden in your backyard will not supply enough food for all your needs. You would need to farm about one half to one full acre of land to produce a yearly diet for one person. And that food, growing in the fields, is very vulnerable to theft.

I suppose the only viable solution is one at a community level. You band together with enough persons to do the work of producing and guarding food for the community. But such a plan would take up a lot of resources: time, labor, seed, arable land, machinery, and so on. And if the surrounding community is not so well-off, your group will be in danger of losing that food or those resources. It’s a problem without any good solution.

And in my opinion, it will happen. It is only a matter of when.

– Thoreau

One Response to When Money Can’t Buy Food

  1. One of my thoughts is to always include some valuable barter items like cigarettes and booze in your preps even if you don’t smoke or drink. These will be worth more than gold when SHTF.