SYSTEMIC RISKS

How Much Food Supply Is In The System?

how-much-food-supply-is-in-the-system

Here in the U.S. there is plentiful food on the grocery store shelves. The food supply system is working. At least today it is. But will it always?

Because the supply of food to the cities, urban areas, and suburbia implies that food is being produced and transported in from rural areas or imported, we must recognize that the many complicated systems that make this work are integral to keep the food supply system working. And with complicated systems comes risks…

If the worst happened, how much food supply is in the system to keep everyone fed? And what would happen or how long would it take to ‘fix’ a broken food supply chain?


 
I hope that question itself is enough to motivate some of you to garner your own deep pantry food storage!

But if it’s not, then here’s more:

Food supply chain systems (supply and distribution) are combinations of activities and interrelationships which include:

-production
-handling
-storage
-transportation
-processing
-packaging
-wholesale
-retail
-etc..

These functions (and many additional sub-functions) enable cities, urban areas and suburbia (basically ‘everyone’) to meet their food requirements. Each of these activities (functions) are performed by different ‘players’, and they include:

-farmers
-producers
-assemblers
-importers
-transporters
-wholesalers
-retailers
-processors
-shopkeepers
-vendors
-storage providers
-credit providers
-porterage providers
-packaging suppliers
-etc..

Each of these ‘players’ need their own infrastructure, facilities, employees, and services. Every step of the food supply chain requires human resources and ‘natural resources’. The overall ‘system’ is such that each element within it influences other elements – a sort of ’cause and effect’ and reciprocal relationships.

Consumers ‘pull’ their food demand through the supply chain while food producers and food processors ‘push’ food through the chain.

To complicate these systems further is the current methodology of ‘just in time’ (JIT) which minimizes or eliminates the need for inventory build-up along the many stages of the chain. In other words, very little warehousing – just enough to keep the system working smoothly. Each of the elements within the chain have their own JIT functionality whereby their actions are based on forecast models which may affect their portion of the chain. Things like demand (obviously), profit motives (obviously), season, past history, availability, potential deviations, etc..

As you can begin to see, there’s quite a bit that happens behind the scenes to get food from the farm to your table. And I haven’t even attempted to break down the individual elements to show even more levels within levels…

So, after all that, the question remains “How much food supply is within the system?”

The answer is just enough to keep the entire food supply chain (chains – lots more than ‘one’) flowing smoothly. When you realize that there is little or no warehousing, you might say “What you see is what you get”. In other words, not much. It’s all about ‘flow’.

In the preparedness community it is commonly said that most typical grocery stores would run out of food in about 3 days if the system were to completely shut off. My sense is that this is probably generally accurate – and would vary depending on the store itself, the neighborhood demands, etc.. But suffice it to say that certainly within a week all shelves would likely be bare.

While some super chain stores do have purpose-built warehouse inventory in select locations (e.g. Walmart Distribution Centers), even their inventory is designed to apply just a small buffer to the overall system, and probably wouldn’t last long…

The point is this: The shorter the food supply chain from farm to table – the less risk of disruption for you. Obviously if you had your own farm or garden and if you preserved your bounty for off-season, you can’t get any shorter than that. But it’s when your food comes from South America in the winter (as one example) that the thousands of miles (and every element in-between) becomes a potential risk for disruption.

While everything is working okay right now, who’s to say the apple-cart won’t turn over tomorrow…

…food for thought.

 
If any of you work within any of the food supply chain elements listed above, we would be particularly curious to hear your opinion…

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74 Comments

  1. Not too many years ago, here in Florida, you couldn’t even give Limes away, because they were so plentiful. Florida – the Citrus State!
    Now, you go to the store, and limes are anywhere from 20 to 70 cents apiece, depending on what day it is, and have no juice, because they are picked before ripeness. Of course, they are imported from other countries. Imagine the idiocy of that. Having to import limes to Florida! Most of the inhabitants of this state do not even know what a ripe lime tastes like.
    Our government in action!

    1. …just like most all the tomatoes on grocery store shelves these days – they are disgustingly dry and the meat tastes like ‘nothing’. They are picked very ‘green’ in Mexico or further south – and although they eventually turn red and may look alright on the grocer shelves, they’re barely a ‘tomato’. I don’t know what they’re growing down there… it may look like a tomato, but sometimes I wonder…

      1. Ken, I found an orange rock in my garden once then salted it an took a bite. It still tasted better than what you buy in the stores now a days!

      2. @ Ken and Southerner
        Now that you brought up Tomatoes and Limes, a short story.
        Wanting to make a little fresh Pico de Gallo I actually purchased a “few” mators and some “fresh” lime from a local chain store (Safeway) let the mators ripen a few extra days as well as the limes…. Took a few other “fresh vegies” and Cilantro… YUMMMMM Right? OHHH GOD NO!!!!! It was the nasties thing I have ever tried to eat, the tomatoes even with extra ripening tasted like …. Well I can say that here, I took one bite and tossed the entire thing in the compost bin.
        I will never EVER buy Tomatoes from a “store” again….. No matter how many they have or don’t have.
        NRP

        1. NRP

          I agree with you on the tomatoes…

          although, sadly I do buy them from time to time, but only to eat right off in a sandwhich.

          tomatoes used to be my very favorite thing, now they are pretty much tasteless to me..

          I try to grow them every year, and not much luck
          every year I try something new/some new location, some new method etc.
          Maybe this will be the year..sigh

          1. we live in a medium sized city so when tomato season comes around im ALWAYS going to the local farm stand and buying whats called the second tomatos and i dry a LOT OF EM i am go at least once a year to the farmers market and but a 50 pound bag of onions and dry as many of THOSE as possible as well im always finding and trying new things to dry as well and i pickel hot peppers alot to

          2. @ Anon
            Hopefully not turning Ken’s article into a tomato Blog Heheheh.
            I have tried growing mators all my life, I have a GREAT Green Thumb, unfortunately Tomatoes are Red HAHAHA
            But I trade a lot of produce for fresh homegrown tomatoes from friends and neighbors. Although I do grow a GREAT cherry tomatoes, so at times I have a BLTA with 20-30 cherry tomatoes on it :-) :-) :-) Also they make very good sauce.
            NRP

          3. NRP

            okay okay (grin) just to redeem the comments….

            suspect tomatoes and all fresh produce will be gone within hours…………………….

            if one goes in later, there may be things like garlic left, and if ever in that position, grab all you can. Garlic will grow fairly easy (the one thing which does grow for me)…And, you can eat the green tops on garlic, as well if you leave it mature, the seeds bunches which form on the end of the green tops are really tasty, take little room to store (I store some in freezer)…

            all good (and NRP…you are lucky you have at least a green thumb and can grow green things. I must have a garlic thumb….)

          4. @ Anon
            Actually you’re exactly right, if TSHTF the vegies will be hit first and HARD, than canned foods and meats. I would not want to go anywhere a store in an event no matter how big OR small. Talk about riots. Of course the TV’s and electronics, remember we’re talking sheeple here, if most think they can steal it and get away with it….. But I would expect the smaller stores like Safeway and Smith’s would be cleaned out fast, very fast, probably before most would even know what’s going on.

            I always find it interesting when some preppers say they would do a “last, fast trip to the store” or to the gas station or where-ever…… BIG mistake, get yar azz home and evaluate what’s going on, get the heck away from Joe-Blow-Public as fast as you can.
            JMHO
            NRP

          5. NRP

            yes, I think you’re right..get home..If you are home, stay there.

            that has always been our policy in a big storm type event, and if SHTF for some other event, even more so.

            I suspect you’re right about the pricey electronics getting lifted.

            also
            the liquor stores would be hit quickly.

            in the riots a while back, we saw on the news, many many walking out with cases of booze. dimwits did not even wear any kind of mask…

          6. Cat6

            maybe so….maybe so…

            I was really surprised they had no concern about being on t.v./security cams/etc….

          7. Wal-Mart superstores are really convenient. They allow you to pick up electronics and food at the same time. One stop looting!

          8. The general problem with growing tomatoes is that they thrive on neglect. Love them too much, they just keel over and die. Or go all to green with no red to be seen.

        2. I haven’t had that problem with Roma tomatoes. Not as good as fresh, but still makes a great toasted BLT sandwich in winter. I am leery of the farmer’s stands around here, they claim to have local?? grown tomatoes, sweet corn, and melon in June in the far north and mom didn’t raise me stupid. I get fresh tomatoes from a local farmer down the road in late July who has a heated greenhouse when mine are not ripe yet–that’s how I know.

          I did find a reliable stand that sold ripe peaches in early August and his came from Georgia. I took one bite and the sweet delicious nectar juice ran out of my mouth and down my shirt while the fruit in my mouth melted me into a puddle of wonderful. I don’t know how else to describe it. :-)

          1. Grapes, pineapples and bananas. I pointed out to the young clerk (who had told me that it was all local and “picked this morning”) that bananas don’t grow in this area and she proceeded to ignore me quite thoroughly. :)

        3. NRP, Ken & Old Geezer;
          Next time use a can of diced tomatoes. Drain off the juice, save for cocktail or just plain with a little salt & pepper, bottoms up. :-)
          When I have desire for fresh tomatoes they are the only tomato I will eat during the winter time. They are canned during the peak of ripeness from the fields.

          It is awful when it ‘looks like a tomato’, and tastes like cardboard. Hope this helps you when you need a tomato fix in the winter. Home made lime juice can be frozen or canned for your Pico de Gallo.

          1. AC I do the same, when I want them for use in a salad, I place the drained ones on a paper towel for a few sec/min they are great, and TASTE like a mater should. We are lucky that we have a store called cash and carry they are a resturant supply store the quality is great and the prices would make Sam Wall cry. They just had number 10 cans of diced maters for 2.57 a can thats for a number 10 can….oh my

          2. icecathook
            We have cash & carry here also, my next favorite store to shop at besides Costco.
            We can not eat up a #10 of toms, just 2 of us and I think the critters would go on strike if I try to share with them.

      3. I agree Ken,the tomatoes in the store are crap. They seem like water without any flavor. Thats why I can’t wait for growing season. I’m growing Roma, Cherry and beefsteaks. The plants are all getting their real leaves,just a matter of time.

    2. Yes, I have observed produce quality and quantity in grocery stores diminishing over the years, especially the last 5-10 years. Organic prices are often thru the roof.

      If you don’t know what geo-engineered weather is, look it up.
      And that is definitely affecting our growing crops here in US, as well as conventional ag.

      We grow what we can here, and we are grateful for what we can grow or buy.

      We really miss GOOD organic oranges.
      Thankful I can still purchase frozen organic mangoes and freeze dried ones too, yum!

      Support your local farmers! :)

    3. Something I learned as a biologist…many fruits ripen because of a chemical called ethylene: bananas, apples, tomatoes. If you pick them early (while green) and expose to ethylene (basically put them in a bag with a ripened banana) they will ripen quickly. :)

      Other fruits, like citrus and strawberries, have to ripen on the plant. They do not need or respond to ethylene.

      Fun fact to consider….if you have a TON of tomatoes in your garden and want to pick them green, they have those green bags at the store that allegedly prevent ripeness. Those bags allow ethylene (that is essentially a gas) to not get trapped and expose the fruits to the gas. Having some of those bags handy could be useful.

    4. Ok Southerner how is it the government’s fault that your stores are buying limes from overseas instead of local suppliers?

  2. I do know someone who worked in the grocery back room of a store. I asked him if they had some more of an item I was looking for at the moment. He said that the truck comes in every day and everything is put up on the shelves during the night shift. He said the only extra’s they might still have is the big sale items. Otherwise he says there is never any stock kept in the back room.

  3. The worst part of vegetables and fruit being picked “green” so that they can be shipped without spoilage is that the chemical reaction of being vine ripened has NOT happened, thus rendering the fruit or vegetable VALUELESS for consumption! Our food supply is worthless on the grocery shelf. Shop local farmers markets!!!!

    When the fruit or vegetable is available locally grown, buy tons, and can or freeze. Yes, it will lose SOME value in processing for use during winter, but it is already far superior to anything brought in to a “chain” grocery.

    Best of all worlds, of course, is to GROW YOUR OWN.

    Buying and eating food that has no nutritive value is a complete waste of resources and a false euphoria.
    Keep prepping folks…..something is in the wind….my bones feel it.

    1. @ pioneer woman
      I agree 1000%, shop at your local Farmers Market, get to know the grower, heck even invite them over for Lunch, Dinner, or even just a beer or two. Ask them if you can pick their fields after you get to kow them, most will and give a heck of a good price or “free”. Also mention “end of the season” picking. 99% of the time you’ll get it free.

      Ya know, it’s GREAT to live rural.
      NRP

  4. I worked in a small local grocery store 20 years ago. Even then, there was little stock kept in the back room. What was kept was mostly the sale items, one extra case of the most popular items, and what wouldn’t fit on the shelf, which were usually items that were not very popular. The freezer storage was not big at all. We also had a butcher shop, with a larger refrigerator storage, but fresh meat will only last a week or so. They also didn’t keep extra meat on hand, just what they were butchering at the time. It was just enough to fill the orders as they came in.

    I can’t imagine things are any better now. For these reason’s we keep a very large garden, vineyard, berry patches, orchard, nut trees, pond, herbs, etc. We’re a family of 6, and will likely have older parents to care for as well. We grow more than any other family I know (except the farmers who surround us, but we’re a homestead that is not as reliant on the system as they are). I have really been pushing wild edibles with my kids. Food is everywhere, but so many don’t know how to find or prepare it. Also, if we need bug out, I can’t take my gardens and trees, but I can find food along the way.

    Best wishes all… and have a Blessed Good Friday.

  5. Two years ago, a major snow storm stopped produce delivery to our local Walmart. The on hand produce was gone………all gone in a day and a half.
    I remember walking through the produce section and it looked like some of the old pictures you see of a store in Russia. It’s an eye operner.

    BTW, they are still out of .22 LR. When they get some in it’s gone in one hour.

    BI

  6. I live on Maui, EVERYTHING comes from somewhere else. We produce LESS than 20 % of all food consumed here.
    I grow kale commercially, have down sized considerably over the last year because i am preparing myself for the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
    I supply one small healthfood store that is really the only grocery store on the north shore of the island, there are other grocers but not as close in proximity to the Haiku – Peahi – Kailua area. This store gets a steady flow of shipments from off island, they have a truck going dayly to pick up pallets from the airport or shippers as well as getting deliveries dayly from growers and freight companies.
    Without these shipments and deliveries this store under normal traffic would be empty in a week and a half or so, and by that i mean if deliveries stopped and people shopped like normal they would clean out the store of anything they could get to suffice for their normal groceries that were suddenly unavailable.
    Just my kale alone in 2014 was +/- 30,000# for that one store, 30,000 bunches of kale and 400 cases of loose product for their kitchen.
    And thats just one product of dozens that gets delivered to one small store every day.
    Costco here in Kahului gets on average 30-40 containers a week of perishable and non perishable goods, if the ships stop that stops, if that stops its the same at other stores, and there are at least 14 other grocery stores that also get container loads delivered dayly if not more, the safeway in Kahului has at any given time 3 containers at their dock,
    The local produce wholesaler generally has 5-6 containers at their dock every day, all incoming then distributed by truck to everything from caterers to the largest hotels.
    When the deliveries stop i give it 2 days to bedlam, 2days, people will finally get the clue after 2 days and everything will come unglued to where people will be fighting over anything they can get.
    We have at any time around 100,000 residents here and around 20-30,000 visitors in hotels, B&Bs and such, it wont be pretty

    1. @Kulafarmer
      I’m surprised you’re thinking 1-1.5 weeks under normal shopping, I seriously believe here on the “mainland” it would be more like 2-3 days, at best for “normal shopping”.
      I totally agree with you on the 2 days, even worse here, if panic sets in, 1 day max and riots the second day.
      Just think when the restaurants stop serving…. That’s why I always say 1-2 weeks before people start dropping in the streets. AND that’s food, what about water? Or contaminated water, not so good to drink sea/salt water
      NRP

      1. @NRP
        It will take a week or so for most to wake up and realize something is wrong over here, some may never get it till their phone stopps working, people are oblivious,

  7. I will verify what ChameleOn said. I worked in a large chain for 7 years and the back room is small. Trucks come everyday and quite a bit if stuff the individual companies come and stock. They have what is called a U-boat that is about 2 ft wide and maybe 5 ft long. Generally speaking whatever fit in that was the extra stock for an isle. Pallets of big stuff like tp have some room aboveMaybe a dozen or so. The psuh was really on to get stuff out because there is no room and you can’t have the product all over the floor in the way- especially of the next truck.

  8. Last year Wyoming passed the Agricultural Freedom Act (I think that was the name) that is supposed to protect growers and consumers and make more local agriculture available to the public. It is somewhat similar to the Firearms Freedom Act in that it is supposed to negate Federal laws.

    So Wyoming residents can sell almost everything to “informed end-consumers” including all produce, fish, dairy products (including raw milk) to consumers without the need for inspection. Meat is not included.

    The rule is that anyone can sell to informed consumers but not out of state or to anyone who plans to re-sell it to another consumer.

    I read about in a newspaper that I have already added to my compost pile. I will see if I can find the Statute.

    1. Here it is. It is called the Wyoming Food Freedom Act. You can Google it or wait for my link to be moderated. The link will be in my next post.

    2. At least they have a brain up there, our stupid state wants to add extra regulations to the federal regulations,,, stupid commy democrat idiots

  9. It won’t take much to disrupt the food supply chain, it has many Achilles’ heels as Ken pointed out in all the links in the chain.

    The best solution is to be your own “warehouse” of food storage. Be your own producer/gatherer of food, and processor to preserve it and be your own negotiator for trade/selling dealing with food. That eliminates 18 of those links mentioned in the chain.

    Although most people can’t grow all their own food, they can stock up on what they can’t grow, plant fruit trees, have a container garden or a small garden, go fishing and hunting, learn how to gather wild foods, learn preserving methods such as pickling, canning, smoking, curing, and dehydrating foods on sale, and find a network of trading and local farmers.

    Well, I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but not every one here does everything, including me….. after the fish I had cooked last night was freezer burnt (I think it was from 2 years ago) and was not too tasty, I am getting a canner. I had some freshwater fish canned in tomato/pepper sauce 3 years ago, and it tasted like spicy sardines. I also had homemade canned smoked flavored whitefish that was great, so I gave in to the idea. If I make some great recipes, I’ll share!

  10. Our next investment for the kitchen or patio is a smoker. We are well stocked with other equipment, but do NOT own a smoker and want one.

    This week we complete the chicken house ( DH just installed a steel door…he is ultra paranoid about our bears). The new vines for the vineyard ship 3/28, so that will be our next really busy week on the ranch. Repairing the water system from any winter damage, churning and mulching the soils while vines sit in water and acclimate to the altitude.
    Brought the horses in to “mow” the grass in the vineyard and orchard while all other items are dormant….very helpful.

    Planning on being even more efficient with the greenhouse this season….we shall see.

    1. @pioneer woman
      I just got a new smoker, check out Lowe’s; I got a nice electric one, 30” with all the bells and whistles for $249. And yea it’s electric, but life does go on for a little while.
      NRP

      1. Thanks NRP….don’t mind electric….we have a solar system with converter so can plug it in there if the grid goes down~! Or those noisy ole generators can work too. Will check it out.

        1. @ pioneer woman

          Masterbuilt JMSS 800-Watt Electric Vertical Smoker (Common: 30-in; Actual: 32.283-in) @ Lowe’s

          NRP

  11. My comments are just anecdotal as I don’t work in the food industry, but I have seen a good-sized store picked clean in about 1 day. Years ago, a local (large) grocery store was closing for a big renovation (several months) and decided to put everything on sale rather than relocate the inventory to other local locations.

    You would have thought the radio said no more food is available! I missed the big sale announcement and walked in before work on a Monday morning to grab something for lunch and I was shocked. Nearly every parking place was taken (I should have left then) and people were jostling with every cart, basket and bag they could find to load up food like there was no tomorrow. Every register open and lines going down all aisles. I only got part of the way into the store, and could already see some sparse shelves at 7:00am (sale underway just 1 hour).

    I walked out and went back that evening to see if there was anything worthwhile left, and nearly every shelf was empty, except cosmetics and odds and ends (stuff like ham glaze, frozen Indian food, pet toys). It was the first time I had ever seen an empty store. I remember thinking at the time that it must be like that when a hurricane is coming – people grabbing whatever is on the shelf and no restocking when items run out. And all of this was just from a big sale – no emergency – just big discounts.

    With the dense population in my area, I think 3 days is optimistic – maybe one day – with the most valued emergency supply items gone in hours.

    1. @So Cal Gal
      And that was “years ago” with no emergency, now take that vision and multiply it many many fold over….. Literally frightening.

      And yea, how many shepple have NO deep pantry or stores at all?

      NRP

      1. @NRP,

        It is frightening! I’ve never been through a hurricane or blizzard (something where you have a warning) so I can only imagine what that is like. In a SHTF scenario, once people realize what is going on and get over their initial shock I am picturing total panic and chaos in stores until everything is picked clean.

        I’d bet the average family has some stuff in the freezer, and maybe one cupboard or part of a pantry with cans/dry goods. So, they could go a week or so. In poverty areas, I’m betting many people have nothing in the house… a day or two into a crisis and these folks will be up in arms screaming for FEMA, add a couple more days and folks will be really very hungry and dangerous.

        1. @ So Cal Gal
          That’s exactly why my thinking. And to be honest you’re in a rather uncomfortable place (Sothern Cali), I hope you-all have a plan, seriously. I know you’re working of preps, and don’t mean to scare y-all, but please get a plan for what you’re going to do if/when; there are a LOT of people and a LOT high ranking people that will agree with the coming problems. So please, again, have a plan. Remember what it was like during the last Earthquake? How about if the political idiots riot? A deep pantry and water source could literally save your lives.

          What’s really sad, FEMA recommends 3 days of food and water….. Heck at the Baltimore Riots, they lasted longer than that, and look at the last dozen hurricanes/blizzards. WEEKS!!! It took the .gov 5 days to get water to the Super Dome for crying out loud, and yes I know it was the Governor and FEMA, but still, come on 5 days to get water???? GREAT JOB .gov. Sure makes me want to trust them, how about you?

          There will be NO restocking the stores within weeks, maybe months, if then, if we have a breakdown of the JIT, or ANY of the pieces Ken has spelled out. It’s time to be prepared as best as y-all can. I know we all hear a lot of “hot air” but….. Think about it, are you now going to need the deep pantry stuff anyways? So you invest a few $K and use it over the next years would you not need these items anyways? I know that 500 rolls of TP will get used in a week or two at my house… HAHAHAHA
          NRP
          PS; sorry for the semi-rant, but I feel very serious about this stuff.

          1. @NRP,

            No apologies and you are not ranting. I very much appreciate your concern, and you are right. Yes, we are in a place that will suck for us if TSHTF. I am VERY actively working on food supply, stocking things we will eat and a lot of canned goods that can be opened and eaten in desperation if needed. Canned goods can always be donated if they are close to expiration, and thankfully we are not cash-strapped so I buy extras of lots of things when they go on sale, some I just pay for to know I have them. I’ve had some odd looks from cashiers as I buy 30-40 cans in a single visit… but who cares. I just smile and say I like to buy on sale, or we are putting a donation box together. That stops the odd looks.

            Water is a BIG concern, and working on that as well. I am being very careful about what I buy that needs water to cook, hoping to keep as much for drinking as possible. Buying lots of canned fruits & veggies with water as well.

            And the FEMA 3-day thing is a joke. How can any agency recommend just that small amount? Do they think people will panic if they increase the supply guidelines? I can’t believe it’s just a control thing – they can’t even get to an emergency site and get set-up in 3 days.

            The bug-out scenario is problematic. Have not worked the kinks out of that yet. Frankly, I’ve had some sleepless nights. Thanks for your continuing counsel – again, much appreciated!

          2. If you have a hot water heater you have a week or more supply of potable water. Set up a second water heater as a pass-through, you double that amount. Unless you have a tankless water heater (!) that gives you 100 + gallons of good water, enough for a family of four (2 gallons per person per day) for nearly two weeks.

            Think outside the box.

        2. It’s the wealthier ones I know who don’t have a thing to eat in their homes because every meal is ordered delivered or at a restaurant.

          Back in 1979 all the company workers and I were invited to a Christmas party/dinner by my millionaire boss at his southern mansion in La. He had only watered down duck bone soup in a small desert cup and stale dry bread for us to eat. I told the others our boss has got to be kidding! We all left early for home and had a real meal.

          In Pittsburg while visiting my aunt, we were invited to eat dinner at a millionaire lady’s house. My aunt was an elitist and bragged about her millionaire friend and wanted to impress my family. I was served a small finger sandwich and a glass of water for the whole dinner. She also had M&M peanuts in a bowl at the end of the table. I was too embarrassed to ask for real food as to mind my manners, but me and my siblings ate all the M&M’s up, but left one in the bowl as not to be so rude.

          My brother who was a pretty well off engineer invited me for dinner only once at his home and he and his wife filled their plates but when I got to the buffet table everything was gone. He didn’t have any food to feed me and offered no substitute without going to the store. I went to a fast food joint to eat and went straight home. All my brother had to say when he had no food for me was “whoops”… Yeah, this is the brother who refuses to prepare. There’s a whole lot more but I don’t want to clog up this thread with all the rich people I nibbled crumbs with.

          These wealthy people had no food stored to speak of, or they thought we were homeless beggars and threw a few scraps at us. Oliver got more food in one meal at the orphanage. The most food I was given at a dinner was from the poorest of country folk, and I must say God had blessed them!

          1. @Stardust,

            You have a point – we know people who have money and eat out all the time so they may not have much real food at home, just snacks or a few odds and ends. But, I was thinking about the folks who are living day-to-day… single moms trying to make ends meet, people who are waiting for the next paycheck to buy more food, that sort of situation. Those folks couldn’t afford to buy extra food to stash – they may be barely getting enough to eat as it is – relying on school lunch programs, etc…

            And you are right about people’s generosity – we know plenty of folks who could share and do not, and plenty who barely have enough but are quick to share what little they have. I just hate to see people who have the means to buy & store extra food just not bother with it. Lazy, complacent, fat & happy – lots of labels for it but in the end they will be in big trouble in a crisis.

          2. There’s so many free gov’t programs out there feeding kids and people, I can’t see how anyone would be struggling in the USA with food these days. I spend a lot less on what an EBT card would give each person, and they can get free school breakfast, lunch, and dinners for the kids, and free food at food banks and with those resources,… it would give me a lot food storage.

            They didn’t have these programs many years ago when I was homeless, single parent of a 2 year old, being refused work, refused food stamps because I didn’t get a job, or any kind of assistance, sending my daughter to beg at doors for food and having her faint with heat exhaustion on the street as I carried her. I shutter at what we went through that summer for I knew what it was truly like struggling to get food.

          3. @Stardust,

            I’m sorry for the tough times you went through, and glad you are doing better now!

            Although I was never on the streets, when I was in my late teen and early 20’s I made very little pay, and most went to rent and utilities. I know I had to get pretty creative with whatever money I had left for groceries. If there had been a SHTF crisis back in those days I would have been making my way to a family member’s house for food – my cupboards were nearly bare back then.

          4. Ditto here, So Cal. That was 43 years ago when my car broke down on the way to So Cal in Arizona. :-) After that time, I went back to my mom’s place in the Midwest for a year. I learned survival skills from that experience, went back to Arizona to prove to myself I wouldn’t be beaten like that again. I actually set up a place for victims of bad circumstance like I had, and helped turn them into survivors. It was a rewarding experience!

  12. Just an opinion on availability and stocking up on essentials. I have decided to change my plan from one of overstocking and continual rotation of food, to reduction of need. Two areas of change are:

    1. got a bidet hooked to the water supply of the toilet thus reducing my toilet paper needs by about 90%. Some say “but you need running water for that” and I reply that water supply is the number one priority but a hand held squeeze bidet also works when flowing water is not available. Saving two years of toilet paper for my family was out of the question unless I built another garage just for the paper.

    2. got my freeze drier to reduce freezer space, canning work, food rotation, and as I get older, reduction in the amount of work needed to keep all the livestock. Even though I have only used the drier since November, I can now forget about the grocery stores for about 6 months. When the garden comes in, I can store the berries and vegetables for years in smaller space than I currently use for canned goods. I enjoyed canning, freezing, smoking, drying etc but now I can do it when and if I desire. The three pressure cookers I have will not go to waste and the jars work well for the freeze drier food.

    1. An additional comment on toilet paper is, that paper is not good in the septic tank – it forms a layer at the top which will eventually plug the system, if you have not already experience this.

      1. Homebody
        We have a rule in our household ‘if it does not rot, it does not go into the pot’.

      2. @Homebody, I use a squirt bottle but I use warm water when I heard of Japanese toilets using a stream of water. It makes me feel cleaner. Just haven’t figured how to hook up the hair dryer in the toilet bowl yet. :-)

        I don’t put TP in my Toilet either, haven’t for years. The septic guys say you need TP to make a slurry to be pumped out, but that is BS. They want it to fill faster so they can pump the septic more times to make more money.

    2. An additional comment on toilet paper is, that paper is not good in the septic tank – it forms a layer at the top which will eventually plug the system, if you have not already experience this.

  13. The reason we have jit…just in time shipping is because of the taxes levied against warehouse products regardless of rather they are food or horseshoes. Second, if even the hint of a food shortage hit the streets of America, not another truck of any size or capacity would deliver their freight. All of it would be hijacked. Count the food products in the supply chain in minutes, not hours, days or weeks. You people just don’t get it, and it seems to be an incurable state of mental paralysis. so be it. thanks

    1. I agree Taxdn2poverty. I believe store shelves will be emptied in hours, not days.

  14. This ones a doozy Ken! :)

    Well, I’m a bit out of the loop these days but this particular subject used to be my super stressful job..
    I worked for a large regional food wholesaler, at one of about 5-7(?) warehouses in the north east.
    I was responsible for all inbound produce to the facility, that had been purchased by the company’s buyers from farms and cooperatives in growing regions. We would find trucks, put the different pieces of orders together to form ‘full loads’ of compatible fruits and veggies and dispatch the drivers to pick it up and then track the progress of the truck until it turned up outside the building.
    This was BIG business.. It was a small commodities market every day of people yelling and phones ringing.. Each truck load could be worth $60-100K of perishable produce.
    And around the time I left the company, we were averaging over 120 loads a week. Obviously WAY way more than that around the holidays.
    That was JUST fruits and vegetables from CA, AZ, WA, FL, GA +\- a few others and the railroad cars from around too..
    Now, each ‘shift’ out in the warehouse (and it only closes 2shifts a week around Sunday) running 24 hours a day would send out hundreds of store orders.
    This was ‘perishable foods’ only.. Not dry grocery or frozen foods.. They were other warehouses completely.
    We would supply stores from the single store mom&pop to large chain groceries.
    Each store had a schedule for their days of delivering, small places maybe 2-4 times a month.. Big places sometimes up to 3 times a week..
    This is the picture of JIT..
    Any shortage in the warehouse for store order fulfillment was rounded up on the open market in Boston and there was a truck EVERY day that came in, with food & flowers from Boston.
    On any given day, in season fruit and veg like corn or clementines, we would have 4-8 FULL trucks unload in the warehouse. We’d have 2 loads of lettuce and salads every day.. 53 foot long trailers of bag salads..
    Then the guys would run around like insane ants rounding up the orders from the stores and load the trucks going out..
    From OJ to cheese to lobsters to kumquats, piled onto pallets and sent out.

    Oh. Did you have a ‘push sale’ ? Or a ‘bogo sale’ ? Well, okay, we’ll send another truck over..

    Perspective time..
    …This was about 12 years ago..
    We would ship out these little cases of cheese and yogurt in different flavors to stores.. They didn’t even have to keep a couple xtra little boxes on hand..
    They could replace it within 24-36 hours..

    You can’t expect me to think it’s better now..

    I’m always astounded by the sheer LACK of awareness people have about groceries.. I know I spent years getting an indepth education about it.. But don’t they THINK about WHERE it came from and WHEN?
    Sheesh!
    True Clementines, the REAL ones, ONLY come from Spain. They come over on a big a$$ boat.. They have to run the reefer at 30 degrees to freeze any water inside any parasite/bugs to kill them before it arrives in the US..
    The details of food and transportation are literally endless..
    I live in MA and 95% of the carrots in stores up here all probably came from Bakersfield CA within the past couple weeks..

    I don’t know if that’s all going to be helpful to the discussion :) lol
    But maybe! Lol

  15. To the best of my recollection, JIT really got going with the advent of technology being able to track stock far more effectively. In doing so, stores could better follow sales patterns etc. therefore they would only order what they ‘knew’ they needed.
    This reduced ‘loss’ in having to throw away excess spoiled perishable foods.
    This also allows stores to maintain smaller ‘back rooms’ so they don’t HAVE to keep precious $$ tied up in products that aren’t on the shelf &/or selling.
    I’m sure there’s other savings for them somewhere, like the taxes comment.
    But I’m really pretty sure it was the almighty WallyWorld whose inventory system was groundbreaking in tracking sales and products movement, allowing for JIT replacement from warehouses..

    Omg.. That transportation job was a blast for years, but it was the MOST stressful job I’ve ever had by a longshot! Lol ;)

  16. One comment about the JIT deliveries at stores–
    Do not count on anything being available if any kind of crisis happens.
    Here in Florida,just a warning of an approaching Hurricane will clear store shelves.

    If you don’t have it– you may not be able to get it.

  17. I am going to start sopping at Aldi, their stuff is cheaper. You have to supply your own bags and put a quarter in to rent the cart but you get it back when you return it. We all need to be frugal.

      1. I also would describe this as ‘renting’ but there must be a better word as you get 100% of our money back. All the carts are lined up outside and hooked together. When you insert a quarter in the handle it detaches the chain and you can take the cart inside to shop. When finished you push the cart back in line, reattach the chain and your coin pops back out. This keeps Aldis from having to have an employee round up the carts from the parking lot, customers don’t have damage from carts blowing into their cars, and there are abandoned carts taking up parking spots. Also most times the carts are dry as they are kept under an overhang. It is quick and easy.

        1. Sorry, meant there are NO abandoned carts taking up parking spots. Maybe it is just that only frugal people shop at Aldis, but that simple 25 cents cash seems to keep the parking lots 99% cleared of carts.

  18. I currently work for a trucking broker. We send out hundreds of trucks per day, and often to the same stores. Valdemart is a huge one. Last night we had five trucks of water deliver to just ONE distribution center, and we have basically the same order every night. Other brokers send in the same, or more.

    A few weeks ago there was flooding in the Louisiana area. Some of the docks were flooded and the drivers weren’t able to deliver their loads. You’d think the world had come to an end, with brokers running around like plucked chickens trying to figure out how to get these loads delivered and the stores screaming bloody murder because they ran out the day the storms started.

    And that’s just one product, one broker, five trucks. I’m seeing more and more “hot” loads, which are often JIT loads where a store has either already run out of a product or needs it RIGHT NOW to avoid running out.

    Even now disruptions in the supply chain cause major problems and stores are often out within a day if a product doesn’t arrive. That’s just one piece of the supply chain. A few weeks ago we had a facility which only had one lumper to unload the trucks. A computer outage at another facility made shipping impossible for nearly 12 hours, and this is a facility that normally sends out hundreds of trucks per day. The storms in CO “grounded” about ten of our trucks.

    I always try to identify the ONE place where a bottleneck could occur that would bring the whole thing down (I’m just weird that way), and it seems that the Achilles heel of the system is fuel–fuel for the trucks, fuel for the power plants, fuel for the customer, for the farmers, the distributors, for every step of the process. And it all comes tumbling down.

    1. You’re absolutely right Lauren.
      What you describe is exactly what it was like 12+ years ago. And ironically.. They system is chock full of BIG flaws and they don’t fix them.
      Fuel was such a problem when I was in dispatch we had to pay a ‘surcharge’ to regular companies per load just for gas.

      And fuel is a lynchpin.. The farms run on it, the refrigerator units run on gas.. The whole of the transportation matrix is ‘fuel dependent’..

      In a ‘crisis’.. Assuming you have the PEOPLE there TO work..
      If you don’t have the machines that are the tools necessary..
      ..Nobody is getting anything..

      I grew up around draft horses and oxen teams.. And today.. One or two generations later.. The grandkids of the old guys.. They haven’t a CLUE how to hook up a team.. Never mind train one.. That is if anyone still HAS the animals.. Sad :(

      When the gas runs out.. We are in for a world of hurt..

      1. I’m more concerned about supply and distribution choke-points than the gas running out. Yes, it will run out eventually, but our gas is mostly imported and goes by rail or truck to get where it needs to go. If the ships stop running or the pipelines are shut down (for whatever reason) we’re dead in the water.

        I was thinking about the “choke-point” of the continental divide yesterday. Break one rail, there would be no more rail shipping west of the Rockies. A lot more shipping goes by rail than people imagine.

        Most of the flaws in the system are fixable. But people are so entrenched, there’s no possibility of anything changing. It’s necessary to avoid identifying the root problem in order to preserve status quo. Pass off responsibility to someone else, preferably someone who can’t fight back.

        Sounds like politics.

  19. Expect the Mormons to be headed for groceries also. Last time I visited their storehouse, the bishop told me for years the leadership has preached to store food. Years ago the policy was 7 years of stored food. No one did it. Then leadership reduced the storage to 3 years. Almost no one complied. Then the Mormon leadership reduced the policy to 1 year supply. A few did store 1 year. The bishop then stated most of his flock do not even have 3 months supply. When leaving I noted very little stores on their shelves to sell and the bishop had stated for the past 5 weeks the warehouse had only shipped partial orders due to a lack of food. Maybe it’s different now but I think even the Mormons are going to begging.

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