When Grocery Stores Go Empty – A Back Door Shopping Strategy

Ryan Dotson
By Ryan Dotson September 4, 2017 10:12

When Grocery Stores Go Empty – A Back Door Shopping Strategy

As a prepper or survivalist, we all typically pride ourselves on being prepared for SHTF situations.  At any given time we usually have a good amount of non-perishable foods stored, as well as options for hunting, fishing, trapping, and gardening.  However, not everybody is quite this prepared for a worst case scenario.  Despite our best efforts, many of us will be forced to join the masses and head to the grocery store to stock up for the days or weeks to come.  If that happens, this is your guide to surviving the ordeal and coming out with a good amount of needed nutrition.

How to Avoid the Grocery Store

Before we delve into the chaos of the grocery store, I must emphasize how much more effective it can be to avoid the store completely.  If you have the means by which to stock up on dry and canned goods in advance, please do it.  In addition, my family always has woods for hunting, a pond for fishing, a garden for vegetables, fruit trees for peaches and apples, and even a trap line.  We have grape vines, wild edibles, mulberry trees, and blackberry bushes.  We can vegetables and meat, make jerky, keep hard tack, make pemmican, and keep homemade granola on hand.  If we were to lose the power grid, we would still have food for months if not years.  This is the ideal setup to avoid the grocery store when SHTF.

What to Expect at the Store

Have you ever been shopping on Black Friday?  Imagine that, but add in the variable that everybody is fighting for their lives.  Yes, it will be that insane.  Initially people will assume that power will be restored within a few days, so perishable versus non-perishable will not be a huge factor.  Milk, eggs, bread, butter, meat, produce, and premade meals will go first.  These aisles will either be picked over or will be a war zone, so you are best to avoid them completely. Batteries, alcohol, cigarettes, and toilet paper will also go fast.  After 72 hours, people will start to realize that this problem could be long term.  At this point there will be a larger focus on canned goods and dried goods.  In order to come home with anything of value, you need to have a strategy going into the store.

Related: How To Get The Best Value For Your Items After SHTF

Phase 1

When you make your first pass through the store, you should be trying to target the high value items that other people may be overlooking.  We are assuming that you are shopping on day one of the panic, so you will have some opportunity.   Your first sweep should be focused on non-perishable items.  This includes rice, pasta, beans, powdered milk, juice, powdered eggs, jerky, boxed meals, canned goods, pickled items, dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, cereal, crackers, or anything else which does not have to be refrigerated or frozen.  Also look for any toiletry items that may be overlooked.  Everybody will go for toilet paper, but items like deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, razors, and shaving cream can make life much easier for you and your family.  Many people will be thinking short term like they might think during a major snow storm.   They cannot comprehend that the disaster could last weeks or even months.  Take advantage of their naivety.

Phase 2

After collecting as many of the neglected high value items as you can, you can move on to the items that almost everybody forgets.  At this point you will be in aisles that are largely devoid of people. Hit the baking aisle for flour, oats, sugar, oil, and spices.  You can make all kinds of different foods with these ingredients.  Go after disposable items such as cups, paper plates, silverware, and paper towels.  With limited water for cleaning dishes, these items can really help.  Pick up cleaning supplies for the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry.  Get medical supplies such as aspirin, bandages, Benadryl, antacid, prescriptions, rubbing alcohol, iodine, chap stick, and petroleum jelly.  Raid the vitamin aisle for multivitamins, protein shakes, energy bars, and supplements. Pick up some chocolate bars for an occasional treat and for bartering with other people.

It may sound weird, but get some wet and dry dog food as a last resort for nutrition.  It is certainly better than nothing if your other food runs out, and you can use it as bait for trapping as well.  There is probably a random aisle that may have charcoal, flashlights, candles, cordage, superglue, and air freshener. Even books or magazines are a good idea to keep everybody sane during your disaster.  All of these are items that are normally left on the shelf when people are panicking about survival.  Go after these items before you leave.  You do not want to make more than one trip to this mad house.

Related: 24 Prepping Items I Don’t Spend Money On

General Caution

Before you enter the store, be realistic about what you are going to face.  There will be fights over a gallon of milk.  People will be trampled.  Someone may even open fire to clear out an aisle.  This is a very dangerous scenario.  As you move through the store, be the grey man.  Blend in and do not bring attention to yourself.  Move quickly, but do not run.  If there is conflict in one area of the store, move to another.  Avoid paying with cash if possible so nobody is tempted to try and rob you.  Bring a way to defend yourself, but do not pull it out unless you have no other choice.  Working through this store will be a bit like escaping from a riot.  With some caution and a little luck, you will get the items you need and get out fine.

While none of us want to think about being forced into this scenario, inevitably it will happen to some people.  The key is organization and preparation.  Do not run into the store and go nuts like everybody else.  Be methodical about the items you target.  If you go after the items that others forget, you will get more of what you need will very little chance of conflict.  Follow this strategy, and your pantry will be stocked to last through the end of your SHTF scenario.

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Ryan Dotson
By Ryan Dotson September 4, 2017 10:12
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  1. Amazmerizing September 4, 16:37

    Good points here. I especially liked the part where you said how most would see it as though it were like the times surrounding a major storm. So true. And I see it all the time online in forums and groups. Thats exactly the mindset. BTW I laughed at air freshener. Namaste. 😉

    Reply to this comment
  2. AK Johnny 1 September 4, 16:51

    The scenario outlayed above, BELIEVE ME, is very realistic and as close to on-point as it gets.
    I’ve prepped for 7 hurricanes in Florida, 4 were direct hits.
    That said, After Hurricane Wilma in October, 2005, ALL power in West Palm Beach was gone. 3 days post-storm, a Publix grocery store down the street from us hired a tractor-trailer sized generator to re-open the store. Mind you, it was the ONLY store for literally miles around that had opened, and THANK GOD law enforcement was there, a LOT of em.
    Anyway, OUR power came back on in 3 days as we were on the same grid as Wellington Hospital, which receives priority for re-establishing power, and I went to the Publix to pick up some items. I shopped through a MOB of edgy folks, got what I needed, which included FROZEN items, and went to the checkout line. My turn came up, and as i’m placing my items on the conveyor, INCLUDING THE FROZEN ITEMS, the lady behind me goes nuts! “He has power!” She yells….. She points at my frozen items, and screams it loudly AGAIN…. “HE’s got power!” and I turn around to size her up. I reply kind of testily, “SO?”
    “It’s not fair!” She loudly wails, and begins to rant to everyone around her, about what a turd I am because I have air conditioning, a working refrigerator, blah blah, while the “REST” of us are suffering! What right do I HAVE to power that no one else has? “THIS MAN thinks he’s BETTER than you, he thinks we’re chumps, yada yada…
    Now, the frustrated, scared folks around her are beginning to RESPOND to the rant, chime in, and begin eyeing me like a was a child rapist or something! The crowd started getting ugly, and right on the VERGE of them moving in on me, 2 sheriff’s deputies showed up, told the lady AND the recently-hostile crowd, to knock it off or they would be THROWN out. They reiterated it 3 times because the ruckus got so loud….
    I payed for my stuff quickly, shot out into the parking lot, threw my stuff in the van and got out of there in a real hurry. All this because I put FROZEN items on the conveyor where desperate people could SEE it…
    THIS people… THIS is how quickly AND HOW EASILY a riot or significant fight can break out when emergency stress is thrust on people. Over frozen food…
    Now, every time there is even a THREAT of a hurricane making landfall within a 200 mile radius of us, I go to the store, middle of the night if I have to, (Walmart) and get everything we’d conceivably need BEFORE the storm causes a panic.
    The biggest danger I feel, is NOT the natural disaster inflicted upon you…. It’s the CRAZY DESPERATE, IRRATIONAL PEOPLE both pre, AND post-storm that pose the biggest threat.
    Heed this advice, and stay AHEAD of the prep curve….

    Reply to this comment
    • JoEllen September 4, 17:24

      Another thing to consider is that if your grocery store has no power their doors will be locked because their computerized registers require power in order to sell their merchandise…

      Reply to this comment
      • AK Johnny 1 September 4, 23:55

        Right! It’s great that Publix had the temerity to bring in a truck-sized generator! I wish MORE stores did this all along America’s coastline. The one disadvantage of these? The companies that own these monster generators charge upwards of $75,000 A WEEK to rent these! And this was back in 2005….Which makes them price-prohibitive AND condition-prohibitive. Meaning, if you invest the money for a week rental on these, if the power comes back on after 4 days, you STILL owe the balance! Nice huh? lol

        Reply to this comment
    • Regina67 September 7, 19:20

      Wow – that was awesome information, Johnny – thank you for sharing that story with us! We went through the four big ones in 2004 with Hurricane Charlie and Jeanne being our worst. Your story about the frozen items is something I would never have expected, but now I know to be aware. Thank you!

      Reply to this comment
    • SmalltownRoger September 9, 21:04

      Next time, gun with you. a big one.

      I myself would have said, “no, I have a smoker… hickory chips. I’m thawing this, cutting it into strips, smoking it so it won’t go putrid. THAT makes me LUCKY. “

      Reply to this comment
    • vocalpatriot September 24, 16:21

      AK Johnny 1, Admittedly, I don’t know, but your Publix story reeks of bullshit.
      I had a very similar experience in the winter of ’05 in Ma.
      Lots of snow knocked out power to a large portion of southeastern Ma., including the part of Cape Cod that I lived in. Several days with no power did NOT freak people out. We drove around to the homes of elderly and young families with small children to make sure they all had what they needed, and met LOTS of other folks doing exactly the same thing.
      So, if you want to spin your tale, then at least either keep it believable or begin with “once upon a time..”

      Reply to this comment
      • Lin October 2, 02:29

        New Englanders are totally different! This Ice Storm of ’08 was a similar scenario: my in-laws were a month without power! No problems, no craziness, those who had something to offer ( hot showers, use of washers/driers, extra generators), offered it with a happy heart. I love NE!

        Reply to this comment
      • Farmer September 7, 00:08

        vocalpatriot….it’s nice that you had a heartwarming experience with a bunch of massholes; however, this forum is for constructive information. Not slamming folks. Have a nice day!

        Reply to this comment
    • south florida wrangler November 25, 15:25

      I worked at the Royal Palm Publix during All 3 Hurricanes in 04/05 and I am sorry that you experienced that episode at that store. This goes to show how easily one person who comes unglued and can cause a dangerous situation. even in an affluent part of town. I was out west in the back of the Acreage and had no power for 7days the 1st, 4 on the 2nd and 3 on the 3rd storm. Having a generator helped me keep water, lights , and refrigeration. we used our grills and camp stoves for cooking. Fuel was our biggest concern. While I worked open to close at the store (short hours open because of a dawn to dark curfew) We fortunately did not experience a situation as you did. Publix can generally have it’s store up to full operations with in 2 to 5 days depending on the severity of the storm. We open the stores on a limited capacity as soon as it is safe for travel and the facility is safe to operate, usually 24 hrs. after the storm has past. This why people are instructed to stock up beginning of Hurricane season and have a minimum of 3 days of non perishable food and water for each person. Post Wilma most power was up with in 5 days, no reason for your episode to have occurred. This a hiccup compared to what could happen if a Major Event were to occur. Palm Beach highly dense in its population and can quickly become dangerous if SHTF. Only 3 routes north to bugout if you have to. This not the reason we moved to North Central Florida, but it makes glad that we did.

      Reply to this comment
    • Pepper December 3, 03:05

      You’re right about being the Grey Man. Four days before our last hurricane, I made a trip to the Walmart for some kitty litter (we don’t have a cat) and extra trash bags for our luggaloo, and was the only person not panicky because I had plenty of water and food stuff ready. When I started getting strange looks from the sheeple, I realized I was the only one there without water in my buggy. I quickly put a 6pk of water in with my kitty litter to blend in.

      Reply to this comment
    • Hoosier Homesteader February 9, 03:22

      Lets hope you never experience anything like this again. However, a good reply to the crazy lady ranting about your frozen foods would’ve been, and say it with a smile, “That’s why God made generators.”

      Reply to this comment
    • Shipper May 1, 15:43

      Very good points! I was born/raised in WPB, btw. I now live in Tornado Alley. I also will shop in the middle of the night before a major storm and Tornado threat. Makes a huge difference to avoid crowds!

      Reply to this comment
    • Stick August 7, 21:10

      In 2003, Nova Scotia was hit by Hurricane Juan. We get hurricane warnings a lot, coming up the east coast but rarely are they much of an issue. In this case it was. Most of the province lost power. I lost mine for 7 days. We did not lose any food, but we were lucky because we had a couple tanks for the bbq. Juan hit in September so we did not have to deal with winter. But as far as grocery stores go, there were no riots, at least not here in Truro. I firm belief is that if it went on much longer, people would start to panic. As it was, people helped each other. In the event of an EMP, I do not plan to ask for help, nor do I intend to be out there offering it. Juan, which was followed in the winter by what was referred to as White Juan…. 4 feet of snow in one 24 hour period, taught us to prepare, and we are.

      Reply to this comment
    • K September 6, 02:41

      “a person is smart, people are dumb panicky animals and you know it” Men In Black

      Reply to this comment
    • CountryGranny January 20, 09:54

      Was kind of your own fault for saying, “So?” to her. A wiser answer would’ve been, “these are frozen, and we need them to keep the other food cold inside our plastic cooler. We’ll eat them after they thaw just like YOU would”.

      There’s never a reason to get people wound up at you. Especially when times are stressful.

      Reply to this comment
  3. left coast chuck September 4, 17:00

    I was in the grocery store Friday and saw chicken jerky for dogs that looked pretty attractive. I don’t know the difference between jerky for dogs (4-legged) and jerky for people. I didn’t look at the ingredients but I suppose jerky for dogs has “meat by-products” in it, but then I read that hamburger has been augmented with stuff they sweep up of the slaughterhouse floor,.

    I don’t know if it was an urban legend or not, but I do remember reading that all pet foods are inspected by the USDA whereas human products such as Dinty Moore beef stew are not. Don’t remember the source of that and can’t make any statement either confirming or denying.

    Reply to this comment
    • JoEllen September 4, 17:20

      The USDA meat inspectors have to work so rapidly that about all they can do is eyeball the meat as it goes by them on a conveyor. It insures nothing! Pet jerky often times has stuff in it that will sicken your pet much less you if you try to eat it. I remember awhile back when it was coming from China and contained plastics. Moral of the story for me is to avoid that and buy more beans and grains!

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck September 4, 19:30

        Good points. I had forgotten about the Chinese connection and pet food. I try very hard to avoid anything that goes in or on my body made by our close allies and good friends, the Chinese.

        I would add to my post had I actually gotten further than just eyeballing the stuff I would have checked to see what “other products” were listed and if they were just “other products” I would have passed. I’m not hungry enough yet to be scarfing down mystery food.

        Speaking of items manufactured by our good friends and close allies, some items that are manufactured in “other places” the label will say “Manufactured in various locations under the supervision of XYZ Company headquartered in City and State, USA. ”

        That is a tip-off that the stuff is manufactured off shore. If it is a product that some medical professional has recommended, I will call the 800 number listed to get information on just where “various locations” are. Many times they include locations in our closest ally, China. It is one way major corporations continue to watch out for our well-being. They don’t want us worrying needlessly about products manufactured in China, so they use euphemisms so that we don’t worry needlessly — oh, and, of course, buy their products thinking they were manufactured here in the U.S.

        Reply to this comment
    • West Coast September 4, 19:52

      The thought about pet food is a good one in some cases. There is a dog biscuit company in Washington state that a friend worked at. She even munched on the biscuits herself because she knew what quality ingredients went into them.
      The negative side is that I just read a pet food cookbook that pointed out that some of the largest pet food companies use all sorts of animals for creating their “food”. That includes roadkill, dead animals past freshness and…euthanized pets that sometimes even had their flea collars left on. So gross…

      Reply to this comment
    • Kimmy September 5, 03:22

      Most dogs food have animal by products which include dead dogs….and other animals. Don’t EVER eat dig food as most pay off the FAD anyhow.

      Reply to this comment
    • Lee September 5, 12:59

      alot of the difference is SANITATION during manufacture. the same with animal meds. they can be used by humans but know what you are doing. EMERGENCY ONLY.

      Reply to this comment
      • Hedgehog September 6, 02:52

        Funny that you mention that about animal meds. All my “animal meds” are identical to my human meds and USP. Are you spinning a tale?

        Reply to this comment
        • J-WY October 27, 16:12

          I have two brothers, both veterinarians. It has been a couple of decades since we discussed it, but one SIL used a few pet meds for her family. She was an honor grad in med school as well, so no dim-wit. Anyway, she said that (at that time, anyway), animal meds were of equal or better quality than human meds. I don’t think she vaccinated herself or kids, but things like ointments for rash, burns, etc. She even claimed that Alpo wasn’t half bad. LOL She got curious and tried a little nibble one day, just to see. It surprised me because she wasn’t normally the adventurous type.

          Reply to this comment
    • d September 13, 04:37

      Just a note about dog jerky. Our dog recently became pretty sick and found out it was salmonella from the dog jerky. The vet said to never buy that stuff. She sees it all the time. Just wanted to share that in case you wanted to know.

      Reply to this comment
      • Ioellen September 13, 05:06

        The more I read about dog food, the more inclined to start setting a place at the table for Maggie.

        Reply to this comment
        • Lisa August 25, 10:15

          It’s that exact reason that I make my own dog food for my dogs. . lol. . Both my shepherds got so sick one time, and we found it was from their dry dog food. I started cooking their food from then on, . . Much healthier for them, for sure.

          Reply to this comment
          • greytiels August 25, 11:45

            do you have any recipes for making food for your fur kids?Thank you!

            Reply to this comment
            • Lisa October 28, 12:20

              Yes I do 🙂
              I use chicken thigh’s, with skins and bones in. (they need the fats that go with that) Rice, black and red beans (protein) fresh grated carrot, eggs, AND shells, (calcium), Olive oil, (omega 3, and 6) chicken broth, (home made bone) fresh spinich, (iron) . . Sometimes I would also add barley, and lentils. That is the basic recipe.

              I had 2 shephards, so they ate a lot. lol. . I would make a HUGE batch that would last a week, and would put it in 2 C. containers that I bought at the dollar store. I would leave out 2-3 days worth at a time, and the rest went into the freezer. When I got down to the last day, would bring 2 more days down, and in the fridge for the next 3 days.

              And daily, I would either add half an apple cut up, and half a banana cut up to the dish, and also a hand full of blue berries if I had them, for the extra antioxidants.

              Sometimes the boys got tired of the chicken, so I’d change it to ground beef for a bit. . but the rest of it was always the same. It was balanced for them.

              We still have one of those dogs, and he’s 12. I never gave them any of those milk bones. Believe it or not, his favorite treat is a whole carrot, or potato! lol .

              Hope that helps! Good luck! Making this makes your whole house smell great. . I was making it one day, and my daughter came in, took a spoon, and tasted it. (before the powdered egg shells were added) She said it was really good, grabbed a bowl of it and ate it herself! lol

              Reply to this comment
            • Lisa October 28, 12:41

              I do, actually 🙂 All ingredients are Organic

              Chicken thighs, with skin and bone in, (needed for the extra fats) cooked in organic home made chicken bone broth, rice, green beans(canned) black and red beans, (extra protein) shredded carrots, white sweet potatoes (also shredded,) fresh spinich, hard boiled eggs, (save the shells) powdered egg shells, (calcium) Olive oil, (omega 3’s and 6’s) sometimes barley, and lentils,

              I sometimes change up the veggie content, depending on what I have. Sometimes I use canned pea’s, or green beans, and yes, sometimes I will add one can of corn, one pea, or green bean. just depends on what I have at the time.

              After that’s all mixed together, I put it in 2-C. containers, (I had large Shepherds) that I bought at the dollar store, and stored them in the fridge. I had 3 days worth in the fridge, and the rest in the freezer. As I used a day, I brought a day down again, and put it in behind the current ones.

              I would also add in some fresh blueberries if I had them, and half an apple and banana chopped up as well.

              Hope that helps 🙂

              Reply to this comment
      • Hedgehog September 7, 01:30

        It might be helpful if you mentioned the manufacturer! I’m sure not all dog treats are poison.

        Reply to this comment
        • Lisa October 28, 12:47

          @ Graywolf12-

          It was actually, Pedigree dog food, which surprised me, since I actually raised my dogs on it. I used to breed and raise Shelties, and that’s what I used for them. I have since then, stopped using it all together.

          I actually used to eat the small milk bones when I was a kid! lol. I had to see what our dog thought was so great about them. They weren’t half bad, nice and crunchy. lol

          Reply to this comment
    • Graywolf12 November 24, 17:04

      My brother was a state food inspector for about 20 years in the state of Pa. One of the companies he inspected was a pet food canary. He said he would rather eat their canned dog food than some canned for human consumption. As a preteen my dog and I would go into the mts. with a gun, knife and pockets full of dog biscuits. Were both ate them and spent one or more nights in the woods. that was about 70 years ago, so I guess they did not hurt me. The dog died at 18.

      Reply to this comment
      • Stick August 7, 21:16

        I had a conversation recently with my veterinarian. She said, “I bet your mother had a dog that lived for 20 years and never saw a doctor.” Well my mom was born in 1933 and her dog as a kid was a big mutt named Fang. And Fang died at 19 and never went to a vet. The vet said, “Its a funny thing. Our parents and grandparents all had really old healthy dog. But real dog food didn’t hit store shelves until the 1950s…. and coincidentally, before that time, veterinarians almost exclusively treated large farm animals…. so starting in the 1950s we see massed produced dog food and we start seeing veterinarians who open practices to treat dogs. Is there a correlation? I don’t know. Bu your other’s dog lived to be 19 by eating the same food she ate.”

        Reply to this comment
        • Counterpoint September 7, 01:34

          It was in the 1900s that commercial pet food really gained popularity. In 1907, F.H. Bennett formed a company in New York City that began making Milk Bone™ dog biscuits. Ken-L-Ration® introduced canned horse meat for dogs after World War I, and Gaines Food® introduced canned cat food and dry meat-meal dog food in the 1930s. During World War II, when metal was rationed (and pet food was classified as “non-essential”), canned pet food wasn’t available and the production shifted to dry foods.

          Reply to this comment
    • TopDawg56 May 5, 00:15

      I had a co-worker who used to work at a dog manufacturing plant. He told me that dog/cat food are made to standards so people can eat it. Back during the depression, many people ate pet food because it was all they could afford.

      Reply to this comment
      • JoEllen May 5, 00:27

        Your information about manufacturing standards is no longer valid. They put road kill, and euthanized animals including dogs into canned dogfood. Now you no longer have only to worry about the quality of the food but also the diseases and drugs used to put down animals in your dog’s dinner as well.

        Reply to this comment
  4. JoEllen September 4, 17:14

    Very thoughtful and insightful article! Saving your article. for planning ahead. Seems to me it is best to prep in advance so you are not held hostage by a need to shop when SHTF. That’s my plan! I think some of your tips are useful for regular shopping trips as well. Thanks.

    Reply to this comment
  5. All ready prepared!! September 4, 17:29

    I’ve been planing for years the store is not where a person should be when anything hits.Period!!

    Reply to this comment
    • JoEllen September 4, 18:02

      It is really peaceful not to feel compelled to go to the grocery store for an impending weather crisis to “stock up” isn’t it!

      Reply to this comment
  6. Wannabe September 4, 18:11

    Friends, us in Texas are living this right now. This disaster has confirmed and strengthened the belief in prepping a hundred fold. Prepare before it happens. So many without basic survival needs as we discuss with these articles. Making trips daily since last Monday to heavily flooded areas where people have NOTHING. I know floods will destroy the stockpiled items we work on but having something as little as a bug out bag and a bug out location is weeks ahead for survival which is more than what about ninety percent of all victims even think about. Keep prepping my friends, don’t slack off and don’t give in to criticism. And to our friends in Florida, watch Irma, it might come your way. East coast, watch Irma it might be coming your way. Southern coast watch Irma it might be coming our way. If you have need of food and water go now and get them because when it looks like it will be coming your way it is almost too late because EVERYBODY will be hitting the stores and the above article addresses those problems. God bless, stay safe, pray for America and keep prepping.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Left coast chuck September 4, 19:19

    Just because a bucket is under water doesn’t necessarily mean that the contents are spoiled. If the seal is adequate, the contents should be safe. I would wipe down the outside of the bucket around the lid before I opened it and use bleach if I had it to sanitize the outside before opening. Even if you have just dumped rice into a 5-gal. bucket and closed the lid, it should still be good to eat if, when you open the lid the rice is dry and the flood waters have not gotten inside.

    I intend to boil my stored water anyway as part of my paranoia about tainted water. So if you have drums of water stored, it too should be safe but because you can’t visually tell if bad water has gotten into good, AND because your water purity assurance lab is probably under water too, I would recommend boiling any drinking water after it has been submerged by flood waters.

    How are you going to get dry wood or charcoal for the fires necessary to boil the water you might ask. Easy, Little Cricket. Store charcoal in screw-on lid 5 gal. buckets like you do the rice you are going to boil.

    I buy milk in 1-gal. plastic containers. They aren’t any good for storing liquids once the milk is consumed. BUT, they are perfectly good for storing pieces of dried wood for use in my rocket stove to boil the water to cook the rice etc. etc. The lids screw down tight and keep the wood inside dry so that it will burn readily. The small rocket stove puts out just about maximum from the wood and only needs a small amount of wood to put out that heat. Any time I trim a tree or a bush on my property that wood gets dried, cut up and stored in a gallon milk container. Best of all, they can be stored outside, in just about any kind of container or just covered with a plastic tarp if you are concerned about opsec or the neighbors complaining about all the milk bottles in your yard.

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  8. West Coast September 4, 20:01

    Dear Wannabe, You shared great words of advice. Texas and Louisiana have such quality people with integrity to go out and help your neighbors. The videos those of us who live farther north have seen of your courage has brought tears to our eyes.
    What Texas has given to the rest of the nation is a clear picture of how to act during a terrible time and what works and doesn’t work during a deluge of water.

    Reply to this comment
  9. West Coast September 4, 20:06

    Left Coast, I have started to keep my containers that held liquid laundry detergent to store water for non-food purposes, such as washing. The containers have large caps that are easy to twist off and tolerate being bumped around quite a bit. They also have built-in pour spouts.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck September 4, 20:52

      Good idea. Plus they already have residual soap in them that will aid in washing. I used to use 1 gal. Clorox btls. but they are not 1-gal any more and take up the same space.
      1-gal. white vinegar btls. are okay for storing salt.

      What is happening in Texas and Louisiana with folks helping out is the way it should be done. Thank you all for your public-spirited assistance in a time of need.

      Reply to this comment
      • Just D September 18, 02:01

        I’m storing water in gallon vinegar bottles. Not for drinking, of course. It’s hard to get all the detergent out of the containers, so now I just add water for emergency cleaning. For both types of bottles I apply heavy duty tape around the tops.

        As for shopping, I’m thinking many people can’t run out and buy out the store. It’s much more cost efficient to buy items on sale with coupons. I never pay for toothpaste, and sometimes other such personal items. CVS has “freebies” at least twice a month. Buy the Sunday paper for the coupons and match them up with CVS deals. Free or practically free all the time. Rotate these items just like food

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  10. Greyhawke September 5, 01:24

    Great message to get out.

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  11. Ellen September 5, 06:11

    To keep most of my storage foods dry I use a food saver.
    Things such as powdered milk are in glass containers with the lid on tight. The beans, rice, millet, lentils, oats,
    jello, candy, nuts, dried fruits, vegetables and meat, cheese, butter etc. are in either glass, shrunk wrapped or metal cans. I know the metal cans will rust when exposed to moisture.

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    • Tarheel October 28, 00:25

      Ellen, my wife and I vacuum seal quite a lot of different dry goods. When it comes to powdered eggs or milk we put it in a ziplock bag first, fold it over without sealing, and insert it into the vac bag. This prevents the powder from being drawn into the machine.

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  12. Illini Warrior September 5, 15:48

    A woman was just attacked over back to school supplies – her mother had to rescue her by drawing her concealed weapon … 10X for crazy SHTF buying and near looting/rioting conditions

    Don’t shop solo – 3 man team – shopper/bodyguard/vehicle and parking lot backup guard ….

    One cart buys at a time – escort it safely to the vehicle for safe keeping – FULL communication with buying team at all times – watch for riot mob arrival …

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck September 5, 16:52

      I had a similar thought when reading this article. An armed team is safer than an individual, even if that individual is armed. A team can provide multi-directional defense whereas an individual is limited in the area he can cover. I like the idea of a non-lethal defense against unarmed hostile shoppers, only shocking devices are appropriate unless one wants to clear out a large area, and be forced to leave themselves. I know from first hand experience, even the smallest amount of pepper spray will cause an enclosed area to become uninhabitable. So, if you are being pursued by a crowd as you are leaving, pepper spray would certainly be an appropriate response. If you plan to continue “shopping” a taser or stun gun would be a more appropriate response or a simple club applied to a knee or shoulder.

      Reply to this comment
      • JoEllen September 5, 18:15

        Sounds reasonable. You suggest pepper spray–where can one buy this?

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck September 6, 03:10

          On line one can buy pepper spray from Midwayusa.com, Cabelas.com, Basspro.com, Natchesshootingsports.com, Brownells.com and many other shooting sports on line marketers. Locally, you can buy it at most gun stores and a lot of sporting goods stores. There are some states where it is illegal to own. I’m sorry, I don’t have a list of those ComBloc states. If there is a gun store or a small sporting goods store, check with them to see if you can own it in your state.

          I personally like the Kimber pepper spray device. It is only two shots because unlike an aerosol dispenser, it dispenses under pressure. I suspect they use a small CO2 canister such as one uses in a CO2 gun or a seltzer water dispenser. It advises not to use it if your assailant is closer than ten feet (or some such distance) Well, if I feel I need to use pepper spray to protect myself, I probably am not going to have time to whip out my tape measure and desist if you are 9.5 feet from me. Oops, you were 8 feet away. Dang! Sorry about that.

          Kimber has two models. One is shaped like a small red pistol with a grip sufficient for two fingers. The other is black with a pocket clip and is oblong in shape. I prefer the black model but no one seems to be carrying it these days. Some people like that it looks like a gun; some prefer one that does not looks so much like a gun. I am in the latter group. Just personal preference.

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  13. Mic Roland September 5, 20:21

    It’s interesting that this article describes almost exactly what I had the characters in my books did. They decided to make a final grocery run on a store they knew would be mobbed by hordes of the ill-prepared trying suddenly prepare for a grid-down lifestyle.
    — They did up lists of what to get, aimed at augmenting their existing stores.
    –They had alternate items in case the primary ones were sold out.
    — They focused on staples rather than “easy” foods which would be sought first by the panicking unprepared.
    — They split up to get to targeted items more quickly.
    — They brought cash, expecting that credit/debit would not work.

    In the book (book 2), there was a dollar limit set by the store. That may or may not happen. The store could impose quantity limits (2 cases of water per person), or prices could be jacked up to where cash-available becomes the limitation.

    It’s sound advice to have targeted lists and alternates to avoid panic-grabbing.

    — Mic

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  14. Rick Fortune September 5, 21:32

    I try to be polite, and I’d probably share with friends and family in a SHTF situation. But the article is just goofy. You don’t need paper goods, wash the dishes. You don’t need deodorant, just wash up! You don’t need candles, they are just a fire hazard. The intent was good, but REAL preparedness requires much more thought. I’d happily critique anyone’s preps, and I don’t consider myself an expert, but I do know better than most people.

    Reply to this comment
    • JoEllen September 5, 21:57

      Perhaps you don’t need paper goods but its a good trade off to conserve your supply of stored water–however much you have! I personally don’t like candles so I have camp lanterns and kerosene lamps instead. I think all types of lighting has limitations but I wouldn’t rule out any of them. I think your dish washing only works if you have an ongoing supply of water. Deodorant is a necessity IMO.

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    • Wannabe September 7, 13:36

      Hey rick, south Texas does not have running water in many areas, they can’t wash up. We have delivered countless pallets of wipes, toilet paper, paper plates, plastic ware, disposable cups, napkins and anything else to keep as sanitary as possible because they CANT take a shower. All rivers and ponds are contaminated. And yes we have delivered deodorant as well. So I hate to burst your bubble but you don’t know more about prepping than most. Just go look those people in the eye and say you don’t need paper plates just wash the dishes. Hell most of them don’t even have a home to wash dishes in or a dish for that matter it got destroyed in the flood. Well anyway before I say something I regret you better think befor you say something as stupid as I just read in your comment.

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    • Wannabe September 8, 01:52

      No response rick fortune? I’m waiting.

      Reply to this comment
    • Graywolf12 November 24, 17:21

      You sound like a city slicker. Where do you expect to get all that water? We would stand a better chance of washing dishes in sand. Candles give off heat as well as light. We also have large oil lamps for reading, cooking, ETC, and small ones for the bathrooms. Tea candles and flower pots make a good room heater.

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  15. Hue September 5, 22:10

    I agree. I do long-term storage of all the different grains beans Rice’s Etc. the one item that is truly in disposable is canned vegetables such as peas carrots etc which I also rotate. I know many will ask why because they are not very high in calories but one thing each of those cans contains that nobody really thinks of is 1/2 to 1 cup of water per can. That is also potable water and can be drank right from the can.

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  16. vocalpatriot September 6, 01:34

    “..open fire to clear an aisle..” ???
    Really? When it gets that bad it will be called looting.
    If things even get close to this scenario, it will already be too late to “shop”..Run away, then lock and load. And rotate a guard duty at home.

    Reply to this comment
    • JoEllen September 6, 01:48

      I’m retired and I don’t remember ever having my current level of concern about where society is heading. There is so much unrest and hatred. To me if feels like we are careening down the path of no return. These scenarios of rudeness in the grocery store are an everyday occurrence on a smaller scale and I can see how it could easily escalate to tragic consequences. Its stressful to contemplate people behaving like animals in a crisis.

      Reply to this comment
      • Left coast chuck September 6, 03:27

        I agree, JoEllen. Who in the world pulls a gun over a notebook for school? What kind of people even get in an argument over something like a school notebook? What are we talking about? A 49¢ item? A $3.99 item?

        If I had a lake less than a block from my house as I did when I was very young, or if I had a stream close to my property, I would not consider paper plates and cups. I might not even worry about deodorant. In SoCal, fresh water is a scarce commodity and water is going to be at a real premium. I intend to use ocean water for a lot of purposes, but I still have to haul it at least five miles one way if I can use the most direct route to it. The closest reliable fresh water is twenty miles away one way. Paper products are going to be a life saver, especially if there is wide-spread civil unrest. I

        f there is civil unrest, you don’t want your house lit up like some Christmas decoration competition entry. You will want just enough light to navigate by. You will want to use red lenses on your lighting equipment. Above all, you will want to preserve your night vision. Turn off your bright illumination that has drawn marauders like moths to a porch light and you will be unable to see for several minutes. The brighter the illumination, the longer it will be for your night vision to return. For every flashlight with a white light I also have a flashlight with Rubylith tape on the lens to provide red light. You can buy headlights for sportsmen that have a red lens. You should have one of those for everyone in your group plus a backup for ones that get destroyed or lost. In an EOTW scenario red light will be your best friend at night.

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  17. I wil survive September 11, 06:17

    For cheap lighting buy some those solar powered lights like the one’s you put out along side sidewalks and driveways. Put them out during the day and bring them in at night and get 3 or 4 hours of cheap, safe indoor lighting. I haven’t tried it but I bet those AA battery’s that are in them could be used in anything that takes AA battery’s.

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  18. JoEllen September 11, 16:14

    I keep them in window sills for power outages to help me orient to the dark surroundings. They don’t give a lot of light. (I even tried making a solar light bouquet in a wide vase I have and it still isn’t a lot of light but it can keep you from falling over furniture, etc.

    Reply to this comment
  19. TheSouthernNationalist October 2, 21:14

    After reading this article I’ve decided to reevaluate my preps and go get some more stuff too.

    Reply to this comment
  20. nene22 October 27, 22:30

    A couple decks of cards can keep you and your family entertained for hours.

    Reply to this comment
  21. suzie queue November 30, 22:46

    Why would any prepper go to the store during crisis? Isn’t that what we all prepare for in advance? Stay home and enjoy the full pantry? (you should have one by now!). During a crisis, martial law could be in force and you couldn’t be allowed on the streets anyway. I am for sheltering in place. Also, you should get some 5-gal buckets and caching. Cache a variety of things in each bucket in case any one bucket gets trashed, flooded, or discovered. Also get a non-electric water filter or distiller. My water filter has two ceramic filters in it – Aqua Rain (Amazon.com). I also store water in empty wine bottles. Keep in dark. You can keep eggs up to a year out of refrigeration by coating each egg with mineral oil and store in non-fiber egg cartons (fiber ones will absorb the oil and break the air barrier). Keep cool (basement) or dehydrate your own (see YouTubes on this). Move to the country with some nearby streams, springs, woods, ponds, lakes. You might have a chance.

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  22. reddog December 2, 18:02

    If a prepper family is pre-stocked.. Pantry, Freezer..ect.. camping gear and cooking fuel ect all on hand.. when SHTF we shouldn’t have to go panic shopping.. except to fill all the vehicle gas tanks and extra fuel for the generator… solar is always good.. the more “off the grid” prep the better.. Shelter n place and be ready to defend your home and supplies.. and have those bug out bags..and Backpacks available for when/if that time comes.. “Bug Out” is my last resort… and where to go shouldn’t be a last minute decision.. Do You Have a Plan?.. I do but that’s a secret…

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  23. Sagehen December 29, 05:34

    I always learn from others, but one thing I’ve read is to not fill bottles that had juice, etc, with water. I have wondered why I couldn’t use them. I have always been a person that ‘stocked up’ on food and such. My problem is hiding what I have and finding room for more water. We are preparing to stay put.We are in 70’s and 80’s and yes we have weapons. Just being prepared gives me a sense of peace. I try to get things each time I shop. If anyone has suggestions on water, please offer suggestions.

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    • Gettin Old February 14, 04:14

      I’ve been using empty bleach jugs (1 gal +-) for years. Last 2 years using empty clean cat litter jugs (2 1/2 gal). also some 4 & 5 gal water jugs. I use 8 to 10 drops of store bought bleach (NO additives) PER GAL., and add the same every 6 /12 months for loss thru deterioration/dissipation of the Calcium Hypochlorite. Remember, bleach is dangerous: skin, eyes, nose (GAS). Also do be careful of leaks. The bleach jugs are tough as are the others, but you know, shit happens. Hopes this helps some. I also have granulated CH for SHTF, but you really need to do your homework on that cuz that stuff is super dangerous.

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    • dz August 24, 20:31

      I bought a couple of 55 GAL potable water barrels on WalMart.com, and always keep a couple bottles of generic liquid bleach on the shelf. I read to use 8 drops of generic bleach per gallon of water, so when I filled the 55 Gal water barrels with tap water, I calculated that would take 440 drops of bleach for 55 gallons, then found an online conversion table to metric and used a syringe for liquid medicine to measure and squirt in the correct amount when the water was near the top of the barrels, then mixed well, and then sniffed. Yup, it smelled like a swimming pool, so I guess that was about the right amount of bleach. I’ll check them in 6-12 months to 1.) see if the water is still clear, 2.) give it another smell test, and 3.) maybe taste it, and if the water passes all three tests I may still run it through a microbial filter just to be cautious. Better safe than sorry, and infections and diseases can and will be deadly after SHTF.

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    • Farmer September 7, 00:06

      There are many good filters out there…my favorite is the Sawyer 0.02 micron. You can use just about any water source; including your “spoiled” bottled water … rain water, the local creek, fish pond….

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  24. dz August 24, 20:04

    Hmmm…. I hope everyone has enough intelligence and awareness of the real world to realize that everyone who posts comments here are from a variety of different areas, with different environments and concerns, and different knowledge, skills, and experience, especially for when a natural disaster strikes, and most especially if SHTF. The whole concept of “prepping” is to be prepared in advance as best you can manage based upon your environment, budget, storage capability, knowledge and skills, as our ancestors had to in order to survive their routine and unusual situations.

    I grew up on the Oregon coast and spent enough time outdoors hunting, fishing, camping, etc., to learn basic survival in the wilderness – but only for that type of environment. Now I live in Southern California, on the outskirts of Urban sprawl, and like Left Coast Chuck, have to adapt as best we can to the environment we are in. My nearest natural fresh water source is a small lake about 5 miles away, but I’m sure if SHTF a lot of people (as in thousands) will be draining it dry very fast, and may resort to armed robbery and/or armed defense over water. That is why I bought 55 GAL potable water barrels for “bugging in”, and will be setting up a rain water catch system to obtain non-potable water for gardening and hopefully have some for washing and sanitation – but we only get about 10 inches of rain annually. I don’t understand why you can use 8-10 drops of generic bleach (no additives) to sanitize your water but then are told you cannot safely use that same empty generic bleach bottle to store water. Is it the plastic itself? If so, wouldn’t those same chemicals get leached into the bleach you are using to sanitize your potable water?

    for pre-disaster and SHTF advance shopping, I found WalMart.com to be an excellent online source for a lot of prepper items, for examples: 55 GAL water barrels and hand pumps, dehydrated long-term storage food (Mountain House / Augason Farms), solar power flashlights and small devise chargers, wind up powered combination flashlight / radios, single wall stainless steel water bottles, larger portable 2.5 and 5 GAL water containers, 5 GAL food grade buckets with screw on lids and rubber seals, oxygen absorbers, and self defense items like combination Mace/Pepper/UV dye spray, and Guard Dog Diablo II flashlight and 5.0 Mil stun gun that works really well. Some items are in-store only, like ammunition.

    As far as handling other people during high stress situations, I would try to avoid those situations if possible, but if you have to go out and about to top off fuel, or get perishables, refill prescription, etc., plan ahead and time wisely (be a gray man), and try not to go alone if the disaster has already hit. We lived in Typhoon Alley (typhoons are south pacific hurricanes) for several years averaging about 4 to 6 major storms a year, experienced a couple 8.0 to 8.2 earthquakes (Guam and Philippines) and now have experienced several years of wildfires coming too close for comfort here in S. California – we evacuated once and loaded up vehicles for fast exit a couple other times from fires. We try to plan ahead and stock up what we can for the next time something happens, our plans mostly based towards bugging in, because the nearest locations I can reasonably know how to “survive in the wilderness” are a long way away by vehicle, as in 1 or more days drive to another state like Arizona (mountains with water but cold winters) or far north of San Francisco and preferably along the coast. If vehicle travel is not an option it will be very hard, but we will adapt as needed.

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  25. red November 19, 22:52

    Good article. Best comment, the mad house. You nailed it! niio

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  26. Meledie March 24, 14:27

    I had saved this information under Grow Your Own Toilet Paper that linked to this article, and just bumped into it again. So, curiosity being what it is, I checked it out. Wow! With the entire world in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, this store scenario hit the nail on the head. Spooky! I’ve been prepping for years, so the only thing I needed to buy was fresh fruit and salad greens, which I could easily have done without. I’d never would have believed that a store could be so thoroughly picked over if I hadn’t seen it firsthand! I asked the stocker if had been bored through this insanity. He just laughed! Yes, you can see pictures of wiped out stores on the internet, but until you actually see it firsthand, it just doesn’t seem real. Having lived through one, it’s very much the same with natural disasters. Anyways, good write-up, guys! Judging by the date, a lot of people had plenty of warning and time to take care of getting prepared. Wonder how many heeded?!

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  27. RonnyJ May 2, 04:38

    Since Covid-19 started, our local grocery stores are out of rice, beans, flour, and other items mentioned in this article. Also, alcoholic beverages. Survival food? That’s not cooking wine.
    WalMart has toilet paper, house brand. Pet foods are going fast. I got the last bottle of distilled water for my CPAP machine, and am considering making my own or using it without the water.
    This is as close to a SHTF as I want to be, but it will probably get a lot worse.

    Reply to this comment
    • greytiels August 6, 11:48

      With the distilled water you mentioned, in a SHTF situation, it would be good to have a couple bottles of the distilled water put back or know how to make your own. If you get a sinus infection or head cold etc, and use a neti pot or other bottle with the salt water to clear your sinuses out, you don’t want to get other microbes up in there. But being able to rinse that gunk out could be a life saver.
      Great article and I got several bits of info from the comments, too. It amazes me how relevant so many comments are when they were written several years ago. It saddens me to know people who should be able to see the writing on the wall but fully believe that what is coming could never happen. Even with all the warnings. Thanks for all the info

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  28. Omega13 August 17, 19:05

    Hurricane Alicia, August 1983. I drove with Mom to pick up groceries because we’d had little warning about the storm.

    A woman started to get into a fight with my mother over a loaf of bread (Pepperidge Farm, not a lot of choice left). I had to step in and tell her to back away.

    Mom still talks about that every hurricane season (and prepares in the spring)

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  29. NoExcuse August 18, 16:39

    When buying loads of stuff like rice or dried beans, I often get looks and snickers. Best way to nuetralize the situation is to pipe up with a little fib: “Yep, those orphans down in Mexico I’m sending this to will really appreciate all this!” Shames them into heartily agreeing, and moving on.

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  30. RonnyJ September 7, 03:44

    Our church sponsors a food pantry for local needy and homeless people. We have just reopened after being shut down by covid-19. The whole time we were closed, my sister and others tried to find canned and dried foods to restock, knowing people were really needing it, but no way to get it to them. (Many of the clients have no fixed address or phones.) They managed to get (barely) sufficient stocks in time to re-open.

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  31. Lisa October 28, 12:48

    @ Graywolf12-

    It was actually, Pedigree dog food, which surprised me, since I actually raised my dogs on it. I used to breed and raise Shelties, and that’s what I used for them. I have since then, stopped using it all together.

    I actually used to eat the small milk bones when I was a kid! lol. I had to see what our dog thought was so great about them. They weren’t half bad, nice and crunchy. lol

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