We braved the wilderness to forage for food today

It’s a big production. We’re avoiding human contact as much as we can, so we only rarely venture forth for essentials, like groceries. Unfortunately, today was the day. We’re in the last half-week of the semester, so no labs, so we could use my morning lab time to make the long drive to Aldi in Alexandria to pick up a load. We go in the early hours, arriving just as it opens, again to minimize exposure to filthy humans, and we stock up on about 3 weeks worth of food, and then we flee back south to the safety of our home. We’re probably OK until mid-December now.

We’ve made a major shift in our habits, and it still feels strange. It used to be we’d take grocery shopping for granted — the store in town is close enough that I’d plan ahead only a day or two, and walk the few blocks to pick up a few things every few days. But then the local store got all pestilential and refused to enforce the mask mandate (they’ve gotten better now, but they’ve lost our trust), so now we prepare weeks ahead — I also have a store of really basic staples, like dried beans and peas and rice, that could keep us going for a few months, if necessary — and I feel like one of those stupid doomsday preppers, and I despise those people.

Now we’re back, and that means buckling down to grading. It will be great to finish up this semester, and even greater to finish up this pandemic, some day in the distant future.


  1. lotharloo says

    “I feel like one of those stupid doomsday preppers, and I despise those people.”

    You know, just like how a broken clock is right twice per day, every deranged asshole is right once in a blue moon.

  2. PaulBC says

    At the beginning of lockdown I was chatting with a neighbor across the street (who was properly distanced on the other side of the street) and he said they had a “wheat grinder”, which I had never heard of before, and as much whole grain as they needed. There I was beaming with pride at the 25 lb. sack of flour we had just scored at Costco, and I knew I had been outdone.

    They have also moved away since then, which is a shame. I’m not sure where.

  3. whheydt says

    There’s “preparing for doomsday” (which, I agree, is silly, for a variety of reasons) and there is reasonable preparation for whatever your local disaster is, which is prudent.

    Where I live, the local disaster mode is earthquakes. Full preparation would be two weeks food and water. The water is the big problem, when it comes to storage. (One gallon per person, per day.) We are–potentially–subject PG&E “public safety power shutoff” events, that could run 3 to 5 days. Contrary to what too many people do, that doesn’t involve storing water.

    I understand that in Florida, in the Spring, the grocery stores put ads on the shopping bags to get people the get their hurricane supplies. They have the advantage that hurricanes are, at least approximately, seasonal.

  4. whheydt says

    Re: PaulBC @ #2….
    Small flour mills are easily come by if you know where to look. They can be either hand-crank or electric.

  5. PaulBC says

    whheydt@4 We’re just coming to the end of that sack of flour now, so I think we made a wise choice after all.

    Small flour mills are easily come by if you know where to look. They can be either hand-crank or electric.

    Maybe a better choice for the apocalypse would be one you could hook up to a stationary bike.

  6. unclefrogy says

    I too took shopping for groceries for granted. I am blessed that my son and daughter in-law do shopping for me but making a list is still hard even after all this time. I have a few supplies that are regular but thinking ahead without actually see the stuff in the store reminding me and estimating how long something will last is proving to be a little hit or miss. no more store reduced price items either, the relaxed nature of the luxury of abundance is missing from the shopping but there is security in a mostly full pantry. I got enough coffee!!
    uncle frogy

  7. brucej says

    I am soooo happy I live somewhere with a rational city government (mask mandate since March) and rational neighbors (places I shop have near 100% mask compliance; or 100% if you count Costco, even if there’s always a few with their dicks noses hanging outta their masks…)

  8. davidc1 says

    Over here in jolly old Blighty ,it seems we are going to run short of fresh food and veg come Jan because of britshit
    Any lorry entering Kent planning to get to Europe will need a Passport to enter the county .
    They are busy building humungous lorry parks just off the M20 Motorway ( Freeway to you Americans ) so the lorries can park up.
    And to add to the fun ,the ground they have chosen is prone to flooding ,jolly ,jolly ,jolly .
    And when the lorries get to the docks they will need a pile of forms the size of the big print edition of War And Peace .
    Never mind ,we have taken back control .

  9. numerobis says

    I shop like a prepper sometimes because if you buy goods at restaurant scale then you get a pretty good discount compared to a grocery store.

    When you’re consuming goods at house scale that you bought at restaurant scale, though, you need good storage or else bugs can eat your food.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    whheydt @ # 3: I understand that in Florida, in the Spring, the grocery stores put ads on the shopping bags to get people the get their hurricane supplies.

    Variations of “Be Prepared!” marketing slogans pop up all over the shelves (except for the perishables area) for months. We don’t laugh, either.

    … “public safety power shutoff” events, that could run 3 to 5 days. Contrary to what too many people do, that doesn’t involve storing water.

    Unless you get your water from a well. The bigger the storm, the more buckets I put under the eaves to catch rain, so at least I can flush the toilet after use. My maximum duration without power has been 29 days – so far…

  11. birgerjohansson says

    davidc 1 @10
    ….and the drivers and the companies who export still do not know which rules will apply. Even if the blonde baboon knew exactly which rules will apply for the tens of thousands of commodities it will take many months (and probably a year) to provide the paperwork and the information to fill in the paperwork correctly.
    Add to this the aristo tosser appointed to handle the vaccine rollout already failed miserably with the earlier “test and trace” mission….
    And the parliamentary enablers are just braying and following the bellweather.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Going back to the situation in spring, we now see -after there finally is time to assess the spring- how badly many elder care facilities here in Sweden handled the first wave of Sars-cov-2.

  13. says

    We limited shopping to once a week. I can’t do with less because for one, we are four people and have two (small) fridges, for another, fresh fruit and veg don’t keep that long. Our diet already has its healthy peak at the weekend, with increasing amounts of convenience food and canned stuff towards Fridays. Also, one of the kids is a teenager in her growth spurt and man, those people are destroyers of food. She can eat a whole 600g of Lebkuchen and then complain about dinner taking too long.
    And last but not least, we do the shopping for my parents.
    Given that I work in the plague den, aka school, I’m probably more of a danger to the people at Aldi than the other way round. But i always wear my N95 mask. When this is over I’ll have the lung volume of a demi god.

  14. mnb0 says

    “the long drive to Aldi in Alexandria to pick up a load”
    Well well. This German chain is abotu as good for its employees as Walmart, ie not at all.

  15. Who Cares says

    It has been three weeks between shopping sprees since April here. Can’t fit more in the freezer then that period for a number of items normally on the table. And it is good to have at least three days of fresh vegetables and a week or so of fruit during that three week period.

    Bigger problem is the work at home when the apartment is not built for that ( for example try to teleconference with multiple people at the same time when there is nothing to isolate people from each other).

  16. wzrd1 says

    Some folks thought we were preppers, what with cases of dried beans and rice, not to mention canned goods.
    I simply attribute it to being lazy, which is a partial lie.
    I just feel that should we get snowed in up to my balls, I’d just keep mine warm, so I keep a few weeks of food handy and in that case, case lots are cheaper.
    Cheaper food and warm gonads, isn’t that the essential goal of vertebral life? ;)

  17. says

    I have no car so shopping has to happen multiple times a week. I can only fit so much in a back pack and two saddle bags. Today’s that last day I have to stock up before the holiday.

  18. says

    I have one of those, or something similar and cheap. It has lasted 20 years, but is getting a bit rickety. I only used it when we had to pick up something heavy on a local grocery run, like a gallon of milk and a liter of coke, so it’s worked out fairly well.

    I know how old it is because I bought it the year we moved to Morris, leaving our car behind in Philadelphia with my wife, and that year it did everything — every grocery trip, every laundromat run.

  19. PaulBC says

    nomdeplume@22 I didn’t expect another panic, so we missed our usual window to resupply at Costco. Last time, all they had was the eco-friendly bamboo fiber type, and a smaller package at that. We have that, and I suppose it’s OK, but it’s actually very narrow and doesn’t even quite look right on the roller.

  20. chigau (違う) says

    On the joke board at my liquor store:
    “This is the second time this week I’ve had to buy a months worth of booze.”

  21. davidc1 says

    @13 And all the money they have wasted on crap track and trace apps ,well gave away to their mates .
    And there are still dimwits out there who think johnson is doing a great job ,try and explain what an useless bunch of gits are in charge ,all you get back is well Corbyn would be worse .
    If i could afford it ,i would drink myself to death .

  22. profpedant says

    Make sure to cook your oldest dried beans first. If they get old enough they are still edible but will not become tender when cooked.

  23. magistramarla says

    I’ve always kept a well-stocked pantry, so this year hasn’t been too different for me. When we bought our house in 2019, the first thing I had my husband to do was to install some big floor-to-ceiling cabinets in the laundry room/garage. One of them serves me as a proper pantry. I also use my Food Saver to seal up items for the freezer and I keep it well-stocked with meats, seafood and vegetables. We’re lucky that we have access to a nearby military commissary, since the mask mandate is enforced there. We have the same concerns that PZ has with local stores that don’t enforce it well.
    Our commissary stocks shelf-stable milk that actually tastes decent, so I’ve stocked that in my pantry. With frozen strawberries and blueberries, we could even avoid the commissary and still have our morning fruit and cereal.
    I enjoy cooking and baking from scratch, so I’m having fun cooking.
    Of course, we’ve also stocked up on wine, rum and Scotch. We’ll manage to enjoy the winter.
    Everyone, stay safe out there!

  24. whheydt says

    I live in an extended household, my wife and I, our daughter and son-in-law, and grandson. For almost anything my wife and I eat, I could keep a two-week stock fairly easily. The problem is the heavy milk drinkers in the house, and that takes about 4 gal. per week. There just isn’t enough refrigerator space for a medium term supply.

    Other things…canned goods, dried food, tea, some items that get frozen, even eggs, I can cover the medium term at any given time. Since my wife and I are both Type II diabetic, a lot of “staples” have way too much carbohydrates for us, so that sort of bulk storage is out. I did recently get my daughter a 50 lb. bag of rice, though.

  25. starblue says

    I wonder why nobody mentioned Knäcke, the swedish dried bread? It’s great as an emergency staple, keeps forever, is ready to eat, and I find it quite tasty.

  26. lucifersbike says

    @25 I like alcohol but more than one drink makes me throw up so I have taken refuge in superhero fantasies of murdering BloJob and his ghastly crew in painful, long-drawn ways, My wife is an Italian citizen, our kids work in Germany, and I work as an interpreter and tourist guide with the local Italian- and German-speaking communities, business visitors, and tourists. These utter bell-ends and the half-wits who voted for them have fucked up my life and the lives of many of my friends and colleagues for the sake of a racist fantasy and a killing for hedge funds.

  27. davidc1 says

    @32 Sorry to hear all that ,the impact that britshit has on individual peoples lives rarely makes the news .
    I know what you mean about your fantasies ,i tend to daydream about sawing fargos head off with a rusty hacksaw .
    Then hiring the best surgeons in the land to sew it back on ,so i can saw it off again .
    If there is one story that sums up the irony ,and short sightedness of the leave vote it is that Sunderland ,where Nissan employ
    7,000 workers voted to leave .
    Now Nissan has said no cars are going to be produced there ,because of the tariffs they will have to pay to export cars to Europe .

  28. Allison says

    Around here (NYC suburb), a lot of supermarkets reserve the first hour or hour-and-a-half (e.g., 6:00 — 7:30 or 7:00 — 8:30) for old folks (like me) and people with compromised immune systems to do their shopping, and that’s when I do my weekly grocery shopping. Some other shops have special hours for old folks and the like — Staples (big office supplies store) has special hours once a week for us oldies.

    As for shopping less often than weekly: I drink a lot of milk, and the “sell by” dates on milk in our supermarkets is one or one-and-a-half weeks in the future, at best. My apartment isn’t all that large, and the refrigerator has limited space (in the USA, the apartments come with a refrigerator, so I can’t just get a bigger one), so it’s hard to stock up on any sort of perishable items.

    Fortunately, every shop I’ve gone to (with the exception of one bike shop) has been enforcing the mask mandate, and has done so since March, and on the sidewalks, most people are masked. (Less so in my apartment complex :-( )

  29. chesapeake says

    PZ, your precautions have stimulated my girlfriend and me to be more careful.thanks. We shop for groceries twice a week and are considering doing it less. Our groceries, at Kroger, are ordered online and delivered to the trunk of the car so we feel pretty safe. Tips are left in the trunk. Masks always around others.

  30. chesapeake says

    @35 Allison
    There is ultra pasturized milk that is good for a month or two. More expensive but worth it.

  31. seachange says

    Milk that is treated with lactase is also treated with radiation and is ultrapasteurized. It lasts a whole month unless you’ve got someone who drinks from the carton.

    You can get non-fat whole milk powder easily, and this takes up no refrigerator room. Instead, keep two pitchers one with already mixed up milk and another with cold water to mix up the next pitcher. It drinks the same and for most recipes and box-mixes it also works well. If you drink whole milk you can get whole milk powder, but this is harder to get. If you can find a supply of groceries from India is it cheaper because otherwise it’s marketed to baby-owners with a $$ markup.