Last minute shopping for the soon to be furloughed

If you’re one of the estimated 800,000 federal employees temporarily on the chopping block, you’ve got some last minute shopping to do. I think everyone at this point can see that the old guard and new guard are spoiling for a fight. And by old guard I mean old dems and repubs. The new guard is primarily comprised of tea-party backed representatives.

It appears neither side is willing to back down (I’d be surprised if the hardball playing old guard ever backed down), so you’ve essentially got a few hours to get your stuff ready for the next few months. What should you buy with your presumably meager checkbook?

This is a great survival exercise for those who are not on the chopping block as well. Let’s assume a total budget of approximately 400 dollars.

The first thing I’d buy: a very cheap tent and sleeping bag(s). As sad as it is, you never know if you’re going to be out of a home.

The second thing I’d buy: I’d look at seeing if you can squeak in some last minute job-loss mortgage insurance.

Now for the big one: Food. I personally keep over a years worth of food on hand at all times; regular food – stuff that’s not too hard to cook and pretty cheap to obtain. This is a basic list of things you’ll want (assuming a family of 2-4, no kids under 6 months old).

1) at least 80-150 lbs of rice. This sounds like a great deal, but truth be told it won’t cost you very much at all. Rice is ubiquitous. It can taste like anything, is nutritious, and is filling. I have used it for desert (mix marmalade or jam w/ it, you’d be surprised), main courses, and you can even make breakfast cakes out of it. There’s a fantastic amount you can do with rice, and it quite literally will take on the taste of anything.

2) 1-2 gallons (yes, gallons) of canola/veggie oil. Use sparingly.

3) 2 64oz bottles of ketchup (cheap, easy, with a small amount of vitamin c – says 0% but that’s when measured in teaspoons/tablespoons).

4) Butter. I’d recommend several pounds.

5) Dry milk – for when you run out of regular milk and need to fill the gaps between buying more and being able to afford to buy more. I generally will use the remaining 1 cup of regular milk at the very bottom of a gallon with enough dry milk/water to make up for it. Comes out tasting tolerable.

6) Potatoes and dry potatoes. When you buy your potatoes, take one of them and cut it up into small chunks. Use these to plant your own potatoes. Do one of these for every bag you buy and you can keep a small offset of potatoes going to help you through.

7) Dried beans. These things are dirt cheap, typically available for pennies on the pound and will keep veritably forever. For every 2-3lbs of rice, you want 1 lb of beans/legumes. So 80 lbs, you want at least 25-30lbs of beans/legumes.

8) VISIT ALDI’s. I’m not associated with them as a business, but I do shop there. And I’ll tell you straight out there is NO PLACE CHEAPER for canned goods, period. Spend about one hundred dollars there. You’ll be astonished at what you walk out with. I think their canned hams cost about 2 dollars each.

9) Some vitamin c chewables. They’re cheap, make a good ‘candy’, and will help keep you healthy. Plan on 250 or so per adult per six months. So basically a big bottle for each person. Helps fend off scurvy from malnutrition (just in case) and supports your immune system to keep you from having to worry about spending money on unnecessary medical bills.

10) Hot sauce. You might ask why, but let me tell you something. Some buddies of mine who have toured around the world for the military told me once “anything is edible with hot sauce.” .. this is absolutely true. I’ve eaten some absolutely DISGUSTING food, which when you put hotsauce on it, totally masks the smell and taste (Which for me, is the worst part).

11) dawned on me I totally forgot salt/sugar/flour. Buy big bags of them. I generally keep about 40-50lbs of flour around for a 3 person household for 6 months. Sugar a 25 lb bag works and depending on how you use your salt about 10 lbs or more to start.

Now this is by no means a complete list. It’s going to run you about 200 dollars to spend all this. You’re going to have extra to spend, so do so, but be intelligent about it. Think of things you can use over the long term – rechargable batteries, a battery/hand crank powered lantern, etc. Take the time to stock up on things that are essential, such as medicines that you need and pet food/etc.

Now might be a good time to try some new things too, maybe buy a few pullets and setup a garage stable for some egg-laying hens. Or meat hens, if you want. Plan on a 6 month lead time before they begin laying, though butchering can be done much earlier. A 50 pound bag of layers feed will cost you 12-15 dollars and last quite a while on 5 chickens (which will net you 2-4 eggs a day). I personally vary between 5 to 9 chickens at any given time. I’ll write a survival chicken-keeping article sometime.

Or you could try planting a small veggie garden. I recommend the square foot method, but really if you can buy the seed and plant it, you can grow it. For first year planters who have never done it before I recommend tomatoes, peppers, potatoes (read up on it first, they’re strange), zucchini, carrots and lettuces. Do not grow corn your first year without research, broccoli, celery, or melons. These can all be very tricky and discouraging, which you don’t need. 4 tomato plants will keep you awash in tomatoes all summer/fall long. 8 pepper plants will do the same. Total cost will be between 20 and 50 dollars, depending on where/how many you buy.

Good luck and stay safe 🙂

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