Many of the things we love today, and take for granted, will probably be very hard to come by, if things fall apart. This long list certainly includes condiments.
You may be ready to grow your own food, and purify your own water. I hope you are. And you hopefully have tons of wheat and rye and rice and beans packed away, to fall back on while you learn to produce all the food you need. (I figure it may take me 3 years to get self-sufficient, and have stocked up accordingly.)
But even if your pantry is stocked deep, with all the important staples to fulfill your caloric needs, you still need to consider whether you have enough of the little things necessary to make your meals better than just tolerable. Have you got plenty of Sugar and Spice and everything nice? I do.
I started by buying a dozen 50 pound bags of sugar and salt from Restaurant Depot. The bags cost about $30 for sugar and $5 for salt. A bargain, really. I'm sure there are other restaurant suppliers in your area, if you don't have a Restaurant Depot. Check the yellow pages.
Then I packed it all in 6 gallon pails, to protect it. Sugar and salt won’t spoil, of course, and bugs aren’t interested it them, but I want to keep it all nice and dry. The paper bags are just too vulnerable to moisture and tearing. And they take up too much room in bag form.
And the food grade buckets I use stack 5 high in my cool basement, as long as I place a 10” X 10” piece of 1/2” plywood on top of each bucket. That way all the weight from above rests on the strong bucket sides, rather than on the weaker lid.
Before I did that, I had the lid on a bottom bucket crack and break in. Of course, the buckets were so full you could hardly tell it had happened.
I have also packed away lots of brown sugar, since I have hundreds of pounds of Oats, and I hate oatmeal without brown sugar.
And remember to pack away many gallons of Soy sauce, if you want to eat all that rice you've packed away. Rice can be pretty sad without it. Sam’s Club has it by the quart, very cheap. They have the same brand that I see on the table of our favorite Chinese restaurant: Kikkoman.
And I accumulated jars and jars of jellies and jams, to brighten bread meals. Strawberry and Raspberry and Grape preserves are a must. Again, you don't have to worry about their shelf life for a good while.
And I put away pounds of honey, since it lasts forever, though it can be quite expensive. I try to find it at $2 a pound, in 5 pound containers, but that's getting harder to do. Again, Restaurant Depot has been the best place for me to buy honey. 5 pound containers used to cost $9, but now they are up over $11. From time to time, I've found it at half price at Walgreen’s, which then makes it $2 a pound.
Then I bought jumbo size containers of other spices, like black pepper and oregano and cinnamon. And the big buckets of Seasoning Salts, like Lawry's, may come in handy if you have to eat a lot of rabbit and squirrel!
Stock up heavily on whatever flavors you enjoy in your favorite foods now. Otherwise, you’ll really miss them later. One big concern we will face during a depression will be food fatigue. People will literally stop eating, if their diet is just too bland and unvaried. Kids especially may resist the same dull food day after day.
You can rotate the spices, of course, if you worry about them losing some of their potency. Salt and sugar won’t change, but some things may well.
But after I packed all those goodies away, something occurred to me – every day I walk away from all sorts of perfectly packaged flavor treats, without giving them a thought. I’m talking about all those nice little packets of sugar and salt and pepper sitting on the tables of most restaurants.
So now, instead of pouring that sugar pack in my coffee, I tuck a packet of it in my pocket. A salt and pepper packet too. If I hit Starbucks, I grab a couple fancy Gold’N Natural sugar packets. Sweet.
I also noticed that there are packets of lots of other fun things I could use, if TSHTF. Honey packets. Ketchup packets. Jelly. Mustard. Lemon juice. Maple syrup. You can even find big packets of various salad dressings, which would perk up your garden greens come TEOTWAWKI. All these various condiment packages have the shelf life of a Twinkie, and I know they would really brighten a post-apocalypse meal.
After a while, I had accumulated quite a large collection of packets, which I stored away in ziploc bags, separated by type. But I decided I really wanted to stock up in a more serious way.
I realized that a small 1/8 oz of sugar, in a sealed pack, might well function as a great currency, in a broken world. Small, tasty currency. And I wanted to have plenty of them, to last a long hard decline of civilization. And I knew I probably don't have years to save them up, one meal out at a time.
So I headed back to Restaurant Depot, and bought a box of 2000 sugar packs, for $12. That got me more than 15 pounds of sugar, in handy little packs.
That was just 80 cents a pound, compared to about 60 cents a pound in 50 pound bags. Hardly any premium at all, considering the added convenience. I had expected it to be much more.
I also bought a big box of salt packets, and another of pepper packets. Very inexpensive.
In fact, everything you could ever want in a packet, can be purchased by the boxful. I think it’s well worth the small premium over the bulk cost, to have something you can trade, or give away for good will.
Plus, if you are ever living on your pantry goods, and you just need a little of something to spice up a meal, you won’t need to open a big jar, or a 6 gallon pail. You'll just tear open a little packet.
I don’t believe in the artificial sweeteners, which I think are quite bad for you. But since others do seem to like them, you may want to stock some of those for trading as well. Diabetics may need them, after all.
For some people, soup or chili just aren't complete without those little crackers that come in packets. You can always put a few of those away, each time you have a bowl out at a restaurant.
And if you like those little mints and candy treats by the cash register, ask them if you can have a couple, as you pay your bill. I guarantee you they will be happy to have you take a few. Some day, when the kids are bored and need a treat, you can pull out your bag of restaurant mints, and be the hero.
And don’t just think about edibles. I always grab a “wet wipe” packet when I’m done eating at Quaker Steak and Lube, or KFC. Many other places have them too, if you ask.
The End of The World is likely to be a very messy place, and the single packet wet wipes are going to be great to have. Every one you tuck away now will be worth it’s weight in silver, when water is like gold.
Some of you may be uncomfortable pocketing a couple sugars at McDonalds, but I don’t lose any sleep over it. The packets I bought from Restaurant Depot cost 1/2 a cent each, and I suspect McDonalds pays less. The salt and pepper were even less per packet.
I’m sure if I asked any restaurant manager, if they were willing to have me pocket 2 cents worth of extra packets, in return for my buying a meal for both my wife and me, they would all say “be my guest.” It's much better for them to have our $20, and have me take a couple salt packets, than have me go somewhere else!
If you feel bad about it, you can always stick to a place like Restaurant Depot. But either way, I urge you to stock up on all the little taste treats that come in packets, while you can. Once you start noticing them, you will be shocked at all the different things people have packaged for you in handy, durable little packs.
You will be glad you have them for your own use, if times get hard. And they will probably trade like money when you're dealing with all the people who failed to see trouble coming, and didn’t prepare. Which seems to be most people.