Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stealthy Shopping (How to Disguise Your Stockpile)

People love to comment on your grocery-store purchases for reasons that I can’t even begin to understand. Though I’m well aware of my surroundings in public, and therefore do notice other people and the contents of their carts, I don’t comment on them. Frankly, I don’t care what other people – particularly strangers – do enough to say anything to them about it. This is especially true when we’re talking about shopping. Spend your money however you want, people: that’s your concern, not mine.

Some shoppers do comment, though, and ask questions. This is particularly true if you regularly load down your cart with lots of food. My family and I have almost always done just that, because there are seven people in all. (One of my brothers left this part of Texas not too long ago, though. We’re down to six people living at home, which is still a rather-large number.)

We live in a small community, so we do run into friends, coworkers, fellow church members, et cetera at the store. They all know that we have a lot of people to feed. But strangers will ask us why we have so much food. Are we shopping for the whole year? Are we having a big party? What’ s the deal here?

Whether or not we have extra food in the cart to put in the stockpile, a smile and a, “Nope – there are six people in the house. This is the usual shopping” satisfies the curious strangers. They don’t know if we’re shopping for the week, or for two weeks. They don’t know how fast we’ll go through all the cans of chili in the bottom of the cart. All they know is that we eat a lot of food because we have a lot of people in the house. Our answer is polite, but vague, which satisfies them and keeps us from having to explain things that aren’t their business.

Because our community’s small, we don’t necessarily want even strangers to know what we’re doing with the extra food – or that we even have extra food. Strangers aren’t really strangers in small areas like this one. That guy knows this guy, who knows us. People love to talk about things that don’t concern them one bit, so it wouldn’t take much for one of our friends, coworkers or fellow church members to find out that we have food here. “Loose lips sink ships” and wipe out your stockpiles if you’re very unlucky.

If you can get away with it, use the “large family” excuse. Even if you have only one child, well, you can fudge a little bit, now can’t you? Of course you can. Tell the inquisitive shopper that a whole bunch of relatives are flying in from wherever to visit for the week. Obviously, you’ll have to have plenty of canned food in the house to feed all those children and adults.

Sometimes, that won’t work. Maybe you’ve run into a coworker who knows that you’re about to fly out of town to visit your relatives in their home city. Fortunately, there are all sorts of fibs available if you want to use them. Perhaps you’re donating all those extra canned goods to a local food pantry or food bank. Maybe you’re stocking up for the house sitter’s convenience. Or, hey, you’re just grabbing these because they’re on sale and you need to save as many of your precious pennies as possible for traveling.

Any excuse that doesn’t hint at long-term storage or stockpiling will work provided that it fits your circumstances. You don’t want to tell a church member that you have four kids at home, because the membership directory tells him or her otherwise. But you can easily tell casual friends that you’re having family over for the week, and they’ll believe it because they probably don’t see you often enough to know any better.

Now, I’m a conservative Christian – and I just recommended telling lies. In the book of Joshua, Rahab lied to the men who were trying to grab the Israelite spies. God blessed her for protecting His people. This tells me that God knows the difference between lying to harm other people and lying to protect somebody. Think whatever you will about the religious or spiritual aspects of telling people that you aren’t really stockpiling food for the end of the world, but know that there is a reason why some of us choose to keep our mouths shut about our long-term planning.

This untruth, of course, leads to the question of whether my family and I would share with others or not should we meet people who are hungry. The answer: that’s entirely possible. However, that’s a case-by-case judgment call, made with God’s guidance. If He leads us to help, we’ll do whatever we can, because we know that He’s got our back in that situation. But if He leads us to send the person on without our assistance, that’s what we’ll do, because God knows what’s going on even when we have no idea of what to do or say.


  1. We live in a small town too and have come across this same problem at the grocery store. I actually had an older gentleman come up to me in the line and ask if I was stockpiling "too". I just smiled and said something to the effect that it was such a good price that I was getting a few extra. I don't need everyone in town knowing that I have some extra stored.

  2. Using good prices as an out works well too, sure. I've noticed that, when Mom and I have a stack of store circulars (Walmart honors the other stores's advertised prices, so we do one-stop shopping), people don't ask as many questions. When they do ask, we just say that such-and-such is ten for ten bucks at X store, so we're getting 'em while the price is good.

    But all this does make me wonder, at least in the back of my mind, if we preppers are inadvertently isolating ourselves from each other. Hmm. I'm going to have to go think about that one for a bit.

  3. We may be isolating ourselves from one another, but I believe it is prudent. We will find each other when SHTF, but for now, discretion is the better part of valor....

    I got strange looks last time I loaded up a cart nearly full with canned goods, but here, all you got to say is "hurricane stash", and the inquiring minds are satisfied.....


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm