Should We Start Hoarding Food?

April 24, 2008

I don’t want to alarm anybody, but maybe it’s time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

There’s something about this Wall Street Journal article (free) that really bothers me. I understand his point that food prices are increasing faster than what we can earn from a bank account. It just seems irresponsible to tell people to hoard food, which is going to do nothing but drive prices up even higher and cause panics and other silliness that goes on when people are scared.

I hate to be a pessimist but if prices are this high now, imagine what could happen if we had a drought.

39 responses to Should We Start Hoarding Food?

  1. I got bottles of wine in the basement so I’m covered. We may not have much to eat, but we won’t notice as long as the cheese and crackers hold out.

  2. I remember when our neighbors started hoarding food during the whole chemical attack scares or disaster scares after 9/11. rather ridiculous. the fact is, most people don’t have the capacity to hoard enough food and second, depending on the food, most will go bad at a certain period. so if you don’t eat it and it expires, then you have paid far more than if you just didn’t over react.

    people also need to understand that the u.s. govt still heavily subsidizes large farms not to grow, so there is definitely over capacity in things like corn and wheat, which are the commodities fueling this whole scare about a shortage due to biofuels.

  3. If the Fed doesn’t cut rates on its next meeting, prices [on all commodities] should drop a decent amount.

  4. is there anything wrong with the idea? sounds like insurance to me. i don’t have the capacity to grow it.

  5. If not a drought, how about some sort of corn blight?

    The problem is we have no confidence in our government to solve these problems.

  6. People do tend to panic – I know when in the UK the lorry drivers were striking about fuel prices and stopped fuel deliveries everyone panicked and the supermarket shelves were empty. You couldn’t buy bread or milk as everyone was buying it and freezing it and had they not done that the supply would have been fine. Saying that though, I would not want to be the one who didn’t have any bread for her children.

  7. Cheng-Jih Chen April 25, 2008 at 5:42 am

    You can say food hording is insurance, but insurance isn’t free. There are better ways to spend your time and money.

    Also, in the United States and any of the advanced industrialized economies, there’s a wealth of alternatives: if fancy Basmati rice is hard to find, you can do without and get the Texmati. In the worst case, you’ll have to live with the Uncle Bens, or go off rice and pick up a case of Top Ramen. Really, it’s not as if there’s some vitally important nutrient in one type of food that must, must be consumed or else we die.

    In other countries, this may not be the case, but that’s more a matter of poverty and their government’s poor agricultural and economic arrangements than anything else.

    Also, if you believe that we’re near the apocalypse and the collapse of civilization (which is what real food shortages in the US would imply), you may prefer to stock up on guns and ammo instead.

  8. Maybe I’m under-reacting, but I try not to hoard anything. First of all if we all hoard food (or any item) it will drive up demand and things will cost more. Second of all I live in the city and having storage space is expensive. I don’t have a big house or much storage space in it – that’s one way I keep my costs (mortgage and taxes) low. And finally unless I’m getting a really good deal on something I don’t like to spend money that I might need in order to have a year’s supply of something I use. I just try to buy things as I need them and use them sparingly. I find that method to be more cost effective for me.

  9. The only thing I hoard is cleaning supplies and toiletries. And even then I only hoard it when I can get them free or nearly free with coupons and rebates. But I try not to hoard food unless the coupon/deal is just too go NOT to bulk up on.

  10. I’m always too pessimistic about it going bad. Plus we don’t have anywhere to stockpile…our apartment has one bedroom and our kitchen is tiny.

  11. I may have spoken too soon about my not being worried about food shortages. Went to Subway last night to get a tuna sandwich about 7:30 p.m. When I walked in the door, there was a line of people almost to the door waiting to order sandwiches. When it was my turn, they were out of two(!) varieties of bread, leaving only whole wheat and honey oat to choose from. Then I asked for tomatoes on my sandwich and there weren’t any! The feeling of dread and panic in the room was palpable. Things are getting scary out here in the heartland.

  12. We should NOT start hoarding food. This is exactly what the speculators who are causing the jump in commodities prices want you to do. These are the same jerks who speculated on risky securities and brought us the sub prime mortgage crisis.

    When the Fed recently bailed them out they gave them a huge influx of cheap cash, which since they didn’t want to put into securities, they have been put into commodities.

    Do not play into their hands. I just write a rant about this on my blog yesterday, it just totally infuriates me.

  13. sam… I had a similar frightening experience at Panera a couple days ago. Pandemonium nearly broke out when the “sandwich-ista” stated they had no more panini’s for the night. I started looting the nearby Pier 1.

    I agree with the author’s assessment of the WSJ article. It almost sounds like fear mongering in an attempt to increase the profits at the local Costco and Sam’s club. While you are hoarding food, make sure you gain as much weight as you can, so you can survive the longest once the food is gone.

  14. Are you kidding? This country is far from needing to stockpile on food.

  15. I agree about the fear tactic. I get tired of reading articles that try to get us to live in fear.

  16. This would be good investment advice except the price rises are greatest in perishable commodities and not really addressable.

  17. Holy Moly! Imagine what the rest of the world is thinking about all of us fat Americans stocking up on rice and pasta while they are starving to death other places.

    I agree, someone is profitting off of this scare.

  18. The issue, as I understand, and have been reading is that this crisis is not isolated to the US.

    A drought in the US may have a knock on effect to us general folks, as farmers are not getting their big dollars from export or from ethanol. A drought in parts of Asia or Africa means those locations would need to buy, or be given food.

    We as consumers, are going to pay more for things we import like rice, because domestic demand from where we import is so high (read China India etc). We will also pay more for things we export because our domestic demand (Ethonol) is increasing for things we export.

    I am a founding member of a speculators club, and would say people should watch all aspects globally on this issue before anyone decides if they need to horde food.

    The one thing I will say, is at least we only have to worry about buying more food down at our local supermarket. There are place in the world, were this is just not possible and they have been dealing with these issues (Drought, Inflation and corruption) for years.

  19. Wishing on a star April 25, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    I’m totally into hoarding. But my food doesn’t go to waste. I keep a two year supply on hand at all times (and certain items I keep even more of). I buy what I eat and eat what I buy. I don’t want to be one of those people on the news whining when there’s an icestorm or something else. They should be prepared ahead of time. I never feel sorry for them. In fact, there are times I get a good chuckle when I see some people standing next to an expensive vehicle whining because the store is out of candles and they’re stuck sitting in a dark house. Tealight candles are 100 for about $4.21 at Target. They can afford a $50,000 truck, but no candles or canned goods.

  20. I hate to say this,but the the USDA and a national ‘weather’ group just issued a report that the U.S. middle west (think corn etc.) is overdue for a drought–it all depends on how log ‘El Nina’ stays in the Pacific!

  21. What’s the difference between storing food so you don’t run out of items or don’t like to do a lot of shopping versus hoarding? I go shopping once a month and stock up big time. We grow fresh fruits and vegetables in the garden and cold frame. Am I a hoarder or a planner?

  22. Actually, *we* do have a drought. This entire section of the country.

  23. I am a realtor and I feel that the real key in all of this is a strong real estate market and I think we are at the bottom. I know time will tell but it appears we are there. greg moser

  24. I don’t believe the shortage has anything to do with drought. Blame ethanol.

  25. I totally agree with you that some speculators are trying to cash out by creating a panic in US market and asking people to hoard food. US has enough rice and edibles. Price increase due to inflation can’t be solved by hoarding food.


  26. There is no need to worry about this. If the price of prepackaged, preservative driven garbage that probably isnt real good for us anyways gets too high, we can always go back to the old ways. Hunting and killing small animals, Fishing, and growing small vegetables.

    I grew up broke and when i was a kid, 90% of what we ate is either what Dad had hunted down and killed, or we grew in the back yard. I would say its a good possibility I ate more Deer meat than I did beef or pork, along with Rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, and a wide variety of local fresh water fish caught near our home.

  27. Thanks Chad-it’s true-hunting is great and My parents (who are now retired on a fixed income) have freezers full of deer meat and the doctors are amazed at how well my father with heart disease is doing-due to the meat being so low in fat.

  28. You have to be rational, but also have enough insight to look around and see what’s going on. Hoarding and stocking up are two different things. It might well be a good time for stocking up on things you can afford to, know you will use, and won’t spoil easily. I’m old enough to have seen more than most and was raised by parents who were children of the Depression. So recent situations have concerned me. While no one should panic that only makes things worse. Life can be hard. Even harder if you’re unprepared.

  29. I think that the difference between hoarders and prepared people is in the mix. If you’ve got 2 years worth of rice, but only a week’s worth of anything else – you’re probably hoarding.

    If you’ve got 12 months of food and supplies that you’re rotating and using – you’re just prepared.

    I grew up with a full pantry, and generally have about 2 months supply of everything normal, with an additional couple of months of the basics. (wheat, sugar, milk, honey, chocolate, Bailey’s Irish Cream…)


  30. Well, well, well.
    Hoarding-if it turns out you do not need it after all.
    Sound planning- turns out you need it , eat it, and tide over bad times.
    Sounds like predicting the future is a unknown quantity after all.
    Visited my son in his new half million dollar house, and he was short on food and complained about the cost of things.
    Maybe he could eat one of his two motorcycles, or deep fry his Mc Mansion for breakfast- any suggestions?

    Frugal is in, cheap is king. Old Geezer

  31. I think now it’s obvious that there is going to be a huge price increase in food; perhaps shortage as well. It’s wise to put some food aside and also some jugs of water, at least in my opinion. Liked your comment, Old Geezer! 🙂

  32. Really Old Ant Geezer August 18, 2008 at 7:31 am

    The difference between hoarding and being prepared is essentially that those who believe in preparedness acquire their long term food storage over a considerable period of time, store what they eat and eat what they store in rotation – all without creating waste or a shortage for others, as they do this during times of plenty. Such people are actually very few and far between as they make up the usual 2% that bother to do things like put anything away for a rainy day. As such they are no threat to anyone – in fact they should be an example to others.

    A hoarder grabs everything in sight and squirrels it away at the last moment when faced with some sign of imminent danger and without consideration for the needs of others. Those who strip the shelves at their grocery store just before facing a head on strike from a hurricane are a very good example of hoarding. I don’t mean that everybody just simultaneously goes out to buy a few things at the same time and creates a shortage. When you see individual shopping carts piled up with an obvious excess of staples, leaving the shelves bare of certain commodities for other to purchase (including other hoarders) then you have a real case of panic buying aka “hoarding.”

    Its the same old story of the ant and the grasshopper … the ants will always practice food storage … the grasshoppers will always fiddle around and procrastinate doing anything of the sort, then when disaster strikes, bitch to the authorities that the ants “have more than their fair share.”

    Not true … food storage takes place during times of plenty, when everyone, including the grasshoppers, have an equal opportunity to see to their own possible future needs.

    You couldn’t apply the grasshoppers philosophy to anything else, such as your saving account … would it be truthful to say that because I had worked hard and put money into my savings account, while the grasshopper fiddled his money away at Disney World and in other diversions and materialistic things, that I now “have more than my share of money” in my savings account ?

    There are certain segments of our society that do need help during hard times and disasters. Generally speaking they are those that are truly in need of (temporary) welfare assistance due to circumstances beyond their control, or those who need permanent subsistence (charity) in order to sustain their lives.

    Again, generally speaking, you will not find those among the needy being sustained by the grasshoppers of the world, who will most likely be found unashamedly standing in line right along with those far more deserving, trying to muscle in and get what they figure is “their share of the freebies.”

    Its the ants that you will find that not only store for their own future security, but are out there contributing of their time, money and means to others who are despirately in need. You probably don’t even recognize them because they are not prone to “do their alms in public.”

    Quite to the contrary, they do such things as pay their tithes and offerings to the church of their choice. Contribute to humanitarian efforts at home and abroad. Have not only food storage, but a certain amount of of their monthly income set aside for emergencies, don’t use credit cards, stay out of debt, and have provided for other contingencies such as dental and medical needs, life, home and auto insurance, retirement investments, and even burial policies.

    If you are lacking in any of those areas, it might pay to go look in the mirror and see what’s looking back at you – it ain’t easy being green – especially if you have no food when you are hungry, no money when you have emergency repairs on home or auto, no coverage for health and welfare, no way to pay your rent or mortgage, no way to support your widow and children should harm befall you, nothing to live on during your golden-green years, and leave the very burden of your death and burial upon the backs of others.

    Nope, let’s leave the ants out of this. Lets look truth and reality squarely in the face and see if the solution to the problem of “hoarding” might not be to become more like them instead of just being critical of them because we lack the same fundamental wisdom to put something in the cupboard for any hard times we might face in the future.

    Eating is fundamental to our strength, health and well being, if we wish to survive … going to Disney World and then relying on the great government nanny to fulfill all of your needs should disaster strike is not “a plan” … it is merely a burden on others to do for you what you should be doing for yourself.

    Shape up grasshoppers … and leave the ants and the government out of it.

    Old Ant Geezer

  33. I think I’m one of those in-between hoarders. I do have food storage, but I don’t rotate it well. Also, I don’t use it as properly as I should. I just think of the food (mostly canned or boxed)as a cushion to help my twins and I during a tough time economically. I have established the food storage for many years, though. I tend to store extra junk food too, though. That is my “comfort food” that I can’t even think of being without. That’s where compulsive eating comes in. If I see a sale on something like Lucky Charms, I buy 5 boxes of it. We get through it, though. It’s just not as nutritional as other food. I think having food storage over a slow period of time is a good thing. Rushing out after an earthquake to get things that you should have stored already is irresponsible.

  34. Well said Old Ant Geezer. If no one listens to you after that, then they know who to blame when they find themselves in the most dire situation

  35. There is a reason why squirrels do what they do. Whether it is by nature, or knowledge that winter is coming and the food supply will be low which causes them to hoard food, animals do what they do to survive. As mankind is supposed to be the most intelligent life form (debatable) in an industrial world we have gotten comfortable and have taken for granted the stability which modern society provides. Because things work and have worked for decades if not a couple of centuries, we wake up each day believing that the next will be for the most part the same. The trouble is that our stable dependence and sense of security and quite frankly our lack of understanding of how things work, has not only dulled our senses but has made us complacent and uninterested in the mechanics of the economy. The American economy can be summed up by point out that the government is broke, the country is broke, and the people are overly taxed, up to their neck in debt and broke. There is something wrong with the economic model. I will give you a hint. The answer lies in the fact that there must be a continuous stream of new debt that is created for the economy to grow. Seek to understand the Fractional Reserve model of banking, the Federal Reserve and try to understand that money is created out of thin air as debt. Once you understand this, you will understand why you need to hoard food now.

  36. Look, I’m not hoarding food but I’ve decided to hoard honey. In Europe, our honey supplies are dwindling. My friend who has hives and is part of a huge honey bee enthusiast club, had to call off their honey show for two years in a row. I asked him about honey supplies and he said right now, it is catastrophic. He had a reduction of 50% at his hives and he said among his fellow beekeepers, they are taking loses of 75%. I hate to be like Winnie the Pooh, but I like my honey and there are certain varieties that are great. So, I’m stocking up.

  37. Stocking up on food when it is plentiful is NOT ‘hoarding’ nor is it a bad thing to do. On the contrary, those who have stockpiles help alleviate demand during shortages because they don’t have to buy.

    So there you have it: Stockpiling food is patriotic.

  38. The wise and foolish July 17, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Old Ant Geezer you’re my kind person. I couldn’t have said it better myself. If you break a leg and can’t work or loose your job it makes sense to have food in the pantry. Only an idiot wouldn’t want to be prepared. No one can control the outcome of their life but they can prepare for the worst and live for the best.

    The Wise and Foolish

  39. I agree totally with the people who say that stocking up, even on several months worth of food that you eat anyway, just makes sense. What if you lost your job and couldn’t afford to buy food? Why not stock up now so that money you might otherwise spend later on food can go toward other expenses? Or would you rather keep buying expensive “toys” that you can’t eat if everything hits the fan? Why is not wanting to starve and planning ahead to have food such a stupid thing to do? Just-in-time inventory wasn’t around 100 years ago when people had months worth of food at home after the harvest, so why is having that much food on hand a bad thing now?