Be Prepared #5

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1) Don’t Jump!
Do not just jump willy-nilly into your “be prepared” adventure. Doing that is like getting the car stuck in a snowdrift. You can stomp on the gas but all you do is create noise and fury without getting any closer to your destination. Start with what might be the most likely interruption to your daily life where you live and plan for that. Here, in Arizona, power outages during the monsoon season or A/C failure at the most inopportune time (is there an opportune time for an A/C failure?) are some of the most common emergencies. Obviously, different circumstances call for different contingencies.

2) Space Odyssey
Space, in 1400 square feet, for anything in addition to normal living activities is a premium concern. This topic has the aroma of a future post on this subject.

3) OCD
It is easy (at least for me) to get wrapped up in this project with what if and what about and “then what?” Not from a fear of the unknown standpoint, but more from the perspective of complete immersion.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

I have spent the last 30 years living with (and practicing) the belief that spreadsheets can solve damn near any problem. That belief is so pervasive I need a spreadsheet to track the spreadsheets I’ve built and their intended purposes. Some of them include budget, inventory, cabinet shop installations and the in totus operations for a home improvement company. There are more — many more, but I wouldn’t want to give you the impression that I am sometimes obsessive compulsive. (Checking the references, it appears that I have not used that particular phrase in anything I have written in over two-and-a-half years, so, we’re good.)

Our grocery list used to consist of a quick check of the milk in the refrigerator and the bread in the bread basket and the hope that one or more of the four of us could remember what we had decided we needed before we left the house. Well, at least one of the other three of us… they know my memory is like a steel trap: old, rusty, inoperable …

From that haphazard implementation, we migrated to at least writing on a small white board when we used or opened the last of something. (Most of the time.) This method was only a slight improvement. Four different handwritings were difficult to decipher. Only one of us used the correct, easily identifiable abbreviation for anything. Of course, which one was correct would depend on which of the four of us you asked.

Ketchup seemed to always show up in the grocery cart. Only sometimes needed, mind you. Light bulbs never did without a(nother) special trip.

Our current implementation of the grocery list is as follows: completely overengineered, according to my wife.

Be that as it may, the whiteboard is divided into three columns. Column 1 is for items we have to buy or check the quantity of almost every time we go to the store: milk, ice, water, bread. Ketchup does not necessarily belong in this column.

Column 2 is food stuffs and supplies that we use regularly and are currently out of or have no reserve. Ketchup sould show up on this list from time to time.

Column 3 is for items that we do not buy often (lightbulbs!) or bandages or special requests for dinners, birthday cakes, etc. Before leaving for the store, somebody snaps a picture of the whiteboard with their phone. Voila! Instant grocery list. Usually, anyway.

In conjunction with the whiteboard grocery list, we have a spreadsheet (surprise, surprise) on Google Sheets (my wife’s idea, actually) that is set up to help track inventory in the pantry, the freezer and the medical supplies cabinet. We take inventory in the various storage areas once a week before our primary trip to the grocery store. In this way, we help ensure that we have at least two weeks worth of meals (and not just snacks or condiments) in the house at all times.

Why two weeks? Ready.gov says at least 3 days (http://ready.gov/food). Natural disasters and severe weather are two good reasons to plan for more than 3 days. There are others. Supply chain interruptions such as the recent toilet paper shortage during the initial weeks of shut down for the CCP pneumonia while demand far outstripped supply, for instance. That shortage could have easily been meat or bread. Graywolf has a good breakdown of other reasons here.

Some things we don’t do: we don’t do an inventory every day. We don’t adjust the inventory count on individual items when they are used. Doing an inventory once a week before our weekly trip to the grocery store works well for us.

But why go to all the trouble of overengineering the grocery list in the first place? “Because it was there” is not an acceptable answer. (And not true, because it wasn’t…) This way I — and everybody else in the house — knows what we have, even standing in the pasta aisle at the grocery store. It is a quick and easy method for determining how many days worth of meals we have. It gets everybody involved in the process and reinforces think and plan ahead concepts. And — what may be the most important aspect — we don’ t have four bottles of ketchup in the pantry. Two, but definitely not four.

As always, thank you for reading and for taking the time for a cup of coffee (or your favorite morning elixir) with us here at Unofficial View. Now, it’s time for a weekly grocery run and I gotta go check and see how much Ketchup we have.