I’ve let this website go fallow for a while as I’ve been busy actually DOING stuff, rather than writing about doing stuff. Most of what I’ve been doing has been not-very-interesting, and not really worth writing about (paying down debts – ohhhh! Exciting!, making strategic investments in the future of the project – snoozefest!, designing 3d models for the 3d printers – snoozapalooza!, building practice greenhouses for neighbors, and so on).
This project though, should be fun. Ima spend the next year eating like the world ended…sorta.
I’m going to be adopting the same habits that “method actors” use when preparing for a role. As such, I’m basically going to become a recluse for the next year (well, even more of a recluse than I already am, if that’s possible). The basic premise of the experiment is that a global blight has devastated food supplies. Scientists have figured out what’s causing it, and they’ve fixed the problem, but the government warns of a “year of darkness.” It’ll be twelve full months before food stocks return to something close to normal.
Based on that premise, I’m going to field test what it would be like to live off of the stockpile of food I’ve prepared for myself.
My current food stocks come from three sources: Grant’s (our local grocery) spectacular meat specials, Magic Mart’s going out of business sale (lots of canned goods), and a one-year’s supply of subsistence-level, freeze-dried food (800 meals) that I just ordered yesterday.
The rules of this experiment are simple: Once the freeze-dried food hits my doorstep, that’s the day I’m assuming that the last of the available food in town has run out. Until that happens, I can go buy more stuff, but I’m limiting myself to $100 in additional preps (it wouldn’t be much of an experiment if I could just go max out the credit card and buy several thousand dollars worth of goodies, and not nearly as much fun, or as educational).
Obviously, given the spirit of this experiment, fast food runs and trips to restaurants are also out of the question.
I’ll also be testing my general preparedness, so we’ll see how long my supply of soap, toothpaste, toilet paper and so on lasts, but note that based on the premise, these things would still be for sale in town, so if I run out of one of those items, I will allow myself to replenish my supply of those goods. My cats are not part of the experiment, so I’m not going to let them starve either. If I run out of cat food, I’m going to replace what they eat. No point in making them suffer because I want to test MYSELF, although I will keep track of how long my current stocks of their food last, so I can adjust the footprint of cat stuff in my overall preps as needed.
I take blood pressure meds, and will also allow myself trips into town to replenish that as needed, and I’m taking a multi-vitamin daily, which will continue for the duration of this experiment because I suspect that one of the things I discover is that my diet will be somewhat deficient. By conducting this test, I hope to learn the following:
- Where is my pantry deficient? What do I need to add/tweak/change to make it more robust, complete, and nutritionally balanced?
- How accurate are my estimates in terms of how long what I’ve got on hand will last? (ie – how much food do I actually EAT in a year, and what does that look like on the pantry shelf?)
- What items do I find myself really missing, and can I stock those to make living on the pantry for an extended period more of a pleasure?
I’m not doing this idly. There’s a method to the madness. While I do not think the end of the world is coming, the simple truth is that stuff happens. It snows. Roads become impassible. Big storms hit and you can’t get to town as often as you’d like. I don’t want to guess, I want to KNOW that if I need to, I can get by on what I’ve got on hand, even for an extended period of time. That appeals to the self-reliant boy scout in me.
It also matters from a Play the Planet perspective, because by having firsthand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, and the scope and scale of a pantry big enough to feed a person for a year, and robust enough to provide a sufficient level of variety, I’ll be able to give better advice to others, and it will help me guide the creation of the first-ever “Cornucopia,” which is PtP’s version of a store, with goods for sale in Ghost Net Credits, so good stuff all around.
I’m active on a Facebook group (hi guys!), and my time there will be my main source of contact outside the holler for the next twelve months (as part of staying “in the story,” I’m going to swear off news sites for the year too). Inside the holler, I’ve told my two nearest neighbors (Mike and Granny) about what I’m doing, and they’re on-board and interested in helping me. They will be my primary trading partners for the year ahead.
Basically, if it’s not already in the pantry, and I can’t grow it on the porch, catch it, or trade for it, I don’t get to eat it for the next twelve months. It should be noted, however, that this is a broad and deep field to work with. I can trade my skills, time and services to my neighbors for anything I wind up lacking, and of course, if my health takes a turn for the worse, I reserve the right to pause the experiment and get myself back on track before continuing, so there’s no real danger here, but that’s rather the point.
By doing this NOW, when times are good, I’ll have a much better, deeper understanding of how all the parts hang together and how well my preparedness will see me through when times aren’t so good. Given what I do for a living, that kinda matters. Times could get lean. They have before. If they do again, I want to be ready.
From a more immediately practical perspective, this experiment will help me keep my expenses down for the next twelve months, which will also speed me along my way in saving for the mini-farm. Good stuff. Kills two birds with one stone, or…stones two birds, or something.
The “game” has already begun. Yesterday, Mike’s kids, having heard about the experiment, came to my back door with two cans of peas and two cans of green beans, wanting to trade for two cans of Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli. I’m sure Mike sent them over, and I think that’s fantastic! I happily accepted the trade. I’ll need the veggies.
One of the questions I got related to trading was this: Will I accept trades that are unrealistic, given the starting premise? So – if Granny offered me a casserole for a can of beef stew, would I take that trade? The answer is no. If a trade seems like it wouldn’t “happen” given the starting parameters, I would decline it (note: I may have my weak moments – I’m not sure I could refuse one of Granny’s pecan pies, but I will try to stick to that!)
I have spoken with the owner of Valley Foods and told him what I’m doing. While he declined to sponsor me, he is interested, and I feel as though I’ve planted a seed that will bear fruit down the road. I expect that he’ll be a valuable ally in the long run for Play the Planet. (Random aside: one of the major reasons for making the purchase of the year’s supply of food was the simple fact that I wanted that free, spiffy rain barrel! 😀 I know…I’m weird…sue me).
Anyway, so there’s that. A test of how robust my pantry is, which should net me some valuable information in terms of what it “needs” to be better, more effective, and more complete, and how robust it is in terms of keeping me alive for something longer than a short-term emergency. Valuable information by any reckoning that will surely guide my thinking on many fronts, once the experiment is complete.
In my estimation, no matter what happens over the next twelve months, it’s going to be a success. Even if I learn that my pantry is an epic fail, that’s still a win, because I’ll learn what it needs to be better. If I got it basically right on my first try, even better. Plus, I’m 100% sure I’ll have to get creative to make it to the end of the year, and exercising that part of my brain is never a bad thing. For all of those reasons, I am excited to begin, and so far, I’ve gotten tons of helpful tips and lots of good advice from the Facebook group. I hope that as the data starts coming in, I’ll be able to return the favor.
I’ll be filing weekly reports, numbered 1 to 52. As much as possible, I’ll try to post updates on Sundays, but…stuff happens. That might not always work out, but I’ll try to stick to a schedule.
Those reports will include photos of the food consumed during the week, calorie counts and nutritional value, BP and weight check, and diary-style musings on how things are going, and how I’m feeling over the course of the year (am I craving certain things, any regrets, etc.).
I was also asked how I’m spending that hundred dollars I mentioned earlier. As of today’s trip, those funds are mostly gone, but I got some good stuff:
- 24 bags of frozen veggies
- 10 single servings of pie (birthday and special occasions!)
- 6 loaves of bread (freezer)
- Assorted meats on special (16 pork chops, 4 sirloins, a pack of chicken breasts and a roast)
The guy at Valley Foods said that he was holding my order for a week because they’re out of Irish Pub soup and wants that included. I’m fine with that, but basically, I’m ready to go as soon as the boxes hit the porch. Will spend this week eating some of the good stuff my neighbors have been giving me to help me recover from a trio of brown recluse spider bites, and by the time the freeze-dried foods get here, I should be down to just pantry stuff and those stocks. We’ll see how it goes.