Do We Need to Stockpile?

clear glass jars with assorted foods

If I feel insecure, I borderline hoard.

I know why I do this. My family refused to toss anything if they could remotely imagine a use for it, and shortly after I entered adulthood I ended up living on less money than even I find comfortable (and I don’t need much to be comfortable).

I suspect that I’m not alone in my tendency to stockpile items I feel I may need. Since the start of COVID, I’ve watched everyone (literally) begin to lay in large supplies of at least one thing they fear might run out. For some it is food. Others collect money. Bathroom tissue, sanitary napkins, and pet food are other common items being collected.

But do we really need to stockpile, even now?

Sure, in a worst-case scenario we might see some empty shelves in the stores, but in my area at least, there is always a store or two in town that hasn’t ran out of what you need.

And even if we can’t find what we want/need at that moment, would it kill us to make do with something else until the shelves were restocked? Would it kill us to switch brands for a few days, or try something new?

And when does it go from stockpiling “just in case” to actual hoarding?

I ask because, despite the fact that I had to discard a curbie’s worth of expired food that I acquired at the beginning of the COVID era, I am still being encouraged by friends and family to stockpile food. I should start a garden, learn to “can,” freeze, and dehydrate. I need to buy a carload of bathroom tissue. Don’t forget the cleaning supplies!

I am considered reckless for not stocking up, despite the fact that I don’t eat enough to justify the amount of food I purchase on a normal basis.

How Much is Enough?

Seriously, folks–how much food does one person need?

And it’s not just food I’m discussing. How much bathroom tissue, notebook paper, clothing, and cleaning supplies is a reasonable amount to keep on hand?

When do we look around and say enough with the stockpiling?

What is your opinion on the subject? Do you believe that it is wise to stockpile, especially in the COVID age? Why or why not? If you have stocked up, what items have you focused on? Do you focus upon consumables or have you began to include durable “disaster” goods like generators, candles, batteries, chargers, and so forth in your supplies?

What is your logic for this?

Do you feel that you have enough of certain items or do you feel the need to acquire more?

While there are right or wrong answers to the question of stockpiling, I would really love to hear your opinions on the subject. I have wrestled with the dilemma of stockpiling for decades and, as I move forward into this new era of solitary living, I could use your advice.

Please help. If you have any thoughts or advice to share, would you kindly take a moment to drop them in the comment box at the end of this post? If you know of someone who stockpiles (or refuses to), would you mind asking them to share their opinions on the subject?

Thank you so much, you are awesome!

Hugs, Annie


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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

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15 thoughts on “Do We Need to Stockpile?”

  1. We don’t stockpile. We keep shopping so stores can stay in business. (OK we did buy extra toilet paper but only one extra package which we then hung onto just in case. It’s still in the cupboard.)

    1. What about your friends? Did any of them stockpile? And have you ever felt the urge to stockpile in the past?

  2. I stockpiled like crazy at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. I ended up donating most of the food to a food bank and I still am using the toilet paper and paper towels I bought back then. I also still have disinfecting wipes and bleach from that time.
    I was caught up in the frenzy around me regarding shortages. I bought toilet paper whenever it was available and was able to provide things to friends (mostly TP and Clorox wipes).
    Since then, I have stopped shopping at Costco, I am using the extras I have on hand, and I think I have learned a lesson.
    Oh, I also planted a garden – or should I say a groundhog , skunk, and squirrel buffet?
    Now, I am determined to use what I have and to buy what I need.
    That being said, I do try to have one extra of things I use often (dish liquid, shampoo, toothpaste). But, one backup is enough —- now that I have regained perspective.

    1. Hi Belinda!

      I was very concerned as well. Stocked up on lots of things, the same as you did. I managed to use up everything but the food. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a close watch on the expiration dates. If I had, I would have donated my excess as well.

      But as long as we live and learn from this experience we will come out of it wiser. To me, that makes it worth the expense.

  3. Humans are creatures of habit so many people stockpile because their parents did. Our ancestors would stockpile for the lean months of winter and honestly we often do things without explaining to our children why because we think that the reason should be apparent. This is how we lose knowledge. The why should be written down along with the other stuff we think is obvious.

    I’ll usually keep a certain number of canned goods for the sake of having them for an impromptu meal or in case I have to change the menu all of a sudden. I will also keep a certain amount of rice and dried beans for just in case or to make sure that I at least have something in the house to eat in case everything else goes to hell. When there were more of us in the family I obviously stored more food and getting out of that habit took a bit. What broke me of it was the waste. I had to throw things away because they weren’t being used. I hate wasting food. I will always keep some rice and beans around for emergencies but I’ve cut way down on the amounts and I try to make sure I use them before a year is up.

  4. I don’t stockpile, but as I have a very large family, I look like I do, every week! Four cans of vegetables, four gallons of milk, and so on.
    Now that you mention it, our stores here in northern Ohio have many bare shelves. Do you think one reason might be people stockpiling? I thought maybe the online and grocery pick up orders were doing it, but I don’t know what the issues are. It does make me wonder if I shouldn’t be buying more when I finally find an item.

    1. Hi Valerie!

      I believe that some are stockpiling, but I have also heard from those who work in stores that there are issues not only with getting the supplies they order from the manufacturers, but with the trucking industry as well, so I suspect it is a combination of issues.

    2. Hi Valerie, just a thought from up here in Canada. One thing I have noticed too…which might explain the changes in how stores operate, is that stores are so much more efficient in how they manage inventory. All that bar code scanning is not frivolous…it allows the stores to only refill and reorder items that shoppers have purchased. So, for business reasons, this saves costs for business owners such as grocers. But, in some ways, it has prevented retail stores from stocking up like they used to. In the “ole days” you could see that stores had boxes and boxes and skids full of food waiting to be put on the shelves. Now that grocery stores operate in an “automated” computerized re-ordering system, there is now less “stuff” going dusty on shelves. Less waste…but also less stock piling in retail locations. Hence, when supply chains are interrupted by pandemics or supply chain issues, the bare shelves show up quicker.
      Hope that helps a bit. Have a fab day!

      1. Exactly, Carla! There is actually a term for it—kanban. It means “push-pull” in Japanese, iirc. Factories use this to avoid overstocking on materials needed in manufacture, and stores are doing this as well. Good call!

  5. Hi Annie… nice to hear that you are questioning the narrative.
    I too have wondered what kind of stock piling is wise and what kind of stocking up… is just a waste of time and effort and space.

    I suppose, philosophically there are two kinds of “prepping” which we need to discuss. One is just the simple basic kind which prepares us for short term interruptions…like when the electricity goes out for a day or even half a day. This kind of prepping appeals to me. I have candles….and loads of blankets and firewood too if I had to cook outside…and a bbq. But then there is that “next level prepping” which would allow our family to survive indoors during an extended emergency without trips to a store or a gas station. I must admit that I have not done this kind of prepping. I don’t feel any kind of urgent impulse to do this kind of prepping. Am I wrong? Or am I just adaptable and willing, as you suggest, to survive on what the stores can provide even during a upset of local supply chains. Anyone who knows our family, sees that we are adaptive folks. We have experience eating all kinds of different foods and the pandemic has shown us , that yes, we can survive semi-isolation for long periods of time.
    So, whatya think Annie? Are we living in denial of impending disaster…or are we just peaceful folk who will adapt to whatever God permits into our lives? Do tell:)

    1. Hello, Carla!

      I believe that, no matter how much that we try to prepare for “anything,” that, in the end, we will discover that even our best efforts will fail.

      For instance, a friend of mine is busy prepping for a number of potential disasters. She recently invested in a generator and a number of other expensive items towards her goal. But in a true disaster, would she even be able to live in her apartment, or would she have to flee? If she fled, would she be able to carry her generator, her food, and the other items with her? I remember the photographs of a Time gone by where people attempted to flee a war. They had carts laden with all of the things they thought they would need, but as they journeyed, they began to toss things to the wayside because those items slowed down their flight.

      Those photos resonated with me. We don’t know the future. In a worst-case scenario, all we will have time to do is grab a bag and run. Does it make sense to collect these items if we may not be able to take them with us or use them?

      I don’t have the answer, but I am asking that question more frequently as I move through my days. For me, I believe that, should things get that bad, I wouldn’t even look back on my stuff. After all, if you have clothes on your back and food in your belly, you can sort out the rest.

  6. In March 2020, I started doing only a monthly shop, so it was a short-term stock pile. I don’t think I threw away anything, but I’m just about to finish the pound of yeast I bought 18 months ago & stored in the freezer. Currently I probablyhave enough food to last 2 months for the 2 of us, same for dogfood. I still need to buy gallons of water to store for emergencies though.

  7. Hi Annie !
    I do believe in stockpiling … . I have had a tough ten years … so for me the stockpiling is for peace of mind. I basically keep a pantry full of enough food that should I fall sick (I have a chronic illness) or if my husband loses his job, or if the weather causes a short term disaster , we are covered. It’s a 3 month supply of food & tp & pet food. That I co time to rotate into our every day usage and restock as needed
    Hope that helps !

    1. Thank you! Do you ever find that you stock too much, that food goes bad before you use it?

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