The last-minute grocery and emergency supply shopping run is part of prepper mythology. Whether or not it makes sense to do a “last run” shopping trip is very controversial in the prepper community and has both positive and negative aspects. Whether or not to do so requires considerable forethought and mental preparation.
I know some preppers are horrified by the idea of intentionally utilizing a last run to top-off or expand supplies. It’s great to be able to hunker down with a mug of hot buttered rum in front of the fireplace and watch the snow come down or snuggle down with a good book to read by LED lantern light, but one of the key characteristics of preppers is their ability to take advantage of a changing situation and making it work for them.
I don’t recommend a last run be your first choice in emergency preparedness, but a last run can have advantages that may be worth exploiting. If you choose to conduct a last run, you aren’t less of a person or less of a prepper. You haven’t failed your family or yourself. You’ve simply made a reasoned, conscious choice to capitalize on another opportunity when every opportunity is important.
In most apocalyptic fiction, the main characters suddenly awaken to the immensity and criticality of their End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) situation and run to the store to stock up on supplies that virtually every long-time prepper worth his or her salt has already stashed. The fictional characters always have working automobiles, always have a respectable amount of cash on hand, and always manage to arrive at the store ahead of the soon-to-become violent crowd.
Really? Figure the odds.
Very few among us in this community have the wherewithal to buy decades’ worth of supplies and equipment or have unlimited storage space. That’s a big reason that prepper websites and others strongly recommend moving now to your Bug Out Location (BOL) and actually living your lives in a grid-down, self-sufficient way. However, not everyone is in a position to do that. I know I’m not.
There are folks who need to be close to medical care, others who have familial obligations, like elderly parents in nursing homes or children with serious disabilities, who need to be considered. Some people are tied to their jobs or communities, despite concerted efforts to become debt-free and unencumbered. Others feel a commitment to serve in areas, which have special need of their skills and abilities. There are probably a hundred more reasons that legitimately keep preppers where they already are, no matter how much they understand that a BOL might be a better long-term choice for them or their families personally.
The important thing is to realize and accept that a BOL in the Great Hinterlands is not practical, achievable, or affordable for everyone, and, if that is the case for you and your family, that is okay. You are not a bad person or even a bad prepper. Everyone must play the hand that life deals them and make the most of it. That doesn’t necessarily mean though that doing so will be easy.
If you have limited income, as most of us do, a bit-by-bit style of prepping can work. Instead of buying cartloads of goods at one time, you buy an extra one or two items each time you shop to put into your prepper stash. This works if you have sufficient lead time and a place to put things. If you don’t have either, you might want to consider the benefits of a last run.
In my opinion, too many long-time, established preppers see the last run as a failure in their prepper planning. If they have done their prepping well, they will already have everything they need to weather whatever crisis suddenly comes along. They won’t have to brave the elements, defend against terrified, desperate mobs, or compete for limited goods and supplies. In that regard, they are right, and I commend them for their foresight and ability to accomplish that lofty goal. That is my goal, too.
Unfortunately, for many, it’s just a goal. For these folks, I offer the concept of the last run. A last run is not a Black Friday-type of shopping model, nor even a last-minute effort ahead of a storm that gets hours of television coverage. Instead, my kind of last run is a planned, well-thought out, well-researched shopping trip aimed at topping off or expanding preps, rather than acquiring things you have none of and, for whatever reason, put off getting. If you have none of any one or more critical life-saving items, the chance of getting any late in a crisis will be slim. Count on that and get them as soon as you can while you still can.
Now, we will explain how to begin developing a comprehensive strategy for a last run shopping trip.
How to Begin Implementing a last run Strategy
You first start with an assessment or inventory. One of the first tasks assigned to a lesser fictional character (typically a teenager) in our disaster novel is to inventory what the family or group has on hand. You should do the same. Make a list of what you have and another of what you think you will need if you can’t replenish your supplies for a set period of time. The timeframe matters, so make sure you also know your depletion rate for each item.
Separately, or in the back of your mind, you can also list those things that you don’t really need (or need any more of) but which could be useful later as trade items or charity, if you can’t readily obtain your higher priority items. Sometimes getting what you can, whatever it is, is a good long-term strategy.
What Crisis Am I Trying to Deal With?
It’s been said that you can’t begin to solve a problem or deal effectively with a situation until you have identified what the problem actually is. Different crises and emergencies require different approaches and solutions.
This will require giving some serious thought, in advance, to what kind(s) of crises you expect your family will have to face. This is hard, make no mistake about it. You, and preferably other family members who can contribute a different perspective and insight, will have to face the fact that your situation might very well go south without warning.
Many people can’t do this easily, if at all. They are so entrenched in the normalcy and repetitiveness of their day-to-day lives that they cannot conceive of a time when things aren’t just swimming merrily along. This is called normalcy bias and is a real and dangerous thing. For people suffering from normalcy bias, their entrenched mindset is so fixed that they might not be able to respond effectively to the demands of a changing (or changed) situation. They may be injured, or even die, before they can make the mental adjustment to respond effectively to accept their situation and take appropriate steps to reduce the level of the threat.
Step 1: Make a List
You don’t want that to happen to you or yours, so the first step is to make a list of what might happen. I suggest that you use brainstorming techniques, where everyone in the group just throws out ideas one after the other without anyone stopping to evaluate the probability of the event occurring. This will enable you to identify potential Black Swan events– those things that happen so rarely that they are as common as a black swan instead of a white one (i.e., extremely uncommon, though possible).
It will probably be easy to start your list– weather events, such as snowstorms, hurricanes, tornados; potential flooding or earthquakes, if you live in areas prone to such things; losing a job; illness in the family; fire, whether confined to your residence or a wildfire that requires evacuation; legal problems, including arrests, lawsuits, or forefeiture– a real possibility for innocent preppers whose own government has accused them of being domestic terrorists. Also include the Black Swans, as many as you can think of. Be creative and non-judgmental. Let history be your guide. If something has happened before, anywhere, to anyone, at any time, it can happen again, to you.
Step 2: Arrange Your List
Once you have your list, you move to the second step. Consider how likely each of the events are and arrange them in order of likelihood. Where I live, for example, I know that we will have multiple snow and ice events in the winter and windstorms and torrential rains in the summer. I can bet with 100 per cent certainty that, in most of those, we will experience power outages and some degree of property damage.
Some events are so unlikely or so potentially devastating (the Yellowstone volcano erupting comes to mind) that you will have to determine whether you can respond to them at all. If you have limited time, money, and storage capability, there are physical limits to what you can accomplish. That’s just a fact, painful as it may be, so at this point I recommend that you concentrate on the most likely events first and expand your prepping from there as you have the opportunity.