(As promised, a real explanation for stockpiling.)
I grew up in Mississippi. When I went to grad school in Tennessee, I met other new students from Canada, the Pacific northwest, and New England — and when a few of them found out I was from Mississippi, they seemed to look upon me as a curious specimen, something of a southern-belle mystery, to be studied anthropologically.
Mind you, we were in Tennessee.
Erroneous perceptions and pre-conceived notions aside, there’s something mystical about a state that produces the likes of Eudora Welty, Oprah, Faulkner, BB King, and Sweet Potato Queens. My entire family is still there — and while there are many things I decidedly don’t miss about my deep-southern home (6-months of perpetual outdoor sauna, cat-sized cockroaches), there are also things I do occasionally pine for, and seek out on our return. One of those things is a chain of salvage stores called Hudson’s.
Hudson’s buys stocks of goods from stores that have gone bankrupt, had fire/water/whatever damage, etc., and sells them for big discounts. At your high-end Hudson’s, you might walk in and find a stock of designer clothes for 50% off, or an entire big-chain bookstore stock going at 70% off retail. At the low-end Hudson’s (called “Dirt Cheap,” for real), you walk into what looks like a warehouse-sized garage sale. You dig through damaged clothes, broken furniture, and opened toiletry boxes looking for that gem — that repairable designer silk blouse (retail $450) for $10.
My blood runs Hudson’s blue. I can find ways to pacify my thrifting needs here in Indiana, but nothing compares to that chain of stores.
So imagine my delight when I came across a new salvage store right here in Indianapolis — for dry goods. A place where a guy buys out-of-date and/or damaged-out stock from grocery stores. And one of the grocery stores with which he has a contract is our local Whole Foods.
Angelo’s is a small warehouse with odd hours, and they don’t take plastic. You never know what you’ll find — unless you get on Tony’s good side and he gives you a call when a new shipment’s coming (I’m not quite there yet, apparently). But when he goes to pick up a dozen palettes from Whole Foods, you can end up walking out of his store with everything from Himalayan salt to organic coconut water to chlorine-free feminine products. But if you’re like me, you’re really there for the 25- and 50-pound bags of bulk items.
You know the section in Whole Foods where you buy grains, beans, etc. by the pound in bulk? All of that comes to them direct from the mill, in huge sewn bags. If these bags sit too long in their storeroom, or if they happen to be on a truck that was involved in a fender-bender, it all goes to Angelo’s, unopened. And he sells everything for under 50¢/pound.
In this utopian world of food bargains, there are some rules I choose to live by. First, I am careful not to buy processed whole grains; so no wheat flour, no oat bran, no flax seed mill — these items go rancid so quickly, I couldn’t be sure I wasn’t buying food unfit to eat. Instead, I buy whole wheat berries (one of my kitchen indulgences is a grain mill), dried beans, dry natural sweeteners, rice, and oats. Also, I try to show restraint and not buy things that we don’t already regularly use — so a few weeks ago I passed up 25# of dry pintos, since my kids won’t currently eat them (without lots of blood, sweat, tears, and potential years off my life).
Since finding Angelo’s, I’ve finally been able to stay in our grocery budget. Since I bake much of our bread, make a weekly half-gallon of granola, and use rice as a staple, the ingredients are no longer weekly needs costing up to $3/pound — they are in my basement, in those glistening plastic bins from my local restaurant-supply store.
Per my last post — in theory, I could feed my neighborhood in the case of a natural disaster. The question is, would I. Because you never know how long it will be before Tony heads back to the Whole Foods warehouse. I’ve entertained the idea of arranging an “accident” on a city street — perhaps a mild scratch-up with a Whole Foods delivery truck at a 4-way stop? But then I realize that intentionally crashing into a semi in order to get cheap bulk food items is just a tad bit irrational.
But if we get that grid failure? The neighborhood kids might be on their own.