French Toast vs. Real Preparedness

Photo by dickuhne

The big snow of January 2011 is over, but it’s still weighing on my mind.

It wasn’t a big deal here in Knoxville. Some of my neighbors own snow plows for fun! The roads were icy for one day, and then everything was back to normal.

I have lots of friends in the Atlanta area, though, and I followed their tweets and Facebook statuses as some of them were iced in for several days. Some got into sliding car wrecks. Some were literally barred from leaving their neighborhoods by cops. Most of them were off work. And I lived in Atlanta for 12 years, so I know how that city reacts when there’s bad weather.

I love the French toast joke. When there’s inclement weather, people rush to the store to buy bread, eggs, and milk. Why bread, eggs, and milk? I have no idea. Apparently, bad weather causes a severe craving for French toast! And I do understand the impulse to shop at the first sign of bad weather. I have those thoughts myself. It’s not that I’m afraid of being without something, but I do a once over of what’s in my kitchen and wonder if I should pick anything up and not have to face annoying roads later on.

However, I think that some people think of shopping at the sign of snow as preparation for what’s to come. They think they’re “stocking up”. They think they’re covering the basics. Bread. Milk. You know, the staples. But bread and milk go bad. They aren’t preparation. They are just run of the mill, everyday groceries. And buying them at the first sign of bad weather isn’t preparation. It’s just shopping. It’s just keeping at bay the desire to shop when there’s more snow on the ground tomorrow. It’s not actually getting you ready for what might come. Unless what comes is just a few days of snow and ice, in which case, sure. Buy French toast ingredients. It’ll get you through. But when I think of worse things that could happen, the fact that people panic and scramble for milk when it snows is a little scary to me.

This hit home for me when I read news reports about how shelves in some grocery stores in Atlanta ran out of bread in the space of hours. I have this image in my mind of the grocery store as a vast storage-house of food. I mean, some of these stores are HUGE. Bread takes up an entire aisle plus part of the bakery. That’s got to be A LOT of bread, right? But, it isn’t. It isn’t very much bread at all. Most grocery stores probably turn over all of their bread within a couple of days. The grocery store is NOT a store-house. It’s just a way point. If the weatherman can predict snow, and the store can run out of bread in an afternoon, the real-life truth is that there is no food at the grocery store.

Let me repeat that. There is no food at the grocery store.

Photo by US Geological Survey

If it’s a random Tuesday, and you want to pick up dinner, obviously there is food at the grocery store. If it’s a random winter and there’s going to be a bit of snow, there’s probably food at the grocery store, although maybe not bread. If an actual disaster hits (which the weatherman may or may not warn you of), there very well may not be any food at the grocery store, even assuming that you could get there. If you care at all about real preparation for disasters, it is completely inappropriate to think of a store as the place you will go to get what you need.

Stores can be the place you went to get what you would need long before disaster hit, of course. And that’s where the real difference lies between French toast and real preparedness. When is your preparation occurring? The night before the big snow hit, or months in advance when you had time to sit and plan?

Because you can’t really know when disaster will strike. Maybe the forecast is for a snowstorm, but the resulting storm knocks your power out for a few days. Milk and eggs are not going to take care of your lack of heat.

I thought about the news reports from Atlanta’s iced in week. And I thought about how I think about self-reliance and the preparedness advice of some of the writers I regularly read. And what a gulf lies between people who are prepared and people who are not.

Those are some posts I’ve read recently that stand in stark contrast to the French toast mindset. Check them out. Browse around. Think about what kind of person you want to be in relation to potential disasters. Tell me what you think of the whole thing in the comments.


  1. I spent a number of years on a forum of preparedness nuts, but I found myself separating myself from them politically. They were right-wingers and I’m the liberal they all fear. I took what I learned from them and separated the grain from the chaff. For instance, I like having a stocked pantry and even my husband is accustomed to moving the current tuna cans to the front when the new ones get placed behind them. I even like having my own wheat berries and grinding fresh wheat, but I’m totally not into the K-rations or even the wood-burning stoves. I can see why you are, though (having a source of wood).

    So, we may go out to the store before a storm, but we’re likely to pick up booze, chocolate, and the week’s loss leaders. We may get milk and eggs, but only if they’re on a good sale that week.

  2. I have never understood the whole milk and bread thing. How the hell is a loaf of bread – most likely white, for the average American – going to help you if you’re stuck at home for days without power or anything else to eat?

    I’ve never been a situation where I had to “stock” up, but the first thing I thought of was lentils. The plus side being you can soak if there’s no way to cook them, the downside being if you have no water – but you’d have snow! Whole-grain bread and nutbutters…chips and crackers would last longer. Eggs. Smoked meat products.

    I think knowledge is the most important thing to have handy. How to dress wounds, forage, etc. That guy’s OTC list I’d cut down on. Just ibuprofen would work for me, I avoid Tylenol.

    Having a blanket and flashlight in the car (not taking into account all the fancy emergency crap you can buy).

    Seems to me a supply of canned/jarred goods would be the way to go – and cat food. I keep a “spare” bag of cat food in the pantry.

    Survival Mom’s kinda funny: ” A rock works as a hammer.” There’s a no-shit for you. MREs aren’t THAT good – esp. if you can’t eat what’s in them. They’re calorie-dense but not very nutritious.

    Waterfiltrationsomethingorother would be on my list.

    • Michele,

      One of the simplest preparedness things you can do is to keep stored water in your home. It seems kind of redundant, given how reliable city water is, but you never know when a main might burst or something, and as you point out, without water, a whole lot of your other preparedness can be compromised.

      Issa and I keep about 30 gallons of water downstairs in our basement. At some point, we did the math on how much time we wanted to be prepared for, and then multiplied by something like 2 gallons a day per person (which is, in my experience, excessive, because we don’t bathe that damn often), and bought enough water storage containers from the camping section of Wal-Mart to store that much.

Speak Your Mind


Previous Post:
Next Post: