Shopping During an Emergency: A Reminder of Why it Pays to Stockpile

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping! The Costco scene 24 hours before Hurricane Irene.


Some people are not convinced that it is necessary to stock up on key supplies and keep them on hand in case of emergency.  Sometimes I feel the same way.  Why should we keep all this “stuff” on hand that takes up space and could potentially spoil/wear out before we can use it?

24 hours before Hurricane Irene made landfall on the east coast, I went shopping to supplement our emergency supplies.

Shopping under these conditions taught me a few important lessons about panic and shortages.

So, let’s go shopping!  First, we need some water.  After a hot summer, our water supply was a bit depleted, since we kept raiding it when we needed a bottle for the car, a picnic or during exercise.

At Costco, an employee running a forklift indicated that normally pallets of water are stacked to the ceiling. Here was all that was left one day ahead of the hurricane.

Costco's water supply 24 hours before Hurricane Irene. Normally this area is stacked floor to ceiling with water. This was all that was left.

Sure, there was some water.  All of the standard sized, 16 oz. individual bottles, however, were taken.  All that was left were the really huge and the really tiny bottles as well as some cases of Pellegrino water.

We picked up a few bottles as well as some foods that did not require cooking or refrigeration, such as trail mix, peanut butter and beef jerky.  Interestingly, there was plenty of food to be had.  We also picked up some AA and AAA batteries for the small flashlights we had on hand.

We stopped by Wal-Mart for some emergency supplies we didn’t want to buy In huge quantities (disposable diapers)  and for some supplies Costco didn’t have.

First, we checked the water supply which was also depleted.

Wal-Mart's water supply 24 hours before Hurricane Irene. These shelves are normally packed.

There were a few sad bottles of Perrier and about 10 mini bottles of Nestle water. “Honey, they came for it this morning,” the employee stocking shelves informed me.

Perrier and Pellegrino . . . all that was left at Wal-Mart.


How about a flashlight?  We discovered that none of our big flashlights were working and all we had were some tiny keychain flashlights my husband acquired at business conferences.  As we turned down the sporting goods aisle here is what we found.

Flashlight, anyone? Not here!


Every single flashlight and lantern was gone!  All of the lantern, C and D batteries were gone too.  All that was left were a few AAs.

We headed home knowing that we had enough to survive for a week in case the power was out for an extended period but that we would likely have certain inconveniences, such as fighting over the small flashlights.  If we didn’t have our stockpiled supply, we would have been quite stressed at this point.

In the end, Hurricane Irene was kind to us and blew through with some light rain and mild but constant winds.  We didn’t need any of our emergency supplies but we know we were lucky.

If you can maintain a minimal level of preparedness at all times, you will be far more ready than if you wait to buy before a disaster strikes.   We still haven’t purchased a large working flashlight yet so this reminder is as much for me as you!

If a disaster hit today that knocked out power or water for a period of time, what emergency supplies would you wish you had?  Please share in the comments.