Surviving when store shelves are empty.

I had been working on another blog of edible weeds and pondering the idea of “plant of the week” when the world seemed to change overnight and global panic ensued. We all watched the Covid-19 virus news and suddenly it was the only thing in our news feeds and on our mind. Human nature kicked in and we collectively panicked with concerns we would be quarantined and without supplies. Even those of us that remained calm began to worry that we wouldn’t get our fair share of stuff if we didn’t get out there and buy in mass. So this is a bit of advice for those that missed the shopping frenzy and found bare shelves everywhere they went. We will address the hot items like lack of hand sanitizer, what to do with 100 cans of beans and, ahem, toilet paper shortages. Humor may be involved, so please don’t tell me I am making light in the face of crisis. You were warned.

First up, hand sanitizer! You actually don’t need a lot because you should be staying home where soap and water hand washing is available and effective. If you do have to go out and face the world, hand sanitizer is “handy”. In lieu of paying a sketchy character on the street corner top dollar for the scarce bottle of sanitizer, you can make your own. This will involve Vodka but please for external use only (well take a sip if you must). Here is what you need to mix together in a bottle by gentle shaking. Any clean bottle will do.

  • 2/3 cup vodka (100 proof or higher)
  • 1/3 cup aloe gel
  • Essential Oil (tea tree if you need heavy duty or favorite scent for fun)

This is “back up” hand sanitizer, nothing beats soap and water washing for eliminating viruses. The alcohol content should be 60% and 100 proof vodka is only 50% so use a higher proof if you have it. Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol works better but is also sold out in many stores. This is a last resort, wash your hands as soon as you are able. It will also save you from explaining why you smell of vodka.

Next up, beans as promised. I have included this because I noticed a serious lack of beans (black, kidney, pinto, navy, all of ’em) in the canned food section at the stores. As a non-meat eater, these are part of my regular diet and usually very available. So I am assuming a lot of people that don’t normally eat beans have stock piles now and no knowledge of what to do with them. You can only eat but so much chili. Beans are wonderful with rice, spice them with your favorite spices. You can fry up some diced onion, add beans, mash them up a bit and serve in soft tortillas or even in hard tacos instead of beef. You can make bean soup, use your imagination and add what ever else you have stockpiled. Beans, broth, veggies and- bam- soup. Add whatever spice you like. I love black bean soup with Chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. If you are a cilantro lover it gives bean dishes some pizazz. You can mix your mashed up beans with some crushed corn chips to make a patty for a burger replacement. Bean dip is delicious, toss a can of beans and some spice into the food processor. I hope there were some ideas in there for the bean challenged. Thanks to the internet (still available) there is detailed recipes galore if you don’t like to “wing it” during cooking. I’m afraid winging it is the only cooking style I know. Be creative.

After all those beans, you may be concerned about your lack of toilet paper in the stockpile cupboard. Things are going to get graphic folks. Toilet paper was invented in 1857 but waste elimination has been going on as long as humankind. What on earth did our ancestors do without toilet paper? Surely dirty bottoms were not roaming the planet. First there were leaves. Mullein has big soft leaves, lambs quarters are soft but smaller but pretty much, any leaf will do with the except of stinging nettle and poison ivy. Leaves of 3, leave them be. But really, we are not barbarians. I doubt many of us will be keeping a basket of leaves in the bathroom. Here is the shocking leaf upgrade, a soft bit of cloth. I highly recommend baby washcloths but any cloth will do as long as it’s not too thick. Use post toileting then when you are at the sink washing those hands, wash out the cloth for next time. It is highly recommended that each family member has their own, this is no time for sharing. If it has been a rather epic toileting experience you may want to use the precious bit of toilet paper first or toss the cloth after use. This is what our ancestors did between the leaf period and the Sears catalog days.

I hope you have enjoyed my survival guide and that I have not offended anyone in my attempt to offer alternatives to staking out the nearest grocery store. Stay safe, wash hands and care for each other at a distance.


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