Remember the primary? And food prepping part 2.

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So, Sunday night's presidential debate did not go as well for Bernie Sanders (or as poorly for Joe Biden) as I had hoped. Part of the reason was that Biden repeatedly lied about his voting record, to make it seem like he was a tried-and-true progressive and not, as he has long been known, "the senator from MBNA."

Sanders called him out on it, but the moderators -- unsurprisingly -- let Biden's falsehoods slide. Another issue was that Sanders once gain refused to make the contrast between himself and the Vichy Democrat as clear as it needs to be. He kept pulling punches when he should have gone in for the knockout.

Sanders has served a long career in the United States Senate, with its antiquated rules and traditions around decorum, designed to protect slaveholders from gratuitous insult as well as legitimate accusations. I think it has dulled his edges a bit.

This morning, the Sanders campaign was reportedly "assessing" its future. The candidate himself is said to be focusing on what he can to do deal with coronavirus. This is not how a campaign talks when it thinks it can win.

Even if Sanders had done better on Sunday, events are conspiring to make a mess of everyone's plans. Whether the rest of the primaries even take place on schedule is uncertain. Sanders' own campaign is calling for postponement.

I was skeptical, but seeing what happened in Illinois yesterday -- with polling shuttered offices and no-show elections workers -- it's clear that the results will be tainted and unrepresentative everywhere that holds a primary during the pandemic. People should not be asked to risk their lives, or endager others' lives, simply to cast a ballot.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has proposed a national vote-by-mail program. In a more just and sane world, Congress would pass this emergency measure and the president would approve it as a matter of course. But that is not our world.

What's more likely, I think, is that suppressed turnout carries Biden to victory in the Democratic primary. Sanders supporters, demoralized, will fail to turn out for Biden, as is predictable -- and as is their right -- and Trump will win reelection.

But that is assuming the November elections even take place. Increasingly, I doubt they will. The other day on Twitter I offered to bet $20 that the US would have a military government by the end of this year. It took 15 or 20 minutes for anyone to take me up on it. This is a real possibility if COVID-19 is as disruptive and deadly as it has been in, say, Italy. And I expect it will be worse, because the US has no functioning healthcare system, and no political will to help people thrown out of work, or their homes, by the pandemic.

That's where my head’s at. Now listen to Uncle Jason, he has good advice.



Your basic prep

Last time we laid out some assumptions, disclaimers, and principles. 

Now the task is to secure 14 days of food on the assumption that water, electricity and heat for cooking are available. 

This has all been made more difficult right now by panic buying and shortages. Grocery stores will refill once panic buying stops. Bulk aisles in particular will refill quickly. I’d opt for a weekday rather than the weekend for shopping if you can.

Let me take you through the reasoning before I give you a shopping list. 


The most basic consideration is getting enough calories per day. Caloric needs vary by age, sex, and levels of activity. A physically active 18 year old male needs a whopping 3200 calories per day. A sedentary 70 year old woman needs half that. A moderately active 2 year old needs 1000 calories. 

You should exercise in quarantine. But we can probably assume that you won’t be at the highest level of physical activity. 

The calorie figures are rough, and certainly do not constitute medical advice. Every individual is different. Underestimating your caloric needs is far worse than overestimating in an emergency situation. And we’ll wind up exceeding these “average” figures anyway. 

That said, if you’re an adult male, you’re going to need somewhere in the range of 2500 calories for moderate activity. Except for those in their early 20s, most women will need around 2000. 

You can look at the estimates at the US Department of Health. Read their assumptions at the top, which themselves make assumptions regarding height and weight. 

It’s not too hard to get to these totals with a pretty basic, cheap, but nutritious diet. 

You can get more than halfway to the daily total with the simplest of dinners - one which billions around the world rely on, and one which Americans have repeatedly been told would make their diets healthier. 

Beans and rice. 

Maybe you are afraid of dried beans because of the soaking requirements. You shouldn’t be - you can cook them from their dry state, especially if they aren’t too old. (Soon we will talk about stovetop pressure cookers).

There are 221 calories in a cup of cooked red kidney beans. 686 in a cup of cooked brown rice. There are 122 in a tablespoon of oil. There are 156 in a half a can of tomato puree. There are 119 in an ounce of grated cheddar cheese. There are 110 in half a medium onion. 

That’s just over 1400 calories in a large dinner serving of cooked beans and rice with a sauce based on tomato and onion and a sprinkling of grated cheese. 

You can lay a good foundation at the other end of the day with breakfast. 

There are around 200 calories in a heaped half cup of rolled oats, which is about what you need for a single serving of oatmeal. There are 64 in a tablespoon of honey. There are 100 in a big handful of raisins. Black coffee has almost no energy, but a tablespoon of cream brings it to 30. 

That’s around 400 more in a breakfast of oatmeal with honey and coffee and cream. 

That’s 1800 calories altogether. We’re almost there without having eaten lunch. 

100g of cooked pasta is 150 calories. There’s almost 200 in a 5.8 oz can of tuna. A medium green apple is around 100 calories. 

That’s a shade over 2200 altogether in three meals. 

A snack of half a cup of peanuts will put us over 2500 calories. 

A slice of wheat toast with peanut butter will almost get us there too. 

An orange won’t add too much to the calorie count (40ish) but it will give us some much needed vitmin C. 

All of this can be made from very cheap, very shelf stable ingredients. It may not be the most interesting diet. Though healthy and nutritious, you may not want to eat just this for months on end. But if you can make these meals, you can survive. 

There are many places you can check these calorie counts - I linked to one such site above. But simply googling “how many calories in [quantity] of [food item]” works, and google has a built in feature that works for a lot of foods. Check my math!

The food

Beans, rice, oatmeal, pasta, some kind of complex animal protein, dried fruit, fresh fruit, peanuts and/or peanut butter. How much of this do you need for one person for two weeks as your basic prep — as something you can build on. 

This handy reference shows conversions for dried to cooked beans. One cup of cooked beans (a generous serving) is 1/3 cup of dried beans. That means that there are six servings in a pound (450g).

A pound of beans is, on average, about $1 at WinCo. 2.5 pounds could do it for one person. Let’s round up to 3. Three dollars. 

(I’ll use WinCo as a reference here, which is Pacific Northwest/Arizona/California/Texas. Winco don’t publish prices lists so I have used this resource at Practical Savings — local prices will vary. There’s a list of bulk shopping outlets in each state here. I hate to recommend smartphone apps in 2020, but Basket does a pretty good job at giving local prices for a wide range of goods. One surprise may be that Whole Foods is frequently the price leader on bulk goods, especially organic stuff. In my home country, Australia, bulk shopping is more constrained, but these will still be very cheap ingredients even when overpackaged) 

Brown rice has around the same dry-cooked ratio. 3 lbs (1350ish g) of brown rice at WinCo - two weeks supply - will set you back around 3.75. 

A 3 lb bag of onions is $1.28 (get 2 for $2.56 if you want). You could pick up 7 cans of WinCo tomato sauce for $4.06. 16 oz of their cheddar is $3.09. 3 bulbs of garlic will set you back $1.74. 

A pound of organic oats is currently $1.09 at Winco, (just 99 cents at Whole Foods). A pound of raisins is $1.77. 16 oz of WinCo Clover Honey is $3.93. A quart of their ultra-pasteurized half and half is $1.88. 

3lb of bulk penne pasta is $3.71. 7 5 0z cans of Starkist chunk tuna will be $5.46. Tuna pasta may get a little samey. You could get a pound of ground turkey for $3.98, and a pound of 85% ground beef for $3.28 to mix it up. 

There are three medium sized apples in a pound. You need 5 pounds - you can that much in Fujis for $4.95. (Grocery Outlet currently has a 5lb bag for 80 cents) There are two medium sized oranges in a pound. You need 7lbs. You can get that for $5.46. 

A loaf of WinCo wheat bread costs $1.18. 28oz of their crunchy peanut butter is $2.32. 

You need to cook. You need oil. Don’t go with cheap vegetable oil - it’s often ultra processed. A 32 oz bottle of Winco Canola Oil costs $1.82. 5oz seasoning salt is 98 cents. Pepper is expensive but worth it: if you need a grinder as well, many brands sell it packaged with one which is so so. Morton has a 1oz one which you can refill which is widely available for around $2.50 (I couldn’t find WinCo’s exact offerings along these lines anywhere, but I assume they are roughly equivalent). 

Coffee is tricky because not everyone has the same set-up. I will assume you cannot grind at home and are using a standard drip filter machine. How strong do you like it? The standard advice 12 pots to a pound. We’ll go for one and a half pounds for two weeks to be safe. You can grind whole beans in the WinCo bulk coffee section. That’ll cost 8.97. (A pound and a half of Folgers costs $6.98 if you really want to trim your sails). 

Stop there. That’s it. You’ve done it. If you get this stuff, it won’t be the most exciting of diets, but you will survive for two weeks. And you will have only had to go to one store. (Shopping around at 2-3 stores would be even cheaper, but not a great idea with a pandemic raging) 

You haven’t spent $300 on overpackaged freeze dried vegetables marketed by a charlatan conspiracy theorist. You haven’t wasted money on hoarding random items. You have shopped with a plan in mind.

By my calculations, based on current prices in Oregon and a bulk list made in Washington, the cost of two weeks of shelf stable food - more than enough for one person to live on - plus some longer-term pantry items is $70.20. $5 a day. (Please note: Oregon has no sales tax, which you also need to consider elsewhere). 

You have high quality protein. You have low GI carbs. You have fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You have fresh fruit and vegetables (beans do double duty as veggies). 

For some that is still going to seem like a lot to spend on food that you are stacking away as surplus, especially if there are several people in the house. I want you to not think about this as surplus food. Think of it as the core of the provisioning system which you will use every day. 

Next time I’ll show you how you can start eating this stuff right away, build it up with add-ons, and operate with a permanent surplus of two weeks, which you can then grow out to a resilient larder.

You can also make this taste a lot better with a few spices or a simple broth. And if you can spring for a couple of cheap permanent additions to your store of kitchen equipment, your life will be made easier. We’ll also cover that stuff next time.

I’ll finish this food advice by the end of the week. On the weekend we will be making a simple balcony planter box for around $11.

Time’s a wasting


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