Making a “Last Run” When the SHTF

The last-minute grocery and emergency supply shopping run is part of prepper mythology. Whether or not it makes sense to do a “last run” shopping trip is very controversial in the prepper community and has both positive and negative aspects. Whether or not to do so requires considerable forethought and mental preparation.

I know some preppers are horrified by the idea of intentionally utilizing a last run to top-off or expand supplies. It’s great to be able to hunker down with a mug of hot buttered rum in front of the fireplace and watch the snow come down or snuggle down with a good book to read by LED lantern light, but one of the key characteristics of preppers is their ability to take advantage of a changing situation and making it work for them.

I don’t recommend a last run be your first choice in emergency preparedness, but a last run can have advantages that may be worth exploiting. If you choose to conduct a last run, you aren’t less of a person or less of a prepper. You haven’t failed your family or yourself. You’ve simply made a reasoned, conscious choice to capitalize on another opportunity when every opportunity is important.

n most apocalyptic fiction, the main characters suddenly awaken to the immensity and criticality of their End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) situation and run to the store to stock up on supplies that virtually every long-time prepper worth his or her salt has already stashed. The fictional characters always have working automobiles, always have a respectable amount of cash on hand, and always manage to arrive at the store ahead of the soon-to-become violent crowd.

Really? Figure the odds.

In the main I agree with most posters, a final run is possibly/probably not a good idea, maybe.

If you’re talking about a last run to Walmart, then maybe you run the chance of getting into the middle of where you don’t want to be. However, there are lots of other sorts of “final runs”, such as to the bank, the gas station, the feed store, and others. How safe a final run is can depend on how fast, prepared and organized you are, and what particular goal you have in mind.

When 911 happened, I was in the barn working on something. When the news about the first tower came over the radio, I decided to go to the house to see what was on TV. I got there just in time to see the second tower get hit. Over the next hour, reports came in that we were under attack. The Pentagon was hit, there were reports of shots or a bomb at the State Department, the President was taken into hiding, a plane was in the air heading for DC, and there were all kinds of other reports and rumors. Then two fighter jets flew low over my house chasing a small plane. (That was really impressive!) It seemed early that first day that things might really be coming apart. Every bit of me wanted to sit and watch what was happening.

I also thought if things were going to go south, there were some chores to do. There were various tractor parts I had planned on picking up the next week. I also wanted another milk goat. So, I jumped in the truck and took off. It was remarkable. There was no one driving. It appeared everyone was watching, instead of acting. When I got to Tractor Supply, it was a ghost town. The lone clerk complained he wanted to close the store so he could go home and watch the news like everybody else. I was able to stock up with no problem.

When I arrived at the goat farm, I got the nanny also with no delay. I don’t recall the farmer even knowing of the events. He didn’t have a radio in his barn like I did. (Had the event been a nuke from N. Korea instead of several commercial planes, he might have been in a tough spot not knowing what was happening.) Since then I have occasionally wondered if things had really gotten bad that day/week if goat guy would have been so quick to sell what might later have become a prime asset. Early on, he was happy to make the deal.

My third stop was at the feed store for some additional 100 lb. bags of corn and 80 lb. bags of wheat and oats. Animals eat, and not a bit of that extra grain would go to waste if nothing more happened. If things really did get nuts, several hundreds of pounds of additional animal feed would feed a heck of a lot of people. Our supply store also sells a wide variety of heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. No matter how many seeds you have, seeds is simply one of those things you can’t have too much of. There will very possibly be fewer seeds available for trade than even antibiotics and lead. Of course, the feed stores have fertilizers, sulfur, soil amendments, and Epson salts. I picked up a bit of all of those.

The day was passing and still very few people were out and moving. All three of these possible “final runs” were very quiet and easy, on a day that could have turned out to be a much greater long-term disaster. Had more planes dropped or bombs had gone off and if the terrorists had planned even greater evil and blown the power grid at the same time, people would have very likely panicked at some point. But early on, before folks got moving and were still just sitting in shock watching, a final run was safe. Thank God that day didn’t continue to grow worse, but in the early hours no one knew, and I felt it was better to act than to sit and hope.

Not too long ago another event happened. The stock market went down 500 points one morning. There for a short while, no one knew what it meant. I called my brother who lives on the farm next door and said, “Let’s go.” We got to our local bank within 10 minutes of the first radio report so we could clean out our accounts, just in case, there was some sort of Wall Street/bank shut down. The bank folks (who we have known for a long time, as networking is a good thing) said they were well aware of events and the central office had already put them on notice to be ready for possible orders to close their doors. We apologized to them for withdrawing our money and we said we hoped we wouldn’t feel too bad or too foolish if we came back the next day to redeposit if nothing happened. The manager was entirely sympathetic and said they had even had a couple people in before us doing the same thing.


My brother and I then went to our second stop– the local gas station– to fill up our gas cans. Please note to those folks who claim to have a 10-year supply of everything on hand, on a farm one thing you always need is to top off your fuel supply. There just aren’t that many days you don’t run a tractor, chainsaw, mower, and/or generator. You can always use more fuel, and the cash we had just gotten out of the bank was going to hold much better value as gas than greenbacks might have been worth in a meltdown.

My brother and I returned home, satisfied that if for some reason commerce stopped that day, we were a bit better prepared. We had gotten cash and gas before any possible rush or shut down had happened.

Over the years I have, of course, become well prepared for “what may come”. I have certain ideas about what is best, including prepping for the next several generations, instead of merely 10 or 20 years. But I also try to be mindful of preparing for other possibilities. I often remind myself to not get rigid. Sure, it’s not a good idea to go to Target when a thousand other people are also there grabbing things, but nevertheless, I have prepared to do just that. You never know what will happen, so prepare for it. Something I’ve done with the big box planning is to make maps of exactly where the things are located that I might want in a rush. One of our local big box stores has routinely carried exactly three 25lb. bags of salt. It’s on a bottom self and hard to find. With the map, it’s easy. It’s halfway down aisle 3, bottom shelf, on the left. I don’t have to search. I don’t have to look. I don’t have to think or remember. Just go. Simple. I’ve also marked muck boots, spices, OTC drugs, canning jar lids, and other such items usually not craved in a panic. While most folks will be grabbing canned tuna and meat, I may be off to the side picking up pepper and sewing machine needles. So if I do decide I should go, at least I wouldn’t be in the middle of the worst of the fuss.

We’ve done that with every store within a certain distance. I don’t plan on going there. But if something unexpected happens and we decide we must, it’s much simpler, quicker, and safer with a map and plan than it might be otherwise. You might also check at your stores to see if they have store maps. The stores here provide them for anyone who asks, in order to help them in their shopping. Another thing a map accomplishes is that when “things happen” and our group gathers here, it’s simple to send out folks to various locations to pick up items if we decide it’s worth the effort or risk. We can just hand out a map and a supply list and simply say, “Go.” No discussion and no descriptions are needed, just go. If you can get to where you are going fast enough, and especially before the rush, things get much easier.

Another thing we do is to go to one of the local grocery stores every day to pick up the produce they throw out. It makes great free chicken and pig food, and since some of it just came off the sales shelves it’s still good for us to eat (but please don’t tell them that). We go knock on the back door of the huge store about noon every day, and there they are waiting. We go inside and talk a bit, look around while talking, and make friends. There is an incredible amount of food and such in the back rooms and loading docks of any major store. While the hoards are fighting in the store’s front, it just may be possible to meet your store “friends” and load up out back. Maybe not, but it’s worth investigating and considering. (Once again, networking can be a very good thing.)

So the point of all this is to remain flexible. In general, it may be best to not make a “final run”, but you just never know. With the right planning and forethought, a final run can be highly productive and even very safe. You may never get a second chance at an opportunity, so be ready to move fast if the right situation presents because you may be just as mistaken if you aren’t prepared to make the right move of opportunity as you are if you make the wrong move in the panic.

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