The Five and Dime is now the $5 and $10

The days of the dime store are long gone.
The days of the dime store are long gone. Thanks, inflation.

When I was a kid, my mom would take us shopping at the dime store. Specifically, we went to our local G.C. Murphy Co. variety store, which we just called “Murphy’s.” I remember that this was the best place to buy rolls of caps, either to load into my cap guns or to pound with a rock and make a tremendous “boom.” I also bought my fair share of those plastic discs about the size of a dime that I could shoot from a toy gun. Yes, even as a child, I was a member of the “gun culture.”

The five and dime stores faded into obscurity and the Dollar Store rose to prominence. Dollar Tree, one of the few stores that sold everything for $1, is now what many people refer to as the “five quarter tree” because they raised their price to $1.25. (I wouldn’t surprise me if it goes to $1.50 next year and reaches $2 before this spate of inflation is behind us.)

Walmart Excursion

On Friday, I went shopping at Walmart. They ought to call it the $5 and $10 store. It seemed like everything I picked up was $4.96 or $9.97. That’s what, 100 times what things cost 50 years ago? Ouch! So, how long before it hits $50 or $100 per item?

We took advantage of some of Walmart’s Thanksgiving specials, including buying chicken broth for $1 each and cornbread mix for 52 cents. We also added a package of brown sugar and a few other things to our storage pantry.

Of interest to preppers might be a two-pack of Spam for the “rollback” price of $6.28. That’s about the same price per can as buying the 8-pack at Costco, but more expensive that at Sam’s Club. If you need to bulk up your stored food, this isn’t a bad buy. You can also buy the Great Value chili at less than $2 per can and pick up Great Value canned corn and green beans at around 50 cents per can while the Thanksgiving special lasts.

We had gone shopping to pick up a shower curtain and related items for my wife, who is preparing for company over Thanksgiving. When I go to Walmart, I normally shop for food and pet supplies, so it had been a while since I’d walked through the housewares and sporting foods aisles. My initial reaction was “Yikes! I can’t believe prices are so high.”

The leather work gloves I have purchased in the past went from $10 to $15. “Cheap” flashlights and headlamps were no longer so cheap. It seemed like things that used to be $2 or $3 were now $4 or $5. It reminded me why I now buy my work gloves at Harbor Freight and my flashlights online.

Stocked Shelves

Most of the food shelves at my local Walmart were full; I guess that they had planned for this shopping event. The egg section was the only one that had low stock.

Frozen turkeys were 98 cents per pound, while fresh ones were $2.98. Our local grocery store has frozen turkeys for 49 cents per pound. It’s hard to beat that price for protein. Just as an example, hams in the refrigerated unit at Walmart were $4.98 per pound. As we all know from Thanksgiving dinner, a turkey can feed you for many meals. Sure, you are eating “leftovers,” but it’s not like having the same meal repeatedly if you make turkey tetrazzini one day, some turkey salad another, freeze some breast meat for later, and use the carcass to make turkey soup.

While the aisles were crowded, I would estimate that one in three shoppers was a Walmart employee filling big carts of blue tubs. Their curbside pickup business must be huge. Besides their ten self-checkout registers, there were five traditional checkouts staffed with humans, more than I’ve seen for months, and each had a line. This was on a Friday in the early afternoon. I bet it will be a zoo on Saturday.

I expect Walmart is one of our counties largest employers. Everywhere I looked, here were people in blue vests.

Post-Holiday Sales

For those looking to add some depth to their prepper pantry, I recommend buying a few cans of yams after the holidays. Bruce’s candied yam’s often go on sale once the holiday season is over, and you can pick up these nutritious sweet potatoes at a discount. The only ingredients are yams, water and sugar, so no chemicals or preservatives. For those who complain about the sugar, I remind you that in a survival situation, you may welcome the extra calories. The downside is that these are almost 100 percent carbohydrates, and a serving provides little or no fat and protein. Still, they are filling and if you can get a big 40 ounce can for less than $2, I’d go for it.

Whether you buy some food preps during the pre-holiday sales of the post-holiday sale, you should take advantage of the lower prices while you can. If you find yourself on the road visiting family, stop at a grocery store name you don’t have at home. Pick up their flyer and snag a few of their sale items. It might save you some money and it will break up a log car ride.

Beef Prices and Food Shortages

The food shortage we were all warned about did not manifest in 2022, possibly because of the deal to let cargo ships of grain depart Ukraine. Now, Bloomberg is warning about rising beef prices in 2023, and there are threats of food shortages next year. Sometimes I have to wonder, are we being lied to? Yes, rising food prices are definitely here, and there have been shortages of things like potatoes and lettuce. Food pantries are running out of food as they serve more people, but I think that’s a financial issue more than it is a food shortage. But in the U.S., we haven’t seen a serious food shortage.

Does this mean we shouldn’t worry about food shortages next year? Should I ammo instead of food, as I wrote about a few days ago?

After reviewing my inventory, I will buy only a few things to fill in some holes. Specifically, I’m going to buy another dozen cans of tuna, a few jars of pasta sauce to replenish, and at least 12 more cans of chili.

I think chili is an excellent food for preppers for several reasons: It is less expensive than most canned meat products; it is rare to meet someone who doesn’t like chili; it sticks to your ribs because it has both meat and beans; there are many varieties and flavors, including chicken chili, beanless chili, and vegetarian chili; and because it makes a pot of rice or ramen taste even better. Of course, you don’t have to settle on canned chili; dried mixes are available or you can make your own chili. (If they sold it by the 5-gallon pail, I know I would buy one.) Canned, however, is the easiest to prepare.

Eating Your Preps

I’d like to remind those who have had their prepper pantry going for more than five years to rotate your food. Eat the old cans and replace them with new. Does food in cans go bad or become unsafe? Almost never. But sometimes a can springs a leak, especially with tomato products, and those pull-tab lids that don’t require a can opener may come to the end of their useful before the food inside does. Besides, if you don’t eat your preps, how will you know you are storing food your family will eat? What if you open a canned ham and everyone goes, “Eeew!” Better to find out now instead of two weeks into a globe-shattering disaster.

If your preps include things like dried cereal and crackers, you will want to rotate these out even faster to prevent them from going stale. Stale crackers can still be used on top of a casserole or crumbled into a bowl of soup, but I find them depressing when eaten plain.

Until then, our food preps will help cushion our wallets. If we get to the point where Walmart’s “everyday low prices” are $50 and $100, you can be sure I’ll be enjoying chili I bought in 2020 on a bed of rice I stored away purchased in 2014.