A Survival Scenario at the Grocery Store

A flashlight in the dark
Having and old flashlight is better than having no flashlight.

Let’s imagine the following scenario:

As you’re heading into your local grocery store, your neighbor Charlie pulls in a couple of spaces over. You know it’s him even before he steps out of the cab because no one else drives a baby blue 1975 Chevy C10. The pickup’s stepside box is very distinctive.

You wave hello and chat for a moment before there’s a flash in the sky, A moment or two later, the lights in the store go out. Then you realize the power is out up and down the block. Wow, that must have been a bolt of lightning somewhere close. Maybe at the substation.

“I guess I’m going to head home,” you tell Charlie. “They won’t take my debit card if the power is out.”

“I got cash,” says Charlie with a shrug.

Of course, you think. He’s an old timer, the original owner of his truck. Of course he carries cash.

“Well, see you later,” you say. Charlie nods, hitches up his jeans, and heads towards the store.

The Problem

You walk back to your car and click your remote, but you don’t hear a corresponding thunk as the door unlocks. That’s strange. You have to insert your and turn it in the lock. You can’t remember the last time you had to unlock the door manually. Making a mental note to replace the battery in your remote, you slide the key into the ignition and turn it, but nothing happens. Not even the “click-click-click” of a dead battery. Damn! Why do all the batteries have to go dead at once?

You pull out your phone to call your wife. She’ll have to come get you. Only your phone doesn’t work. In fact, it isn’t even on. You hold down the button to turn it on, waiting for it to light up, but nothing happens. Your phone is bricked.

You look around the parking lot and realize a few other people are looking at their cars and scratching their heads. At least two are locked out. One man has his hood open, his head inside. That’s when it hits you. That flash you saw? It wasn’t lightning. It was a nuclear bomb blast at a high altitude to your west. There wasn’t a shock wave, but the electromagnetic pulse from the flash has fried everything electronic.

You pull out your wallet and there’s $7 in it. You dig through it, looking in the pockets and under all the flaps. There! You find the $50 bill you tucked away for emergencies. You grab it and push it deep into your front pocket. Then you fish around under the back seat until you find that old Maglite. Your wife hates that old thing, but you like the idea that in a pinch you can hit someone with it. You click it on, relieved it still works, and head inside to find Charlie. His 50-year-old truck should work despite the EMP. He’ll give you a ride home.

Your Challenge

There you are, in a darkened grocery store after an EMP attack. You have $57 to spend on groceries, and old Maglite flashlight. You have a ride home, so weight is not an issue. What would you buy?

Think about it and consider posting your answer in the comments below.

I’d probably find some new C batteries and put them in my light. Then I’d buy a couple large containers of peanut butter for the protein, a big bag of onions for their flavor, and two 20 pound bags of organic potatoes.

Why potatoes? Because they keep. Why organic? Because I can plant them the next spring, knowing they aren’t sprayed with chemicals designed to prevent them from sprouting. Also, while I have rice and pasta stored at home, I have fewer potatoes. Yes, I have some #10 cans of diced potatoes, sliced potatoes, and mashed potatoes, but there’s something to be said for a renewable resource, and potatoes grow from eyes in other potatoes, not from seeds.

Depending on how much cash is left over, I might buy a bag of carrots or some winter squash, both items that can keep without refrigeration. The squash will also yield seeds that may give me more squash next year. I have at least three kinds of squash seeds in storage, but why not hedge my bets?

If any cash remains, I’d buy flour. We don’t need flour because we store lots of wheat, but when you move to a full-grain diet, it helps to blend your whole-wheat flour with white flour at first. This lets your digestive system get used to the high-test stuff with its added fiber.

Ask “What If” Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, your significant other, or your prepper friends, questions that start with, “What would you do if…” Thinking about a preparedness scenario you have never faced will help you develop the coping skills necessary and build flexibility and resilience. When you find yourself in an actual survival situation, you’ll be used to thinking on your feet and able to act more quickly.

In the above scenario, I expect more than half people in the parking lot will do nothing, waiting for the authorities to fix things or come and save them. Another 25 percent of the population will complain, blame the store, scream at the cashier for not taking their card, or fall into quivering balls of uselessness. By acting fast, you’ll be able to make the most of the situation and then get home before the bulk of the SHTF.


  1. Pete, I think you may have underestimated the cost of organic potatoes, but I like the idea of buying peanut butter.

    I’d focus on fats, because they can go rancid, so I don’t have many stored. A couple big bottles of olive oil and a tub or two of coconut oil would probably take much of the $57. I’d buy butter with what was left.

  2. 57 dollars. . . Well, lets start assuming I have my current food stores and preps. I’d buy fresh meat, cheese, and seeds for the garden. I can power cycle my freezers with the solar generators I have in my faraday cages to keep what meat and cheese I get frozen.

    But in terms of a thought exercise, and if I had no preps. I’d have to go for egg noodles and cases of water. I know with egg noodles I can get complete proteins and a large amount of calories.

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