Peak Prosperity

25 thoughts on “Peak Prosperity”

  1. Your advice is spot-on as always, Johnny. You’re way ahead of the pack. If you’re more of a lightweight “prepper curious” type like me, I can offer a few tips:

    – Store food that you actually eat on a regular basis so the store stays fresh
    – Store food that’s easy to store (e.g. without power)
    – Store food that’s easy to prepare (e.g. on a janky camping stove)
    – Store staple foods that are calorie-rich instead of exotics

    In other words, rice, pasta, beans! The basics. Supplement with a few backyard veggies, a strong glass of wine and… eating like a peasant has lifestyle benefits regardless 🙂

  2. It’s interesting to me how being resilient can follow so many strategies depending on the exact location and circumstances you live in. The skeptics will always point out that you cannot be prepared for everything and cannot ever be 100% self sufficient so what’s the use. I agree that in hard times a serious medical condition or nuclear blast would be the end but in many other situations one could lead a reasonably satisfying life.
    I live adjacent to thousands of acres of forest so my strategy is a mixture of foraging, gathering wood, stockpiling staples like oatmeal, rice, canned goods, and hunting. I have several ponds 100 yards away that have never dried up in living memory and a filter. That should take care of the basics. In a severe economic contraction I couldn’t pay property tax but since nobody else can pay it either it wouldn’t make sense to evict everyone. Maybe you couldn’t live forever this way but you can’t live forever anyways.
    I laughed when you mentioned Chris Martenson was a creature of upper middle class Connecticut because I am a product of working class Connecticut and if you’re from Darien or New Canaan it’s like being from a different country than Torrington or New London. People I know are more apt to ask a new acquaintance what town they grew up in than what they do for a living because it tells them more about their worldview.

  3. Hi Johnny,
    My strategy is perhaps a bit different than what most folks are implementing or planning to implement here . I’m basically taking a ‘scientific’ approach. Ultimately I want to be able to feed 5 people for a year. That’s approximately 1500 cal x 5 people x 365 days = 2,737,500 Calories. So I’m trying to figure out what foods last a long time (at least 3 to 5 years), are calorie dense and don’t cost a lot of money. One obvious choice is honey – supposed to last forever, 60 cal/tbsp. Canola oil and grains like oatmeal, beans and rice are also probably also good choices. I’m not necessarily worried about rotating thru the stock, I will probably just throw out and replace any food that exceeds its shelf life. Also I don’t really care whether or not I like the food or will get tired of it. Currently, I have a few weeks supply of food which I plan on slowly ramping up over time.

    I’m not of the opinion that some kind of major disaster is imminent (I’d put the odds around <10% chance in my lifetime). However, building a long term food supply seems like an interesting project to me. Also I kind of feel like it's my civic duty to be able to take care of myself in the event of a disaster. That way there will be more resources for folks who really need them and I would be better able to help out my community.

    BTW – Great post as usual!

    1. I think back over time at how things played out in the not-too-distant past. Economic contraction brings unemployment and money troubles that families need to endure. War brings rationing and shortages. Political failures (fall of the Soviet Union, Zimbabwe, Venezuela) are common enough that they need to be taken seriously. What can individuals do? Have reserves set aside to ride out a storm. Have special skills to offer. Hold liquid transportable wealth. And belong to a larger subculture that extends beyond the failed system.

      1. “Liquid transportable wealth”…I assume you mean something not of the digital variety (whether bank debit cards or e-currency)?

        1. This means different things to different people. He’s my litmus test: If you lived in Weimar Germany, the Soviet Union, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, et cetera just before the collapse of those systems – what would you want to hold that retained its value? Could be all sorts of things depending on the circumstances.

          1. Most people in those countries didn’t have much before the collapse, the smart ones (or most pessimistic) left.

            Skills and a strong social network probably counted more than anything else.

          2. I guess it means different things under varying circumstances. Cash is worthless in hyperinflation (Weimar Republic, Zimbabwe, Venezuela). Guns and ammunition are most valuable in civil war (Bosnia).

            But always the basics: food, water, and alcohol; clothing and shoes; shelter and fuel. (And we’re back to the comment elsewhere about calorie density, which makes food more easily transportable.)

  4. I think I mentioned that I met Chris Martenson a few months ago. We were having a great conversation until I mentioned that lived in the most urban part of Springfield; he got this look in his eye like “oh, holy crap…I’m talking with a lunatic” and he moved on to conversations with other, less insane people!

    That said, I love the info available at Peak Prosperity. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t check in to see what’s new. I’m sure your presentation was well received. Liz and I always look to you as a model of reasoned, rational preparation.

    1. There are plenty of people who think “urban” means death on a stick. I don’t care one way or another. Chris is a creature of comfortably upper middle class Connecticut blah, blah, blah. I don’t care enough about that demographic to be bothered. Personally I prefer the company of Puerto Ricans to WASPs.

  5. Jonny. Are you aware of any good cost-benefit analysis for food growing and food prep? I’m sure it has been done. I just don’t know where to look. I mean obviously the most cost-effective thing is going to be preserving foods that you have grown yourself. Beyond that I’m not really sure. Most people I know who hunt or fish spend more money in fuel and expensive gear than they ever save at the grocery. So those aren’t cost-effective. Unless maybe you already live in the woods or shore and can hunt and fish for free. Around here it’s a lot cheaper to just buy canned or frozen foods at Costco then buy fresh stuff at say farmers markets and preserve it yourself.

    It would be interesting to see some sort of ranking or categorization of different food production and preservation activities. Like say…

    These 10 things give you the biggest bang for the buck (tomatoes, fresh herbs, zuccini?)
    These 10 things may save you a little but aren’t your biggest priority (onions? potatoes? I don’t know)
    These 10 things are a waste of time because you can’t beat Costco or Wal-Mart (rice, beans, etc.)

    1. People often miss the point. My goal isn’t to save money per se. It’s to have a cushion to ride out disruptions. Costco will always be cheaper and more convenient than anything that can be produced at home.

    2. Regarding bang for your buck, check out your local land grant university extension and they may have some helpful publications about growing your own vegetables. The one I’ve looked up has a chart listing quality difference home garden v store, production per square foot, and relative monetary value. And you are right, for value grow herbs, tomatoes and zuccini, not cabbage and potatoes.

      Here is a link to one on home vegetable gardening in Washington state:

  6. Regarding the cost: if you get in the habit of buying and cooking shelf-stable foods, like dry beans, rice, herbs, pasta, canned tomato products, etc., you’ll spend less than if you buy fresh (and end up with some spoiled), and far less than if you go out to a restaurant. Embrace the challenge of planning far enough in advance to soak those beans. And you don’t have to worry about whether your food fell on the floor back in the kitchen, or whether the kids at the next table are about to discover that they’ve got the measles.

  7. I grew up with an Amish-Mennonite background. Well, not me actually, we lived in a college town. But both my parents grew up on Mennonite farms and so we always had massive gardens and a massive pantry in the garage of all the foods that my mother canned. I frankly think she didn’t really enjoy it all that much and basically kept it up because it was “expected”. About all she does anymore is pickles and jams. But I expect there is a lot of accumulated knowledge and equipment there to be tapped as they are easing towards living in a retirement community.

    Myself, I just don’t have the time or energy to get serious about putting up a lot of food like Johnny does. But we do have a big suburban house with lots of space. So my alternative is just to buy lots of bulk quantities from Costco and rotate. At any given point in time we probably have at least 2-months worth of staples in the pantry, if not more. Lots of bulk rice and beans and cases of canned tomatoes, olives, beans, etc. We’d run out of fresh vegetables first. But I’m not sure a lot of canned string beans or sauerkraut would necessarily thrill the family all that much. I’m not sure what all cans really well. I just prefer frozen or fresh greens to anything canned.

    Are we ready for armageddon? Probably not. But I have a hard time finding any point in time in history where being an ultra-prepper really saved the day for anyone. Certainly not during WW-II if you were in the path of the Wehrmacht or Red Army or Japanese Imperial Army. There was no hiding out in your little suburban home. Likewise during the great depression it was lack of money and jobs, not lack of food that made life hard. I don’t really understand the scenario where society collapses but the prepper with 1-year worth of food stuffs packed away does just fine.

    I tend to think that having a robust and varied skill set is more important than packing away a lot of food.

    1. I agree with everything you described here. But as I stated, the stuff that I’m concerned with isn’t the Hollywood style disaster. It’s the everyday struggles of unemployment and money problems (which I have experienced multiple times in my early life.) Having food on hand makes that scenario easier to manage. And if I’m totally wrong and never need any of it… what’s the loss?

      1. I don’t disagree. I think my wife and I are just at the point in our professional lives where an extra hour of work puts a lot more money into our 401(k) and college savings than the savings we’ll realize by spending that same hour prepping and canning foods. A robust emergency fund at Vanguard gives me more peace of mind than a full pantry. But for a low income family I think these are valuable skills.

        My grandparents raised 14 kids on an Oregon farm in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. So I get lots of stories from my Dad that sound a lot like what you do. When the Army was downsizing post WW-II he bought a surplus walk-in freezer from some disbanded Army base in Oregon. Then would do things like go out to the coast when the Albacore were running and buy truckloads of fresh fish off the docks to haul home and freeze. Or buy truckloads of day-old bread from the local bakeries to freeze for the winter. They dipnetted smelt and I remember big barrels of salted smelt in my grandfathers garage. And since they raised hogs there was always half a dozen country hams curing in the basement along with big crocks of sauerkraut. They always got a few deer every year. And of course my grandmother canned absolutely everything.

        When I was growing up, for my parents, buying store-bought prepared foods was almost scandalous somehow. It took them a LONG time to get past the notion that shopping in a grocery store for anything other than basic staples was just extravagant. That’s how ingrained the cultural/religious rural food self-sufficiency ethic was for them.

  8. My biggest trouble with putting food back is that I’m a “meat-and-potatoes” eater. It doesn’t mean I cannot eat veggies but it’s a rare day when anything other than green beans or tomatoes crosses my plate. I’m pretty good with various beans, but veggies are not my joy.

    Also, there is so much to figure out: “How and where to store food, pressure canning, dehydrating, various kinds of containers, water storage…”! I’m not good at reading up on this kind of thing and then doing it; I tend to need to DO it–and I need someone on hand to show me what to do and how to do it right.

    All that said, I would like to figure this stuff out…Suggestions?

    1. Byron, If you know yourself well enough to acknowledge you’ll never get around to doing your own food storage you might want to identify someone else in your life who is good at it and support them in doing it for/with you. In exchange you can do something for them that they’re not good at.

      I also learn best with a hands-on method. Trial by fire. If you’re anywhere near Northern California I’ll teach you in person. If not, there’s almost certainly someone in your town who knows how to pressure can and dehydrate stuff. Church people (Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans) are the best contacts. Ask around.

      YouTube has all sorts of videos on how to pressure can meat and potatoes. I do it myself. If you can put food in a jar and boil water you can learn to use a pressure canner. Follow the safety rules, but if I can do it anyone can. I’m fond of Linda’s Pantry

    2. Johnny has excellent advice. The YouTube video from Wendy DeWitt/LDS Church is pure gold. I’ll admit to being a fussy eater and this helped me to build a pantry that will feed me. If you are in Oregon – the extension service offers classes on canning (various counties) as well as Master Food Preserver certification. Your state may (should) have a similar program.

      Real life example of why food storage is necessary: we were flooded out a few weeks ago. The house was high and dry but the neighborhood was an island for days until the water levels dropped enough to get high clearance trucks through (and nearly a week for regular cars). I hadn’t gone to the grocery store but didn’t need to worry with the pantry which is nowhere near as complete as Johnny’s. Also, some wells were contaminated by the flood water seeping into ground water. Until we could test our well, I was glad I had a Berkey, emergency water stored and plain bleach. Next on the list is the outdoor/canning kitchen.

      1. Thanks for the helpful information, both Johnny and Sherry! I can probably find someone in my parish (I’m Orthodox) who can help and I had never considered any kind of class. For the record, I’m in Oklahoma.

  9. What a great photo with the bounty!
    I’ve been trying to stock more dried & canned items, after a couple years of embracing frozen; kitchen cupboard will never lose power. We’re already prepping garden space. Good crops last year – finally had so many zucchini that I’m over it!
    My personal “craft” for the upcoming Summer may be getting one of those Aussie Scrubba laundry bags and testing it out, in our Illinois backyard, with soap nuts, then line drying. Again, things that won’t lose power.
    I’ve commented with you previously on also being a housecleaner (for 26 years). I’ve got aging clientele and am turning 50 myself this year and the thought of “How much longer will I do this for a living?” creeps-in. Luckily we have no real debt and the husband is paid well, tho industrial factories are not as steady as once assumed. We never know. We save & challenge ourselves to cut corners, just in case.
    Your interview on the Root Simple Podcast came to my attention recently and I’ve listened several times. You, Erik & Kelly, Kirsten & Fair Co’s…some of my favorite folks to learn from.
    Happy Spring!

    1. You know, our great grandparents had all this food storage worked out a century ago. It’s not hard. And it doesn’t have to cost much money. Quite the opposite. There’s no denying that modern industrial food is cheaper, more convenient, and more abundant, but it’s also extremely vulnerable to disruption.

      1. There are some health issues associated with salted and smoked meats, though. And canned meat is something else.

        After eating at a Bob Evans with my parents years ago, I asked mom why she had never made country fried steak for us growing up. She said that by the time she left the farm at 18, she never wanted to see another piece of canned meat that was pounded, breaded, fried, and served with gravy.

        So they have a freezer and a generator. 🙂

  10. Well put and worth repeating on a regular basis. I take this further and see food as one key part of the essential 3. Food, Shelter and Heat/Cool.

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