Making plans for a better future

20 April 2020
One day we'll be able to look back on today and remember a strange and dangerous time when we were told to stay at home as much as possible. Once busy streets and highways were empty, schools, universities, shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels were closed, planes stopped flying, jobs were lost, millions of people went on welfare and the lucky ones were supported by their governments to keep food on the table and a roof over as many heads as possible. And then we started hearing about people dying. I had to stop watching news reports of the deaths because it made me feel helpless and weak.


In February, when I began to realise how serious coronavirus was, the first thing I did was top up the stockpile and freezer.  I've been stockpiling for over 20 years and usually have enough groceries and food on hand to keep us going for about three months, should we need it. In the past, we've had minor issues like power or water outages and illness but nothing like this. Topping up and reorganising the stockpile cupboard took only a couple of hours but it gave both of us the confidence that we were as prepared as we could be and could deal with what was coming.  In the following weeks, we topped up medications, seeds, seedlings, organic sugar cane mulch and chook feed.

How to start a stockpile. 

 Above and below, stockpile - all new and unopened products not in use yet.

Pantry -  products all open and in use.

We had enough money in our emergency fund to buy whatever was needed. We didn't have to use a credit card or borrow money, we had enough put aside for exactly this scenario. These two strategies - stockpiling and an emergency fund, have supported us through the crisis so far and apart from staying at home, which we do a lot of anyway, not much changed for us. You might have extra money in your pocket because of the petrol you're not using, the gym sessions you're not going to, the takeaways you're not eating and all that shopping you're not doing. Those extra dollars could be the start of your emergency fund.

Managing your financial life and starting an emergency fund.


I hope many people take the time to examine their values and beliefs then decide to make positive life changes during this unexpected slow period. Now is a good time to think about the life you want to live. I hope sustainability, self-reliance and productivity are part of your plan and you change your mindset to built a life based on those firm foundations. Make a plan and put your plan in place so that when we can all freely mix again, you have a worthwhile place to start a new version of your life.  If that does happen, I think you'll be in the best position to not only have made the most of this awful and terrifying crisis, you'll change your life for the better in the process and be much better prepared for the next crisis.

Making flatbread.

When all this is over and we rebuild what "normal" means to our towns, states and countries, I hope it is done with a mindful attitude. I want it to be something softer, more inclusive, and with a gentler feel for our planet. I know we have to have international trade but I want us to go back to manufacturing a lot of what we use here in Australia. But we should all start with ourselves first, so change your home and finances to support the life you want to live. When your changes are working well, move on to strengthen ties with your community and make sure you know what your local politicians' plans are for your community and state.  Staying silent tells them that you don't care, and we all must care.


39 comments

  1. Hopefully families staying at home realize you don't need all the fancy stuff from the shops and take away when you can spend time with your family and make a hearty home cooked meal. I've never been one to fill up my kids lives with after school activities mainly we didn't have the spare money to do it however we did one activity [AFL football] and the rest of the afternoons when they were little was playing outside in the back yard. Now our afternoons are filled with homework as they are teenagers. ps I have been making your flatbread recipe since 2017 and we love them, so simple. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

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  2. Hi Rhonda, It's so true that having an emergency fund and a stockpile have made living through this pandemic easier. Like you, I was able to just top off with foods that I needed. There is a Tractor Supply store that's only a short walk from my house that sells all kinds of fruit trees, organic seeds, vegetable plants, beef jerky, nuts, candy, etc...Because I buy in bulk and live alone, I had plenty of dog food and staples. I have been so thankful for the blood oranges on the tree, the ability to bake, knit, and sew, and my comfortable home. Living this way has prepared me. Your blog will give so many more people hope and guidance during these challenging times.

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    1. Stephenie, I love the sound of your Tractor Suppy store and you really hooked me with the blood orange tree. xx

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    2. We live in New Jersey and I LOVE Tractor Supply stores.They have really reasonable pricing on bride seed and animal supplies. Actually, I bought their own gardening boots from the years ago and they are still in excellent condition.

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  3. once again, thank you for writing about getting ready for such a situation as this, thank you for showing us how to stockpile and encouraging us to keep cooking from scratch, to be wary of squandering money on little nothings and to save for what means a lot to me(and for me that is being able to travel and to help my family if they need it). Thank you, much love, Sue

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    1. So good to see you here again, Sue. I hope you're well. xx

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  4. Our experience has been pretty similar to yours Rhonda. Thanks in no small part to your blog, books and the DTE forum which I was a member of and benefited greatly from - When facing a job that I am reluctant to do, such as cleaning out a cupboard, I pretend I am taking part in one of dear Rose's de-cluttering challenges and 'set my timer for 15 minutes' and go for it.

    I have head a lot of people mentioning the need for more national manufacturing. Just in time supply systems probably need to be looked at as well as the lack of stock in the supermarkets in recent weeks is not all due to panic buying as the public has been on a rations system for some time now.

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  5. Such a gentle, timely post. I, too, am a stock piler and have been for as long as I've had my own home which is a long time. In these difficult times, it feels so good to go into my pantry as an item is finished and take out one waiting in my little stock pile. It contributes a bit to self-reliance when there are people who are busy panicking in the grocery stores. Here on the west coast of Canada, spring has come and there is lots to do around my yard....trimming blackberry and raspberry and canes, readying the soil, planting seeds and starts and the constant battle with weeds. Like you, I am content to be in my home, baking, making from scratch meals as I always do, reading, knitting, sewing and enjoying having the time to do all of these things. These times will pass and like you, I hope that people will carry a new joy in their homes and in the simple tasks which can be so fulfilling.

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  6. Being retired life hasn't changed an awful lot but I do miss meeting up with my friends and going to the library. I am gardening again after letting the veggies go over our dreadful summer as the days are cool enough now to spend outside in the garden. Thankfully our Farmer's Market is still going with strict social distance guidelines so I can help support our local growers too who have done it tough with the drought and heat. I hope you and Hanno are keeping well and that little black ball of fur is keeping you both entertained.

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  7. Having my three big sons home from school and college really opened up my eyes to how much food these young men go through! My stockpile wasn't nearly as lasting as I thought. Have to smile. It's so quiet here in the forest hills. Only birds singing in the frosty Spring air, sun crawling over the treetops. Need to turn off the news and just breathe. Blessings,Pam in Norway

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  8. Goodmorning Rhonda and Hanno. As usual a beautifully timed and written piece. Thanks to you we have had an adequate stockpile and didn't have to shop for 4 weeks,as the seasons change there won't be much from the garden for a while so I will have to probably venture out fortnightly for fresh fruit,as we will have to stay isolated for a while yet. My husband has a chronic illness which makes him very high risk.Apart from grandchildren separation anxiety, I am very surprised how well we entertain ourselves with useful projects and a daily walk and never get bored! Best wishes,stay safe.

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  9. I do love the positives of this situation, that a lot of people are planting food gardens again, thinking ahead rathe than wasting money on things that don't matter. So many people walking and jogging outside rather than on a treadmill. Many people picking up baking and knitting again. So much fun to see how we are all embracing the simpler way of life.

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  10. I always try to look at the positive side of everything, I feel like we needed this to slow us down, to connect with our inner self, to grow and to learn new skills. Stock piles are great, I always make sure we have all the essentials so we can make things from scratch if we need to.

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  11. I agree with you and with your reader, Ivona. This is a wake-up call for those who may be too caught up in competing with others for the busiest life. There are so many blessings to staying home and tending the nest, even if you live alone.

    Blessings to you and your readers...

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  12. Belated Happy Birthday Rhonda.
    Thank you again for your wise words over this crisis. I've been cultivating a store cupboard and pantry for nearly a decade now and through that time my husband has seen it as a harmless quirk - until recently when he suddenly realised we only needed a quick top up and a few normal shopping trips and we were reasonably well prepared for the lockdown here in the UK. He's started making our bread and was thrilled with a spring salad I pulled together from herbs and early salad plants in the garden. Suddenly the 'quirk' doesn't seem so quirky anymore.. :-)

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    1. Curvywitch... isn't it just lovely when they finally come around!! Well done on your perseverance and DH enjoying the bread making.

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  13. I had a bit of a stockpile as well. I love to bake and cook, but unfortunately I cannot find yeast any longer. There seems to be a shortage now; but I will keep a lookout for some and also need to plan to have a bigger stockpile pantry for anything else that might happen. In some ways I look at this as being a lesson for humankind in general; we have not been good stewards of the earth, and now we are paying for some of that. I too hope that we all take away some lessons in the light of self sufficiency, a less empty and cluttered life, and good stewardship of those gifts that the earth provides us.

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    1. Although it's slower, so I have to learn to plan better, we've made our own sourdough starter from scratch. I'm sure there's lots of how-tos online. Our breads and bagels come out nicely, not too sour or bitter tasting. There's just much longer wait times for the rising. My daughter has a good knack for kneading, so most of the loaves have fallen to her expertise while I try to get our garden prepped and seeded.

      Thank you, Rhonda, for your lovely post, as well. We're getting take-out to support our local businesses when we can, but I've found only two holes in my stockpile - milk and eggs. We have dry milk we can use for baking, and other drink powders set aside when we can't get milk, but it's really time to plan a coop and get some chickens!

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  14. It's been interesting for me to see how all my years of staying home and making do have helped in this situation. It really has not been difficult though I should say that my husband still has a job and is still getting paid. But even if that were not the case not much about our lifestyle would have changed.

    We have been keeping the news off for the most part. That is one thing that I found was increasing our stress level and we have an adult son staying with us who struggles with an anxiety disorder and depression and every time he would hear it his anxiety went sky-high. So it was just better for our mental health to keep it off.

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  15. Rhonda, I've followed your blog for years now and I've always been so thankful for your wise words and frugal ways. In some ways I feel like I've been preparing for a time such as this for years and instead of dreading this time, I'm trying to see things as a challenge to put into practice the things I've learned. First order of business was telling my family that I wouldn't be cooking anything new until the old was eaten up. Praise The Lord they've be favorable to this and haven't complained openly, just a few sighs at times :) Thank you for continuing on encouraging us.

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  16. Life has changed very little here to as we are homebodies, I miss our family dinners, seeing the kids who have flown the coop, and our grand daughter but we keep in touch by phone. I even used facetime for the very first time to talk to Savannah, our granddaughter and she loves showing us everything that she's been doing. I'm very grateful for our frozen and preserved garden produce and the stockpile we have, it's wonderful to shop from the larder and just replace what you use. Hopefully our country will become more "self sufficient" because of this and everyone will slow down and become more aware of our responsibility to the earth and each other. Have a lovely week at home, take care Kate from Tassie x

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  17. Hi Rhonda,

    I completely agree with you about returning to more local manufacturing. When I was a child our shoes and clothes were made in Australia. We didn't have many but they were good quality and we appreciated what we had. I am also glad you mentioned politics as we can 'think globally, act locally', but also need those at the top to know what we want if they are to act on our behalf to create a better world for everyone.

    Big hugs from Armidale,

    Madeleine.xx

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  18. Rhonda your food stockpile and pantry are great. Of course I love your basket of yarn. As well as food I need and have a stockpile of fabrics, threads, yarns etc. I am also a member of 2 ebook libraries. I believe our minds as well as our bodies need nourishing and care.
    I am fearful for my family and friends. I still often have trouble believing this is all true.
    Out my window I see parents with their children riding bikes and scooters, this is heart warming and I hope the family togetherness stays when this is over. Hopefully this awful time will bring a closeness to families become a learning time for others who have stepped down from their fast and overfilled lives. Stay safe.

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  19. Well said Rhonda. I agree with everything that you have written. I would add that just as you hope to see more things that you use in Australia made in Australia, I would say the same of the United States. At one time my husband and I always chose items manufactured here if there was a choice, but so little is made here these days. I'm sure that is the case for others as well. What strange times we are in.

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  20. we are being discouraged from stockpiling in the UK as the supermarkets got cleaned out by panic buying, but I can see where in some countries it is necessary/supply and demand differ and not everyone lives round the corner from the shops. I do agree with you that when we emerge from this it would be so good to have a more mindful lifestyle, whilst the economy has to restart it would be good if it could not be at the expense of the environment and if we could all just slow down a bit and enjoy each day as it comes.

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    1. This is a different kind of stockpiling, Betty. We had problems with panic buying here too. A well functioning stockpiling should see you well away from the shops except to top up occasionally.

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  21. Sarah in DorsetApril 21, 2020 5:49 pm

    I have never stockpiled, not enough room or money so was caught out but realise food is not that important. Have lentils to make Dhal, one meal a day is sufficient.

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  22. Good advice Rhonda, it pays to be prepared as you never know what may happen. I do hope done good comes out of this crisis!

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  23. What a great stockpile you have! Mine is not bad, but yours is better. Going forward, stockpiling will be my goal. Takes organization---not my strong suit---and hard work, something I'm pretty good at. But worthwhile. Also, what a wonderful ending to this piece. Yes, we all must care.

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  24. This is a lovely post, Rhonda. I know there is a huge desire for things to return to "normal" but I hope too that these challenging times encourage a rethink of some aspects of what we want our normal to be.

    I started a little stockpile after reading your first book. I have found it reassuring to have some staples in the cupboard.

    I wish too for a gentler world and hope that the challenges of this current crisis lead us to that. MegXx

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  25. As always, well said. :) x

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  26. Great post. What some folks don't realize it that a good stockpile is not created in one fell swoop, cleaning the shelves so that your neighbour cannot buy, but it is created over time, buying some extras here and there. It is like the edible version of an emergency fund, created to help out in times of sickness and other calamities. Ours has come in handy during storms, loss of electricity, floods and fires that cut off the truck routes and now during this pandemic. I would also add that you should have a good, well stocked first aid kit and any medications that are required. Take care.
    Barb

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  27. I have kept a deep pantry for many years. Mostly because it saves me money and time but also because I have lived through quite a few emergencies where the grocery stores get wiped out. When the news was coming in from Wuhan back in December I topped things off, especially meds, herbs, first aid and sanitary products, and disinfecting products. And I particularly increased my stock of dog and cat food. I know that I can keep myself going with some unusual food combinations but my pets would not understand! My pantry is definitely not as tidy as yours though! I need some additional shelves in my pantry area one of these days. I know that overbuying is being discouraged for now, but if everyone managed their household like this, there wouldn't be such panic now and people would be able to better avoid the stores and therefore keep themselves more removed from the virus and therefore reduce the rate of infection and lower the burden on the hospitals. I have done grocery shopping once since this began and it was actually pretty scary. Not everyone has extra funds for keeping a pantry and hopefully we will remember to donate some money, now matter how little, to our local food pantries because people are definitely going hungry now, probably especially the elderly who not only have limited funds but are also really afraid to go shopping (rightfully so).

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  28. I feel so blessed that I came to find your blog at least 6-7 years ago. I purchased your books. You are always encouraging and giving me peace in the journey to self-reliance. I cherish your point of view, your advice, and all your recipes and ideas. You are a blessing. Wishing you a belated happy birthday and saying a prayer of thankfulness for you and the ability to know you through your blog.

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    1. Hello Kim, I'm really pleased you commented so I know you're out there. I'm a bit frustrated at times when people don't say hello and give me a clue that they're out there. Your comment is the third thing today that mentioned my recipes and for that reason, tomorrow I'll share the recipe of what we had for lunch today. See you then! And thanks for reading. xx

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  29. Rhonda, I just wanted to let you know that I commented on your blog at the frugal girl site today, 4-23 U.S., when the topic was other favorite frugal blogs. I said it was devoted to simple living, "which is frugal." Shirley in the US

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  30. I just wanted to thank you. I found your blog back in 2010, the same year we had some major home improvements done. One was the addition of a large pantry in the garage. I have been learning to pressure can and stocking up since. Here in the US the pandemic has become a nightmare, but my husband and I were prepared. We are in our early 70's, retired, and thankful.

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    1. We were prepared too, Janice. There was no panic here and I'm sure the same at your home. Good luck with your pressure canning and stockpile. xx

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