25 10 2008

There is a considerable amount of conversation these days regarding the subject of investing.  Everyone is aware of the recent collapse of the stock markets.  Indeed, worldwide the markets seems to  be deleveraging and declines are being realized in nearly every market and commodity.  Oddly enough, the US dollar appears to be the one source of assumed strength, enjoying a nice run against world currencies.  While I believe the demise of the dollar is a certainty, I was caught off guard regarding the dollar rally.  (Perhaps this is indicative of why I am seldom asked for investment advice!)

I was listening the other day to a radio program and heard a man named Howard Ruff offer some interesting advice: “Invest in inflation.”  While deep recessions and depression often are deflationary at the onset, as the ability to produce and transport goods decreases, sometimes the gears begin to shift and products begin to inflate.  Considering the amount of steam being generated by the federal reserve’s printing presses, I cannot see how these recent bailout measures can escape the effects of steep inflation.

In a nutshell, Ruff’s advice was to take those items that your family needs and buy them in quantity.  If it is true that a penny saved is a penny earned, it makes sense to lay in some supplies of those things that you use regularly.  Not only do you have the potential to save some money, you also have the satisfaction of seeing the pantry filled.

One thing my family has done over the past couple years is to lay in food supplies.  We do live in the country and can realize harvests from our gardens and orchard.  We raise chickens and this summer even raised a few pigs.  My wife was busy all summer canning and freezing vegetables.  I realize not everyone has the ability to raise meat products and some might not even have access to a garden plot.  It is still possible to lay in food stores.

We have a Mennonite community near our home that runs a bulk food store.  Such stores are rather common across the Midwest.  This particular store is a real gold mine – they stock a lot of food for very low prices.  Not only has precious metals fallen sharply, so have most of the food commodities.  It is an excellent time to buy food products for the prices are as low now as they have been in a couple years.

We bought a grain mill a few years ago and bought enough wheat to last us for a good long time.  I like the Prairie Gold variety, although we have some hard red and soft white as well.  Staple products such as wheat, beans, oats, and dried peas store a long time in sealed containers.  For those not interested in grinding wheat, we also purchased a 50# bag of unbleached flour for $18.  (Flour does lose nutritional value rather quickly, so laying in 500 # of flour might not be the best investment.)

We stopped into our local store this past week.  The folks there buy in bulk and make neatly sized packages to fit every need.  (I usually go right past the pretty packages to the big, boring, bulk bags.)  We bought pasta, baking powder, baking soda, tapioca (we use a lot of it canning pie filling), organic sugar, brown sugar, and honey.  They also sell bags of dried soup mixes that are just out of this world!  A $3 bag of mix will make 10 large pots of delicious soups.  The mixes have beans, peas, and dehydrated vegetables just waiting to be added to some hot water and meat, if desired.  We are concerned about wholesome foods and these mixes are free of preservatives and items with names that you can’t pronounce.    We make some biscuits or rolls and add a chicken breast to the soup and we can make a delicious meal for 7 people for a dollar or less.

We went to a nearby restaurant and had them same gallon glass jars for us.  We store pasta  in them.  I work as a carpenter and constantly bring home  5 gallon pails that once held joint compound and use them to store flour, sugar, and wheat.   Occasionally, when we see a sale on things that we can’t produce, we’ll buy a number of them and stock them on the shelves.

Even if the economy was strong and in no danger of collapse, such measures lend well to principles of good stewardship.  Some might argue that simple, basic foods are more healthy and could result ultimately in better health.  We are not squeaky clean, mind you (dear, bring me my box of Twinkies, will you?), but after my wife had a gall bladder removed some years ago, we found ourselvs drifting away from processed foods to be easier on her, not to mention much cheaper.

I tend to believe dark days are looming for our nation, thus I do believe that a wise individual will try to store up some food supplies for darker days.  Whether we lose our jobs, find inflation competing with our meager dollar supplies, or see disruptions in food supply, we will have at least made an attempt to prepare for our families.  Even if our historic run of cheap food supplies continues, such measures will at the least save us a few bucks and reward us with feelings of satisfaction seeing the pantry stocked with necessary items.




One response

28 10 2008

Thanks for sharing these ideas, Boyd. When you strip away the modern finance spin, “investing” is really synonomous with “preparing”. Investing is more about tools and food and learning – not stocks and bonds.

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