I don’t know about you, but the constant death count being broadcasted by every single social media outlet has been stressing me out. Seeing exhausted doctors and nurses, watching politicians squabble, and still not being sure whether we are or are not under quarantine where I live makes me feel helpless.
Because of this, during this unforgettable month of March, I stepped up my efforts on my “disaster” book, the latest in the Women’s Survival Guide series. It reduced my endless scrolling on Facebook and kept me focused on what I could do to prepare, rather than all the things I couldn’t. With all that attention, I was able to finish the book several months ahead of schedule.
Although Mexico hasn’t initiated a lock down to combat the spread of COVID-19, several states have been vocal about voluntary quarantine. The state of Jalisco, for example is encouraging #5diasencasa (5 days at home) from March 20 to March 25, the period when analysts have predicted is the peak contagion window in Mexico.
I’ve seen several posts recently on what to stock up on in the event of quarantine. Although I’m sure they meant well, none of them has taken the limited selection available in rural Mexican stores into account. I don’t mean fruit and vegetables, but non-perishable goods. If you’ve gone into a corner store lately to do your own stocking up, you’ll have seen what I mean.
So what can you do in rural Mexico to have a store of provisions that will keep for the foreseeable future, especially if you don’t have a fridge or freezer? It may call for thinking outside the box, but you can get a pantry full of goods that will last you for a while.
You can get boxed milk that lasts several weeks. Eggs are also stored at room temperature, so there’s no problem with those. However, some fruit and vegetables won’t last long at all. So steer clear of cucumbers, tomatoes, guavas, and strawberries. Instead focus on onions, garlic, potatoes as root vegetables last longer without refrigeration. Oranges, limes, squash, and melons are also good long-term choices.
Your staples should include rice, corn, oatmeal, beans, and pasta. Beans come in all sorts of colors for variety. Pasta comes in a whole slew of different shapes to change things up. If you know how to make your own tortillas, make sure you have some cal (lime) to complete the nixtamal process. Otherwise, tostadas are a good alternative.
If you have an oven and like to bake, be sure to get enough flour and yeast for bread. Salt and sugar are other things to have in surplus. Cooking oil will eventually go rancid, so try to get some solid shortening as well. Honey, jam and cajeta make good toppings for pancakes, which are a great snack. Other snacks include peanuts, chips, popcorn, and crackers.
Soda does last forever, but isn’t perhaps the healthiest option. Make sure to have enough garafones of water on hand for at least two weeks, based on your regular consumption. Tamarindo and jamaica are nice to make flavored water. Containers of juice, coffee and tea are other beverages to consider.
As I mentioned, the canned goods selection at the local supermarket is really quite limited. However, I was able to pick up canned beans, mushrooms, corn, peas, soup, tuna and sardines.
Since we are in the midst of a global pandemic, hygiene is of paramount importance. Therefore, make sure to have enough bar soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer. For regular cleansing, have an extra container of dish soap and laundry detergent. Consider picking up a pack of baby wipes and some disinfectant spray as well. As for toilet paper, one roll per family member per week should be fine if you ration it like they do at the public bathrooms in Mexico. Ladies, don’t forget to stock up on your monthly supplies too!
As for the quantity of each, well it really depends on your family’s needs and food preferences. The pandemic period won’t last for decades, but it could last several weeks.
What would you add to a Prepper’s Pantry for rural Mexico?
December is harvest month around here. Even though my husband didn’t plant anything, he brought in a harvest nonetheless. Four or five times a week, he headed to Cerano to see where la maquina (harvester machine thingy) was currently working and asked the owner of the field if he could pepinar (glean). Only once was he refused permission. That day, he had taken his father along and apparently the owner had some beef with him that went back 50 years or so. So no, corn that day.
The gleaned corn he has been feeding as a regular treat to all the mama goats and sheep we have right now to help increase their milk production so that all the babies become fat and sassy. The then-empty corn cobs have been fueling our fire to keep down the bitterly cold December brought to our mountainous area along with the leña (firewood) from a dead mesquite tree the neighbor cut down a few months back. My husband has been trying to reduce our cooking gas consumption by using this mesquite wood to cook our daily meals. There’s nothing quite like beans cooked over the open flame for taste.
My husband also bought a costal (feedbag) of purple corn he prefers for pozole. He sold several kilos to some ladies who work with his sister at the tortilleria, but we still have more than half a tote full. And he purchased rastrojo (dried corn stalks) from Panzon (Big Belly) in La Ordeña which will be ground to dust later this month as animal feed.
In line with our end of year prepping, we ordered a pipa de agua (water truck delivery) from the presidencia (town hall). This is the first we’ve had to order in the 6 months since the dry season started due to unseasonally late rains this year. The runoff from the rains kept our tinacos (water storage containers) about half full for some months.
What we didn’t take into consideration in all our prepping was the gas crisis. Yep, 9 states including both Michoacan and Guanajuato (which are the two states bordering us) are experiencing gas shortages.
Gas stations in Moroleon and Uriangato and nearby Yuriria began running out of gas January 1st. The ones that were without gas first were privately owned gas stations, those owned by foreign investors like Oxxo and Exxon. However, now into the second week of hideously long lines, the Pemex owned gas stations are now outta gas too.
Locals insist that the problem originated when the Nortenos (Mexicans who live north of the border) began their annual pilgrimage back to the United States, filling up their gas-hogging SUVs and mini-vans and leaving locals without a drop of gas. I have my doubts about that since this year there were far fewer returning paisanos (countrymen) due to the US threat to close the border.
Apparently, it isn’t a gas shortage, at least according to government officials, but rather a problem with distribution. The new president Lopez Obrador has begun his campaign to reduce robos de gasolina (gas thievery) by implementing a new system of distribution. While working out the kinks, he has asked the Mexican people for patience.
According to some, there are additional factors causing the gas crises going as far back as 2016 when Pemex reduced production. Of course, the 800% increase in fuel theft under the previous president Pena Nieto, hasn’t helped the supply.
Regardless of the reason, there is no word on when our area can expect gas deliveries again. Grocery store shelves are becoming bare because delivery trucks don’t have enough gas to make deliveries. The cooking gas trucks that cruise around town with their cheery song are off the streets for the same reason. The guy my husband buys corn leaves from is no longer at his usual corner. He wasn’t able to purchase enough gas to fill his tank this weekend. It’s just a matter of time before the buses stop running.
We have enough gas in my husband’s motorcycle for the next 2 or 3 days. The truck and my motorcycle are garaged until further notice. The bicycles have been dusted off. Their tires have been checked and patched. We may need to go low tech for a while.