Under extreme circumstances, humans can often pull together to overcome great odds. But when confined in a tight space with each other, well, we may not be at our finest. So how would you do if you got trapped in a grocery store for the rest of your life?
What should you eat first? Or who would you eat first? And what would happen when the lights went out?
Whether it’s a nuclear disaster or a giant bug invasion, whatever’s happening in the outside world has led you and a small band of survivors to this grocery store. And this isn’t temporary. This fluorescent-lit prison just became your home for generations to come. That means every decision, every resource, and every trip to the bathroom can affect your lives in the long term.
Keeping your feelings in check and managing conflict in this stressful situation would be your only hope for surviving. And sure, the shelves are stocked now. But what will happen when the food is gone?
So you survived the chaos outside. Good job. But this wouldn’t be the time to relax. Things are about to get challenging.
The next twenty-four hours would be crucial to your survival. You and your group would need to go through the inventory of perishable foods and decide what you can preserve and what you intend to eat soon. Any waste you make today is a meal you won’t have tomorrow. And if you think you wouldn’t waste anything, think about this. The United States alone throws out over 450 million kg (1,2 billion lbs) of food in one year. You wouldn’t have the luxury now. But with the right tools, you could turn all waste, including your own, into your next meal. We’ll come back to that.
You would need to dry the fruits and vegetables you wouldn’t eat right away. That can save your veggies for up to six months and your fruits for up to a year. And if you take a trip a few aisles over and grab some salt, you could dry cure the proteins. Applying a coat of salt to the outside of the meat would remove the water molecules within it, preventing bacteria from growing. These meats would last up to two months without refrigeration.
As the first week went by, the days would begin to blend. To survive, you would need to split into groups and divide your work. Rotating the chores, like cleaning, preserving food and composting would keep the workload balanced. And it would keep your minds busy so you wouldn’t get burned out. Remember, this is your life now.
Come on, that’s enough fun. There’s a lot of work left. After all, you would need to rearrange the store and create sections for sleeping, medical care, cooking and a bathroom area. And don’t count on those bathroom stalls working forever. After all, who knows how long the utilities might last?
During the first month, your group would need to take advantage of the running water while you still can. Your group might decide to use plastic tubs and garbage cans to save as much water as possible for future use. This way you could still bathe and water your plants, even when the running water stops, well, running. Oh, did I mention that you’ll become a gardener?
Even with the proper storage and drying methods, the fruits and veggies wouldn’t last forever. You would have to grow plants that can thrive in low light, like mushrooms and potatoes. And if you want your new garden to survive, you’ll need to learn how to compost food waste.
We create from compost from decomposed organic material. If your group makes a compost toilet, every bit of waste could help your new community. Known by gardeners as black gold, this substance would keep your garden growing. That would still be pretty gross though, considering you’d be eating it as part of your food.
By the end of your first year in this grocery store lockdown, the comforts of the outside world would be long gone. Running water and electricity would be a thing of the past. That compost toilet would seem like a luxury now. You would need to collect and purify rainwater from outside the windows since the water you collected earlier wouldn’t be drinkable. Toxins from the plastic containers could seep into the water over time. And if you consuming these toxins could damage your kidneys or liver.
Stored properly, the dried goods inside the store could last up to 30 years. Make sure to check the dates on the canned goods before eating them. By now, all your meats would be gone. Or would they? As the years went on, you would, sadly, lose more and more members of your group.
Even with that fully stocked pharmacy, you wouldn’t be able to save everyone. Medicine expires. And without any proteins left, you might have to make some difficult choices. After all, you couldn’t just leave the dead bodies around. The toxic fumes as they decompose could build up inside the store.
You would need to burn the bodies in a well-ventilated area. But, if one of your group members felt a bit like snacking, they might take advantage of this situation. So don’t get too attached to anyone who might become your dinner later.
But how long could you live like this? Well, an average supermarket has enough supplies has enough supplies to keep a human alive for 55 years. And with some stores keeping as many as over 33,000 different items on the shelves, your small group could keep society going even though the outside world has become a disaster.
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- “Don’T Be Tempted To Use Expired Medicines”. 2021. U.S. Food And Drug Administration.
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- “Here’S How Long You Could Survive If You Got Trapped In A Supermarket”. 2021. vice.com.
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- “How Big Is Your Stomach: Size And Volume”. 2021. Healthline.
- “Why does salt prevent food from spoiling?”. Howstuffworks.