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Is it a good sign or a bad sign …

… that I just bought these at Wal-Mart?

#10 cans of Augason Farms freeze-dried and dehydrated food from Wal-Mart

The nearest Wal-Mart, in what passes for the local Big City, is one of the older, smaller ones. When I was there two weeks ago, they didn’t have any such thing as this. Then yesterday I got an excited email from a friend, saying she’d spotted a large — but diminishing — array of storage foods on Saturday.

Had to see for myself. Sure enough. They had everything from bulk buckets of oatmeal and wheat berries to #10 cans of fruits, vegetables, soup mixes, TVP, and more. “Had” is the operative word — as in “used to have.” The shelves were about half empty, with probably a quarter of the items (including, surprisingly, all the hard red winter wheat berries) completely sold out.

A clerk told me they’d been carrying these products for less than a week.

Prices were good, too — nearly $5 under Augason Farms’ own price on the apricots, nearly $3 under their price on the chili. And no shipping. This could be a great, painless way to build mid-term food storage. Just budget for a can or two every month.

Is your local Wal-Mart selling this stuff?

And back to the original question: Is it a good sign that prep-consciousness has now made it down to Wal-Mart level? Or is it a bad sign, that Mr. and Mrs. Average are scared enough — of who knows what? — to be stashing #10 cans and bulk-food buckets in their pantries?

—–

ADDED: I should mention that there’s no large Mormon population in this area, nor is there any notable contingent of New Age earth-change/Maya apocalypse/Planet X/waiting-for-disaster believers that would prompt a middle-of-the-road store to lay in such a variety of storage foods. This particular store serves as stolid a working-class population as you could imagine.

59 Comments

  1. mike
    mike February 27, 2012 6:51 pm

    I am curious, was this in the grocery area or sporting goods area?

  2. Claire
    Claire February 27, 2012 6:59 pm

    Good question, mike. It was on its own isolated set of shelves, right where the women’s clothing department ended and frozen foods began. So I guess you’d have to say in the food section.

    This Wal-Mart doesn’t have a separate grocery department, just a few rows of grocery shelves stuck right in the middle of everything else.

    If I understand what you’re implying, these were not being sold as foods for camping or hunting, but definitely for emergency/pantry preparedness.

  3. Jake MacGregor
    Jake MacGregor February 27, 2012 8:10 pm

    we see this same brand at Rosauers (local Grocery chain inland N’West) – sometimes they have a huge display as one enters

    even so, they still carry ‘basics’ from Augason Farms for every day sale in the section where #10 cans of baked beans, mustard, or tomato sauce live

    and Claire, no shredded ‘tweet’ ? ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. AgoristDon
    AgoristDon February 27, 2012 8:27 pm

    I’m headed to the local Wal-Mart tomorrow in Florida. I’ll see if this is coast-to-coast.

  5. Claire
    Claire February 27, 2012 8:28 pm

    Well, naturally your local grocery chain carries storage foods, Jake. You’re in the height of paranoid weirdo country (as anyone in the media will gladly tell you).

    Be careful, too. Because there may be something in the water that’s causing you to produce particularly bad puns.

  6. Claire
    Claire February 27, 2012 8:39 pm

    Thanks, AgoristDon. I’m really curious to know how widespread this is.

    If our obscure little Wal-Mart is selling storage foods, I expect that a lot of others are (in fact, when I posted, I wondered if I had just found something that was old hat to everybody else). OTOH, maybe this is just regional, or at a manager’s discretion, or …?

    So yes, please let me know what you find out.

  7. ff42
    ff42 February 27, 2012 8:45 pm

    I live in Utah (Mormonville central) and not only are these sold at Walmart, but at Smith’s, Macey’s, Harmons, and just about every grocery store around – plus the 4 or 5 (maybe 6 or 7 including the entire Salt Lake valley) ’emergency’ preparedness stores, plus another dozen sporting goods places.

  8. Claire
    Claire February 27, 2012 8:53 pm

    ff42, you live in storage-food paradise. I’m not surprised to hear your report, but I’ll be really surprised if people come back to say they’re finding storage foods at Wal-Marts far from Mormon country.

    I once made a trip to SLC just to shop at some of those preparedness stores. Wonderful places …

  9. Joe621
    Joe621 February 27, 2012 9:03 pm

    These have been selling in the local Wal-Mart here in Northwestern AZ for almost a year. At first the stock would sell out as fast as it came in now it stays consistently stocked. Prices are really reasonable.

  10. Claire
    Claire February 27, 2012 9:36 pm

    Hm. So tentative picture is developing of these foods being sold at Wal-Marts in places with large Mormon populations and/or serious prep territory. But now maybe moving outward?

    Good news on the re-stocking, Joe621. The local Wal-Mart placed these foods in an aisle that’s ever-changing (seasonal goods and such), so it’s not clear whether they’re planning to stock them permanently. My friend who found the foods didn’t have time to look at them closely that day or buy anything and has been kicking herself, fearing she might miss out. She’ll be glad to hear there’s a good chance she’ll still be able to stock up on her next trip to the Big City.

  11. AlanR - GunRightsAlert.com
    AlanR - GunRightsAlert.com February 27, 2012 11:16 pm

    We don’t have a WalMart here in far NorCal (the nearest is in Medford, Oregon) but Costco has been carrying long-term storage foods online and occasionally in the the local store for about a year.

  12. -s
    -s February 28, 2012 6:05 am

    WalMart is very, very good at responding to customer demands. That’s a big part of why they are so successful.

    Individual WalMart employees have the authority to order items -literally by the truckload if they think it will sell. By pushing these decisions to the very edge of the company Walmart can be nimble despite its enormous size.

    I’ll check the local Walmart, but I doubt I’ll find these items.

  13. bumperwack
    bumperwack February 28, 2012 6:09 am

    Its probably a big sis/Barry/baby holder project to monitor who’s doing the purchasing …ha!

  14. Matt, another
    Matt, another February 28, 2012 6:11 am

    Good finds, guess I’ll have to check around. I’ve always considered Walmart to be a good choice for storage foods. Dry potatoes, rice, beans, pancake mix, flour, sugar, baking powder, dry milk, etc are always on the shelves for reasonable prices. They aren’t hermettically sealed in #10 cans, but can be vacuum bagged or secured otherwise for storage.

    I will check my local Walmarts to see what they have.

  15. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 7:50 am

    Matt, another — good point on Wal-Mart’s other storage foods!

    Bumperwack — pay cash. ๐Ÿ™‚

    -S — I was wondering if individual discretion might be involved. In any case, I plan to write the manager of that Wal-Mart today to say thanks and urge him/her to make this permanent.

    AlanR — I knew Costco had been selling emergency food buckets (same brand I saw at Wal-Mart, I believe). Will check out whether the nearest one is selling other storage foods.

    Thanks!

  16. Stacy
    Stacy February 28, 2012 8:01 am

    I haven’t seen this at my nearby Wal-Mart, but it is an interesting trend. I was planning on going today to pick up a few things for us, so I guess I’ll cruise around and see if there’s anything new I’ve missed recently.

  17. Marlana W
    Marlana W February 28, 2012 8:08 am

    I think it’s awesome. I despise having to pay shipping so this will be great for our household if it is at a nearby Walmart. I only make it over to go to the Walmart once a month if that so I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in the neighborhood.

  18. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 8:10 am

    Thanks, Stacy and Marlana. It will be interesting to hear reports, region by region, of Wal-Marts carrying (or not carrying) storage foods.

  19. clark
    clark February 28, 2012 8:34 am

    My Iowa Wal-marts have them, in sporting goods section. Bags, not cans.
    Gander Mountain used to only have bags, now the section has expanded a bit and has cans too.

    I’d say it’s both bad and good.

    I don’t know of any mormons here, but the chemtrails are as obvious as tractors spraying a row of crops if a Person bothers to look. Ya know something ain’t right when the sky has lines making it look like a football field or a nicely laid out row of crops. Maybe this whole “Internet Reformation” a.k.a. the new Gutenberg Press is working afterall?

  20. Dixie
    Dixie February 28, 2012 8:35 am

    Headed to town later I’ll check it out and post tonite. This is a fairly urban area but since the tornadoes last yr people are trying to be more prepared.

  21. David R
    David R February 28, 2012 8:37 am

    Any large retailer does constant “SWOT” (strengths, weakness, opportunity or threats) analysis to determine the best direction for their success. With events like HG85 in Wyoming taking place I think Wal Mart is taking advantage of an opportunity to make money on the fears of the common citizen. Where there’s smoke……….

  22. Joylyn MC.
    Joylyn MC. February 28, 2012 9:00 am

    I doesn’t surprise me that Wal Mart has gotten on the bandwagon. You can call me paranoid but I won’t purchase from them. Have you seen that movie ‘Walmart Nation’? They (WalMart) require their vendors to cut so many corners to get the prices down low. I just wouldn’t trust the product to be quality. IMHO

  23. lynn
    lynn February 28, 2012 9:14 am

    walmart & sams care them. it has pros and cons… it is basicly for peopel that don’t know how to can,grow, their own.. for ER reasons like big stroms along the gulf. or root cellars. . just my throught on it ..

  24. Lynn Swearingen
    Lynn Swearingen February 28, 2012 9:15 am

    Claire – Cannot tell the maker from photo. Can you tell us where it originates from? Distribution information is tricky. Some products that say “Distributed by…” are actually produced overseas and might be of inferior quality.

  25. Heather
    Heather February 28, 2012 9:19 am

    I live in WA state and my closest Walmart in Smokey Point carries a small supply of items. They stock the wheat berries, milk, eggs, dough enhancer, some kind of whipped topping, and a few other things. I just bought some of their Morning Moo. Haven’t tried it yet. Like someone else allready said, the items in the store are cheaper then online and no shipping.

  26. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 9:46 am

    Lynn Swearingen — The distributor (and brand) is Augason Farms of (no surprise) Salt Lake City, Utah. There’s a link in the blog post. Augason Farms is connected with the Blue Chip Group, Inc., also of Salt Lake City, which appears to be a maker of storage foods and general grocery products. Here’s more:

    http://www.augasonfarms.com/about

    The foods are preservative-free. (The only ingredient on the apricots is … apricots. Similarly with the blueberries, raspberries, and pineapple whose labels I checked.) Augason Farms appears to be a family-owned Utah operation, no big corporations involved.

    Thanks all for the continuing comments.

  27. kaflick
    kaflick February 28, 2012 9:49 am

    I looked on their web site and couldn’t find Augason Farms listed
    anywhere. I also searched for chili and apricots without finding
    these either. From this I assume that it isn’t a company wide
    addition, but an individual store or regional addition.

  28. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 9:49 am

    Heather — Thanks for the details. My local Walmart had all those items and quite a bit more (including a large stock of various freeze-dried berries; northwesterners are very big on those, and of course berries are one of the hot health foods now).

    Let me know how you like the Morning Moo. I’ve always worried about the shelf-life of dried milk and I understand that Morning Moo (a whey product) holds up quite well. I just wonder what it tastes like!

  29. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 9:51 am

    kaflick — Good catch. I should have mentioned that. More and more this is looking like an item carried solely by manager discretion. I’ve just composed a letter to thank the local manager.

  30. Scott
    Scott February 28, 2012 10:08 am

    I’ll check the Wally World nearest me tomorrow. The local Dollar General store has certain items(like bottled water) flagged as “Emergency Preparedness Item”-a recent development.

  31. Jamie
    Jamie February 28, 2012 10:23 am

    I live in Idaho (Fairly heavy Mormon population) and the Wal Marts here have been carrying these for about a year or so. They are usually on an end-cap in the grocery section of the store. I have bought some but have not used any except the honey powder, which was wonderful. No more rock hard honey! They are reasonable and I usually pick up one or two on each shopping trip if I have budgeted for it. As far as the Morning Moo, I have a friend that just loves it, I am not a milk drinker, but I will take her word for it.

  32. Roger
    Roger February 28, 2012 11:35 am

    Claire, I live in very rural Wales in the UK. People know something in society is wrong but they cannot name it. I have christened it the John Galt moment! For obvious reasons. My wife runs a preserving course at the local college(30 miles away) and it is booked up until next Christmas. We have several polytunnels and grow about 70% of our food but I see new tunnels popping up at the rate of 1 a week. My chainsaw and woodland courses are booked up, I have never been busier. Even the local farmers supplier has started stocking bulk food. But no one talks about it, it is just an underlying trend. People are worried and the lifestyle we have led for many years suddenly appears very attractive to them!

  33. Pat
    Pat February 28, 2012 11:53 am

    Iโ€™ll be checking Walmart in the Middle Atlantic region on Wednesday.

    For those who donโ€™t grow their own (and are looking for flavors), health food stores sell bulk herbs and spices pretty cheaply. But youโ€™d have to be sure theyโ€™re relatively fresh; some obviously arenโ€™t.

    Jamie mentioned honey powder. Does anyone know if thatโ€™s from commercial honey or from raw honey/honeycomb? It makes a difference healthwise how itโ€™s made.

  34. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 12:05 pm

    Roger, that’s excellent to hear. Do you have any idea how much of this might be driven by 2012 Mayan calendar hysteria and how much might represent a real, long-term change in attitudes?

    We’re seeing something like that around here, as well. Among other things, the old, barely active grange has suddenly become a hotbed of activity — teaching people to build “hoop-house” greenhouses, helping locavores make connections, etc. Encouragingly, participants include a wide variety of people of varying viewpoints.

    BTW, totally off topic, but this month I’m having a personal mini film festival featuring one of Wales’ favorite sons (at least I assume he’s a favorite; for all I know he might be a national disgrace ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), Rhys Ifans. He’s a terrific actor and I’m having a ton of fun.

  35. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 12:08 pm

    Honey powder! I’ll definitely have to try that.

    Pat, I checked the Augason Farms product description, but it didn’t say (http://www.augasonfarms.com/File/View/4f95be08-d021-4775-9ab1-b7054e2c2525). I’d be surprised if they’re using raw honey, but I think I’ll ask. Their price on it is remarkably good (especially if you factor in the awful cost of shipping the real stuff).

  36. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 28, 2012 12:21 pm

    Unfortunately, no WalMart or Sam’s club type store here, and it’s 80 miles one way to the nearest. I have not been there in more than a year, but have to drive to the city for something else in April, so will check it out. Sure would love to have some of that honey powder. ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. Pat
    Pat February 28, 2012 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the link, Claire. It said at the bottom, “INGREDIENTS: Honey powder (refinery syrup, honey), fructose.” But as little as I eat sugar products, it probably wouldn’t be a problem and would be worth keeping on hand, in any case.

  38. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 1:51 pm

    Pat — I saw that, but wasn’t sure what it meant. Obviously, it doesn’t sound like pure, from-the-bees honey. But what’s “refinery syrup”? and “honey” is given unqualified. Ah well. You’re probably right. Not health food, but a long-lasting sweetener.

  39. Plug Nickel Outfit
    Plug Nickel Outfit February 28, 2012 2:22 pm

    Claire – I’m curious about those freeze-dried apricots… I’m familiar with dried apricots that are still chewy and not thoroughly dried – but I assume the freeze-dried ones are brittle/crumbly dried – right? How do they hydrate back up – similar to a dried apricot – or even bearing some resemblance to the original fresh product?

    I’ve been a user of freeze-dried raspberries for several years now. (bought through an outfit called Honeyville) They’re a great way to put some flavor to psyllium without loading it with added sugars and unpronounceable ingredients!

    Haven’t noticed the bulk foods yet at the couple of WMs I use locally but they change out stock fairly rapidly. I live in an area with a fairly heavy Mormon population that still has a fairly strong agricultural base. I’ve asked about their canning facility to find that the nearest one is almost a couple hundred miles away. Most of the local Mormons I’ve talked with do keep their preps in order and they’re a pretty tight-knit community.

  40. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 4:16 pm

    Plug Nickel Outfit — I’m curious about those freeze-dried apricots, too. I’ve never had them before. I hear that they hydrate into something like apricot preserves.

    It’ll be a while before I find out, though, because I have no intention of opening that can soon — certainly not as long as I still have the more familiar kind of dried apricots on hand after Christmas.

    Are the dried raspberries tart? The only freeze-dried berries I’ve had are strawberries, and they were pretty much mouth-puckering unless I added sugar or honey. I do plan to get more canned berries when budget allows, but I expect that honey powder will come in handy for eating them.

  41. Ray
    Ray February 28, 2012 4:41 pm

    The Wally Worlds here in Boise have been selling them also. The gamma lids and 6 gal buckets are cheap! The freeze dried foods are cheaper than Honeyville by $5 a can on some stuff with no shipping.

  42. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 5:11 pm

    Ray — Your local Walmart even sells Gamma lids and 6-gal. buckets? Oh, you happy man. ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. Woody
    Woody February 28, 2012 5:37 pm

    Former keeper of bees here. Honey will keep virtually forever without any special treatment. No kidding, I’m talking hundreds of years here folks. Powdered honey? I can’t imagine why.

    There are lots of misconceptions about honey. There is no definition of raw honey that I am aware of. Honey is a very viscous liquid and it must be heated in order to be packed into jars. A bee keeper heats it the minimum amount necessary to flow well, usually about 140 degrees. There are at least a zillion varieties of honey. Some crystallize more quickly than others. Heating to higher temperatures helps to delay crystallization. Supermarket honey is usually terrible tasting stuff, having been heated to high temps because crystallized honey doesn’t sell well. I recommend getting your honey from a local beekeeper. Usually there will be several varieties available for you to sample before buying. Different varieties have radically different flavors so try a bunch of different ones.

    If you want completely unprocessed (except by the bees) you can ask the beekeeper to sell you a frame of comb from the hive. Or if you want it packaged ask for cut comb honey.

    There is nothing wrong with crystallized honey! If you are cooking with it or putting it in your tea just scoop it out of the jar and use it. If you want it liquified so you can pour it on your pancakes put the jar in a pan of hot water and wait for it to decrystallize. If you are the impatient sort nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds. Don’t heat it more than necessary as it will effect the flavor if you over do it.

    Honey has been used as an anti-biotic for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. Germs can not live in honey. Honey spread on a wound helps prevent infection. Botulism spores are sometimes found in honey but don’t cause problems except in infants of less than a year old.

    There is nothing better than Fireweed honey on pancakes!

  44. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 8:16 pm

    Thank you, Woody! I had heard that archaeologists have found edible honey in Egyptian tombs, so I knew the stuff was durable.

    But I do get tired of always having to nuke the stuff or dig into it like a miner digging through rock. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I can see the virtue of honey powder for ease of use — or if you’re ordering preparedness supplies and want to lighten the shipping weight.

  45. ff42
    ff42 February 28, 2012 8:53 pm

    Claire@9:46 I thought I recognized that label, I’ve been in their warehouse several times. Anyone jealous?

  46. Claire
    Claire February 28, 2012 9:24 pm

    ff42 — Me?

  47. Plug Nickel Outfit
    Plug Nickel Outfit February 29, 2012 1:53 am

    Claire – I don’t find the raspberries to be too tart – but I don’t eat a lot of sweets – so it could be a matter of expectations. I only use ’em to put some kind of flavor to psyllium – so my own expectations may not be so high. They are pretty tasty though – if they were less expensive I’d probably find other uses for them. I only use them powdered too – so I have no idea how they reconstitute for cooking purposes.

    Btw – I ran across another dried fruit recently that I really enjoyed – mangoes. The ones I liked (and stocked up on!) were lightly sugared – but they’re really tasty. The texture is a bit like fruit leather – but they’re made of whole chunks of mango. Not a good as a fresh mango – but what is?

  48. Laura
    Laura February 29, 2012 6:16 am

    I work at Tarjet (French pronunciation, please), and one of my jobs is to spend about 8 hours every week walking around the local Wallymart to monitor the price changes. As of today, haven’t come across 10# food storage cans here in Western PA. But I’ll be watching!

  49. AgoristDon
    AgoristDon February 29, 2012 10:28 am

    No sign of any of these products at a Wal-Mart in Bradenton, FL. I can’t say I’m surprised, though.

  50. Claire
    Claire February 29, 2012 10:51 am

    Thanks. You guys are confirming the early picture that started to develop: common in Mormon country/intermountain west, uncommon elsewhere.

    Also, on the powdered honey, here’s what the nice lady from Augason Farms had to say: “Heat dried, contains cane sugar (33%), no potato starch.The honey is light amber honey from wildflowers, from Washington State, Oregon, and California.
    The fructose is corn syrup.”

    I should have figured it was heat-processed. All in all, not health food. But convenient?

  51. Wilson
    Wilson February 29, 2012 11:41 am

    I checked one Walmart in NE PA. They had no freeze dried foods or other prepper supplies.

  52. Ellendra
    Ellendra February 29, 2012 12:19 pm

    For honey powder: might as well buy regular sugar and add a little honey for flavoring at that point.

  53. Roger
    Roger February 29, 2012 2:44 pm

    Hi Claire, Yes it does seem to be a long term thing. People seem to be waking up to the fact that not only cannot trust government(of any party) or the finacial system but it actively works against them. We are seeing a lot of investment in polytunnels and wells here. There are also quite a number of people moving in from England mainly from cities. My nearest neighbour is half a mile away and recently moved from Birmingham. We went to their house warming party and the first thing I noticed is that he has tripled his heating oil storage to 3600 litres. While my boys were playing with their children my 6 year old noticed, and later told me, that there cellar is racked out like ours. The local beat officer told me that shotgun certificates are at record levels and the local gun shop ran by a good friend of mine is doing very brisk business.
    I sell some of work at local markets and car boot sales(flea markets?) where I am also known as a maker of obscure items. A couple of months back a man came and asked my wife if I could make a faraday cage. She called me over and I sketched out a design for him,while I explained to my wife what one was(I also had to explain why we had one in our cellar and why I had said it was an industrial meat safe!!). We agreed a price and I delivered it a couple of weeks later. Now here is the real shocker I have since taken orders for two more from different people.
    As I said something is up, people sense it, they don’t know what it is but like squirrels they sense the approaching winter and are getting ready.
    On a`lighter note Rhys is great you will enjoy his films.

  54. jed
    jed February 29, 2012 6:54 pm

    My trips to Wal-Mart are sporadic, and I often find myself trying to leave quickly once I’m in one. But I’ll keep an eye out.

    Is that really a PINK Formica countertop? ๐Ÿ™‚

  55. Claire
    Claire February 29, 2012 8:03 pm

    Thanks, Jed. And yes, I hate to admit it, but that’s a pink Formica countertop, vintage 1959, with little gold flecks in it. And if you think that’s bad, it gets worse. I painted the rest of the kitchen to go with it.

  56. Lynn Swearingen
    Lynn Swearingen March 1, 2012 10:27 am

    Email sent:

    “Are all of your products formulated from U.S. Goods and Produced in the U.S.?

    I just like to know where my food comes from!

    Respectfully,

    xxxxxxxxxx”

    Response: from xxxxx@bluechipnet.com

    “Hello xxxxxxxxxxxx ,

    99% of our products are grown in the US .We product here in Utah USA.

    Thank you ”

    ———–
    Interesting.

    (The counter top is camo for when the Thimbleberries spill?)

  57. jed
    jed March 1, 2012 12:39 pm

    Hah. I work at a cabinet company. We have old Formica samples here, and sometimes I go through them for a laugh. This one used to be available in coral and aquamarine too.

    Well, retro is in, isn’t it?

  58. Claire
    Claire March 1, 2012 12:56 pm

    OMG. Jed. Indeed, retro is in. My local cabinet shop has exactly that same pattern — in several 1950s colors. Not an old sample, but modern manufacture.

    I expect a few years from now we’ll all wonder what made us think 1950s decor was so cool. But by then, of course, we’ll have moved on to the 1960s — avocado! Harvest gold! Coppertone! And … oh, may all the gods forbid … orange shag carpeting.

  59. ::G
    ::G March 14, 2012 12:34 pm

    If my local store has any, I’ll finally have something I’ll buy at Wally World other than 9x19mm and .45 ACP ๐Ÿ˜‰

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