No coronavirus panic buying for veteran prepper Sam Steele and his family-sized stockpile


March 26, 2020 09:38:25

With supermarket shelves stripped of staple goods, being prepared for emergency events like the COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t sound like such a crazy idea anymore.

Key points:

  • Sam Steele says “prepping” is still stigmatised despite widespread panic buying
  • The Steele family has at least a month’s worth of food in the house at any time
  • The IT consultant is helping businesses impacted by COVID-19 migrate online

Sam Steele started “prepping” when he lived at Eden, on the New South Wales Far South Coast, and continued the way of life after he moved to the Wollongong area with his young family.

Emergency scenarios were not what initially drove the father-of-two to begin stockpiling supplies, but self-sufficiency quickly became a habit — even if it did raise a few eyebrows.

“It was never ingrained in society and if you admitted to bulk-buying, or you were a prepper, you were stigmatised,” he said.

The 38-year-old insists he’s not a paranoid “doomsday prepper” — just a man who likes to be prepared.

“To begin with it was more about convenience, because we moved to the country and we didn’t have access to the food that we liked, so we just started buying in bulk.

“We never had a specific doomsday scenario in mind, but we like to keep enough food on hand to last us at least a few weeks.”

Sustainable stockpile

The Steeles live in an unassuming brick house in Port Kembla, an industrial village not far of south of Wollongong.

Within the home’s four walls are enough supplies to keep the family of four going for at least a month.

The stockpile includes products with long shelf-lives — canned goods, UHT milk, noodles and pasta, as well as a year’s supply of butter.

A significant portion of their supplies are sustainably sourced, including fruit and vegetables grown in their backyard garden, eggs from a growing flock of quails and honey from a hive of bees.

An industrial freezer out the back also contains vacuum-sealed goat, deer and kangaroo meat.

Mr Steele believes the COVID-19 crisis has exposed unsustainable consumer behaviour, but he says his approach to shopping remains the exception rather than the rule.

“We as a society have grown up with convenience in mind,” he said.

“You buy enough for tonight and maybe tomorrow night and then you go back to the shops when you run out.”

Moving online to survive the lockdown

As tougher restrictions are imposed across the country, many businesses are being forced to pivot to survive.

“There’s massive adjustment happening across the economy in response to COVID-19 and there are clever businesses making quick adjustments to their business models,” Illawarra Business Chambers executive director Adam Zarth said.

“I think it’s fair to say on the other side of this crisis there will be massive changes to the way we do business and the way individuals go about their work.”

Mr Steele has been working from home for the last four years and believes the changes to working life introduced during the lockdown will prove that remote work is the way of the future.

“Now there’s going to be no reason not to work from home — we’re going to prove we can work remotely,” he said.

“Remote systems are cheap and easy to implement.”

‘Society is going to change’

Now the IT consultant has begun volunteering his time to help small businesses learn web tools to help them navigate the transition.

“During this time businesses are just trying to survive,” he said.

“It’s about getting them online, so they can survive as cheaply as possible.

“I’m offering some free webinars to do what I can to help out struggling businesses.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

But business is far from the only part of daily life that will fundamentally change in the wake of the pandemic.

“Society is going to change after the coronavirus,” Mr Steele said.

“People will say, ‘We’re not going to go through this again, we’re not going to go to the shops to face empty shelves.’

“People will start stocking up on at least two weeks of food to prevent panic buying if something like this happens again.”








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