By now, almost everyone has ran into something that they have had on the list to buy that was absent on the shelves of their local store. Paper products, cleaners, meat, and flour are just a few that have been reported. Whether it is through panic buying that sucks up the supply or limited supply due to lack of incoming stock, people have found empty shelves where they expected the items they need. This is not a new phenomenon. Those in hurricane prone areas see it when major storms get announced. The same can happen in areas plagued by huge snowstorms. The Covid-19 pandemic has caught a lot more people with out a plan unprepared because of its wide reaching effects and duration.
While I always advocate preparing before hand for events such as this, some readers are not in that position or have had major life changes that they had not planned for. Due to that I am going to discuss some ways that I have found to fill out that shopping list when you local grocery store is bare.
The first suggestion i have is to look at alternate, not so normal, locations. When Covid-19 just began and paper products, water, and other items became scarce, I happened to be in a national brand pharmacy. Walking the aisles I discovered that products absent from the normal grocery store were in stock in quantity. In addition, any that were higher priced, were only moderately so. It seems no one thought to hit the pharmacy grocery aisles. Some other examples of places that are not on a lot of peoples radar are convenience stores, restaurant supply stores, ethnic grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and home stores (like T. J. Maxx and Marshall’s) that have dry goods. In addition I found that higher end grocers such as The Fresh Market had items like chicken breast and ground beef when other “regular” stores were out. Sometimes the pricing was higher, but normally the quality was also. While I was shopping in alternate locations, I heard many of my coworkers complaining that they could not find X item, but when asked would confess that they never even went to a different grocery store to look for it. So sometimes it was good to stray from your normal habits and try places such as this.
Another suggestion is to look for alternative products. When toilet paper became a ‘fight in the aisle’ item, many places still had flush-able wipes or at least baby wipes. Even facial tissue could be an option and was in stock almost everywhere in at least small quantities. So take a creative look at what you could use. Some other examples include using couscous in the place of spaghetti noodles, frozen veggie burgers in place of ground beef patties, or packaged soup mixes in place of canned soup. There are a lot of times pretty simple alternates if you simply look. The beauty of these is that if you normally don’t think of it, lots of other people won’t either.
A third suggestion is what I like to call mob shopping. What this consists of is a group of people, whether it being family, friends, or other, that coordinate their shopping. This can either be by sharing your list and shopping on different days/times or at the same time, but each at different stores. Which option works best depends on your area. One savvy friend of mine accompanied her Dad to her local grocery store in the early “over x age” hour on the morning after the grocer got a new truck shipment. The other people in her group did similar at other stores in different areas and that gave them the best stocked shelves. This gave them the most opportunities to fill every ones’ orders. This can take some organization, but with a bit of planning and communication via text or calls this can help everyone out.
So as you can see, a bit of creative thinking and problem solving can provide you the best shot at keeping your family stocked with supplies. Just remember that as you shop, that buying extra as you can will help you if future shortages happen. Start by concentrating on those “have to have” items and fill out some of the additional wants to keep things from being too stale of experience. For other tips on planning food stores, take a look around the site and I am sure you will get some ideas.