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Possible food/supply shortages…

What types of food/supply shortages/interruptions are you seeing in your area?

I live in New England. We had a few good weeks where everything seemed close to normal around here in terms of supplies and food availability at the stores. Delivery and curbside slots are now easily available too.

But today I went to pick up my grocery order and half of what I ordered wasn’t there. For example, I ordered 2 jars of pasta sauce and got only 1, I was only able to get one apple (who wants to buy a single apple?), and a bunch of items had strangely low restrictions on things like baby food jars (2 max) and yogurt pouches (2 max). It was like shopping in mid April all over again. Last week my grocery store had no strawberries whatsoever, which is bizarre for midsummer.

We are doing well in our region in terms of controlling covid transmission and re-opening businesses, so the low inventory is unlikely due to panic shopping…

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  • Comments (28)

    • 5

      I’m still hearing anecdotes on Twitter of food supply weirdness and shortages of odd things. But it’s hard for me to tell if it’s picking up or now.

      We’ve been doing curbside pickup for weeks now here in TX, so I’ve not seen the inside of a store to know what’s in and what isn’t. From what I can tell, availability seems ok for now. But I’m interested to follow this thread and hear from others in other regions.

    • 4

      We heard a few days ago that the meal subscription services, like Blue Apron, are starting to have significant shortages.

      Also saw news about aluminum shortages starting to affect canned goods https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/07/15/aluminum-can-shortage-beer-soda-coca-cola-pepsico-covid-19/5443308002/

      • 3

        Wisconsin here: I’ve been online shopping exclusively since mid-March. For the first time I wanted to order caffeine-free regular Coke or Pepsi, but it was unavailable. The store manager emailed me that the “specialty” sodas are often — but not always — often out of stock due to the aluminum shortage.

        I went with root beer. 

    • 6

      Midwesterner here. It’s similar in my city. Certain dry goods – mostly canned beans, soup, tuna, etc. – have been consistently on the shelves, but at significantly lower stock levels than pre-pandemic. TP and baby wipes are pretty reliably available, but again there seems to be much less in stock. Only some of the other big panic-buy items are still hard to find – hand soap shows up maybe once a month. I haven’t seen disinfectant cleaners in months. We have kept limits on a lot of those things as well.

      I’ve been working in the grocery industry through all of this, and customers shopping in the store have been shopping fairly “normally” the past couple months. Grocery delivery/curbside is still very popular in my area. We are often out of specific brands or flavors of things customers want (a lot of suppliers are only making core varieties of their product right now), but there is almost always a good alternative in stock.

      The strawberry shortage you mentioned definitely seems odd. Here, sometimes a few days will go by without certain kinds of tomato, or certain sizes of packaged berries, but there is typically always something, at least.

      Overall it seems like the grocery supply chain is functioning enough for most people to get most things they need, but it definitely has not returned to pre-pandemic standards. If large numbers of people do start panic-buying again, it probably wouldn’t take much to overwhelm the system as it stands.

      • 2

        i’m almost relieved to know that grocery stores are functioning somewhat normally elsewhere as well. things seem pretty good where i am though you’re right about the hand soap. i ended up getting a couple bars in the meantime which has been a weird adjustment but once i get another jug, i should be fine for a long time

      • 5

        If you need soap, you might check out castile soap.  You can get it from Amazon.  My supermarket also has had it even when other things haven’t been available.  It comes in concentrated form and you dilute it significantly (usually 3:1 or 4:1), so a 1 liter bottle can last a while.  It is watery compared to regular liquid soap, but it does the job and it is very simple – minimal ingredients (mostly vegetable oil).

      • 3

        that’s a really smart idea. haven’t used it before but dr bronner’s looks familiar and it’s available. i owe you

      • 2

        Another Midwesterner here. Do you have Big Lots in your area? I was just at one last week and they had hand soap refill jugs, as well as lots of hand sanitizer at reasonable prices.

    • 3

      @ Baltimore area… shortages seem to be fluid, sometimes see 2 item limits on odd things (e.g. box cereal?).  Consistently, I’ve seen shortages on flour and basic cleaning products, including liquid hand soap, wipes, bleach, etc.   Freezer bags (foor storage generally) also in short supply, but they typically don’t carry a ton of those, so unsurprising.  Meat and dairy supplies have stabalized, at higher price.   

      I have to say too that a store <4 miles away might be fully stocked (e.g. our Wegman’s is popular and thus, has limits…. the Food Lion?  Not so popular so might have more basics)

      the ebb/flow seems to also be coorelated with the news being good/bad.  For many weeks, most things were in stock.  As the summer has progressed and news worsened, I assume folks reacted quicker and bought out a lot of staples [again].

      Assuming we’re 12 months (at best?) away from normalcy, and recognizing there will be longer term affects, curious what more can/should do to ready for fall/winter.  

      • 6

        In terms of preparing for fall/winter, I’m trying to consider the seasonal factor and get those supplies/preps all ready by Sept 1. In addition to just keeping up with our usual food and household supplies, I’m focusing on:

        1. Popular holiday items (baking needs, canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce, etc)
        2. Cold-weather/cold-flu staple foods like broths and soups
        3. Winter/storm needs (ie: fuel, batteries)
        4. Office/school/art supplies
        5. Pandemic/hygiene (ie: hand soap and sanitizer with the expectation that these things will be nearly impossible to find once another surge hits our area)

        I’m also starting to get a bit nervous about this protracted economic situation, so we are increasing our e-fund and cutting back on things like unnecessary home upgrades.

      • 3

        Excellent idea, hadn’t thought of the seasonal aspect  : /   thinking about non-staples for the holidays, etc., by the time you realize you don’t hvae canned pumpkin, it’ll be too late.

      • 3

        +1 on seasonal supplies. For my family that means making sure we have enough powdered sugar, cake flour, etc for birthday cakes in the fall. 

      • 3

        I ordered an extra toner cartridge for my printer because I have no idea when the current one will run out.

    • 8

      I manage a grocery store in the 4 corners region so I have a decent idea of what’s going on, in my area at least.  

      First strawberries always run randomly short in the summertime as demand exceeds supply,  and based on your location trucks often get rejected due to quality issues.  Think about how long they are good at your house then imagine them going from Cali to New England, probably about the same length of time so they don’t always make it in good shape. Then upon arrival stored in a warehouse, then once again loaded in a truck and sent to your neighborhood grocery store, so multiple spots where quality can prevent them from being available.

      In my part of the country we are seeing a lack of canned vegetables and tomatoes.  That is due to farmer’s not growing excess because they were unaware this would happen. Therefore the variety and selection people are accustomed are literally still growing in the field.

      Cleaning products have started showing back up but with no consistency.  We have received Clorox wipes and Lysol spray once since this has started but that was within the past week.

      Paper products may not have the variety you want but they are abundantly available.

      Meat products are coming in consistently but the price of beef has fluctuated greatly.  So don’t expect to find the same sale prices as last year, and if you do stock up and freeze.

      For curbside pickup most companies have tried to improvise an algorithm that only shows the products they have confidence will be in stock.  This is probably not indicative of what you could actually find in store.

      Having said all that as of right now things are more consistent and plentiful than they have been since mid March.  My concern though is that the supply chain cannot withstand a second round of panic buying.  The first time when I saw this coming I told my wife to buy 1 extra case of water and 1 extra pack of toilet paper.  Last week I told her to get two months of everything that we need. 

      Summation things are the best they’ve been in four months but with states going back phases and sporadic civil unrest I’m worried this is the eye of the storm not the end.

      • 3

        Truly appreciate this info. Based on what you’re seeing, do you see purchase limits coming back? In my area, they’ve mostly been lifted from what I can tell. 

      • 3

        Very good info, thanks!

        We still have shortages of disinfecting wipes/sprays, rubbing alcohol, and other cleaning products. The stores have limited numbers and sell out within an hour of opening in the morning even with 1-pack per customer restrictions.  Hand sanitizer is readily available now but all off brand (no Purell anywhere) and there are still strict limits on it . We also still have limits on TP, paper towels, and hand soap too. 

    • 5

      Thanks for the thread and replies.  As typical, this community is more informative than most news outlets.  🙂 I’ve been wondering what the trends have really been.  I live in the LA are and consistently see empty shelves at the larger chains like Target, but with few exceptions have yet to go completely without – occasionally needing to find items in less typical locations like automotive parts stores in April.  The empty shelves appear to be somewhat cyclic as @squidvicioius states – paper goods and laundry detergent are now plentiful while hand dishwashing soap is barren.  I did find a rare bottle of isopropyl alcohol only last week, but yeast has yet to show  (I don’t check very often).  I think the surge in home cooking has hit many categories hard as stores and suppliers could not predict that upswing (baking supplies, canning supplies).  

      • 2

        You can get a pound of yeast from King Arthur Baking (formerly KA Flour) for much less than the packets sold in grocery stores. I had to wait a few weeks before it was available.

      • 2

        I found that too, but don’t have such a large need.  Maybe if I get into baking more seriously…..

      • 2

        Freeze it. It lasts at least a year.

        Share/barter.

        Christmas present for bakers.

      • 2

        Good thought.  I did give away what I had so you’re on the mark there!  

    • 9

      Just FYI, I’ve found my local Ace Hardware to be suprisingly well stocked with both cleaning and canning supplies. (I never occurred to me to look for canning supplies there.) Rubbing alcohol is in stock (gallon size, both 70% and 99%). No wipes, but those aren’t available anywhere.

      -WS

      • 2

        I wouldn’t have thought of Ace either. Good tip as long we keep it between ourselves 😉

      • 3

        Ace Hardware tends to favor Made in the USA products too.  This isn’t 100%, but as a whole, they favor US made products which is worth triple extra credit for me

      • 2

        Mine has canning supplies also, but at a higher cost than the supermarket.

        I did pick up a 5-lb fire extinguisher (a weight I can easily lift), the highest-quality furnace filter available, and an air purifier.

      • 2

        No luck there for quart canning jars.  I did see a couple checking out with pint jars and there were a few boxes of those left.  Everywhere else is jelly jars or sold out completely.  Online they are at a much higher price and then added shipping.  

    • 2

      Just found the spray paint was sold out at Home Depot. 

    • 2

      One of the biggest problems we all collectively face during this pandemic in terms of groceries (in particular) is the concept of the ‘Just-In-Time Supply Chain’.

      As the name implies, supplies are distributed “just in time” (many are daily!). Grocery stores simply don’t have the capacity to store more than x day’s worth of groceries for consumers. (This is also why big box/bulk outlets like Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, et al are popular with the budget mindful and the prepping community -they have more capacity).

      Have you noticed how there always seems to be a big truck trailer at your store? Chances are, that delivery just came in.

      Slowdowns in production or distribution further up the chain of supply can also have a serious impact on whether or not your local store got fresh bananas or that shipment of pasta sauce today.