Panic buying is back again and grocery store shelves are getting bare

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I had no idea how this pandemic would play out. I didn’t know lockdown would happen as swiftly as it did, that it would last as long as it has, and I sure as hell didn’t predict that nine months into it, we were going to start panicking again. With COVID numbers spiking and an incumbent administration that refuses to save their citizens, every sign points to statewide shutdowns. In anticipation of being asked to hole up for another few months, people are once again stocking up on what they consider essentials. Shelves are again bare of items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

In the spring, the coronavirus pandemic triggered a wave of panic buying that left store shelves empty. Toilet paper, bottled water and paper towels were out of stock around the country, while shortages of eggs, meat and produce sent some prices skyrocketing.

Some things, like disinfectants, are still out of stock, but food makers and retailers told NBC News investigative correspondent Vicky Nguyen that they’re prepared for increased demand as coronavirus cases continue to surge.

“We’re working directly with our manufacturers to ensure that we do have adequate supply,” said Chelsea Minor, the corporate director of public affairs for Raley’s, a West Coast-based grocery chain. “There is plenty of food to go around, you may not have the exact products that you’re looking for, but there will be options, so be flexible.”

Jeff Harmening, the CEO of General Mills, said that the company has spent “tens of millions of dollars” to shore up their supply chain and add production lines for everything from cereal to soup to pet food.

“The supply chain is better than it has ever been,” he told Nguyen. “We ramped up production on all the things that have sold out and we’re highly confident that there will be product on the shelf available for consumers.”

Despite reassurances, the majority of shoppers are still concerned. 57% of shoppers surveyed nationwide said they are stocking up, and another 54% plan on creating a permanent stockpile.

“There’s clearly shortages,” one shopper told Nguyen. “Things aren’t coming through, I see this with all types of things.”

Another shopper said that if other people are stockpiling, she might start doing the same to avoid “running out of things.”

[From Today]

We are not yet in shutdown in California again , but it’s coming, especially when our governor can’t adhere to his own public assembly guidelines. So our stores are starting to clear out like the ones mentioned above. Signs limiting quantities are already up, which will hopefully keep more items on the shelves, but things are thinning. It surprises me. Maybe we had to adjust brands or couldn’t wait until the last minute on some items, but I don’t get the panic. I feel like we’ve forgotten everything we’ve learned over the last year. The way to get through this is to socially distance, wear masks, wash our hands, maintain a safe bubble and plan rationally – not stockpile tissue and Clorox wipes.

Still, if you are concerned and maybe you live in a smaller area that has less access, the article does offer some suggestions to prepare. They say to make a list of the items you need, which most people likely already do with a weekly shopping list. They suggest to go to the store early, but you will probably be looking at lines. Also, check if your store has senior hours to see what time they let the general public in. The article suggests calling stores to see if they have items in stock and where that might benefit you. I pity those poor, already-overworked store personnel having to field all those calls on top of everything else. They also suggest signing up at the sites NowInStock.net, BrickSeek.com, or Zoolert.com which tell you when hard to find items are in stock. There are tips about getting canned goods and frozen food, which makes me laugh a little because I still have the top shelf of my cabinet stuffed with all the stuff I bought at the start of lockdown and we never touched. I guess it’s there in case of emergency, though. The article said to coordinate with friends to pick up things and to shop in a safe collective.

The last tip, and this is the one we should all consider even if we are not panicking – if you are able to, please pick up an essential item or two or donate to a food bank this winter. It will be a rough one.

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Photos credit: Anna Shvets via Pexels, John Cameron and Jake Leonard via Unsplash

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20 Responses to “Panic buying is back again and grocery store shelves are getting bare”

  1. Astrid says:

    Crazy times We’re back in lock down in Michigan. I went to the grocery store on Tuesday to find cans of green beans were rationed – two cans per family.

    • MsIam says:

      I’m in Michigan and the store I shop at was limiting meat purchases. It’s supposed to be a three week lockdown but people act like it will be six months. At least we hope it won’t be six months…..

  2. Becks1 says:

    It becomes a vicious cycle – you need chicken broth, and you go to the store and they’re out, so next time you go, you buy 4 boxes of it, even though you only need 1. And then everyone does that for various items. You would think people would have learned something from the spring, but it doesn’t look like it.

    We bought a big pack of TP from Costco a few months ago and we’re still going through it, but my husband did say last week at the grocery store there were only 2 packs of toilet paper on the shelves.

    • LadyMTL says:

      ITA about the whole vicious cycle thing…I know for a while the shelves in my grocery store were bare of paper towels, no matter how big or small the package. Oddly enough no-one here seems to care about toilet paper right now, but tampons with cardboard applicators are getting scarce. (This annoys me, because I refuse to use ones with plastic applicators.)
      There’s no real logic to it anymore, if there ever really was.

    • Becks1 says:

      Update – my husband went to the grocery store today to get supplies for Thanksgiving, and he had to wait for them to bring out more chicken broth because the shelf was completely empty. Sigh.

  3. Snuffles says:

    I’m pretty well stocked up on toilet paper. I have slowly buying over the summer. My friend has got online buying down to an art form and buys stuff for her friends and family and we pay her back.

    Food wise, I’m eating more beans and have frequent vegan days. That might be the way to go.

  4. LittlePenguin says:

    It has been this way for since school started in September here. I am one of those when you open ‘x’ it goes on the list. I opened a 6 pack of paper towels and it took me two weeks to find more. (Luckily we try to be green and use cloth napkins for the adults if needed and bar cloths for cleaning (that I just bleach if needed) so it wasn’t a huge deal)
    It is going to be a very hard winter. Especially if supply routes get shut down due to inclement weather. (A very real issue in rural areas/Canada). Also remember to check in with your elderly neighbours/disabled if they need anything. It can be very hard to get out once the snow falls.

  5. Lwt00 says:

    I’m due to have a baby in 5 weeks, which means I have to pee roughly 100000000x a day. Costco hasn’t had toilet paper in weeks so I’m literally rationing the squares for myself.

  6. AnnaKist says:

    South Australia is in severe lockdown for 6 days, after an outbreak there. They’ve traced the original source to a traveller from Britain, but are still trying to track the 5th (?) generation. And, once again, despite the experience of the first lockdown and advice warnings of the unnecessary panic buying, people are still panic buying. I wish they’d stop being so selfish. I don’t know what it’s like in America r9ight now, but we have great supply chains, so there’s no need to panic. In the first lockdown, one of my sister’s friends went to the supermarket for some necessities. The supermarkets had placed limits on many items. She went to get a pack of loo rolled (limited to 2 packs), but the shelves were empty. She noticed two women with trolley overflowing with packs of toilet rolls,an=d asked politely if she could have a pack, since there was a limit. They refused. She insisted, and their raised voices attracted the attention of the security guard – in a supermarket. He approached the group, telling the two women they were not permitted to buy more than two packs each, and that the checkout girls would not scan any more than that. Sister’s friend went to take a pack from the toilet paper tower in their trolley. The two women began hitting and punching her. They were recently convicted. People lose their minds unnecessarily.
    https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/charges-laid-over-toilet-paper-fracas-at-sydney-supermarket-20200308-p547xy.html

  7. TeamAwesome says:

    I live in a rural adjacent smallish town in the South. I haven’t seen a can of actual or knock off Lysol since March. We can still only buy one bottle of rubbing alcohol or cleaning solution at a time. Our walmart was down to a small amount of store brand paper towels this weekend. The only thing that would make me truly panic would be a lack of coffee. Just about everything else I can deal with.

    • Sarah says:

      Hahaha yeah same here – I actually did find one can of Lysol about a month ago and I practically did a victory dance right there in the aisle! And may have been silently singing We are the Champions the rest of the time I was there… ;)

  8. Case says:

    We’re not in lockdown here in NJ yet, but I suspect (and kinda hope) it’s coming soon. Me and my parents have started buying a little extra essentials and boxed goods here and there (not hoarding though lol).

  9. MaryContrary says:

    San Diego here. Costco has been out of tp for a few weeks. Paper towels are hard to come by as well.

  10. Leah says:

    Yeah I noticed that at the grocery store a few days ago. The bounty was gone so I knew it was a replay of March. I just cursed and continued on. Los Angeles is currently purple and due for another lockdown so I think peeps are getting ready for it.

    What I don’t get is the connection between paper products and the pandemic. Charmin is not going to stop covid 19 so what gives? Is it they think they can barter the stuff for other stuff?

    A few days ago I ordered some tylenol, ibuprofen, mouthwash, and a thermometer that takes the temp on the head or temple just in case there is another run on these items. One of each like a normal person.

    Also ordered two pounds of gourmet fudge, because in a lockdown who knows if people are going to get salty about fudge.

    • schmootc says:

      The ‘buying all the things’ situation is so weird. I ran out of TP in the early stages of the lockdown. I had some other things to use if I had to, but eventually found some at 7-11 of all places. I think they were in the middle of delivery, so I got lucky. And I took three rolls out of at least a dozen or so. Because I know there are other people besides me out there! It’s not that hard to say hey, I only need X much.

    • Case says:

      I think the craziness over paper products is simply that people don’t want to be running to Wal-Mart if their area is locked down and cases are bad. They’r rather stock up now, which I get. When we’re all at home and not at work, that means using more napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.

  11. Leigh_S says:

    I’m in the Atlantic bubble but there’s a reason I raised 2 cows and 3 pigs this summer. 2 cows and a pig are already in freezers between us, friends and family, with 2 pigs still on the hoof still growing.

    If the food supply chain and prices go to hell like it did in the spring between the rail blockades and then lockdown? We will still eat well and inexpensively, and I have the stores to help out others in a pinch.

  12. emu says:

    I love that the header image is a woman hoarding ginger! Leave some for the rest of us! XD

  13. Amando says:

    I hate being forced into being a hoarder. I normally don’t like a lot of backstock, but we all have to do this because of the frenzy that people get whipped into. So now I have a two months supply of TP and most essential items. It won’t go to waste, but I hate the anxiety that comes when going grocery shopping now.

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