Following on from my post yesterday about our current situation, particularly where I quoted Daisy Luther’s warning about shortages of consumer goods, this week I’ve been going through my family’s preparations for emergencies, checking that we have everything essential, and replacing or re-stocking in areas where we might be short. It’s been an educational experience. I’ve shopped at our local Sams Club and two Walmart stores (so far), and this is what I’ve found “on the ground”.
- Toilet paper: Sams Club had bulk packs of the stuff, but only three pallets on the floor, and they were being denuded as I watched. In the (literally) less than a minute I was within view of them, at least ten packs were taken by shoppers. Unless they were resupplied last night, I expect they’ll be out by today. Walmart’s shelves were not well stocked; they weren’t (yet) limiting shoppers on quantity, but a manager whom I asked about it said they’re considering imposing purchase limits on toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water, etc.
- Paper towels: Sams Club had plenty, in multiple brands – at least ten full pallets on the floor. Walmart had more paper towels than toilet paper, but not by much.
- Bottled water: Sams Club had plenty of flats of 16oz. bottles. Walmart was in short supply of those, and most of the one-gallon bottles were gone.
- Canned tomatoes: I was astonished to see how sparsely filled Walmart’s shelves were. This is a pretty basic food item, but it’s hard to find in quantity right now. I daresay there were no more than five or six full flats (12 cans) of any variety of tomato, and most of those were house brand or off-brand. “Quality” brands were in very short supply. I needed half a dozen cans of each of four different varieties to top up our pantry, and couldn’t find all I wanted.
- Canned beans: There were only a few dozen cans in an otherwise very empty section at Walmart – it’s several feet long, and usually solidly packed top to bottom, but not this time. Black, navy and pinto beans were available in small quantities, but no kidney beans, no garbanzos, no chili beans. On the other hand, there were plenty of baked and BBQ beans.
- Dry beans: Extremely short supply. There were almost none of the 2-pound packages at Wal-Mart (3 Navy and two Black beans that I could see), and no more than a dozen or so of each of the 1-pound packs.
- Flour: Again, very sparsely stocked shelves at Walmart. The big packs were almost all gone, as were the medium-sized packs. Small, one- and two-pound packs were available, but in lesser quantities than I’m used to seeing there.
- Pickles: There were precisely four jars of banana pickles left, and a gaping void where the rest had been. Regular pickles were available, but in short supply.
- Ketchup: I wouldn’t have believed that many brands would be out of stock at Walmart, but they were. I had to struggle to find a couple of plastic bottles of Hunt’s (which I like because it doesn’t use high-fructose corn syrup), and eventually found three, right at the back of a low-down shelf.
- Canned mushrooms: Almost non-existent. I found some, but again, the area where they’re normally shelved was just about empty around them.
- Ethnic (Mexican) food section: This was well stocked, but the quantities of each brand were limited. There might be a three-foot row of taco seasonings, but there would be a dozen brands in it, most unknown to me. The better-known, more popular brands were in short supply.
- Canned meat (beef, chicken, fish, etc.): Available at Walmart, but in lesser quantities than before, with a poor selection of brands. Prices were rather higher than I’m used to paying. Sams Club had a decent supply of larger packages (i.e. packs of 8 cans of tuna, or four of chicken). Walmart was almost out of canned chili across all brands, with or without beans. The normally well-filled Chef Boyardee shelves looked as though a plague of hungry locusts had passed through. Clearly, people are getting ready to eat out of cans.
- Coffee: Very poor selection at Walmart, and not much on the shelves. I bought a couple of jars of good-quality instant coffee, the last they had (in an emergency, it’s a lot better than nothing!), but they don’t know when they’ll be getting more of it. Sams Club only had Folgers – even its house brand was out of stock, which is very unusual in my experience.
Overall, I’d say the shelves were less than half as well stocked as they were a month ago, and in some sections it looked like an army of ants had picked them clean. Basics such as toilet paper, paper towels and bottled water are already showing the effects of consumer demand and diminishing supply.
Miss D. and I strive for a “deep pantry”, with at least a dozen or so cans of all essential ingredients and a well-filled freezer. That’s enough to give us two to three months of decent meals, if we use them carefully. If that runs out (which, of course, we hope will never happen), it’ll be rice and beans, or for variety’s sake, beans and rice. I’ve now topped up our “deep pantry”. If you haven’t done that lately, you might want to do something about it before everyone else does.
I think Daisy Luther’s reminder is prescient:
Think back to when the outbreak began to come to the public eye. It only took two days for the shelves to become nearly bare. Here are some pictures as a reminder. It would be pretty foolish to wait until the rest of the country becomes aware and there’s another run on things … I have a feeling that the supply chain isn’t going to bounce back this time around, at least not very quickly. Think about anything you might need to repair or replace that is made in China, and if you can afford it, get the parts and items you may need.
Words to the wise, particularly in the light of the latest supply chain blow from China.
(Don’t forget toiletries and personal hygiene, either. My wife’s preferred brand of sanitary napkins were completely out of stock at both Walmart stores and at Sams Club, and the denture fixative I prefer was also unavailable at all of them. Some brands of deodorant were conspicuous by their absence. I took the opportunity to restock our cold and flu medications as well, just in case; last time around, they were very hard to find for a while.)