Time to stock up – here come the shortages again


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.)



  1. Last two times I went to Walmart before moving north a month ago, the shelves were sparse of certain products and empty of some. It took me a while to realize they were in some sort of inventory process and stuff was not being replenished as fast as normal. Just to make sure, ask an associate or a manager.

    Local Wally World up here seems to be doing fine, same for Sam's Club. We will be going to Costco today to check and join if worthwhile.

  2. Over here in Australia, if your domestic coffee machine breaks down that's pretty much it. Those little plastic parts just aren't available thanks to whatever is going on with China.

    I've got a professional espresso machine and one of the many benefits (beyond superior espresso coffee) is that you can actually get parts to fix them as those parts are made in Italy. Even then it took almost two weeks.

  3. FWIW zero shortages of anything in the supermarkets I frequent in Hong Kong. 16 different types of acorn fed Iberico ham, more cheese than at Sedan and Compiegne, and toilet paper to the ceiling. Vegetables fresh from the greenhouses of Netherlands and Israel, USDA eggs, Japanese Eggs, Australian Eggs, Thai Eggs. Eggs from animals you wouldn’t think of if you weren’t Chinese too, of course.

    So I wonder just how much of this is just US domestic logistics @#$%upery? Not discounting malice aforethought.

    Now for electronics, spare parts, etc… I can well believe it. That’s real. And could get worse. China’s domestic economy went like a rocket in 2H last year and 1H this year. If zero tolerance Covid Delta measures shut it down for months, who knows what’s in store?

  4. Peter,

    You're describing what i think is a very regional problem, and a lot of yours may be due to local perceptions that people would rather fort up than venture out into potential rising COVID cases.

    The media panic campaign is working there.

    I'll update this with a side-by-side comparison on your items with SoCal WallyMarts later today.

  5. Genji is right – at least part of this is orchestrated, much like the reaction to the 19. Even so, I've got a few months of 4Patriots food stocked up for my Dad and I.

    Jesus, come back soon.

  6. One shortage that most people aren't mentioning is the truck driver shortage. Too many soy-boys pursuing Gender Studies degrees and not enough drivers or tradesmen, and that means delays in food and fuel delivery.

  7. I highly recommend finding, then shopping at, a restaurant supply house. I am not missing ours as much as I feared after the move, because I have a local grocery with bulk goods, cheap family packs of meat, and so forth. Walmart is where the locusts who don't know anywhere else/can't get anywhere else hit first. I'll be hitting the local carnicerias for meat soon, now that my son is starting strength training and needs an ungodly amount of protein daily!

  8. This week the local stores have been packed at non-typical times. Some of it maybe due to the start of school, but I really think people are scared.

    So what are people scared of? Maybe possible lock downs due to Covid being imported over the border and media scares, maybe the political situation.

    Add in that everybody and their dog is fleeing to Texas, especially DFW, the traffic in the stores has double in a couple of years. Long lines at Costco and Sams gas pumps almost all the time, not just during the normal peak times.

    I noticed that the two local U-Haul stores I used to fill my propane tanks at, are overflowing with trucks. There aren't any going out of state…

  9. Andrew Smith – regarding Italy and coffee machines, you are lucky. A ton of other European components are thin on the ground.

  10. Peter.
    First Tip: Stop shopping at Walmart. You have some great grocery chains in Texas. Use 'em.
    Second Tip: As Cedar Recommends, find the local restaurant supply house, or bulk discount liquidator. Bulk foods for your deep pantry, at just slightly higher than WMart prices.
    Third Tip: Shop at the "Mexican" supermarkets. Slightly different supply chains. They stock about half the number of SKUs, but keep greater numbers on the shelf.
    Hope this helps.

  11. my sam's was well stocked with the exception of chili,devoid of any. there was a limit 1 flat of canned green beans though, curious since its harvest season has been ongoing. don't do walmart, but my local food lion has rotating shortages since covid started, never got fully restocked. we use soviet shopping ie: buy it when they have it whether i need it now or not. ….also bought two dehumidifiers that i use in the basement last week when i found them in stock at sam's. couple months ago mine shat the bed and no dehumidifiers were to be found anywhere. they play out about 18 months on average here and all of them are chinese made.

  12. Our HEB and Costco have empty shelves in different areas every time I visit. Number of flavors and/or brands is down too. Lot of unusual brands filling in for old standbys.

    Houston area, and given the storms headed our way, some of it could be hurricane season.


  13. "Third Tip: Shop at the "Mexican" supermarkets. Slightly different supply chains. They stock about half the number of SKUs, but keep greater numbers on the shelf."

    –yes to this with caveats…. I added to my 'last run' in March of last year at the big "international" chain in town, Fiesta. And I hit several of the Mexican chain stores. They all had food and supplies that the major chains (Randalls, Kroger, HEB) were already out of, but the caveat is that the fresh stuff spoiled MUCH faster than the big boy chains, and the quality of meat and veg was lower in general.

    I like shopping at the asian and hispanic chains anyway because they often have canned or shelf stable foods that are not available in our bigger stores. Much of the world still doesn't have refrigeration, so they have cans or retort pouch versions we don't. Plus the unusual flavors will help with appetite fatigue if the SHTF for a length of time.


  14. About the same situation here, just North of Indianapolis. A crap-shoot when I go shopping what they'll have stocked or not. Changes from day to day, and week to week.

    Now they're starting to drag out Halloween stuff, SMH.

    It's like the 70's except we have cell phones and social media, so we can see the collapse faster.

  15. My wife thinks long term.
    Years ago I discovered she had a stack of those Costco bulk packs of TP in the garage wrapped in garbage bags so it's not obvious. They sit there untouched stacked on top of a gorilla rack. She gets nervous if her ready supply is down but we're probably good for a year if needed.
    It's the same with canned goods, personal items, etc. Brown mustard? Four bottles. Canned tuna? Maybe 50 cans. Shampoo? Half a dozen or so.
    It's handy to be able to check the basement first when something runs out in the kitchen. One extra pack of anything, even once a year, adds up given time. Last week it was mayonnaise. Next week it'll be something else.

  16. Tim Pool's news arm has an article about this:


    Mark Yeager, the chief executive officer of Redwood Logistics told CNBC that there are about 180 million containers worldwide, but “they’re in the wrong place.”

    This means everyday items in the grocery store will become more expensive or more scarce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted 70% of the garlic consumed in the U.S. comes from China. Because of the expense of internal shipping triggered by COVID-19 lockdowns, garlic prices have risen 30%.

    Consumers can expect to see shortages of canned beer and soda, fresh produce, ketchup, hot dogs, bacon, imported foods (such as coffee, olive oil, and seafood), corn, and cheese.

    Industry experts have also said that other popular consumer products will be in short supply for the rest of 2021. This includes toilet paper, tampons, diapers, plastic bags, chlorine, steel, furniture, computer chips, and cleaning products.

    The Food and Drug Administration also has a list of what medicines are currently in short supply.

    “There are currently no nationwide shortages of food, although in some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low before stores can restock. Food production and manufacturing are widely dispersed throughout the U.S. and there are currently no wide-spread disruptions reported in the supply chain,” the USDA said in a statement.

  17. Juneau AK report on Costco.

    Over early lunch, did another stock up at ye olde Costco here in Juneau AK. The smallest Costco in the world (I think). Ours is not as deep as any Costco you live is wide. Yes, it is pretty small, and we box/bag our own groceries as they cant get enough staff here and never have in our 7 years.

    Limit still is 2 TP per, same on paper towels. Currently plenty of ketchup/tomatoes. NO mushrooms in can available, been out a few months, may be discontinued. Tomato paste/diced/sauce still no limits, Stocked up on more Kirkland Coffee though never even had it, just for the less expensive etc. Pickles, low but no limit. Canned tuna/chicken available. Meat prices are quite a bit higher. NO dry beans and haven't had since before the lockdowns. Brown rice/quinoa are here, and couple brands of white. Only canned black beans and not much of those. Flour/Sugar/spices available no limit that I noticed.

  18. One should be VERY reticent to buy food from China. Long list of problems endemic with that. Fraud and stupidity head the reasons, just to start.

    I doubt the problems they have with food production can be fixed. It's built into the country and culture.

    One of the interesting observations about Costco is that some stores had limits on some products, and other local ones didn't. No idea why.

  19. Good comments about Mexican supermarkets.

    Generalize further. Plug into the various ethnic logistics chains (they’re simpler and more resilient) for stocking up while the going is good. Can’t expect them to give you any help or preference if SHTF, but now while the sun shines, make hay!

  20. I've been watching some of these things for a bit, and doing occasional posts on what I'm seeing on my blog.

    Some of it is definitely regional, I see that at my work too.

    Some of it isn't.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *