What’s the consumer economy doing in your neck of the woods?

I’ve been watching local shops for some time, and I’m seeing trends that don’t bode well for the future.  I’d like to describe them, then ask you, dear readers, to let us know in Comments whether you’re seeing similar or different things in your area.  Let’s help each other stay informed.

The quantity and variety of consumer goods available has diminished fairly drastically over the past couple of months.  Yesterday, for example, I went shopping for a few necessities, including canned tomatoes.  To my astonishment, a local supermarket (Aldi) and a big-box store (Sams Club) had no canned tomatoes whatsoever in normal sizes on their shelves.  Sams Club had some (not many) of the big five-pound commercial catering cans of tomatoes, but that was all.  I’ve never seen both stores completely out of so basic a product before.  I’m sure I would have found some if I’d tried other stores, but I didn’t have time for that.

I’m also noticing a definite reduction in consumer choice.  Where one used to be able to buy, say, ten different kinds of canned beans, there may now be three or four.  Furthermore, some brands are simply unavailable.  Aldi’s house brand of canned beans was so sparse that the store had brought in several lines of Goya beans at twice the price per can, something it would normally never do.  I asked the manager about that, and she shrugged and told me it was the only way they could keep some products in stock.  The factories that produce Aldi’s house brands are sometimes unable to buy enough stock to process it, or enough cans to pack it.

There’s also a definite and relatively rapid upward trend in prices.  Almost across the board, consumer prices are increasing.  I’d guesstimate that they’ve gone up at least 20% since the onset of the coronavirus, and up to 50% for some products (for example, eggs) that are in strong demand.  Gasoline had dropped to below $1.40 a gallon locally, but it’s back up in the $1.90-$2.00 range already.  Meat is up at least 30% across the board, with some prime cuts of beef almost double what they were at the beginning of the year.  Anything imported from China, including automotive parts, is more expensive, and some can’t be had for love or money, thanks to the disruption in shipping from Chinese factories.  Automotive spares and consumables are also in short supply, presumably because more people are changing their own oil and doing their own minor vehicle repairs to avoid having to pay dealers and service centers for the privilege.  A local dealer where I take my car has furloughed some mechanics due to the drop in customer demand.

While certain products that were formerly hard to find have come back into stock, others have not.  Toilet paper appears to be readily available once more, but paper towels are still scarce.  (Sams Club had only one brand available yesterday, and was limiting sales to one pack per customer.)  Soda manufacturers are apparently producing only their most popular lines, due to shortages of raw materials.  I’m partial to orange soda like Fanta, but it’s very hard to find in these parts, because local producers simply aren’t making it.  They’re reserving production for what’s most in demand, and “niche” customers like me will just have to put up with it.  Same with diet sodas;  I’m seeing far fewer diet brands available than normal.

I’ve spoken about firearms and ammunition shortages in these pages several times in recent months.  It’s getting worse, not better.  My favorite online ammo vendor, SGAmmo, had no 9mm. ammunition at all in stock the other day – the first time I’ve ever known their cupboard to be bare.  My local firearms dealer is still reasonably well stocked with both guns and ammo, but that’s because the owner is a canny soul who built his stockpiles in the “fat years”, in order to be ready when the “lean years” arrived.  He has people driving two to three hours each way to buy from him, because no other store in the area is as well-stocked as his.  He’s not gouging on prices, either – at least, not his regular customers – which is praiseworthy, IMHO.

What’s the consumer economy doing in your area?  Please let us know in Comments.



  1. Probably a huge shift in food eaten from restaurants to at home. I have heard local markets in So Ca are doing double their usual amount of sales. This is a huge change in the good supply chain.

  2. I do my grocery shopping at HEB, which has done far better than most stores in dealing with the late unpleasantness. TP and paper towels are in stock, but rationed, and the super jumbo packs of TP aren't on the shelves. Stocks on fresh meat got low, but never ran out. Some things, like pre-made burger patties, that required more prep on their end, went away for a while, but they're back.

    The one somewhat odd shortage recently has been the boil-in-bag instant rice. That may be a local thing due to students returning to town (College Station/Texas A&M).

    I went to Academy last night, hoping to find some .22LR. The ammo shelves were BARE except for birdshot (a ton of that) and a few lonely boxes of .22WMR.

    The local gun store has ammo, but not in bulk quantities, and it's pricey. They are well supplied with hunting rifles and shotguns. They had all of 4 AR-15s in the store, one used one in .458 SOCOM, 2 on consignment in .300 Blackout, and a $2000 LWRC on consignment.

    One of our two local microbreweries (New Republic) has shut down, and I haven't seen cans from the other (Blackwater Draw) on the shelves at HEB. Finally, I haven't been able to find my favorite margarita mix (Republic) in my preferred prickly pear flavor at Spec's in months.

  3. We're not shopping in person – my elderly father lives with us, so we have to take extreme precautions about the Wuhan virus – but on-line shopping has gotten remarkably hit-and-miss, and the roughly-weekly grocery run, well….
    We put in an on-line order with Kroger, for parking-lot pickup (we can stay buttoned up in the car, and pop the trunk lid from the inside) – we'd prefer delivery, but this patch of East Tennessee isn't in anyone's grocery-delivery zone. Usually, a lot of the things we want are out of stock by pickup morning – no bananas, no ground beef (or, more often, chicken) that fits the wife's parameters, etc.
    We're accumulating a buffer of shelf-stable foods as opportunity allows, though buying canned goods from Amazon or Walmart usually results in a lot of dented cans in the pantry, as they don't seem to have learned to pack such things for shipment (and I gave up long ago on the idea of ordering anything that comes in glass jars). Rice, beans, and flour ship just fine. (And I see that King Arthur is sold out of the usual staples again.)
    Gas prices have gone up a little, but it's not like we're doing a lot of driving – every couple of months I toss the empty gas and Diesel cans in the truck and fill them up in the wee hours of the morning so I can keep the yard machinery going, and sometime soon I need to make a gas-station run in the Prius, or just feed it lawnmower gas (premium, no-ethanol). The increase in gas prices was, after all, kind of expected, now that people are driving again (and it seems that a lot of people with real jobs are driving to them again).

  4. Regarding the car dealer's not having enough work, that has to be because people just aren't driving as much, for either business (commuting) or pleasure. Some of the auto insurers are doing another round of premium credits as well.

  5. We're paying "retail-plus" out here in the Wild, Wild West. Meaning; everything's more expensive, if available, and there are virtually NO sales.

    Toilet paper and paper towels are available, but they're between 30 and 50% more expensive that "BC" (Before Corona). Also, brand selection on these paper products is non-existent. Some stores are carrying brands from Guadalawhothehellcares, while others have settled on Charmin and Bounty, both of which have the familiar lie printed on the package; "One roll of ours equals TWO rolls of "theirs." Charmin, Bounty… NEWSFLASH! a roll with half the sheets as "theirs" is not "equal," but "less than" "theirs." Add to that the "quilting," which means you're paying for air where paper used to be, and, well, I guess I'm preaching to the choir…Used to be, Mr. Whipple squeezed the Charmin. Now Charmin squeezes US!

    Meat prices are pretty much DOUBLE what they used to be, across the board. If you didn't stock up at the start, like I did, you're paying rib eye prices for chuck steaks.

    Canned goods are hit and miss.

    All in all, I'm pretty sure this is what the people of Venezuela saw at the start of its decline…

  6. Northern CO, shelves that were bare six weeks ago are starting to fill. Prices are up. I shop at Safeway and a local cost +10% at the register. Probably half their customers are Hispanic. I see a lot more customers checking prices before tossing something in their cart. Gas hovers under $2.50 a gallon at most stations.

    I see longer lines at the fast food places. I don't do fast food but the seniors in our building do. They tell me prices are much higher than just a few weeks ago.

    My survival/shopping method is decades old. I keep a hefty balance at the credit union and when I see something at a good price, buy three to six months worth. Gives me some peace of mind.

  7. Around here in my part of Louisiana, canning jars are hard to find in some places. Made in China is part of the reason. More people wanting their own food supply is another.

    Part of the problem with all the shortages is we are seeing just how much of our.. self reliance was given over to the Chinese.

    I was shocked to learn how much of our meat alone is sent there to be processed and shipped back for sale. That's just not right.

    Beef has doubled here, I think. Farmers make more money to just outright slaughter and bury them with the shortage of processors. Something America should have an abundance of.

    Gas (all types) prices have gone up a bit, but more people are traveling.

    I haven't been to Sam's in months.
    Hadn't noticed the tomato bit; but haven't really looked.
    Staples of flour, sugar and rice I had noticed, but they have made a small come back.

    And of course there are the businesses that will never reopen.

  8. I was an ALDI shopper for years in the Baltimore suburbs. I would buy canned goods such as store brand beans, pasta, string beans corn, tomatoes and soups by the 12 can cases.
    Once the Whuflu bit us ALDI limited customers to 4 cans each on many but not all of these,
    particularly if they contained meat such as beef stew etc. The packaged cheese and lunch meats seem very available with no limits but the prices are all up 10-20%.
    I now find going to the competing local supermarkets is better if you want to avoid the
    ALDI restrictions but canned beef stew and some veggies seem to be mostly bought out.

  9. Hard to find rice and tissues in East TN. Aldi is limiting the usual items. Tp is back in stock and flour is slowly coming back in stock as well. Gas is back down to ~$1.70.

  10. I have been using instacart for Costco and HEB. There are a lot of things that I used to buy in the store that aren't listed at all on instacart but IDK if that is because the stores limit the items on instacart, or if the items are just not available.

    HEB has more choices for dry pasta, and you can actually pick a brand now, whereas a couple of weeks ago you just chose "best available". Many people have mentioned a shortage of canned green beans, but HEB finally had several choices in stock last week.

    I notice that both stores are often sold out of about half of what I'd like to order by Saturday morning, if I order late Friday for a Saturday delivery.

    Our Costco is still limiting chicken purchases, and TP, but they had Charmin last week.

    Prices are up. TP is almost 2x the former routine sale price at Costco. Meat is more expensive across the board but there are still bargains. My local HEB often has prime beef marked WAY down for quick sale. They don't list it as "short time" or "managers special" but that's what it looks like.

    My favorite gun store has no in store inventory, except consignment pieces. His prices are very reasonable too. His online storefront is bare as well, which tells me that whoever actually does his fulfillment is either limiting smaller sellers or is out of stock. NO ARs in 223/556 at all. Ammo sells before it hits the floor. Oddly, gunbroker still has sellers and prices are higher than they used to be, but not out of reach if you needed something.

    Gasoline here in Houston is cheap, and the lines at Costco have been very short. Normally I don't even try to buy gas on the weekend but this week I didn't even have to wait for a pump.


  11. Fargo area is much the same. TP is a limited selection again, so are paper towels. It's been hard to find canned tomatoes ever since this started. I've noticed a limited selection of canned diet pop as well, they still seem to be producing the same bottled diet (which has always been limited compared to canned. My daughter likes the raspberry Brisk Iced tea, which has been out of both the canned (about 4 months) and the bottled (about 6 weeks) now. For some reason peanut butter was really limited for a couple of months, but now appears to be back in stock. Spaghetti sauce seems OK again, but flour totillas are hit and miss in some brands.

  12. I've noted many of the same price increases and shortages the you have seen. Bulk sizes of nearly anything are still unavailable, but most other grocery items are, if considerably higher in price. Pet food is still available, but the amount in stock at any given place is rather light.

    Mrs. Freeholder has returned to her (now on-line) teaching duties, so I'm going to be doing more of the shopping. I'll be keeping an eye open and see what trends I see.

    We've lost a number of local businesses, including restaurants, and many remain in limbo. Our favorite place finally reopened last week. Second favorite is still closed.

  13. As far as 9mm ammo goes…I just checked Ammoseek.com. BassPro has two listings for WWB 115g, 50 rounds or 500, at $0.26 and $0.24 per round, respectively.

    The next vendor that I've heard of on the list, BulkMunitions, starts at around $0.64 per round. That was .308 prices in early March.

    Interestingly, Bulkmunitions price for .45 ACP FMJ starts at almost the same place, for a 1000 round case.

  14. Ah, if you click thru, basspro doesn't actually have any 9mm listed. They have 380, 40 and 45 in their search tool, but when you try to get some, it shows local stores only and mine are all OOS. The online store direct has ONE choice for 9mm even listed and when you click on it, it too is OOS.

    I've found similar results with ammoseek for the last week, it might LOOK like someone has something in stock, but when clicking thru it turns out to be OOS anyway. Or severely limited quantity, as I found some 556 last week, but you could only by 3 boxes for 60rd total….


  15. Added- or they have very expensive 'duty' ammo at 80c or over $1 per round.

    Another place had 762, but only 2000 rounds available on the whole site which you couldn't see until you tried to buy it.

    Long shipping delays also indicate to me that they don't physically have the inventory, they are drop shipping it from somewhere else, and it might not even really be available if there is any issue with their inventory systems.


  16. I just tried to order a bunch of Keurig coffee pods and many of our usual brands aren't even listed, more while listed are shown as out of stock.
    Looking in the local stores for pods I'm seeing empty shelf slots or rearranging to use what they have to fill up the shelves.
    I'm going to bump up my order of what they do have just in case stocks and selections get even worse.

  17. Just got back from the Costco in Arlington TX, and pretty much everything was in stock. They had an absolutely HUGE stock of bottled water. The only thing we did not find was a nice roast, which is strange as Costco usually has great beef.

  18. Middle-west Ohio, just north of Dayton. Just came from Kroger. Shelves much better stocked than a month ago, but still no paper towels. Just empty. Plenty of off-brand toilet paper, one box of charmin. Rice still scarce, beans have been hit or miss. Canned tomatoes present, but off brands, and not stocked deep. Cannot find canning supplies at all. Plenty of meat fish and dairy, if you have the money. Everybody wearing masks now; a month ago they could've cared less.
    Incidentally, I've pretty much stopped going to the local kroger because of the number of posturing idiots open-carrying. In Kroger. With all the mennonite housewives. It's just not worth it. I've started going to meijer instead.

  19. Phoenix, stuff mostly back on shelves in grocery. Eggs and chicken are plentiful, we have chicken farms aplenty here. Beef is expensive. Haven't looked at canned tomatoes, we grow those. Advertised sales on food are more miss than hit, no raincheck. Soda is ok so far. Firearms and ammunition are expensive and hard to find. I did pick up some magazines for a decent price.

  20. Southern Ohio, near Dayton. I had to go into Walmart the other day, I've been doing grocery pickup so I hadn't been inside in a while. Our state is requiring masks, so it's annoying to go in, and besides, it's kind of nice to just pull up and not have to walk the store tired after work. I'd been doing this before the panicdemic hit, to be honest.

    And on this evening my daughter had a flat so I helped her get her car to Walmart, and then we found out they have closed their automotive department for the duration. As we walked through the entire dang store to find this out – because the only open entrance is as far as possible from that corner of the store – I was very interested to note that there were entire empty aisles of shelving. Like… nothing there.

    My local Aldi has permanently shrunk their meat aisle to less than half it's usual size, and the prices are way up on meat. However, I can go to the restaurant supply and buy meat in bulk at normal pricing (and I'm a fair hand at butchering, so that's not a problem). There are definitely odd gaps in the stores. Rice and beans I see. Some canned goods, not so much. Ramen noodles and the like? Nope. Eggs are readily available, at normal prices although they do fluctuate. But I buy 5-6 dozen at a time.

  21. Here in SE VA (tidewater), gas is just under $2.00 right now. It was down to about $1.50, but came back up. It seems to be dropping again, but I am not really sure.

    Food prices are hit or miss — dairy is down a little, meats are UP, and rice can be hard to find. I get my keurig coffee from the USCG Exchange (Founding Fathers — 50% of profits go to American Military Families), but i did notice limited selection at the Food Lion. Vegetables are pretty normal, but I buy the small cans (just the right size for a meal for two). No one is limiting meats any more, but they did back in June and July. There does seem to be a shortage of sausages. . .

    We have several major chains — Food Lion, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Aldi, and Lidl, which vary by cost and quality. I gravitate to Food Lion because it is the closest to my house. I stop at one of the Navy Commissaries from time to time (retired navy). Finally, I also make "meat runs" to Central Meats, a local slaughter house. High prices, but AWESOME quality — worth the price once in a while.

    Toilet Paper is almost back to normal, but Paper Towels are scarce. I did find a six pack of Bounty (there were lots there, but I only needed the one) at Home Depot the other day. It was not where I had thought to look before.

    I am not current on the ammunition side of things. I do have some laid in in better times, more than enough to feed my primaries. Since I can't carry a work (both Company and Navy rules), and I am in an "essential" trade (ship repair), I really haven't had time to worry about it. I did notice that Georgia Arms is offline, something I have never seen before.

  22. On orange soda, you might try one of the flavor packets that turn a bottle of water into a flavored drink. You do lose the carbonation, but otherwise I find both the orange and grape flavors quite tasty.
    As for Keurig pods, they make refillable pods that work in those machines, you can fill them with any sort of ground coffee.
    I have a Keurig 2.0 which with thermal carafe and refillable large pod. Grind my own beans. Used to have a Mr. Coffee but Keurig carafe pod uses half as much coffee for three full mugs as the Mr. C did for half a pot, and you don't need a filter.

  23. We live about 25 miles NW of Well Seasoned Fool, and see pretty much the same thing. The Farmer's Markets and farm stands are doing a thriving business, so no shortage of fresh produce, which makes me kick myself that I started making our own bread when I should have been learning how to can and preserve fresh food. I have no idea what supplies of canning jars, lids, and rings are like, so perhaps it doesn't matter.

    The one thing we can't get, and I miss, is Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. My son works for Kroger back in SoCal, and tells me the issue is that Coca-Cola can't get the artificial sweetener, which comes from -Surprise!- China, of all places. I have to watch my caffeine intake due to a heart condition, but I've been drinking Gatorade Zero as a substitute, and it's probably better far for me in this spell of HOT, dry weather we've been having.

  24. In my "purple" neck of the woods I'm seeing a strange mix of abundance and scarcity, with no rhyme or reason. We go out about every week and a half for perishables and to "replace the replacement" of shelf stable supplies.

    Two weeks ago grated Parm. cheese was gone: no brands. Today, three to choose from, including Kraft. Two weeks ago Annie's refried beans were available, this week, there were eight left.

    Since we're trying to build a stock that will see us through late October through January, we've been doing "replace the replacement +1" and sometimes + 4 if the price is right and it's a staple.

    Enough people doing that can create some interesting patterns, no?

  25. In very southern MN, the local Hy-Vee has most canned tomatoes in regular size, canned beans are present, but the supply is a bit short. Rice is there, but some of the boil-in-bag stuff isn't. Seems to be plenty of meat – if you're willing to pay for it. There's plenty of toilet paper and paper towels and the rationing signs are gone – but the selection is limited and the prices…ain't low. The shelves are full, but whatever comes in gets put up and damn the tags (many places there are blank white strips to slide over the shelf tags and just fill out the shelf with whatever was next to that spot. That's all over the store.

    The sanitizers (Lysol, etc.) are in short supply and priced like it. The odd one, perhaps, is that there is only a very limited selection of toilet bowl cleaners.

    The shortages seem a to come in waves and not all seem predictable, but then I also do not know how much exactly is locally supplied and the supply chain/web details.

  26. Hello. Seeing names like Meijer, Hy-Vee… ahh, warms my heart. 🙂 Meanwhile, here in my exile in eastern NY report similar to what a bunch of you all are seeing: still extreme shortages of paper towels, while toilet paper is back online, though rationed; I haven't seen a can of Lysol since March; rice is tough to come by, though not impossible – pretty much in line with others' experiences across the board.

    Regular unleaded here is, what, $2.29-ish at the moment, I think. It had been touching $2.17 a little while ago. (I've been WFH for months now, so I'm only refueling once every 3-4 weeks.)

  27. Central Virginia – in late Feb/early March, right after Wuhan was shut down and millions put into forced quarantine, I went on a mad-woman's shopping spree for our entire family (3 households). For two weeks, I rotated shopping at WalMart, Safeway, and Martin's, shepherding as many carts as I could at one time and coming back as soon as the car was unloaded. Thank God I had had the foresight to raise the limit on my credit card.

    Naturally, I got the usual "shopping for a barbeque?" or "stocking up for the Apocalypse?" kinds of comments from the blissfully unaware types with their tiny baskets and leafy greens. For the first trips, I just smiled and ignored them, but at the last I finally said, "I'm stocking up for the Pandemic, and you should too." Some people outright burst into choked laughter.
    The ONLY person who took me seriously was a store manager whose staff was already cut so far back that she was bagging groceries. She looked at me and said, "Do you really think we will run out of food?" My reply that, while there will probably be some kind of food available, if everyone gets sick, who is going to drive the trucks, or stock the shelves or (gesturing to her task at hand), or bag the groceries? She visibly blanched.

    That pro-active buying got us thru nearly 6 weeks of other people's panic shopping. It was nearly mid-May before I ventured out to the Safeway (nearest to me), mostly due to curiosity and the fact that the store had implemented mandatory masks and the Golden Oldie Hours for shopping – limited to Seniors, preggies, and immune impaired. By that time, most of the TP and other shortages were over. Still seeing limits on varieties and brands, but many companies have determined that they are permanently closing down some product lines and concentrating on their biggest sellers.

    There is little point in shopping after about 1000 because stock runs out. And it isnt restocked for almost a week, based on experimental shopping trips. And prices, though most items are available within a 7-day period, have gone up roughly 10-20 percent PER WEEK. Since I now only shop about once a month, the price increases are painfully obvious.

    Safeway has always had decent meat and it is still managing to keep stock up. Early on, there were limits of beef and pork, but not anymore. $20.00 for a small pot roast is painful.

  28. In Baton Rouge area gas is 1.89 a gallon.
    Canned meats are pretty readily available after disappearing in March and April.
    Toilet paper is available.
    Governor declared masks must be worn in public.
    I haven't had to do that at all. I simply tell the gatekeeper I have asthma and thus am exempt from the order.
    (I already had the COVID back in March so I can't give it to anyone else)
    (I simply don't care what the CDC and Dr. Fauci are lying about to get more grant money from Congress; the human immune system didn't suddenly change the way it works in 2020 to suit the Democrat political agenda.)
    In Walmart and Target fresh fruits and veggies are readily available.
    Fresh meat is touch and go.

  29. Spot checked Walmart.

    Dairy and frozen foods were very spotty. Things arranged to look like there might be more there.

    And bleach. 90% gone.

    Did not notice anything else in particular unusual there.

    A food vendor, a local gyro place, I hit up once every few months was significantly higher this past weekend, than 4 months ago.

    And, in the wider world, Bitcoin took an abrupt jump from hovering around $9000 to closer to $12000 each. I suspect this is more about the dollar than Bitcoin.

  30. hit and miss in western va. ammo non-existent. tp back in thin stock but with French or Mexican names, as are many items. smaller packages too. the shortages seem to be rotating regionally. i shop on my home side of the mountain, x is out of stock. drive to work over the mountain and x is plentiful but y is empty. next week it switches, or changes entirely. sausage and bacon hit and miss, mostly miss. the cola has no carbonation in it, or extremely little. standing orders at my house "if its in stock and we MIGHT need it in the next month, buy it. bought both cars a set of tires too. that's the next thing to skyrocket, no cheap Chinese imports. it'll surely get worse closer to November. civil war in the winter will be devastating, always is. next year the noncombatants learn to raise enough to feed the troops and themselves.

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