Shelf-stable consumables like flour, bottled water and canned food as well as hygiene supplies like paper towels, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer have all been harder to come by throughout the year. Early in the pandemic, stores kept a few additional weeks of stock at a time, and such products quickly flew off shelves.
So grocery holding companies like Associated Food Stores and Southeastern Grocers are charging their pandemic strategy, opting to start their inventory planning months early, ahead of the next wave of quarantine (and holiday) demand.
Meanwhile, food banks are expecting to face massive supply deficits. Feeding America, a non-profit network of over 200 food banks, recently announced they would be down 6 to 8 billion meals through the next twelve months. Still, community-run “free food fridges” have been popping up around the country, from Los Angeles to New York.
Personally, the shortages have encouraged me to shop more mindfully in order to save money, stay healthy and keep eating well. I’ve gotten used to asking myself a few extra questions while I shop: Can I swap this for something abundant and cheap? Or, could I produce what I need by myself?
There are plenty of opportunities hidden in shortages too, if you know where to look. When US hospitals needed all the N-95 masks they could get, folks came out of the woodwork to hand make cloth masks for everyday use.
Now masks are their own fashion phenomenon in the States, and those same Etsy mask-makers are right on trend. If you’ve acquired some new skills or hobbies in quarantine (like cooking, baking, canning, or gardening) why not offer them to others?
Let me be clear, though: Hoarding household goods and reselling them at a premium ain’t a hustle. It’s incredibly mean-spirited, and it exacerbates collective hardship.
Plus there are serious consequences for it. Last March, a Tennessee man purchased thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer with the intent to resell them for profit online. His listings were shut down by Amazon and eBay within 48 hours, and he was later investigated by police for potentially violating state law.
If nothing else, please remember to be kind and considerate towards others when shopping for essentials – especially grocery store clerks. Employees are just doing their jobs, and in the end we all have to eat and stay sanitary. “Treat others as you’d want to be treated” is called the Golden Rule for a reason!
Proportionally, the US continues to lead the globe in infections. The pandemic isn’t over just because we’re all over it. But life will be easier on everybody during these times if we collectively help “flatten the curve” of supply, ensuring more people have access to the products they need.