Everyone agrees that 2020 has been a strange year, with disaster after disaster that we’ve had to deal with. More than anything, it has been known as the year of COVID-19. But if I were to pick out a second thing for this year to be known for, I would call it the year of shortages. Never in my life have I seen shortages in the grocery stores, like what I’ve seen this year. They’re still happening now, after all these months.
While some of the shortages made sense, like those for disinfectants, gloves and masks, others have been clearly panic buying. People who weren’t prepared started buying up food when the threat of lockdowns was first mentioned.
This isn’t surprising either, as we’ve always expected those people to panic buy and clear out the grocery stores when a serious disaster happened. But then there’s toilet paper, the craziest shortage of all, which just proves that the herd still follows whoever is up front, even if what they do doesn’t make sense.
But when is enough going to be enough? When are those people who weren’t prepared going to feel like they’ve got enough? When are our stores going to get back to normal? Do they need a full year stockpile to feel comfortable? That would be a real switch.
But now, just about as soon as the first rush on the grocery stores seems to be ending, the second rush is beginning. Of course, calling it a “second rush” depends on how you define the first rush. I think we had 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D, with the only common theme being the aforementioned toilet paper, which is finally back in stock, at least for now.
So why is there a second wave starting? For much the same reason as the first. With a new surge in Coronavirus cases, people are concerned about going back into lockdown mode. Should that happen, they want to make sure they’ve got enough to eat. The question is, just where does that leave you and I?
Hopefully, you’ve been rebuilding your stockpile as we’ve gone through the last few months. I’ve been working on doing that with every trip to the store. Not only have I been trying to replace those things which we’ve used; but I’ve also been building up areas where I didn’t have enough in stock, like rubber gloves (which are still hard to find).
But that hasn’t been possible in all cases. Some things, like Clorox wipes, just haven’t been available. Either the factory isn’t making enough, they’re not getting to my area, or people are just buying them up as fast as they can put them on the shelves. Regardless of the reason, we’re heading into a new wave of shortages and we need to be ready for it.
Beat the Rush
In a way, prepping or at least the part about building a stockpile, is about buying before everyone else does. We build a stockpile, so that when a disaster strikes and people empty out the grocery store, we don’t have to be standing in line or fighting for that last pound of ground beef.
I’ve been in the stores plenty as we’ve been going through the pandemic, seeing bare shelves and people grabbing up what they can. While this hasn’t been all that bad the last few weeks, it’s starting to get bad again.
Even with all the shortages, I never ran out of toilet paper; I didn’t even get into my emergency supply. But what I did is to get to the stores first thing in the morning, standing in line and waiting for them to open. If there’s any time when the stores are likely to have what you’re looking for, it’s before everyone else gets there to buy it out. Better to be one of those buying them out, than one who missed their chance at getting something you need.
You can even do this with curbside pickup, although timing can be trickier on it. All it takes is to arrange your pickup time so that you will be on the first batch of orders pulled that day. That way, there’s a greater chance that the items will be on the shelf, when the “personal shopper” goes to fill your order.
So try to schedule a pickup time that’s about an hour after opening. But don’t schedule it for pickup the first thing in the morning, because that will be pulled at the end of the previous day, when stocks are at their lowest.
Make it Yourself
We all talk about being self-sufficient in the wake of a TEOTWAWKI event; but why wait until then? With all the shortages we’ve been having, I’ve been making things for myself. Like many others, I’ve been making my own masks, but I’ve also been making my own disinfectants, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.
With all the shortages, making it myself has made sure that I always had what I needed. But there’s another reason for it too. I’m sure of the quality of what I have. With all these new companies making hand sanitizer, who never made it before, how can any of us be sure that their products are strong enough to do the job?
Many of them are not bothering to get listed on the EPA list N. By making it myself, I am assured that it is at least 60% alcohol, once the alcohol is mixed with other ingredients.
While we can’t necessarily make everything ourselves, each thing that we can make is one less that we have to worry about the stores having. Since most of the other people out there don’t have any idea of how to make their own disinfectants or hand sanitizer, our chances of finding the necessary materials to make those for ourselves, are much better than finding the finished product.
For the rest, we’ve got our stockpiles. That should be enough to see us through.
Shop in Unusual Places
The other useful strategy is to shop in places where others don’t shop. Even at the worst of the spring shortages, there were still stores out there which had many of the things we needed. They just weren’t the stores we’re used to shopping in and they may not have had things packaged in the way we’re used to finding them packaged.
One such place is ethnic grocery stores. My son lives in an area of Houston where there are many different ethnic areas nearby. He loves it for the variety of food that it offers him. But during the worst of the last round of shortages, he found something else. That is that even though Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, the ethnic grocery stores didn’t run out of many items that the big chains were out of.
Another option is to go to commercial suppliers, like restaurant supply houses. While items from those sources are not packaged for sale to consumers, there’s no rule that says you have to tell them that you’re a consumer. You’ll have to buy those items in case quantities to purchase there; but at least you’ll be able to get them. Besides, those case quantities are usually cheaper.