Saturday, January 15, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Shopping in light of a new world

I have had pretty much the same shopping routine for groceries since my husband went on Social Security Disability about sixteen years ago.  When he went from Disability to regular Social Security payments, we had no change in the way we shopped for essential items.

We did a stock up shopping in the beginning of the month where we stocked up on essentials, filled the van with gas, payed bills, etc.  Then we knew how much was left to budget for groceries and gas throughout the rest of the month.

That changed somewhat with the Covid lockdowns.  We could usually buy what we always have had on our grocery list by going to a few of the stores nearest where we live.  There were shortages but mostly the same throughout the country and we knew what to purchase when we saw it on the shelf.  For instance, flour and yeast for baking.

Then came this past year and everything began to change.  I have had to be diligent about shopping regularly and hope to find what I need in stock.  I learned the hard way that if I saw something I knew I would need on the shelf, buy it then!

I saw an interview a man gave to a local news station (not our local news) last week when he came out of a grocery store.  He said it looked exactly like grocery stores he had seen in the former Soviet Union back in the 1980s.  Empty.

That experience happened to me last Monday when I went to Meijer for just a few items and some produce and was absolutely stunned by all the empty shelves.  I have never seen anything like it before, not even before a winter storm warning (and we have had no such warnings where I live).

This was simply what the grocery store looked like on a Monday morning after people shopped over the weekend.  I wish I could say it is going to get better sooner but I don't think so from what I have read. Many people who should know, for instance CEOs of food companies, have come out recently saying they do not know when it will get better.

I now shop a few stores every week if necessary and when I see an item that has been hard to find, I buy it right then.  If it is cat food, I buy a few containers as long as there is some left over for other people (for I do have cat food, just not the selection or as much as I'm comfortable keeping stocked with the shortages).

I have had Florentine's favorite Sheba Trout cat food on my Amazon Wish List for awhile now and I ordered a carton as soon as it was available again, even though the shipping date was many weeks away.  At least I am now in queue to purchase some when it is available.

Another area that has had empty shelves is in the freezer compartments in all the grocery stores, especially any type of frozen potato.  Meijer has had empty shelves for frozen vegetables so often that they are now on our Kroger shopping list.  Kroger tends to be better stocked than the other stores.

I've been making a priority list of food items that I want to stock up on more than I have.  It helps keep me focused so I'm not buying extra of items I don't need or won't use just because they "store well".  I also have made some items priorities because of what I have read from people I trust.

For instance, with the weather concerns and the shortage of truck drivers, many have warned of less produce available than usual.  I have mostly seen produce on the shelves but not always the quality the stores once provided.  Also, there have been times when there were almost no bags of pre-made or chopped salads available. 

I read articles that warned of possible shortages of extra virgin olive oil this winter so I have kept a couple extra bottles of our favorite olive oil as backup.  When we use a bottle, I have been replacing the bottle taken off the pantry shelf the next time I shop.  

Now, I have been unable to buy any of that brand and type for about a month. At least we have some since I had read the article and planned for shortages.  I will keep an eye out for when it is available again. If necessary, I will use another brand but I do like the American grown olive oil.

I have been concentrating on stocking some canned vegetables recently, often just one can or one four-pack of cans at a time.  With the canning processing that is available these days, they contain a lot of nutrition even after processing.  (I do purchase frozen vegetables but they are usually to use immediately due to freezer space.)

So, a few items I purchase when at the grocery store that I may not have before are canned vegetables like canned whole baby potatoes.  I keep some cans of potatoes on hand for those times I cannot get to the grocery store and/or if they should not be available.  I have found the canned potatoes are good when sauteed until golden and they are fine in soups.

When I am at Kroger, I purchase the four pack of the Kroger brand cut green beans.  I sometimes use them as a side vegetable (which is what I grew up with) but I always use them in vegetable soup.  I had been well stocked with them and was quite surprised when making soup one day that I had no cans in the pantry at all.

I've also purchased some cans of other vegetables I normally would only buy frozen... just in case.  They will get used, even if my husband will not go near the canned cabbage.  ;)

Canned sweet potatoes are an excellent vegetable to have in the pantry, they can be purchased packed in water, which is great if you just want to saute them as a side vegetable dish.  They are so nutritious that way and better for diabetics than white potatoes.  (Although I do eat small amounts of white potatoes, especially baby Yukon Gold potatoes with the skin left on for nutrition and fiber.)

However, I do like to have a couple cans of sweet potatoes in heavy syrup in the pantry.  They are a treat when warmed (or baked) with some butter on a cold day as a side to a pork or poultry main dish. They are one of my favorite comfort veggies.

I noticed plenty of Spam available the last time I was at Wal-Mart and they have the cans of ham.  I have never tried the canned ham so many people stock (I have some little cans of chopped ham).  I'm intrigued if they would be good in bean soup but not enough to buy it, yet.  

There have been little or no cans of Keystone meat recently. That is one of the food products I check that has given me a good idea if people are stocking their pantries.  I have heard that many households are now stocking extra to "put back" because of the supply chain disruptions... and, of course, the inflation!

Other than getting some extra cans of vegetables, I have been purchasing clothing items off and on.  I mentioned putting back a package of underwear a couple months ago and last week I purchased a package of white socks to put back until needed.  

I do have pretty socks, especially given to me by my daughter for gifts (like my red socks with chickens on them!).  However, plain white socks are my go-to footwear around the house. I do not want to run out and my old socks were beginning to get holes in them... all at once!

I stop by Goodwill when I have a little extra time running errands and I'm not too tired.  My priority right now is to look for cold weather clothing and I've found a few warm tops recently (like the one that makes me look like a bear).  Last year about this time, I found a gorgeous black wool coat with the original tags still on it of $200.  I bought it for $10.00.  That is why I check Goodwill and other thrift stores first.

Now that it is after Christmas, I started checking for winter clearance items and last week found a beautiful set of queen size flannel sheets with pillowcases on clearance.  I've looked for clearance flannel sheets for our bed for years and hadn't found any in that size.  I had to pay full price when needing new sheets.

Now, there is a brand new cute set of London Fog flannel sheets residing in the closet, put back for when they are needed.  That is what pantry living is all about!  I was very thankful when I happened to walk by them at Meijer.  My husband has a degree in Forestry (albeit working with wood), so I'm  hoping he doesn't mind the evergreen trees and elk etchings.

Just after Christmas, I found a pretty throw on clearance that I could use on the Family Room sofa when needed.  Right now, it is folded up in a magazine rack at the end of the sofa and Florentine has discovered it.  If I can't find her, I know where to look.  

I made the decision to buy one or two more throws for the house when I began to hear about shortages of natural gas (who would have ever thought we would go from exporting natural gas to a shortage in one year?)

I know this is a rambling post.  However, all of this to say... we have to be very diligent about planning for and making purchases these days.  When we can budget to buy before needing anything, it is essential to do so now.  

As an aside... I received an air fryer as a gift but I haven't used it, yet.  I have the instructions and the cookbook that came with it sitting out to read "soon".  Does anyone have any good air fryer tips?  This is the kind with a drawer that opens.

More pantry ponderings next week!  God willing and the creek don't rise (or ice up as the case may be).


obscure said...

Do you mind if I ask where you live? I am just outside NYC and other than blue Powerade (my kids favorite) and a short lived Rice Krispies shortage, we haven't seen empty shelves. Makes sense if you're in the middle of the country, I suppose, logistically.

Cindy C. said...

I live in Florida and the shortages are becoming more common and remind me of 2020. I have noticed at my store that there is very little fresh chicken and no frozen breaded chicken (except for organic) in weeks. Other selections of fresh meat are very limited. I have begun doing what you mentioned - buying it when it's in stock. Two days ago there was only a few packages of toilet paper and other paper products. To add to this is the increase in prices that seem to get higher each time I shop.

Anonymous said...

My second cousin is a cross country truck driver, he said right now the problem he encounters most often is that there are no workers at the warehouses to load his truck. He had three loads cancelled last week for this reason. This is just one of the problems he's had the past two years.

I've been stocking up clothing the last few years too, mostly when on sale, so we are pretty good now other than the husband could use an extra pair of flannel jammies. Two years ago who would have thought our country would be in this place? Thankfully we know God is with us and in control.


Traveling Oltmans said...

Hi, just went to our local Kroger store, pasta aisle was 90% empty…didn’t check frozen foods, I was only buying some dairy. Luckily, based on your blog and several others, I have done a good job on our pantry now so I am feeling pretty good about being able to handle any short term shortages. Thank you for all your knowledge and kindness in sharing it.

Anna Gartin said...

I have been putting back and stocking things from the thrift store for a long time. Flannel sheets will go on sale at Target about this time of the year I bought some Q size sets a few years back for $13.00. Yucky print but they do keep you warm.. I also look for flannel at the thrift store again not concerned with pattern just comfort.

Sherry said...

newsworthy and good info you're sharing in this post. thank you.
living where i do, one must travel 30-60 minutes for a grocery
store. church is 30 minutes away and the market is a few doors
down - so we buy only what we need for the week there as an
addition to what we already have in our fridge/freezer/pantry.
for "big shopping" we travel 60+minutes every 2 months. we call
it "the land of people" and we're so happy to make our way back
to the tiny town once again. our tiny town market offers excellent
meats and many times organic veg to buy - which we do. while we
haven't experienced (yet) the significant product depletion certain
areas are now experiencing we know it's coming. as such whatever
we use up we try and replace. i have a running list of items we've
used during the week so we can pick up those items after Sunday
service. it's a different world most assuredly. i no longer take
shopping for granted as i did at one time. :/ more homemade foods,
far less 'convenience' foods, more clean eating, more 'fillers'
such as adding potato to hamburger to stretch the use. etc.
i know you know... :)

Annabel said...

In my community (South Australia) covid has hit and supply chains, the work force, shortages of so many things affect every aspect of life now. From cars, tractors and mechanical parts to buying a lettuce it is all difficult. And I believe it is about to get much worse. I see on various Facebook groups ladies saying oh but it is because of a snow storm. No it isn't. It doesn't even snow here! Wake up it is world wide. The trucking issue with the USA/Canada border is about to kick in too. I am already well stocked and growing some things. Shopping has changed though. It is what you can get not what you want. I have heard people say they got nothing they will wait until next week. This is beyond stupid as next week the substitute item may not be available either. My family have formed a team as my Mum shops in a different town to me and so she has a different chemist and supermarket and butcher. We all let each other know what we are needing and watch for those items. One store still offers click and collect but you have to order on Monday to get it on Friday... and by then if you review the order most of it has been cancelled. I did ok by then substituting items until I found an available item, some items I had to choose and re choose four times. But I figure something is better than nothing. We have to think on our feet in the store! My list now is different... I think I get brain fade in the store so now I list what Id like and then back up meal ideas... so I come away with enough. Overall whatever your family is needing... start now. We are buying winer clothes for Grandchildren now, mid summer, to make sure... We are Provers Women. We will not be afraid of the winter, we are watchful and we can do it! xxx

Anonymous said...

Love your “ramblings”. Awesome deal on your winter coat.
Would love to find a good deal on flannel sheets. I have noticed some empty shelves
here in east Texas but can get most of what I’m shopping for. Stay warm—it’s cold
here so I know it must be
where you are. Blessings!

Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing this information. We've been buying things on sale when we see them on the shelves also. We have a dedicated pantry cupboard down in the basement for such items. Our CVS has a good coupon sale occasionally, which is where we buy our paper products (Toilet paper, Tissues).
We often buy the small canned Ham (it's called Treet by Hormel sort of like Spam) that is okay to eat. I have a recipe for it from my parents, circa 1970's called Sweet-N-Sour Treet with pineapple, brown sugar over Rice.
Did I read somewhere else on a comment you made that your son and d-in-law are having another baby? Congratulations!

Vee said...

Tips? No, but I do not use my microwave for reheating leftovers very often as the air fryer warms them up so nicely without turning everything to mush. For example, I just had some leftover Cottage Pie/China Pie/Shepherds Pie for lunch and the potatoes were delicious. I think you will enjoy your air fryer.

It is not fun to have to travel from store to store on the hunt. I try to settle for what I can find and do without. In light of gas prices, one must be prudent. Your idea for the throws is good. In this most recent cold snap, I get dressed each day, but also put on my fluffy housecoat. Keeps me warmer than my sweater. I confess that one day I just returned to bed. 🥴

living from glory to glory said...

Well we sure have seen some empty spots on the shelves. I have always had a large pantry because of being a bit far from town. I listened to a man that showed you that with these increase of the price of food, that stocking up actually saved you money 💰

PJ Geek said...

Friday mornings at some grocery stores may be when meat prices go down to make way for new meat going up fo weekend shoppers. I’ve only been shopping a little, my husband does it. The paper aisle was very low. No canned biscuits.

Nana said...

Annabel not to sound dumb but what is a Prover women?

Anonymous said...


Annabel meant "Proberbs women" - a reference to Proverbs chapter 31, especially verse 21 which says, "When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet."

I love the industrious nature of the "wife of noble character" portrayed in this chapter, and I know that is what Annabel and Brenda are both nudging us toward.


I especially appreciated the distinction that you once made between "hoarding" and "preparing or storing". There is wisdom and prudence in storing up for leaner days ahead, but taking more than one needs when there are severe shortages is just selfishness.

Another relevant passage in the book of Proverbs tells us to consider the ant and be wise! "It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest". To me, one of the strongest reasons to prepare is because of the possibility that God might use us to help others in need (as Joseph did), and by doing so become a witness for Him.


Margie from Toronto said...

So far I haven't seen the empty shelves like it was at the start of the pandemic - but - Covid has taken off again so there are worker shortages, the new rules for truckers crossing the US/Cdn. border has just started - AND - we got 1 and half feet of snow dumped on us yesterday and it will take at least 3 days to get things back up and running properly. I expect that if I went to the shops at the end of this week I'd see some bare shelves.

I went for a quick top up shop of fresh items this past Sunday and won't need to go out until at least the middle of next week - and again - I will shop for fresh items plus whatever might be on sale that I can add to the pantry. Whenever I've noticed things missing they tend to be odd things and then a few weeks later suddenly they'll show up again. I have family members who work in the grocery sector and they say it's more about the supply chain and staffing issues rather than a lack of products. The stuff is there - but it's stuck in a warehouse somewhere.

I keep track of what I use and update my little notebook each week - cross reference those items with store sales and Loyalty Point offers and then shop accordingly. Right now I stick to one or two neighbourhood stores and they are more the No frills variety or neighbourhood fruit & veg markets so I don't expect as much variety. I'll wait until April when a) I have some extra money due and b) Covid should have peaked and my booster will have kicked in and then I'll hit a couple of the larger supermarkets to restock with a bigger variety of items.

I don't call myself a prepare - but I have always been prepared - I think it's foolish not to be and if the past two year haven't taught people this then there really is no hope for them.