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).