Why Store Shortages are Not More Widespread

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There are many grocery stores that still have shortages. The question is, however, why are these store shortages not widespread? Why are some grocery stores experiencing shortages where others are not? 

During March, stores ran out of 13% of their items, on average. Today, about 10% of items continue to be out of stock compared to 5-7% before the pandemic. 

So, today, we are going to look into why this is happening and what to do!

Why Store Shortages are Not More Widespread

Why Store Shortages are Not More Widespread

Economic specialists have said that the March “shopping spree” accounts for less than half of the shortages. So, what’s going on? 

#1 Price Gouging Laws

When a State of Emergency was declared, price controls kicked in. This means that states were not allowed to increase prices for things like toilet paper and groceries. However, people panic. When prices are cheap and people panic, why not hoard the toilet paper? Basically, this discouraged domestic suppliers from increasing the quantity supplied.

The result, shortages! It isn’t widespread because not every city or town has panicking citizens. Additionally, if they don’t increase prices for demand, then there will truly be a shortage if everyone buys it all up. Instead of putting it all on the shelves at the lower price, stores keep some of it back so they don’t run out. 

#2 Emergency Declarations Have Been Extended

Because states are in control of their own state of emergencies, many of the state of emergencies have been extended. Thus, if you live in an area where the declarations have not been extended, you may not see as many shortages. Basically, the Federal Defense Production Act controls prices of things during the emergency declarations, so the market is prevented from prices clearing the market. As they wait on these prices to clear the market, it can take 4-months to receive that freezer you ordered. 

#3 People Focus on Certain Items

Depending on where you live, you may have a need for certain products in the store that people in other places don’t. For example, if you live in a small country town, you may not go out a lot anyway and don’t have a need for tons of hand sanitizer. However, if you live in a larger city, you may need more hand sanitizer.

What is happening is that supermarkets and food companies have based their model on offering a variety of items (typically 40,000 items). When consumers are not buying variety and only buying a certain sliver of products such as toilet paper, canned goods, and baking items, the supply chains for those items become overwhelmed. 

Basically, any time you have to change something out for a new product, that costs time. So instead of 10 flavors of something, manufacturers are dropping to 5 to get things on the shelves. 

#4 Some Places are Fully Open

Many of our food is shipped in bulk to restaurants. When COVID hit, the restaurants were shut down. That means more people were buying from the store. The reason we don’t see widespread shortages across the country now is because some places have completely opened their economy where others have not.

For example, if a city or town is open, people feel safe, they are going out to eat more and not going to the grocery store as often. If a city or town is still closed and COVID is still a threat, people are staying home and continuing to buy from the grocery store. Basically, some places have been able to restock stores as people begin to eat out again and other places have not been able to restock. 

#5 Different Suppliers

Not all regular retail or grocery stores receive their products from the same supplier. In Florida, they have their own oranges so they may not run out of oranges. But in Utah, we have to have oranges shipped in, so the stores may run out of oranges. Basically, if the store you are going to is buying from a supplier that may still have things shut down where they are, then they will have shortages on those items.

However, if you live in a place that has a supplier in town, you may not experience a shortage of that item. Shortages are not widespread because it depends on where the stores are getting their products. You may have a shortage of flour in your area where another city may have shortages of beans. 

How to Prep with Store Shortages

From what I have read and understand, there are products we can buy, but they may not be shipped to the stores where we live. Because of this, products online are flying out of stock as well. So, what can you do to prep if you are experiencing shortages where you live? 

Shop Nearby Cities and Towns

My friend has not seen as many shortages of meat at her local grocery store in Indiana. They aren’t horrible, but prices have gone up as well. She travels to a meat market in Michigan to get her meat. It’s about a 30-minute drive from where she lives.

If you are seeing shortages of things you need where you live, try traveling to another city or even the next state door. I would suggest calling the stores before driving there to ensure the items you are looking for are, in fact, in stock. 

Ask for Shipment Days

The best time to snatch up the items you are looking for is right when the items hit the shelves. This is typically shipment days. Ask your local stores when they get shipments. Go to each store when they receive the shipment for the week to snatch up the items you need. 

Shop Early to Avoid Store Shortages

Because of the shortages, as well as COVID restrictions, it is important to shop early in the morning. My friend who travels to Michigan says that if she doesn’t get there when the store opens, she is unable to get into the store. This is because other people have the same idea to travel to get what they need.

They only allow 20 customers in the tiny market at a time. This means that you must be there early to get your meat. She goes 15-minutes before the store opens so she is first in line. 

Order it Anyway

Even if it says you won’t get something for 3-weeks, order it anyway. The bottom line is that if you need it now, you are going to need it in 3-weeks too. So, if things are out of stock and not available online for several weeks or months, go ahead and place your order. We are preppers, so even if we find it somewhere else, what we ordered can be stored away and rotated. 

Do Some Research

Be on top of the shortages. Find out what is in stock, what is going out of stock, and plan accordingly. If you want to do a little more research, check out some of my other posts on shortages, below:

Final Word

According to the USDA, there are no nationwide shortages of food. However, inventory of certain foods at your local grocery store might be limited or temporarily out of stock. Food production, as well as manufacturing, are widely dispersed throughout the U.S. So, there are no wide-spread disruptions reported in the supply chain, but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience shortages locally.

Remember, this is why we prepare. Keep preparing! Stock what you can, go to other locations, and keep prepping. We never know when there could be a nationwide shortage, so it is important to always be prepared! May God bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Panic Buying Deposit photos_384293126_s-2019

36 thoughts on “Why Store Shortages are Not More Widespread

  • October 12, 2020 at 7:32 am
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    We’ve been pretty lucky. Our local chain grocery store hasn’t had too many shortages. Granted they don’t have all the brands as before, but they still have some of everything. I Was lucky that I had bought big packages of toilet tissue before March and the empty shelves. We didn’t run out of anything that the stores didn’t have. I always try to buy big packages of things we use daily.

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    • October 12, 2020 at 7:49 am
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      Hi Deborah, this is good to hear. I’m glad you were so prepared, to begin with, this is what people must do. Linda

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      • October 12, 2020 at 7:57 am
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        I agree. I learned to look ahead from my mother and grandmother. Mother was born in 1928, grandmother in 1901. There were hard times for both.

        Can you imagine a 23 year old with a 5 and 3 year old, and 2 months pregnant and your husband gets killed in a car-pedestrian accident? That’s what happened to Mother. Daddy was 25.

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        • October 12, 2020 at 8:25 am
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          Hi Deborah, oh my gosh, my mother was born in 1929, and my grandmother in 1909. I can’t imagine your daddy dying at 25 years old. Oh my gosh, that is terrible. My father got Polio and was in an iron lung. Then my sister got Polio. I don’t know how old he was but I was 18 months old and shuffled from family members and neighbors. Life was hard for our ancestors, we never really talk about it. Our families suffered, wow and we rose above it. Linda

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          • October 12, 2020 at 8:38 am
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            Daddy’s car broke down and he was walking along the road. He’d left his wallet in the car, so it took a while for him to be identified. He was hit by a car as he was walking in the road and the car topped a hill and hit him. Oh, and I am the baby, so I never met my Daddy. =( My granddaddy to the place of my Daddy. I used to call him Pappy. Not sure why. He was born in 1896.

          • October 12, 2020 at 10:05 am
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            Hi Deborah, wow, you were the baby. What a story, you are amazing to rise above this! Linda

  • October 12, 2020 at 7:41 am
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    Yeah it’s been a new experience to many actually having “to shop” for things. We’ve had it good and eventually there is a possibility that it might return. The wife and I were used to it living overseas and me being stationed in a remote site my first tour. We drove 45 minutes to get to the land of the big PX in K Town. We shopped “on the economy” in German villages often.
    You took what brands were offered and often took what was available and made it work.
    I just hit 3 stores this morning trying to find ham hocks for a wound stapling class my group is doing Saturday. The fact that we are still using food to train says something about how good we got it though.
    You gotta be flexible and bend with the ebb and flow. Lighten up on things. If your having major mental issues with this your really gonna suffer when it gets bad. Trust me this aint bad.

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    • October 12, 2020 at 7:53 am
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      Hi Matt, I totally agree with you. Thanks for sharing your shopping experience overseas. We must be flexible and bend with the ebb and the flow as you mentioned. I’m concerned with what is going to happen in the next few weeks or months. But I have no control over the crazy people who are protesting, etc. You and I are prepared and will get through the next few months. Stay safe, Matt, Linda

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    • October 12, 2020 at 8:02 am
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      I’ve shopped at Dollar General, Family Dollar and the Dollar Tree. Everything I’ve bought was OK. It all tastes good. The only thing I got that was bad was some shelf stable milk. Someone had opened the seal on all the boxes I got, so the milk was bad. I do have powdered milk though. You do what you have to do to survive!

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  • October 12, 2020 at 8:28 am
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    This is a great article, Linda – lots of reasons for the uneven nature of shortages! Thanks so much!

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  • October 12, 2020 at 11:35 am
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    Pumpkin! Pumpkin puree is almost impossible to find around here. I love anything pumpkin-bread, cookies, baked goods, you name it, I love it. So it was time to make some pumpkin bread and some pumpkin cookies. Couldn’t find canned pumpkin anywhere! My sister finally found some in her area, 250 miles away. Another thing that’s scare-Spice Cake mix. That’s required for the pumpkin cookies I make (mmm, they’re so yummy) and I couldn’t find the cake mix. I finally found 1 box at WalMart that had been totally smashed and looked horrible. I could see it wasn’t opened or the seal broken so I bought it. Then my husband found 3 boxes at Raleys, very bottom shelf, tucked way in the back against the wall behind other items. Phew! Now I can have my cookie fix!

    I’ve noticed that it’s weird and entirely random what’s not available in stores. I’ve definitely had to adjust what I buy and how to use things. My mother was born in 1925, her mother in 1890 in Norway. They weren’t affected that greatly from the Depression, War and rationing; they lived in Montana on a huge cattle ranch (the very same one they film Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone series) which also had orchards so they grew what they needed. Only rubber (tires), gas and sugar were a problem for them. However, being old school, they adapted and passed that trait on down the line. I’m forever grateful that I can cook, can, sew, etc. It’s definitely helped with the economic turndowns back in the Oughts, and now the pandemic. My family has been very blessed that we’ve been prepared.

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    • October 12, 2020 at 11:47 am
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      Hi Robbie, oh my gosh, the spice cake mix! I finally found some pumpkin at a store that stocks Associated food products. I actually called the company to make sure it was not pumpkin imported from China. The cans are not the Libbys brand but we have to be flexible, as you know. It’s made by the Food Club (a little green circle) with the brand in it. It’s so nice that you learned to cook, sew, etc. By the way, I LOVED that Yellowstone Show with Kevin Costner. I remember back in the 1970s I think we had a gas shortage and then a sugar shortage. The gas shortage was during the summer when everyone was traveling via cars. Weird. Then we had a sugar shortage when canning time started. Weird. I look back and wonder if it was planned. I was too young and naive back then to question anything. Stay safe, Linda

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      • October 12, 2020 at 11:59 am
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        “Yellowstone” has mostly been filmed in Montana at the Chief Joseph Ranch, which it’s now called. It was the Ford-Hollister Ranch, then just the Ford Ranch in Darby, Montana when my mother lived there. Alot of the outdoor scenes and some of the “ranch” were actually filmed in Utah! All those white barns, silo, etc. ‘are’ at the ranch. Season 4 has been renewed and it’s going to be 100% filmed on the ranch. Several years back a couple from California bought the lodge, the mgr’s house, all the barns, corrals, etc. and sold off acreage. It was sort of a B&B and we stayed there. It was really amazing to go through the place and talk to my mom on the phone while she explained what they did in each room and how it looked. Alot of wonderful memories and stories of that place. Billie Ford, I think is still alive. She’s the original owner’s daughter. I think she recently turned 100? She used to babysit my mother. Now someone else owns it and lives in the lodge. They do, however, have 2 cabins they rent out. Wouldn’t it be fun to be there when they’re filming? and meet Kevin Costner?! I imagine that wouldn’t happen but it is a gorgeous piece of property still. My grandparents are buried there nearby, too.

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        • October 12, 2020 at 12:04 pm
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          HI Robbie, squeal!! Would that be so fun to stay in those cabins??? What a story you have to tell your kids and grandkids. Oh, the memories your mother must have!!! I would love to just drive by the location and dream……How fun! Linda

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  • October 12, 2020 at 11:45 am
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    Linda, I’ve risen above worse. I was molest by my step-dad when I was just starting puberty. That was hard to get over. But I have learned to rise above it. Yes, it still rises it’s ugly head at times, but it’s something I can deal with. Oh and I never told my mother. My step-dad used his belt on me and left bruises. Mother was going to leave him, and went back in the house with a gun. Sister and I were out in the car. I was scared she go to prison in I told her and she killed him.

    I got married at 16. I was pregnant. I think I did it to get away from home and him. But, I married one just like him. You live and learn.

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    • October 12, 2020 at 11:51 am
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      Hi Deborah, you really have had to rise above your life. It’s really too bad that life brings us curves but you have survived. We all live and learn. Linda

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  • October 12, 2020 at 1:24 pm
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    As far as food shortages go in my area of Western Washington, I have learned that I CAN live without fruits and veggies that are not grown locally! No shortage here on apples and pears. I may miss things like oranges, lemons, and such but I will survive!

    I am learning to adapt in many ways because some things just are not available. I am also searching out vintage food recipes so that I can cook things without many of our modern conveniences. I am putting things up as I can – pears and applesauce canned; apples in the dehydrator (last batch); other things in my tiny freezer. IF/WHEN I find things on the store shelves that I can use in lots of different recipes, I purchase a few.

    I am with Robbie on the pumpkin recipes! I love to make pumpkin muffins using just 2 ingredients: one can of pumpkin puree and a spice cake mix (dry ingredients only). Mix those 2 well and fill muffin cups. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Very moist! So, since I haven’t been able to find spice cake mixes lately, I have adapted and use a yellow cake mix with lots of pumpkin pie spice. I was able to find pumpkin puree though so I have a few cans stored away.

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    • October 12, 2020 at 3:02 pm
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      Hi Leanne, this is so funny, I bought the spice cakes and the small cans of pumpkin this year because of this recipe you shared before!! I love it. I have learned to let go of a fresh salad every night since my garden has been cleaned out now. Those cases of green beans are wonderful. We have to adjust, great comment! Linda

      Reply
  • October 12, 2020 at 4:03 pm
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    Hi Linda, The pumpkin muffins sound delicious. Would you be willing to share the recipe with me?

    Thanks,
    Suzanne

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    • October 12, 2020 at 4:32 pm
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      Hi Suzanne, it’s Leanne’s recipe, she just gave it to me again! Yay!! This is from Leanne: “I love to make pumpkin muffins using just 2 ingredients: one can of pumpkin puree and a spice cake mix (dry ingredients only). Mix those 2 well and fill muffin cups. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Very moist! So, since I haven’t been able to find spice cake mixes lately, I have adapted and use a yellow cake mix with lots of pumpkin pie spice.” It looks like we will both be making these! Linda

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    • October 12, 2020 at 4:33 pm
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      Hi Suzanne, it’s the small 15-ounce size can of pumpkin puree. Linda

      Reply
  • October 12, 2020 at 6:14 pm
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    HI Lida, thanks so much for the recipe. Will probably ,make this weekend while visiting my son and Granddaughter in California.. IF, I can find spice cake mix.

    Thanks again,

    Suzanne

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    • October 13, 2020 at 8:08 am
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      Hi Suzanne, oh, have fun with your son and granddaughter!!! I can ship one to you if you need it. Keep me posted. Linda

      Reply
  • October 14, 2020 at 4:39 am
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    When I go shopping if it’s now or before Covid I always buy 2 of everything if I can. 2 cans of Hash,
    2 cans of tuna so i try to keep my supply stocked up. I usually have 3 Catsups and when i grab one
    to use I put it on my shopping list, same with other items like pan spray and others. Our stores are still
    out of items. Our Walmart in the city closest to us is still out of Toilet Paper.They have a few packages
    and off brands ( which can be just as good) but not stocked like before. Food shelves are still empty
    of some items. Being a Capital city you would think the shelves would be stocked better, but if they
    can’t get the items it doesn’t matter if it’s a Capital city.

    Reply
    • October 14, 2020 at 9:11 am
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      Hi June, please remind me what Capital City you are talking about. This really concerns me, my friend. You can’t get toilet paper at Walmart? Oh my gosh. And your shelves are still somewhat empty. You said they have a few packages of toilet paper. This is awful! Linda

      Reply
  • October 14, 2020 at 9:21 am
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    Linda,
    Sorry I didn’t mention that. I live outside of
    Jefferson City, Missouri. Last time I was at one of our Walmart there was empty shelves. Actually not just toilet paper but other things too.

    Reply
    • October 14, 2020 at 9:34 am
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      Hi June, wow, I’m so sorry to hear this. Thank you for sharing your location. Linda

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  • October 14, 2020 at 9:32 am
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    Sorry another thing I didn’t mention ( I think in shifts) is I went into our local Dollar General which is
    here in my town and I went to buy tissues. I asked a workers for Scottie tissues and she
    basically said that if I need tissues take what is there because they can’t keep them in stock. She said they put them on the shelf and they are gone. Our local grocery store is still having problem getting things. Most of the grocery stores in Jefferson City are stocked but Walmart has empty shelves
    still.

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    • October 14, 2020 at 9:36 am
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      Hi June, this is crazy, I thought Walmart was one of the biggest store chains. I’m not an expert or in the know about this but wow!! Now we may see a shortage of tissues! Thanks for your insight! Linda

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  • October 15, 2020 at 9:04 am
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    We have found strange shortages…..It took me months to get Pepperidge farm stuffing, to go with all the turkey drumsticks I found on sale. Extra large eggs are now nonexistent. Bacon is now more readily available, thanks for teaching me I can freeze it. My husband will tell you, I have gotten a little carried away with my shopping…. While Democrats are threatening to pack the Supreme Court, I have packed the freezer and pantry. Having always been a frugal sale shopper, I had to let go of always getting the lowest price possible, but it does seem to have evened out. Even with fresh items…..eggs and milk, we are set for at least the next 6-8 weeks, and other items, 9 months or more. I am deeply concerned with the next several weeks. We have worked as election inspectors for the last 15 years, but even before covid, we had agreed we wanted nothing do with whatever else craziness is going to come. Our focus now is Christmas shopping, because I suspect the shipping and shortages are going to be serious.

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    • October 15, 2020 at 9:45 am
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      Hi Chris, hmmm, Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, darn! I have never seen turkey drumsticks at the grocery stores, oh my gosh, this has opened up a whole new world for me! Where do you get those???? I’m with you Chris, I had to go with the items I could find, lowest price or not as well. I have refused to buy anything overinflated as I’m sure you have. I’m a lover of bacon, so I’m glad the prices came down. LOL! I am very concerned about what is going to happen in the next month as well. Nothing is FREE and my worry is people will vote for FREE education, FREE everything. Do they not understand SOMEONE has to pay the professors and wipe out the school debt people have with tax dollars. I better get off my soapbox. May God bless this world, Linda

      Reply
  • October 15, 2020 at 10:52 am
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    Our local grocery stores offer two packs of fresh drumsticks or thighs vacuum sealed. Perfect when you have a craving for turkey, but don’t want the hassle of carving a bird. Can be cooked thawed or frozen. Less than an hour for a turkey dinner.
    Between our 4 kids they have 7 degrees, and each ended up with very little debt. I want to know where I go for a refund of all the tens of THOUSANDS we paid…. but then people now don’t even want to FEED their own kids. Forgive me, but God helps those that help themselves.

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    • October 15, 2020 at 12:50 pm
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      Hi Chris, oh I use that term all the time “God helps those that help themselves”, I use it often. Now I want to go find some turkey legs!! I hear you on taking care of our own. Great comment, Linda

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  • October 15, 2020 at 3:28 pm
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    I am aware that my last post seemed less then compassionate. That is not who I am. We have always been there for anyone who needed us, when money was not available, we gave our time and effort to friends, family and strangers. I am old and tired. I don’t look for anything from anyone. At this point, we have all we can do to take care of ourselves and our grown children. I am sorry.

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    • October 15, 2020 at 3:59 pm
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      Hi Chris, no need to be sorry. I didn’t read it as less than compassionate. Not at all my friend. Please realize we are all in the same boat so to speak. We taught our family to be self-reliant and you and I have similar thoughts. Never be sorry for taking care of yourself, life is good, it’s the crazy times right now. You are a great example to others. Linda

      Reply

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