Why are Grocery Stores Still Out of Stuff?

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With very little room left to argue or debate, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States harder than any other country, going clear back to the middle of March. With stay-at-home orders issued by each state, along with the astonishing numbers of workplace closures in just the matter of a few days, the shelves of every grocery store across America were running alarmingly thin.

In the many weeks that followed, it took grocery stores a long time to bounce back with more products.  Why are grocery stores still out of stuff? In case you missed this post, Canned Foods I Highly Recommend You Store or this one, Freeze-Dried Food Pantry Size Cans For Emergencies

“Prepare Your Family For Survival” by Linda Loosli

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Why are Grocery Stores Still Out of Stuff?

Fast forward to nearly 8 months later and you’re probably still noticing the out-of-stock situation on many items at your favorite grocery retailer. Even now, the paper towel and toilet paper sections haven’t fully recovered. A number of stores have yet to take down signs on their doors and windows, reminding customers of limits that they have on several listed items. 

So are we still dealing with a grocery shortage? Aren’t these companies and the food industry making more products to keep up with the higher demands the pandemic has left us with? It certainly doesn’t seem that way. So I decided to do a bit of research and get to the bottom of why this is still happening. Continue to read on about why grocery stores are still out of stuff.  

Companies Focusing On Less Variety

Have you happened to notice that many restaurants have cut back big time on their menus? McDonald’s and Taco Bell have made the most noticeable changes by cutting out items that they’ve been selling for years. 

As it turns out, the same holds true even for the biggest food and beverage companies, where they continue to focus their time and energy on their most popular items. That means if you have a preference for a unique flavor of soda pop, don’t be surprised to find that it’s temporarily unavailable.  

Global Shortage of Cans

One of the other major reasons why you haven’t been able to find your favorite flavor of pop is because there is a shortage of aluminum cans that has been ongoing for many months now.

Soda pop was one of the many comfort beverages where sales trends went through the roof when people were laid off and began stocking up. Out-of-stock levels are still way up at about 10% to 15%, well over the normal national average.   

You may have already noticed that prior to Covid-19, beer is being packaged in aluminum cans more and more these days. With fewer glass bottles being used and more craft beer companies popping up everywhere that rely on aluminum, it’s making the shortage even worse.

No, it’s not that we have a shortage of aluminum, but we simply don’t have the working capacity to produce the amount of aluminum necessary for everything to return to normal.     

Out-Of-Stock Grocery Staples

You’ve made several grocery stops since this all started. Depending on which store you visit, these are some of the grocery staples that you may still be having a hard time finding:  

Toilet Paper and Paper Towels

I’ll be honest to admit that I was left scratching my head as to why there was going to be a shortage of toilet paper, but there was. Even today, people are continuing to stockpile toilet paper and paper towels, afraid that grocery stores will run out once again. 

Because of this, it has continued to make the paper aisle look considerably thin, yet the toilet paper section has bounced back better than the paper towel section has. When paper towels are out-of-stock, it seems to stay that way for a much longer period of time than what you will notice with toilet paper.      

Frozen and Canned Vegetables

The demand for frozen and canned vegetables, items that last for a long period of time, have more than doubled in the past six months. As of the first week of September, most grocery retailers were at 83% stock capacity for that category.

Another factor has to do with the shortage of aluminum cans, along with labeling and packaging issues. Many companies have had to cut back in staffing due to the virus.

Soups

Companies like Campbells and Progresso also made drastic cuts to their soup section, cutting their varieties by nearly a third. That answers part of the out-of-stock issues, but soup is another item that holds up for a long period of time, making it a great item to stock up on. Which is exactly what many people have done.  

Spices

Supply issues of spices and herbs have also taken a hit following the pandemic. Like other shelf stable foods, many people have realized that they can stock up on them to ensure that they don’t run out. This has also caused an increase in pricing as well. 

Meat and Seafood Department

Earlier on in the year, the Covid-19 outbreaks were happening in meat and poultry processing plants, forcing them to shut down for a period of time. This quickly depleted meat and seafood shelves across the country, while the high demand only made matters worse.

For example, prices in the frozen meat and poultry sections were up over 29% from the prior year during the month of August. That’s huge! Trying to get back to normal stock levels has continued to prove difficult. 

Over-The-Counter Meds

Pain relievers, allergy medicines, as well as respiratory medications have been harder to come by as well. That’s because everyone began stocking up on them, especially around allergy season. The rate of out-of-stocks has come down considerably since then, but with the cold and flu season coming around the corner, experts are saying that those numbers will begin to elevate once more.  

Liquid Hand Soap

Just like when hand sanitizer became difficult to track down, liquid hand soap was extremely limited as well, followed up with a spike in the price tag. While hand sanitizer has made a comeback, liquid hand soap is still struggling to stay on the shelf.

This is partially to do with peoples’ past grocery shopping experiences around the earlier parts of Covid, where they fear that they won’t find it the next time they head to the grocery store.   

Final Word

If you think about it, there are several reasons why the grocery stores are still out of stuff. I hope things return to normal in a reasonable amount of time. In the meantime, May God Bless this world, Linda.

39 thoughts on “Why are Grocery Stores Still Out of Stuff?

  • November 3, 2020 at 8:44 am
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    Thanks, Linda, for identifying the various reasons we are still seeing shortages! I think we all want things to be back to normal so much that we don’t stop to remember that we now have even higher numbers of sick folks. And really, none of us really WANT to remember that this isn’t over. But we need to stay on guard and healthy.

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    • November 3, 2020 at 9:03 am
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      Hi Diana, I may be over the top careful, but I’m 70 and my husband is 74. I wear my mask if I ever go to the store. I try to do curbside grocery pickup if I ever need anything. It does bother me when I see people walk through the front store of a grocery store with their mask and remove it out of spite. One guy at Costco pushed through the store screaming it’s my Constitutional right to decide if I want to wear a mask. Can you imagine that guy in a riot? WOW! I live in Southern Utah where a lot of people visit from other states, we have to protect ourselves. Stay well, stay safe, Linda

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      • November 3, 2020 at 11:44 am
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        I’m with you! I am 60 with a history of pneumonia challenges. Mask all the time in public, and am fortunate to have been able to leave the city when this started, and be in a rural environment. We all have rights, but I don’t think any of us have the right to risk the lives of other people.

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        • November 3, 2020 at 1:32 pm
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          Hi Diana, oh, I’m glad you are located in a rural area. I have seen a different side to people in the last few months, I pray they will stop being so angry. Stay well, Linda

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  • November 3, 2020 at 8:57 am
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    I haven’t been able to find the pint size Foodsaver bags – except on Amazon, which has a price of $30 a box!
    I read an article the other day that said they may be discontinuing that size. Have you heard that? Do you know of a place where I might be able to buy some?

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      • November 4, 2020 at 12:15 am
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        I just tried again, and when I tried to order 4 it said they were out of stock. I changed it to 1 and was able to order just the one box. It said ‘hurry, there’s only 1 box left in stock’.

        If it lets you order four, please do!

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        • November 4, 2020 at 6:26 am
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          Hi Kathie, I “ordered” 6, if it really goes through. It says I can pick them up tonight at 8:00 pm. Please send me your name and address (so I can copy and paste your name) then I can ship some of them to you as a gift. My email is: foodstoragemoms@yahoo.com We are all here to help one another. Fingers crossed I get them, Linda

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    • November 3, 2020 at 7:41 pm
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      outofair food saver bags ,awesome ! amazon or web page ,free shipping on web page or same if you have prime

      Reply
  • November 3, 2020 at 9:12 am
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    Thanks Linda for this information! It is puzzling why these shortages continue, but this makes sense. It is discouraging, $9 for a two ounce bottle of vanilla, and no green chilis in the three stores I went to. Grateful for what I have, will make do.

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    • November 3, 2020 at 9:19 am
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      Hi Rita, I just saw green chilies at Costco. But of course, everywhere has different stuff. I hope you find some! Linda

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    • November 3, 2020 at 12:00 pm
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      I read that vanilla orchids that grow in the wild are in danger of becoming extinct. Hopefully, someone will find a solution so that vanilla will not be so expensive and more available.

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      • November 3, 2020 at 2:29 pm
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        Hadn’t heard that Shirley, thanks for sharing .That makes sense for the rise in price.

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    • November 3, 2020 at 1:09 pm
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      For vanilla extract, you can try making it yourself. My wife bought vanilla beans online and we put the cutup pieces in a quart size canning jar of vodka. Sure it cost us $45 for the beans, plus more for the quart of vodka, but for 32 ounces of vanilla after a month it was worth it. She just made her first batch of chocolate chip cookies with it this weekend and was it ever yummy! Not sure where she found the recipe, but you should be able to make a smaller amount as easily as a quart, assuming you can source the beans. Looking at Amazon, they still have what we bought and it’s dropped to $35!

      Reply
  • November 3, 2020 at 10:28 am
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    We have always prepared for winter with a full pantry. Snow is a pain, but it seldom comes inside, or levels the home like tornadoes or hurricanes. I would appreciate if you and your readers would help me with the time definitions. I think of short term storage as 2- 4 weeks, medium as 3- 9 months and long term as 12months +. Are my thoughts off?
    We are prepared with food and medication for 9 months, personal care and cleaning products, 12+. I am sure there is more we need to do to, especially with our location to the Canadian border and the Niagara Falls Power Plant. Right now, we are staying put for the several days since we have no way of knowing what the election will bring.

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    • November 3, 2020 at 10:39 am
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      Hi Chris, I think time definitions could be different for everyone. I only have two-time tables, short term for me is 1 year to 3 years depending on the food. Long-term for me is my freeze-dried food. Now, there is very short term as in fresh vegetables in the frig but I only count what is shelf-stable. It doesn’t mean my way is the right way. We are all different. What you are doing is fabulous. I tend to go overboard, I will admit that. I live in Southern Utah and I know so many people that do not stock up any food or water. I cannot feed the neighborhood but I will barter if need be. Keep doing what you are doing, you are way ahead of the game. Trust me, I have church leaders here call me to ask how they can “light the fire” under their members. Sad but true. Stay well, stay safe, and stay home for now, anyway. Linda

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      • November 3, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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        Interesting. I have 3 categories of my preps, but other than the naming its very similar to your definitions:

        short term – perishables and frozen items, AKA the use them or lose them items
        mid-term – canned goods and other shelf stable items good for 1-3 years
        long-term – FD good and other durable items packed in mylar and buckets for 10+ years storage.

        I lump frozen items in with perishables because I don’t want to count on having those supplies in all disaster scenarios. Sure, with a generator I have a couple of weeks to either use them or can them into mid-term preps. But for planning purposes I want to assume worst case – which means the generator won’t work for whatever reason.

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  • November 3, 2020 at 12:31 pm
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    My thoughts on why the grocery stores are still out of stuff: 1) availability of course but I also think 2) stores are holding stuff back in their warehouses for the new fall/winter surge of COVID. I heard a stocker tell a shopper that the warehouse is down to one shipment per week and then not a full shipment. That told me something – either things were not available at all or that the warehouse was holding back. No matter, it is frightening!!

    I think of my prepping timetable as: perishables (up to a couple of weeks); short term 1-2 years; long term 2+ years (dehydrated/freeze dried/some shelf stable non-perishables.

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    • November 3, 2020 at 1:33 pm
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      Hi Leanne, it’s crazy for sure seeing these shelves bare. Hang on for tonight! Linda

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  • November 3, 2020 at 12:40 pm
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    Most everyone round here had to replace their refrigerator stuff after the ice storm power outage. Then combine it with election fears and covid and whatever else 2020 is gonna throw at us and you’ve got some shortages.

    To me it’s nuts to not have a generator in this part of the country and some that did I saw personally put priorities on tv and gaming consoles over food.

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    • November 3, 2020 at 1:35 pm
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      Hi Matt, wow! TV and game consoles over food, yikes! Maybe no one told them the government does not deliver food or water after a disaster! Someone sent me a link on where the riots are planned, what are your thoughts? https://protecttheresults.com/ PLEASE be careful Matt, I know you will, but be careful. Linda

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      • November 3, 2020 at 1:42 pm
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        I don’t have any links.
        Here I think it’ll be sporadic violence of melting down.
        I’d hate to live on either coast though.
        The next 48 will tell though.
        Y’all stay safe. Chamber loaded, NODs on and head on a swivel.

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        • November 3, 2020 at 1:48 pm
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          Hi Matt, yeah my daughter lives in Southern California. I agree the next 48 will tell us a lot. Linda

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      • November 3, 2020 at 4:31 pm
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        I fear for my daughter and her family in Seattle WA. That is a frightening place right now. They do live quite a ways from the “epicenter” of protests and riots/vandalism but still, not far enough away. As for what will take place after the results of the presidential election, well, I just don’t want to think about how bad it might get – one way or the other!

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        • November 3, 2020 at 4:39 pm
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          Hi Leanne, I hear you on the fear for our daughters and their families. We don’t really know what’s going to happen. I have heard on TV they are boarding up businesses, etc. There are groups planning on rioting. I always wonder, do they not have a job? Or do they get paid to riot? I’m not privy to that but who knows? We just have to pry that the right man is elected for President. God bless all of us. Linda

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    • November 3, 2020 at 1:37 pm
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      We have a whole house generator …..which covers most things but not all…. our oven is electric, and that won’t work because it needs a 220 line, but we have the stove top, which is gas, the crockpot, and the microwave. The washer and dryer, also needs a 220 line, won’t work which is why I stay on top of the laundry. Our frig, freezer, gas fireplace, TVs and furnace along with lights work so we’re good for now.

      When we had a portable generator in our old home, we could use extension cords, and take turns with neighbors. I believe there are only 4 whole house generators in our 21 home development.

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      • November 3, 2020 at 2:35 pm
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        Yeah I’m still on extension cord till spring.
        Then I’ll get it installed along with a new generator. Going with a Champion duel fuel propane/gas.
        My son did build me a heavy duty line for it from the shed to the house though. I don’t have to worry bout overheating cords.

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        • November 3, 2020 at 2:54 pm
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          We are just starting to research a back up solar system for our natural gas generator. Have you looked into wind or solar backups?

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          • November 3, 2020 at 3:00 pm
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            Nope
            They aren’t sufficient during real emergencies and are usually what’s hit in tornados and ice storms.
            We are working on solar charging for long term SHTF for radios n such but for day to day stuff they just don’t have the right stuff.

  • November 3, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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    Thanks! I’ll keep looking, as these are now out of stock at Wal-Mart!!

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  • November 3, 2020 at 8:38 pm
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    Thanks for the explanation. I was happy to finally get a turkey. Walmart had them. However, one of the two chain stores (I haven’t checked the other one yet) does not have them yet. Happy to get one in the freezer now!

    They are giving away food in a lot of places. It’s a program called Farmers to Families and your tax dollars paid for it. USDA food is being distributed in many places in central Florida. I suspect all over the country. If you know anyone who is in need of food, please tell them about the Farmers to Families Food box and check to see if it is in your area. The box has different things depending on what they have, but there is usually some cooked chicken that just needs reheating, dairy products like cottage cheese, sour cream, milk. Some vegetables that are fresh. Usually a fruit like a bag of apples. A bag of potatoes and one of onions. Etc. Sometimes bread or tortillas. The food is part of the bill the president signed that gave us our stimulus checks. People drive up and put the food in the back and leave. I heard there is no paperwork. Just food for those who need it.

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    • November 3, 2020 at 10:13 pm
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      Hi Debbie, this is awesome, I will pass the word around, thank you! Linda

      Reply
  • November 4, 2020 at 10:04 am
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    Linda:

    I know why the grocery stores where we live are out of stock of so many things. The nut cases who had blinders on and would not stock up are now buying everything they can put their hands on. My kids were complaining that there would be people who would go after the stockers and take everything off the shelves as soon as they filled them. I have been getting supplies little by little but I am ready to go viral and get things for my family that I can. They even tried to take food our of my daughter-in-laws grocery cart and she blew up. She’s a small little thing but she can roar like a lion when she is challenged. A clerk came over and asked what what going on and the other person said she would not let her get anything (she had a cartfull) He said something to my daughter in law and she told him I will let her get what she wants off the shelf but she isn’t going shopping in my cart and walked off.

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    • November 4, 2020 at 11:53 am
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      Hi Jackie, wow!! Thank goodness your DIL wouldn’t give in. Wow, I would be speechless! You would never expect someone to take something out of your cart! WOW!!! Linda

      Reply

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