Category Archives: Grocery

Surfing the Grocery Shortages

Cans, a victim of 2020

I’m off in the summer, but this year amidst Coronavirus restrictions I feel as busy as ever. One thing that I need to keep on top of is the flow of groceries with all three of us eating at home every day.

In the times before (as my daughter calls pre-COVID life), if you needed something it never crossed your mind that the store would be out of it! Now the oddest things are out of stock.

Paper towels – every time I order them I get a surprise substitution. My last curbside pickup substituted paper towels made from bamboo! I don’t mind these “green” substitutions because they charge me for the cheaper brand I requested.

Canned goods – Did you know there is a shortage of aluminum cans? This article’s headline just sums up 2020, “Oh Great, Now There’s an Aluminum Can Shortage, Too.” If you prefer your beer or soda in a can, you’ll want to get on this. Apparently the issue is the volume of drinks being purchased for the home instead of being served in bars and restaurants. I’m a little nervous for my evening seltzer water habit, and I am picking up extra when they are available.

I try to grab a canned fruit and soup or two each time I have a grocery order; these also can be in short supply.

Pizza – many areas have frozen pizza shortages. I know I have tried to get some Jacks’ Naturally Rising Pizzas since March to no avail. We do have a crust manufacturer in our area and they had some issues with virus spreading in their factory. I imagine having people at home means more demand for pizza. I pick them up when there is a good price.

My husband usually handles our Amazon subscribe and save order, so I have been very good about telling him when I am opening a product from our pantry so he can adjust our order as needed. COVID is fairly high in my state, and I’m not likely to go in person to the store. Since March, I went to Trader Joe’s once, otherwise I do curbside or delivery.

Personally, I try not to let news of shortages send me off buying things we aren’t going to use. There has been a shortage of dried beans, but I rarely use them. Same with yeast… it doesn’t last long, and no sense buying it now when I haven’t made bread in a few years. It’s not a good deal to stock up if you aren’t going to make use of the item in the near future.

What kind of shortages have you experienced where you are? For the longest time we could not find nacho cheese sauce. Then my daughter found a Tik Tok of a family covering their whole dining room table in tortilla chips and making the entire thing nachos. So that’s where all the sauce went!!! See the nacho table for yourself!

My Kingdom… for Some Broccoli

vegiscabbage-graphicsfairy009Last week I read “The War the Saved My Life”, a historical fiction book by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley set in Kent, England, during World War II. The book gave me a deeper understanding of the dire situation facing a country cut off from their food supply. During WWII, German submarines circled the waters around England.

This was a big problem . . .  because England didn’t grow enough food.  Most of the food that English people ate was shipped in from other countries (p. 164)

The book reminded me of the current precarious relationship between the US and Mexico over “The Wall”, and also concerns about deportation of migrant workers who farm and pick produce all over the United States.  Prices of meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit can all be impacted by the current political climate.  Even staffing levels at US/Mexico border crossings affect the price of produce as it travels to el Norte.

We had to queue for groceries every day now.  Meat was on ration and a lot of other things were hard to find.  Onions were so scarce they might as well have been solid gold.  No one had realized that all England’s onions were imported until they couldn’t be imported anymore, and onions took a long time to grow from seed (p. 248).

I found myself thinking about how temporary or long-term weather pattern changes can also affect food availability.  April has been a rough month for produce.  Have you seen the broccoli prices?  I am seeing $3.40/pound for broccoli crowns and $2.60 for broccoli with stalks.  Avocados were affected a few months ago by Mexican labor issues and weather.  All California lettuces are currently considered “extreme shortage” right now due to growing conditions.

Could weather, global warming, or political instability affect our food supply to the extent experienced during WWII?  I sure hope not, but the book made me understand how rapidly things can change.

Have you changed your produce buying habits due to the current supply issues from flooding in California?  I plan to plant some snap peas soon because they are Ok to start in cold weather and mature rapidly.  I have my herbs started inside, and the other veg seeds will have to wait until we are frost-free.  I am looking for some better-priced frozen options for berries and broccoli.  I can live without romaine and red leaf lettuces, because mixed greens and spinach that are grown in greenhouses remain at a lower price.  Broccoli was always my “go-to” vegetable for dinner, so the high prices are causing me to try out some other options.