On Friday, my wife went to the grocery store for the first time in more than two months. She actually walked around inside and picked out her own food, something she has missed doing with all our curb-side pickups. She was planning a short hit-and-run visit with a defined list, but the store was so empty and quiet that she felt comfortable doing a longer shopping and spent about $150.
There were a few things on our list that they did not have. She didn’t give me specific details but reports that there were definitely empty spots on the shelves and many cleaning supplies were out of stock. there was a limit of three fresh meat items per family. We’re still eating meat out of our freezer, so that’s OK with me.
later that night, I went online and tried to buy what she had missed. I checked out a number of our online suppliers and settled on an order from Amazon.com and an order from Costco.com. I put everything in our shopping carts at around midnight but decided to wait to check with her the next morning. When she OK’d everything I found out that an 8-pack of black beans had sold out on Costco and a box of 80 K-cups of coffee on Amazon had jumped in price by $5. Bummer!
Shopping on Costco.com
While availability on Costco.com had increased from a month or two back, there were still many items unavailable. We had to by Skippy peanut butter instead of Jif, but I doubt we’ll notice any difference. We had to buy twice as many cans of Spam as I had planned, just to reach the $75 minimum for free shipping. (Since the Spam was $21.99 for 8 cans and the shipping was $19, it was like getting a mother lode of Spam for $3.
Do I need another 16 cans of Spam? Not really. I believe we already have at least 32 in our storage pantry. Spam, however, is the prepper item you can’t have too much of. First, it’s good for years. Second, it packs a bunch of calories into a small, compact package that does not require refrigeration. Third, it’s meat and has a large amount of fat, both things your traditional long-term storage food does not contain. (Believe me, when you’ve been having nothing but rice and beans, you’ll be thankful for a can of Spam.) Fourth, it’s a great trade item. I could go on, but read this article for more details on how to use Spam in your preps.
Ever since the meat shortage has manifested, I’ve been holding off on eating any of my stored Spam. But with 16 new cans, I feel comfortable of eating the three or four cans I have left that have a “Best by” date in 2017. Also, the last time I looked at Costco.com, there was no Spam in stock, so I figured I should act quickly. When I placed my order, it had a 4-case limit.
Peanut butter is another item on our prepper pantry list. Like Spa, it’s nutrient dense, highly caloric and does not need refrigeration. It spoils a bit faster than Spam, so we don’t bulk up on it. We buy a two-pack from Costco (usually about 40 ounces) and then when we open one can, we buy another. The idea is that we always have three in three or more in the basement.
Shopping on Amazon.com
Amazon.com also had more items in stock than they did a few week ago, which I take to mean panic buying has slowed down and manufacturers and distributors are catching up.
Prices were definitely higher, especially items that are sold by third party sellers. Amazon claims that they do not allow price gouging, but I saw plenty of signs of increased prices. Canned items that I bought prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 for $22 for a case of 12 were now $28 or $30 for a six pack, so they have more than doubled in price.
Now I understand supply and demand. I don’t blame sellers from wanting to make a few extra bucks when the rest of their business is probably down, but Amazon shouldn’t be telling us they prohibit price gouging when I have the receipts to prove prices have more than doubled.
I was also disappointed that their Pantry program has so few available items that I was unable to reach the $35 minimum for free shipping. How bad are stocking levels? Well, there was only one item in the meals and sides category and one item in baking essentials category when I went to the Pantry home page. On the plus side, prices on pantry items were MUCH better than items that are not part of the Pantry program.
Why Stock Up Now?
We have been blessed that we have not had to rely on our stored foods to feed ourselves during the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown. We’ve tested a few things, and learned a few lessons, but we’ve largely been able to live out of our kitchen cabinets, fridge, and freezer, supplemented by an every-other-week curb-side pickup order for fresh items.
Frankly, we are not convinced that there is not more trouble to come. It could be that there’s a second wave and coronavirus explodes onto the scene again, in which case the supply chain my break down even further than it did this time. It may be that there is a severe recession and farmers go bankrupt and food supplies drop. There may be a bitter trade way between China and the U.S. that makes us look back at the last three years of rhetoric with nostalgia. We could experience civil unrest after the election. There could also be a whole host of problems that we cannot even begin to predict.
I would mention that a number of countries are building their food stocks. China is one of them. While I do not necessarily believe what China says, I do believe you can derive what they are thinking by some of their actions. And when China decides to increase their stock of corn and soybeans because the coronavirus might interrupt food supplies, then I think maybe we should too. And by we, I mean any of my fellow countrymen who are reading this.
If three years go by and I still have more than 40 cans of Spam on my shelf that are quickly nearing their expiration date, I’ll donate it to the local food pantry knowing that they will put it to good use. But in the meantime, that’s $43.98 of additional food security that I am happy to have in my basement.
If you’d like to read prior episodes of our quarantine diary, we’ve got them listed for you in chronological order.