The Food Shortage is Here, and People are Prepping

High price of bacon
High price of bacon

I went to our favorite Sam’s Club this past week, and it is apparent from the shelves that the food shortage is here.

Don’t get me wrong; there are no large gaping holes or empty slots, but it is clear to any experienced shopper that things are missing from the shelf while other items have low inventory.

I saw no signs of panic buying, but people are stocking up. Below is what I observed:

Sam’s Club Outages

  • There was no jasmine rice, although the basmati rice was back in stock. In the past, there would be at least six pallets of rice with a minimum of four sizes and types of rice; this time there were three pallets, and they were not even half full.
  • Most of the nuts in plastic jars were missing. No almonds, cashews or even plain peanuts. There were mixed nuts, but that was about it. No chocolate covered peanuts or almonds. All the popular nuts were sold out.
  • They had only two kinds of crackers, one of which was a Ritz cracker. Not my favorite, but I bought a big pack in any case. This may be something else we have to learn to make.
  • There were only two pastas in stock: A Barilla six-pack that includes three sizes and a six-pound box of Member’s mark elbow macaroni. None of the bulk packs of penne, spaghetti, tri-color, or Angel hair we have purchased there before were available.
  • Even ramen was almost out of stock. I panic-bought a 48-pack, so we now have 120 packs of ramen in our store room. I tell myself that one day, this will be cause for celebration, but I am not sure I quite believe it.
  • Sam’s usually has multiple brands of tuna in stock: Starkist, Bumblebee, Chicken of the Sea and some fancy high-end albacore tuna. On this trip, they had only 12-packs of Starkist in either roil or water. Clearly, people have been snapping up the tuna.
  • There were no rectangular boxes of facial tissues in stock. There are usually both Kleenex brand and Member’s Mark for sale. This time around they had three brands of the square boxes that hold half as many tissues. I believe the reason they had three brands is because their buyers are just snapping up whatever they can get

Still in Stock

In contrast, there seemed to be quite a bit of junk food like chips and candy, and plenty of breakfast bards, protein bars and similar snacks. The fresh fruits and vegetables were pretty well stocked, as were the canned vegetables. They had a reasonable selection of dairy products. I saw no holes in the freezer section, but I buy little in that section, so I can’t tell you if any were missing.

They meat counter was not bad. They still had fresh chicken, although it was the only item I saw in the store that had a limit on how much you can buy. I bought hamburger for about $4.50 per pound and park chops for $3 a pound.

Thick-cut Wrights bacon is about $6.80 a pound, which is ridiculously high. It is up more than 100 percent from pre-COVID prices. Looks like I will have to be eating more Spam with my breakfast. It’s only $3.60 per pound at their current pricing.

Canned Meats and Preppers

While I loaded four different canned meats into my cart, I noticed a woman a few pallets down from me. She put an 8-pack of Spam and an 18-pack of Vienna sausage in her cart. Of course, I don’t know if she saw Biden’s announcement in the news and decided to stock up or has been stocking up for months or years. Neither of us took multiple packs of the same item or did anything some might consider hoarding, but shoppers like us who buy more than we expect to eat and put it in the pantry are why there is very little canned chicken left in the pallet and the Ramen is selling out.

Speaking of Biden’s comment on coming food shortages, I saw some Democratic apologist out there spinning the story by saying he didn’t mean there would food shortages here.

I got news for them. The food shortage is here. We aren’t running out of all food, but there are shortages of some foods. What is out of stock in my store may differ from yours, but if you check Sam’s online store, there are many missing items there as well.

Azure Standard Delivery

I picked up my first Azure Standard delivery last week. They carry organic food and specialty items like gluten-free, dairy free, and other items you may not find in your local store. If you are not familiar with this company, they deliver bulk food to common points around the country. A truck shows up at a specific time in different locations around the country. You have to meet the truck and pick up your order at the designated spot.

I ordered from them because they had the lowest price I could find to order hard red wheat, especially when you consider delivery. It was worth it even though I had to drive to the pick-up location.

It’s quite impressive how smoothly the unloading of the truck happens, especially considering a volunteer coordinator handles it. The drivers roll up the back door, move a pallet to the end and tearing it down, setting individual boxes and bags on the deck of the truck. Customers who are present grab a box or bag, look at the label, and call out the customer’s name. If the person is present, they wave or shout and they passed the box on to them. If someone was absent, we piled their boxes and bags on parking lot. At one point, there were 15 separate piles.

In our case, about 10 people, mostly men, handed out the boxes. The 40 or so customers were a broad spectrum, from aging hippies to homesteaders in beat up pickups, to young mothers with children in SUVs. Everyone was friendly and helpful, and we did the unloading in about 30 minutes. Everyone showed up before the truck left and there didn’t seem to be any shortages. It impressed me.

Our Order

The wheat, which was what mattered to me, was in good shape. My wife had ordered some things she can’t get locally, like celery root (I didn’t even know that was a thing) and a brand of coffee she likes. In an example of shrinkflation, her bags of coffee were 10 ounces compared to 12 ounces a year or two ago.

I expect we will order from Azure Standard again. I could see us doing it once a quarter to build up our wheat supply. They get my recommendation, but be advised many of their specialty products come with high prices.

More Preppers

As we were unloading the truck, it was evident that several people bought white, food-safe 5-gallon plastic buckets and lids, because they shipped them in a big stack, not in boxes. (FYI: They are cheaper at Tractor Supply.) They sold quite a few Gamma Seal lids as well. I would guess that at least a third of the people present ordered wheat or other bags of grain. Apparently, I wasn’t the only prepper there.

To me, the buckets and the 50-pound bags of grain are signs of people preparing. I just hope it does our nation some good when the food shortage gets worse.