Gas, Grain and Cat Food

Decimated cat food shelves at Walmart
Decimated cat food shelves at Walmart on July 1, 2022.

I went to Walmart on Friday. Boy, was that a mistake! I should have known better than to go shopping the day before a major holiday weekend.

I hadn’t realized how crowded the store would be with out-of-town visitors stocking up for the long weekend or maybe even a week-long vacation. Our county has some part-timers and rental units, but the next county over has more. I feel like they all stopped at our Walmart for groceries on the way to their place. It kind of gave me a preview of what Walmart will be like when they all bug out because someone launched a nuke.

There are only one or two check-out lanes open on most days, plus the self-checkout, which has eight stations. Today there were seven full-service checkout lanes open at the same time. I haven’t seen that for months, maybe even years. Walmart definitely knew what to expect and staffed-up accordingly. There were also more pickers pushing their giant carts through the store and loading up orders for curbside pickup. My guess is that many of these were also for holiday travelers.

Full Shelves

When I shop at Walmart, I usually hit the same five or six spots and buy the same items. This time, my wife gave me a list of groceries that include things like Thai fish sauce (something I didn’t even know Walmart carried), bottled lemon juice, and buttermilk. As a result, I went through the garden section, the over-the-counter drug area, the sports section, the pet food aisles, the kitchen and household goods, and up and down every food aisle. (I put in more than 3,000 steps without leaving the store.) Because I had to walk by paint, toys, electronics and automotive, I think the only areas I avoided were clothing, arts and crafts, and sewing. Whew!

Most of the store shelves were full, although I did see some fronting. They still had pint and half-gallon canning jars, plus regular lids. The food aisles were well stocked. Yes, the egg section was not full, but that might have been because of all the part-timers and vacationers visiting the area for the long weekend. The only section of the store that had an obvious out of stock situation was canned cat food, as you can see in the image above. I’d never seen it so trashed, and I doubt many vacationers brought their cat.

Yes, even the freezer section and the meat section were decently stocked. I found the prices to be indecent, however.

Gas Price Drops

When I left my house, I noted that gas prices had gone down by 17 cents. The station at Walmart was a dime lower than every other station I had passed. This surprised the heck out of me, as they are usually only three or four cents less. This time, a dime, which made it 27 cents less than the average price a week ago. I hope that continues, but I am not holding my breath.

You might think falling gas prices are a good sign, but the reason for it is counter intuitive. Gas buyers think we are heading into a recession and people will drive less, so gas futures are falling. Haven’t I said we need a good recession to cause prices to drop? This is an example of how one leads to the other.

Inside the store, there was no sign of prices dropping. Food was expensive. I spent $169 and didn’t get that much. I didn’t buy any canned meat, but I checked in case they had turkey. Nope. The 28-ounce can of canned roast beef was $9.98. They had none of the 12-ounce cans or beef, pork or turkey, but they did have canned chicken. A can of spam was $3.50 or more.

I saw an end cap with canned peas, beans and corn for 58 cents per can. That sounds like a pretty good buy until I remembered that I paid 38 cents a can in late 2020. That’s a 50 percent increase.

Global Grain Prices Fall

According to the Wall Street Journal, global grain prices have dropped, in part because Russia is still selling grain and because of good weather in key areas where wheat is grown.

Here are a couple of key points from the article:

  • Wheat prices are down more than 25 percent from their peak.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture raised its wheat forecast by 8 million bushels.
  • Winter wheat harvests were running above average at 41 percent complete.
  • Australia also expected to produce 3 million metric tons more wheat than they did last year.
  • Exports from Russia in April and May were up significantly, with more than 60 bulk carriers loaded with wheat departing Russian ports each month.

This is already helping countries like Lebanon and Egypt, although prices are nowhere near their pre-invasion levels.

What Does this Mean?

Walmart shelves are full, gas prices dropped slightly, and the wheat harvests look to be up. Does this mean the crisis is over?

No, it does not. These are small positives floating in a sea of bad news. The war in Ukraine looks like it is growing worse as Russia is doubling down on the invasion. There is no end in sight for inflation. Gasoline prices have pulled back to what they were a week ago, not a year ago, and are is still high enough to negatively impact families. Food prices, heating oil, natural gas, electricity, rent, and interest rates are still up, costing Americans more. The stock market just had its worst six-month run since 1970. A recession grows closer and it’s going to turn grim over the next six months.

Worse yet, we still have shortages and they look like they will persist and possibly grow worse. The supply chain is still screwed up. Besides baby formula and feminine hygiene products, we still have shortages of oil additives, DEF fluid, machine parts, chips, and many medical products. Fertilizer is still scarce and expensive. Diesel fuel remains critically low.

It’s enough to make me wonder if China and Joe Biden teamed up to make America weak, dependent, and despondent.

Keep prepping as much as you can within your budget.