My wife and I ran some errands and went shopping in a town that is almost an hour away. We stopped by a large regional grocery store to pick up something she needed for a recipe.
Overall, there were no obvious shortages. They had many varieties of potatoes, averaging $1 per pound. The 10-pound bag for $7.98 was the lowest price per pound. There were also plenty of onions, carrots, and a dozen varieties of applies, although my wife complained about their prices. Bananas were 79 cents per pound, which is more than the 50 or 59 cents I remember as being the old normal. I would say most prices were higher than they should be, but I think I’m getting used to it. (More on this later.)
There were no gaping holes in the frozen foods, the dairy aisle, or in the meats, but I will say the meat section was not overflowing. I have heard that some Walmart stores are experiencing shortages in the deli section, but the deli case in this grocery store was packed and they had both hot and cold foods. There was also a line at the deli. The parking lot was crowded, and they had five lanes with real cashiers plus eight self-service checkouts.
While this is the same chain as our local grocery store, the store is larger and nicer than the one we normally go to. Maybe that was why they had better inventory.
I’d say 25 percent of the customers were wearing face masks. This surprises me now, because no one in our area does.
No one at the Bank
Let’s contrast the crowded grocery store to the empty bank, where I went to use the drive up ATM. It is a large branch office, but there was only one customer car parked out front. There were more than a dozen cars in the back, where the employees park. No one was in the drive-up lanes, although one car pulled in a few minutes after us and had to wait to use the ATM. I don’t think I’d ever seen the bank that empty. My guess is that no one is applying for loans or putting money into savings. And with apps, why else would you need to go to the bank?
The town itself had moderate traffic during our early afternoon visit. There were some people on the street. We went to the bookstore, and they had decent foot traffic.
The farm store was busy enough. I bought another four bags of chicken feed, meaning I now have 8 spares, about four months’ worth. My plan is to have at least 12 bags on hand by November. That will see the chickens through to spring, if things fall apart. Feed prices had not changed in the past month. We also bought ten bags of mushroom compost for a new garden bed my wife is making, and I picked up an extra bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer just to have it on hand. It was about twice what we paid a year ago, but I expect it will be more next year.
Lunch at our favorite sit-down restaurant there was $26 and change, refreshingly low compared to recent meals. I left a 20 percent tip, and I didn’t grumble like I did when I had to pay $80 for three. We were there around 2:30, and they seemed over-staffed. They had four waitresses, which might have been OK during the lunch rush, but they needed only two.
Gasoline was 7 cents higher in this town than in ours.
Growing Accustomed to the New Paradigm
I look at what Washington is doing, at our recent news article on 33 reasons the food crisis will grow worse, at the energy crisis, at the situation in Ukraine, and I wonder: How can things seem so normal in town when the world is falling apart?
I think the answer is the old boiling frog story. By raising the heat slowly, we grow accustomed to it. By having gas shoot up to $5, we are grateful when it sinks below $4, even though it was less than $3 a year ago and $1.89 on Election Day 2020.
If inflation truly paused in July, then people don’t see prices rising daily and they relax. They get used to the prices they are paying and small increases become less noticeable. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Don’t let the current situation ruin your day or cause you to get depressed, but try not to get complacent. Find a happy medium where you can prep but still enjoy life while we can.