Are You seeing Food Shortages and Empty Shelves Again?

Grocery shopper in an aisle
Check those prices; they've probably gone up.

I’ve seen reports (like this one) on shortages in stores, but I have yet to see evidence of shortages in stores near us. Yes, there has been some panic buying of rice, and I think that is understandable given India’s recent ban on rice exports, but I have not seen shortages anywhere close to what we saw during the COVID shutdown or even after the Ukraine war sent food prices spiking.

On my trip to our local Walmart last week, the shelves were well stocked. I sought out the rice shelf, and there was plenty of rice to be had. The canned fruits and vegetables looked good, as did the canned meats. In fact, I bought two 28-ounce cans of Keystone canned turkey, which I had not seen in stores for months, maybe over a year. These cans joined the eight I already have on my shelf to give us an alternative to canned chicken and Spam in a survival situation. I expect it would go into a large turkey tetrazzini or other casserole.

It’s possible that food shortages are regional. They may exist in areas with higher population densities, such as major cities on both coasts. Maybe people in my rural community are already well enough stocked up that they do not need to panic buy.

Comment below if you are seeing empty shelves and food shortages in your area.

Food Availability Versus Price

While there may be food on the shelf, that doesn’t mean it’s affordable. Food prices continue to rise, and the UN just predicted they will do so for at least another year. The article referenced above is not wrong when it says Costco has had significant price increases. I’ve seen them there and at Walmart and our local grocer. Food is expensive and its stressing everyone’s budget.

In what must be frustrating for many on a fixed income or tight budget, I’ve seen the smaller quantities and single-serving packages have the largest price increases on a percentage basis. Processed foods have also risen more than many unprocessed foods, a reminder that cooking and baking form scratch is always a good way to save money, reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, cut back on sugar, and eliminate many artificial flavors, colors, and other chemicals.

I don’t care if you don’t think you have the time or the ability to cook for yourself. Find the time or make the time by cutting back on social media, and watch some instructional videos. It will be worth your while financially and from a health perspective to cook your own meals from scratch. If you want convenience, the make extra servings and freeze the leftovers. You can warm them up when you don’t have enough time to cook from scratch.

Junk Food

I don’t buy junk food often, but when I was buying ice at the convenience store to keep our food cold during our refrigerator outage, I snuck a few snacks and was shocked at the cost. Little Debbie and Hostess products seem to have doubled in price since prior to the pandemic. If you need to cut back your food budget, just stop buying chips, cookies, and cakes.

It’s enough to make me pop my own popcorn or bake cookies from scratch the next time I have a craving for junk food.

Fast food has also seen prices jump, and sit-down restaurants remain expensive. I’ve heard it is even worse on the West Coast. Here we have only two good buys: A local pizza place with all-you-can-eat Pizza buffet for $7.95 and a Mexican restaurant where most of the entrees are between $$8 and $13.

Fuel Prices

Gasoline prices around here have jumped between 40 and 50 cents in the last month. I expect this will push up inflation numbers for the second half of the year because so many goods travel by truck. Expect to see prices rising at the retail level by the fourth quarter. You may want to start buying Christmas presents now, before prices rise.

Likewise, if you use propane or fuel oil to heat your home in the winter, consider filling those tanks before fuel prices rise any further.

While I am far less worried about a food shortage today than I was last year, the rapid increase in fuel prices is more concerning. It could have an immediate negative impact not just on the economy but on people’s quality of life. My gasoline storage cans are full, but they won’t last long.