Shortages of food, toilet paper, and other supplies can happen for many reasons. At the time of writing this, the world is struggling with the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Other than the health implications, probably the hardest thing to deal with is trying to figure out where you can find supplies while everyone is panic buying.
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to make finding supplies easier. Most of them involve changing two things: When you shop and where you shop.
This article will go over ways that you can change your shopping habits to have more success in finding the supplies that you need. In addition, it will also help you avoid crowds and possible conflicts. This information is based on what I have observed in my local area.
Where to Buy Food During a Shortage
Finding food for you and your loved ones should be one of your main priorities during an emergency. If you are unable to find food where you normally shop, the following places may be good places to look.
Larger stores, such as Costco, Sam’s, Wal-Mart, and Target, are usually hit first when people start to panic buy. It doesn’t take long for stores such as these to have their shelves stripped bare. The main reason for this is that these are the places where most people shop on a regular basis. This puts them at the front of peoples’ minds during an emergency.
On the other hand, fewer people tend to shop at dollar stores on a regular basis, especially when they make large weekly or monthly grocery runs. Stores such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree will have supplies at least a little while after larger stores sell out. Stores such as these stock most basic essentials, including food, water, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and medicine.
*Note: There has been some controversy regarding the safety of medications sold at Dollar Tree.
Niche stores are places that sell groceries but tend to appeal to a smaller segment of the population than other grocery stores. These include places such as Natural Grocers and Drug Emporium. Ethnic markets, such as Mexican and Asian supermarkets, can fit in this category as well.
Like dollar stores, health food and ethnic food stores have a smaller consumer base than larger stores such as Wal-Mart and Target. They are also not usually places that people consider for bulk shopping. You can use these types of stores to find most of the basic essentials that you will need, including groceries, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and medications.
Stores in rural areas will take a little longer to sell out of supplies than those in population centers. Take where I live for example. I live in a town with around 100,000 people that has many smaller communities surrounding it. Those smaller communities have populations ranging from a few hundred to a couple of thousand.
Each of those small communities has multiple grocery and drug stores. However, since the people in those communities are still very close to the larger stores where I live, they choose to shop here. This is mainly due to lower prices.
This has allowed the smaller stores within their communities to continue to have items in stock, even after they have been bought up here. My in-laws live in one of those communities and haven’t had as much difficulty finding certain things, like toilet paper.
Where to Buy Medicine During a Shortage
Another big priority during an emergency is making sure that you have medicine and first aid supplies. You should have supplies to deal with wounds and basic illnesses, such as colds and the flu. If you have young children, be sure to get medications that are safe for them to use.
If people are panic buying, there is a very good chance that drug stores and big box stores will run out of basic medications and antiseptics. The places below sell medications and will take longer to sell out than other stores.
Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Bed, Bath, and Beyond is known mostly for selling luxury domestic merchandise. This includes towels, bed sheets, kitchen knives, and much more. However, they also have a fully-stocked drug section as well.
Bed, Bath, and Beyond’s drug section includes vitamins, medicine, and first aid supplies. It also includes a large variety of travel-sized personal hygiene items. The drug section of my local Bed, Bath, and Beyond has pretty much everything that our Wal-Mart Supercenter does, minus the pharmacy.
Tractor Supply and other home and ranch stores sell various items to take care of pets and livestock. These include medications and wound care items. Some of these may be suitable for human use, however, be sure to do your own research before purchasing or using anything.
Where to Buy Toilet Paper and Cleaning Supplies During a Shortage
Since we are currently dealing with a pandemic, cleaning and sanitation supplies are in high demand. Toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, sprays, hand sanitizer, and soap are all getting increasingly difficult to find.
However, like many other items, these can be found in more places than most people think. Here are some places that you can find cleaning and sanitation supplies during a shortage.
This may be surprising, but hardware stores are excellent places to find cleaning supplies during a shortage. Many people don’t think of them, so they sell out much later than other stores.
The best hardware stores to visit are those that are smaller and locally-owned. Larger ones, such as Lowes and Home Depot will sell out of cleaning supplies quicker since they have more foot traffic.
A friend of mine was having a hard time finding toilet paper, so I took him to a small hardware store. They still had plenty of TP as well as different types of cleaning supplies.
RV dealers and stores that specialize in camping supplies may be good places to visit if you need to find some toilet paper. This is because RV’s use specialized toilet paper, such as this, for use in their wastewater systems.
While it may not be the best idea to use regular toilet paper in your RV or travel trailer, you shouldn’t have much of a problem using RV toilet paper in your home’s toilet. RV and Camping Stores also sell bottled water, freeze-dried foods, and camping equipment.
Many people have gotten used to shopping online and even turned to it to get supplies when they weren’t available locally. Unfortunately, many online retailers can become strained due to panic buying as well. Because of this, you may need to adjust how you shop online as well.
Large online retailers have reported shortages of many products, especially toilet paper and disinfecting wipes and sprays. Even janitorial websites have shown most of their products to be out of stock. To overcome this, you may need to scour the internet for smaller retailers or be willing to substitute products.
An example of this would be using commercial toilet paper designed for use in large dispensers, such as those in businesses. Normal-sized rolls were out of stock but the large “cheese wheel” size rolls were available. During times of shortage, you may have to bite the bullet and pay for shipping or buy something just to get the job done.
Places to Avoid During a Shortage
Shortages can bring out the worst in people, even before things get really bad. The internet is filled with videos of people fighting over toilet paper and bottled water due to Coronavirus-related shortages. Keep in mind that these have occurred before anyone has missed a meal and while trucks are still running to deliver supplies.
Many of these incidents have occurred at club stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club. While these are great places to shop while times are good, they seem to be the ones most likely to experience conflict during shortages. Because of this, I would recommend avoiding them during such times.
In addition, anytime that you see a large crowd or lines waiting to get into a store, you may want to move on to a different store down the road. This is especially true if you could be exposed to a contagion.
When Should You Shop During a Shortage?
Knowing when you should go shopping is important as well. I recommend shopping early in the morning, as soon as the stores open. The first reason for this is that many stores stock their shelves overnight. This will allow you to have the greatest chance of finding what you need.
The second reason that I recommend shopping early in the morning is that crowds may not be as large. However, this may or may not be true, depending on how serious the situation is, the store you are shopping at, and the area in which you live.
Lessons to Learn
If you are experiencing a shortage now or have experienced one in the past, you know how frustrating and stressful that it can be. Allow the experience to teach you the value of being prepared. Keeping basic food, medical, and cleaning supplies at home for emergencies is smart and responsible. Doing so will allow you to weather the storm with much less fear and also help others if you choose.
If you did consider yourself prepared, or at least more so than others, use the experience to discover holes in your preparations. In my situation, my family had a good amount of food stored, but we were dangerously low on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. This is something that I will take into consideration in the future.