Despite what our leaders claim, the scene is familiar to people all across the country: empty store shelves and no way to find groceries to feed our families, no way to get our necessities. It is a sad situation and one that I believe is a separate crisis on its own. What’s happened? In some areas, we are under shelter-in-place orders. Other areas have strict curfews. Yet other areas have social distance suggestions, while yet other places have nothing out of the normal, other than empty store shelves and more sick people in the hospital. Keep reading to find 10 helpful points to get you through this crisis!
Without a doubt, the big cities have been hardest hit by COVID-19, but now even small towns and rural areas are being hit by the pandemic. Along with the pandemic, we have a chain of events happening that are causing our store shelves to be emptied at a record-breaking rate:
- People are panicking and buying more of the store stock than they need. A family that normally uses one “family pack” of toilet paper in 2 weeks are suddenly buying up 6 months worth, and so on with most things they use regularly, as well as some antiseptic cleansers (like bleach, Lysol, and antiseptic wipes) that they don’t normally use or use in such large amounts.
- The stores order their stock and replace items on their shelves based on their historical sales records. “X” amount of toilet paper usually sells in one month, so we only buy “X” amount from our suppliers. Once that stock is bought out, the store is out of stock until their supplier gets more to them.
- Panic-buying of household necessities and shelf-stable foods are causing stores to sell out of those items much, much sooner than they would otherwise. So then those of us who didn’t show up in the panic-buy early shopping spree to get our supplies are just plain out of luck and have to wait until the store gets more stock. If we are lucky, we can get what we need then, before the next round of panic-buying starts.
- By the time we actually find what we need in the store, we have been out of it in our home for a while and then we panic-buy and stock up on as much as we can carry, afraid that if we run out again then we won’t find it on the shelves again.
- Restaurants are mostly closed, except for delivery and carry-out. Fewer people are eating out like they usually do because even though they can carry-out their meals instead of dining in, they are worried that the people cooking and handling the food and packaging may be sick, and thus they would get sick from eating that food.
- The fewer restaurant-goers means more people are cooking at home when they don’t normally do it this much. This means more people are buying the stock that stores have based on a smaller customer base. The stores run out. Panic-buying starts on food items, too.
This all ends up with those of us who haven’t been panic-buyers finding stores completely sold out of items that we need. Don’t fret! There ARE alternatives for us! Some may be a bit inconvenient, but they work!
Point 1: Online shopping. Go online to find what you need if you are looking for shelf-stable things that could be shipped to your home. While there is a shortage of some things online, like toilet paper, other things can be found much more readily online than in-store. As an added bonus, online shopping prevents you from possibly being exposed to infection as long as you sanitize the box before you open it, sanitize the items before you bring them inside, and wash your hands after you handle the items.
Point 2: Home delivery services. There are home delivery services in many areas of the country. Just search google to see if there are any in your area. Some offer fresh foods right to your door, others can shop for you and deliver them to your home. Either way, make sure you maintain safe social distancing practices when the delivery person stops by your home, sanitize items before you bring them inside, and wash your hands.
Point 3: Special shopping hours for seniors and at-risk individuals. Many stores have set up special shopping times for senior citizens and other at-risk populations. Their stores are stocked as much as possible before their special shopping times and most do their best to sanitize their shopping areas. Check online and call around to your local stores to see if they have special shopping hours for at-risk people. Don’t forget to be vigilant! Maintain social distancing when you are shopping, even during “at-risk hours”, sanitize items before you bring them in, wash your hands and refrain from touching your face.
Point 4: Try to DIY what you can’t find in stores. Sometimes this is impractical, sometimes it is downright undoable. But sometimes it works like a charm! If you can’t find what you need in stores, check online for DIY tips.
Point 5: Try to source locally. If you live in the outer reaches of the suburbs or in rural areas, you may be able to source some fresh food items straight from farms if you reach out to them and explain your needs. There are some community gardens and rooftop gardens in the bigger cities, as well. Reach out and ask if they have any fresh food they can spare for your family. The worst that can happen is that they say no. The best that can happen is you get your hands on fresh food for your family. It may not be much, but it is better than nothing.
Point 6: Make your food supplies stretch. This is an idea that is foreign to many in today’s world, but food can stretch! Think of how many leftovers you toss out from a meal and make less to start with so you don’t have leftovers to throw out. If you normally make a meal large enough to feed your family and have everyone nice and full afterward, make a little bit less and top off with a snack that also stretches, like popcorn (a little bit of popcorn makes a big snack!), an hour or two later. We don’t have to be stuffed full to be well-fed. Acquaint yourself with different ways to make rice dishes, different ways to prepare dried beans and ways to breathe new life into leftovers. In some areas in the world, it is actually considered rude to finish off everything on your plate, because leftovers (typically meats and vegetables) are used in soups the following day! Let’s learn lessons from other parts of the world where they utilize more of their food and make it last longer than we usually do.
Point 7: REGROW VEGETABLES! You’ll be surprised how many vegetables can be regrown! Just run a google search and see! The idea is simple: plant “cores” can grow another full plant in the right conditions. Start them off as a hydro farm would: plenty of sunshine and suspended in water. This site has a wonderful tutorial on how to regrow vegetables in water, even to the point of planting them in the soil to have a full-blown vegetable garden grown from your vegetable scraps!
Point 8: Reusable and washable supplies are the way to go! When supplies are hard to find, start using reusable and washable supplies. Instead of using disposable paper towels, use an old rag or even an old shirt! After, toss it in the wash so you can get it ready to use again. I hate to say it, but you can do the same thing when you run out of toilet paper. Things like old socks with holes in them, old shirts, old underwear… things you would normally tear up into cleaning rags or toss out. Cut them into smaller pieces, use, wash, reuse. If you are using this method for toilet paper, you don’t want to toss a bunch of poopy-rags into your washing machine so keep a bucket on hand filled with soapy water. When the cloth is dirty, toss it into the bucket to soak. That way, at laundry time, you can just empty the bucket, rinse the cloths and they can be safely laundered.
Point 9: What do you REALLY need? Think about it. What do you really NEED and what can you easily go without? What can you do to cut down on your personal or family usage? Anywhere that we can conserve, we should during this crisis. Obviously, medicines should be maintained according to doctor’s orders but you’d be surprised what you can actually find to cut back on or go without. While it may not seem important to you, and inconvenient to cut down or stop using some things, you are allowing others to access these items when you elect not to purchase them. Those others who you allow to access them may actually need them, so if you don’t really need it, just leave it there.
Point 10: Think of how our ancestors lived during the Great Depression. How did they make things stretch? Back when basic supplies were rationed, no luxury items were available at all… how did they do it? I’m not saying we should go that extreme, but there are lessons there for us to learn from. When the grocery store is out of bread, do you have flour and butter? Make some bread. This is a time when we need to learn (or re-learn) how to be more self-sufficient when it comes to these things. We need to learn how to cook from scratch. We need to learn how to grow gardens. We need to learn how to substitute items in our recipes with other things that we can actually get or make. Get to know your neighbors. Everyone has their own special skills and strengths! My skills don’t answer all of my needs, but I might be able to trade some of my fresh, homemade bread with my neighbor who has the skill to make something that I don’t. Of course, maintain social distance, sanitize, don’t touch your face and wash your hands. But social distancing doesn’t mean that we can’t trade, barter and do favors for one another! This is a time when we need to proverbially pull together, not apart!
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