SUPER-COUPONING: Prices on the rise and shelves empty | Lifestyles

I’m alarmed by what I’m seeing at our local supermarkets. Each week, it seems a whole category of products is just wiped out. I’m trying to be patient with the stores restocking things, but this just isn’t normal.

For example, one week almost the entire dairy case was devoid of milk. A few cartons of soy milk remained and one carton of skim. The rest were empty. This week, the bread aisle was decimated with very few loaves of bread or buns by any brand.

What can we do? How can we protect ourselves against stores running out of things we need?

Shopping has become so time-consuming. Prices are on the rise, and I have to keep looking for the best deals. Then, I have to deal with finding products that I want when so many of them are missing from stores right now. This is not normal. How can I shop effectively with this going on?

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We’re indeed facing some challenging times at the supermarket. We have multiple issues causing shortages at the same time: supply chain interruptions, trucking and shipment issues, production issues, employment issues. Combine those with the fact that many shoppers are stocking up at higher volumes than normal, too, for a variety of reasons. It’s wintertime, and shoppers in snowy areas may make fewer, larger shopping trips due to weather. The pandemic continues, and people may be making fewer trips to the store, again purchasing in less frequent, large stock-ups to avoid multiple, smaller shopping trips.

Additionally, in many areas of the country, the workforce has been affected by losses, either temporarily due to Covid infections and quarantines or to the larger issue of not enough people currently available or willing to work. All of these factors create a perfect storm of issues affecting what is on the shelves.

While it’s natural to want everything to return to normal as soon as possible, the reality is that this situation didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t resolve itself overnight either. So, we’ll have to adjust both our expectations and shopping habits somewhat until these issues are eased at stores.

Based on this, here are some tactics I recommend to help ensure you’re still able to get the items that you want:

Buy a little more than you need right now in anticipation of shortages. Similar to the way couponers shop sales cycles to buy ahead of our needs when prices are low, we can also buy ahead of our needs when shelves are full so that we’ve got a little extra on hand for those times when the stores’ stock may be harder hit.

Be brand-flexible. While we all have our favorite brands of products, some of our brand-specific habits may need to bend with stock availability. If your favorite brand of ketchup is not available, you may need to choose a second-best option to purchase until yours comes back into stock.

Check stock with online ordering. If your store offers online ordering, their app or website may allow you to check stock in real-time to see what is in the store. Whether you wish to utilize the grocery delivery service or not, this tool can be a valuable one to see if the items you wish to buy are present at your store before you go.

Look at alternate forms of products to fulfill your needs in the meantime. Last week I went to the store for orange juice and noticed that the case at my local store was very low with stock — many brands were completely sold out, and of the two that remained, the store had fewer than ten total cartons. I bought a couple, but I also headed to the freezer case where frozen juice concentrates are sold, purchasing some more to keep on hand if the fresh juices aren’t restocked soon.

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