Report from Louisiana: Bare Shelves

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — What in the world is going on in the grocery stores? I’ve never seen such shortages in my life!

The first time I noticed this was when the pandemic broke out and shelves were literally stripped of bread, toilet paper, dried beans, rice, and canned goods like a plague of locusts had flown through. Things got better after a while but have never really recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Every time we go to the grocery store together, my husband’s blood pressure jumps up…” This is that ‘Ridin’ with Biden’ working for you!” He rants and rails all up and down the aisles, raging about elevated prices and shortages.

I can’t blame him. It is difficult.

There is no doubt that prices are higher. And the shelves are noticeably bare. When I found blue Powerade on the shelf last week I bought all four six packs because it’s been unavailable for weeks.

There are a number of factors at work here. Rising fuel costs, rising production costs, and a shortage of workers all along the supply line play a factor:

The maker of Cheerios cereal and Betty Crocker cake mix is facing hundreds of disruptions across its operations, ranging from pricier raw ingredients to a shortage of truck drivers, which executives said will push up prices for supermarket customers over the months ahead.

Higher costs and logistical problems are squeezing General Mills and other U.S. food companies, prompting them to cut their own costs and swelling consumers’ shopping bills. Big food makers including Campbell Soup Co. and Conagra Brands Inc. are charging more for their products as the food industry faces the steepest inflation in a decade, while shrinking some grocery-store packages and dialing back discounts.

So, not only is this problem not getting better anytime soon, it’s going to get worse.

In Louisiana, SNAP participants will see an increase in their benefit starting next week. This isn’t necessarily in response to the shortages; apparently the thinking is that families are trying to stretch their food dollars by purchasing unhealthy, but filling, options, and if the government gives them more money, they will magically decide to buy fresh vegetables rather than Hot Pockets.

Benefits had been increased for inflation over the years. But flaws in the Thrifty Food Plan formula meant many families just couldn’t keep up with the costs. Consequently, families bought fewer fresh fruits and vegetables and relied on more convenient and less expensive processed foods to stretch their benefits for an entire month.

I’m not sure I agree with that logic, but…..

As the holidays approach, industry insiders are predicting more shortages. Grocery store chains are ordering earlier, hoping to be able to have what their customers need for the holidays, but many are having trouble getting fresh meat, like turkeys for example, because many production plants are not working at full capacity.

Obviously becoming alarmed and hoarding is the wrong approach here, but planning ahead is going to be a necessity it seems.

Meanwhile, I’m going to start leaving my husband at home when I go shopping. I don’t think his blood pressure can handle it!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

2 thoughts on “Report from Louisiana: Bare Shelves

  1. We are in the USSR period of our history. Buy strategically, not what you do need, but what you might need, what might be used as barter. Be a hoarder. Include ammo, which can be used for barter, even if you don’t have a gun. And, by God, you should for the sake of your family.

  2. In our area we have shortages of bottled water, and gallon jugs. The store we usually frequent (the local Kroger affiliate) hasn’t had any distilled water the last two times we have been there, and it has been spotty for months. So we went to Walmart today. Plenty of bottled water and distilled water, but the cat food section was a shambles. We then went to the liquor store for our monthly wine run. The wines we were paying 8.99 a bottle for six months ago are going for 11.99 now. We can usually find a lot of markdowns (shopping for big, big bargains as Dave Ramsay would say), but there were very few to be had. My wife was making noises about taking a trip across the border to stock up in an adjacent state, but at 3.69 a gallon for no-lead that is hardly a winning proposition.

    The interesting thing to me is the seeming randomness of it. Other than the distilled water I mentioned above, other items seem to come and go. Well stocked one week, and bare shelves the next. I agree with Mr. Sykes above, you need to be stocking up on your regularly used items. We keep a well stocked storage room with the items we use regularly, enough to last several months without restocking. The great TP shortage of last year was a no-sweat deal for us because we already had plenty on hand – purchased when supplies were plentiful. Just buying a couple extra cans or packages when they come on sale or you have a coupon can keep a storage room well stocked.

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