Where to Find Food When Store Shelves Are Empty

Many of us are hesitant to head out to the grocery store these days. Some of us are self-quarantining, while others are tired of seeing the same empty shelves each time.

Seems like there is rarely any meat. Or paper products such as toilet paper and paper towels. And no hand sanitizer.

The same is true of certain medicines and rubbing alcohol. Plus staples including bread, potatoes, eggs, soup, rice and pasta.

On the plus side, grocers remain confident they can continually replenish most food items. At least for now, and as long as the supply chain is not disrupted.

Supply chain doing OK

Rodney McMullen is the CEO of Kroger grocery stores. Here’s what he told the Cincinnati Enquirer about the supply chain.

“We asked President Trump and Vice President Pence to let people know there’s plenty of food and plenty of things in the supply chain,” he said.

“And as long as customers just buy what they need and don’t hoard, there will be no problems at all.”

Companies such as Kroger are set up to continually ship and refill store shelves. Factories are working around the clock to help fill shelves that have been picked clean.

‘No reason to be concerned’

Others are in agreement with McMullen regarding the stability of the supply chain.

Julie Anna Potts is president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute. She says there is “no reason to be concerned or even anxious” about the food supply chain. “We are not going to run out of food in this country.”

Lowell Randel compares the grocery store issues to buying sprees before a storm. He’s the vice president of government and legal affairs for the Global Cold Chain Alliance. It’s a trade group representing the refrigerated warehouse and delivery industry.

Reporting no disruptions is the National Chicken Council. All processing plants are running, according to a company statement. Council spokesperson Tom Super said, “There’s ample chicken here in the U.S.”

‘The food is there’

One thing that is helping the food supply chain deliver food to grocery stores is the fact that many restaurants and bars have closed. Or have limited capacity.

Other closings and shutdowns have meant more food for grocery stores. They include school and college cafeterias, as well as cruise ships.

David McInerney is the CEO of FreshDirect. He says, “The food is there. It’s just going into different spots.”

The food supply chain in the U.S. is being taxed like never before. But hopes are that it will catch up with in-store demand. 

Other food buying options

We all know it’s important to have non-perishable survival food ready and waiting for situations such as the one we find ourselves in.

In fact, FEMA suggests that you have enough food and water to get you and your family through at least 72 hours of an emergency. At the bare minimum.

You might not have an emergency food supply. However, there are things you can do to acquire food when store shelves are empty.

Here are a few suggestions:

Watch for dedicated store hours

Find out which stores in your area are offering dedicated hours for those most in need. Check their current hours of operation as well. Some stores are closing an hour earlier than normal for thorough cleanings.

Target stores nationwide have set aside the first hour of shopping every Wednesday morning. It’s for “the elderly and those with underlying health concerns.”

There is no set age for this, and no one will be asked to prove they have an underlying condition. So, they are asking younger and able-bodied people not to shop during that hour.

Walmart stores will open one hour earlier than normal on Tuesdays for customers 60 and older.

Albertsons stores are reserving two hours Tuesday and Thursday mornings for vulnerable shoppers. Such as seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. The stores include Safeway, Acme and Vons.

Shop online

Online food suppliers are having the same types of issues that supermarkets are. Many of them can’t keep enough in their warehouses to fulfill orders.

But if your local grocery stores have too many empty shelves for your liking, it’s worth it to try to find an online retailer that can help.

Among online retailers selling food and supplies are Amazon, Costco and Sam’s Club. Yes, you can visit Costco’s and Sam’s Club’s brick-and-mortar stores. But their online supplies don’t come from their stores, so they may have some things you can’t find in-store.

And, of course, you can purchase survival food online from companies such as 4Patriots.  

Pantries, shelters, kitchens and bartering

Food Pantries: Most pantries have stocked up on food since the previous crisis. So, hopefully they will be stocked.

Emergency Shelters: While the goal of a shelter is to have shelter, they usually have food in the form of donations from concerned citizens.

Soup Kitchens: These havens for the hungry are even more crowded during a crisis than normal. Getting there when they open usually helps.

Bartering: Maybe you don't have food in a crisis. But perhaps you have something else that someone needs and is willing to trade for.

We live in trying times. Finding the food and other supplies we need to feed ourselves and our families can be challenging.

Hopefully some of the ideas presented here today will help.


  • Renae A Young - April 04, 2020

    DollarTree has lots of food all the time. Most don’t realize they now have freezers and refrigerators now.

  • Eddie Padilla - April 03, 2020

    Thanks for the tips! Great information
    and we all appreciate your whole team.
    You have great products!

    God Bless and God Bless America!

    Eddie P

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