Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Where to Find Basic Essentials When the Shelves are Empty

As the disruption to U.S. food supply chains continues to play out in grocery stores and supermarkets, our best proactive move is to know where and how to find basic essentials when prices skyrocket or shelves are empty.

Good news! Finding the essentials you need may not require you to stand in long lines or spend hours clicking through Amazon search results only to be disappointed over and again.

Today, I have alternatives for you to consider, plus options for where to find the essentials you need.


While we’re being told there’s no shortage of food in the U.S., for whatever reason, fresh meat and poultry have pretty much disappeared. And when found, you’ll discover shockingly high prices, at least for now.

Reasonable alternatives for fresh meat and poultry are canned options that are just as nutritious such as tuna, albacore, salmon, chicken, corned beef and Spam! And don’t forget the frozen food aisle, where meat, seafood and poultry seem to be more plentiful.

Another option is to consider this challenge the perfect opportunity to try out more meatless meals built around eggs, cheese and other nonmeat protein.


Home Chef meal kits with contactless delivery right to your front door are looking better than ever, starting at $6.95 per meal, with no delivery fees or gratuities. Home Chef continues to be the most economical and family-friendly complete meal kit service out there. Others claim to be cheaper, but when you consider how many ingredients you may have to come up with to supplement what comes in their kits/boxes, it’s not only frustrating and time-consuming but you may end up spending way more than you bargained for. Home Chef is available for delivery in 95% of the U.S. And, of course, you can cancel at any time. It may be time to give Home Chef a try.


While supermarket baking shelves continue to be cleaned out, online sources like King Arthur Flour (shop.kingarthurbaking.com) and Bob’s Red Mill (bobsredmill.com) are fairly well-stocked; however, that changes day by day. Keep checking.

Webstaurant (webstaurantstore.com) is another online resource for flour. Just know you’ll be dealing with professional baker quantities in 25-pound or even 50-pound bags. An easy solution there is for family and friends to go in together on those large quantities.

Another option for flour is to call a local bakery. One reader reports that she called a local bakery in her city to inquire if they might be willing to sell flour. The answer was a resounding “yes!” She picked up 25 pounds for just $18 and got to support a local business at the same time. It just may be worth your time to make a call.


Can’t find yeast anywhere to save your soul? I know the feeling. But good news! You can make it yourself using just two ingredients: flour and water. No joke!

In just five to seven days, you will have a beautiful sourdough starter (yeast) made from scratch. This is so amazing. Look for complete step-by-step instructions at TheKitchn.com for how to start, feed and bake fabulous sourdough bread using your homemade yeast.


Should we face shortages of toilet paper, and you absolutely cannot find toilet paper locally at Walmart, Target, supermarkets, Costco or Sam’s Club, turn to online and janitorial suppliers.

Also, check out online wholesale suppliers Clean It Supply and Total Restroom, where you’ll find those jumbo-sized, two-ply rolls you’d usually find in public restroom stalls in stock, at least today. It’s nice if you’re in a pinch.


While it appears that the isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol shortages are behind us (for now), we need to know how to respond and react should that problem reappear. While I don’t know how to make it myself, I have an alternative for you to consider — and please consider this very carefully. It is a little odd, but a possible substitute, nonetheless.

Denatured alcohol, available online and also in the paint aisle of home improvement stores like Home Depot, might be a good alternative for making disinfecting wipes and homemade hand sanitizer. I say “might be” because I’m going to insist that you research this and come to your own conclusion. Start here.

The bottom line is that isopropyl alcohol and denatured alcohol have much the same disinfecting properties, albeit with different chemical makeups. Denatured alcohol is stronger and best diluted with water. Denatured alcohol has a stronger odor than rubbing alcohol, and it is readily available, usually by the gallon.

Both types of alcohol are flammable, so don’t be surprised by that. Also, both types are NOT TO BE INGESTED.

Altering our shopping habits in order to get what we need has been quite a wake-up call, hasn’t it? The change has been inconvenient, to say the least. But it continues to lead us to understand our food supply system. And look how creative we’ve become in finding what we need!

For more specific information and links to these resources, meet me at EverydayCheapskate.com/emptyshelves/.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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