• Grocery shopping during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is one of so many mundane things we used to take for granted that’s dramatically changed.
  • Retailers like Target and Walmart have scaled back their hours, implemented social distancing guidelines, and the products you want, needless to say, aren’t always in stock.
  • Two college students have built a website, Instok.org, that checks retailers near you to let you know what items are, like the name says, in stock.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Shopping for groceries and other household essentials during the coronavirus crisis has become something of a complex logistical challenge to navigate. Never mind the safety aspect — of making sure you keep a good distance from other shoppers, practicing good hygiene, and sanitizing your hands. Groceries and other stores like Target generally have shortened hours now because of the pandemic. Moreover, you can’t count on a guarantee of the items you want being in-stock at your preferred store nearby, the way we all took for granted in the days before this crisis.

Checking websites for in-stock items before you set out to the store is probably a good idea, so that you’re not rolling the dice on whether an item is actually there or not (although it’s still a bit of a gamble, because I’ve found plenty of instances where a site says something like an item is there but in “limited availability,” which ends up really meaning it may or may not be there). Instead of checking multiple sites for different items, though, two students at the University of Texas have built a one-stop-shop website (Instok.org) that lets you type in specific items and see where all it’s in stock near you.

The students are Rithwik Pattikonda and Darshan Bhatta, a sophomore and freshman, respectively, studying computer science.  Pattikonda told USA Today he got the idea to build the site when he saw his parents having trouble locating essential grocery items. “Instead of going to seven or eight stores,” he told the paper, “(visitors to the site) can choose one or two stores and get their items.”

Here’s what you see from the Instok search page, after you’ve input an item you want to search for and then a Zip code. In this case, I chose to search for bread and input a Zip code for Downtown Chicago. Results for Target are at the top, but you can keep scrolling down the page for other retailers:

The site also provides an option to monitor the stock of items and send you a text message when an item you want is back in stock. Also worth knowing, the site takes its info directly from the websites of retailers themselves, saying you a bit of time.

It provides a little extra detail about specific retailers, like Walgreens:

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.