Over the weekend, I had a particular brand of milk on my grocery list as part of my latest shopping run. It took me visits to four different stores to find it, but I was eventually successful. Who knows, for sure, why I encountered so many different empty shelves at several different grocery stores near me. Maybe they’ve changed up the schedule for when they restock inventory. Perhaps they’re a bit short-staffed at the moment. Maybe it’s both of those, or something else entirely. Point is, it’s very much a reality that some disruptions are still a part of the grocery shopping experience right now.
It’s also important to point out: That same reality is very unevenly distributed across the country. Some shoppers might only encounter this for a very specific item or two, like I did. It might be more pervasive for other shoppers. And yet, other shoppers might find their local stores generally full, with an ample supply of most everything. But it’s important to remember that point, about the unequal distribution of it all. The pandemic did not exert a uniform toll across the US, and neither is its aftermath — including its economic toll.
Empty grocery shelves 2022
If you encounter shortages like the one I mentioned above, meanwhile, one thing to keep in mind is that you’re not helpless to them. At least, not necessarily.
If you’re not wedded to a specific brand or a specific item? You’ve got options. One thing you can do, experts recommend, is utilize your grocery store’s website or app beforehand, to make sure an item is actually available and in stock before you make a fruitless trip.
Some other tips:
- Venture off your beaten path. After Target, where I usually shop and was expecting to find the milk brand I wanted, I next tried two Kroger stores. When I struck out there, I then found what I was looking for in a nearby Walmart’s grocery section.
- Also, consider trying a different or generic brand, if you can. I couldn’t do that for the milk I wanted, because it was a very specific kind I needed. But that’s not to say the milk section at any of these stores was barren, by any means. For other kinds of shortages, too, this is definitely an easy option — as a fallback.
Grocery stores out of stock
As far as some of the factors driving all this? A new report this week from The Wall Street Journal points to food-industry executives and analysts who warn this situation “could persist for weeks or months.”
Depending on where you live, as we noted above, the impact of these trends will be different. Per the WSJ, one grocery chain in the Southeast US, for example, had to hire temporary workers to pitch in for one-third of its distribution center employees who got sick. In Massachusetts, employees falling ill was cited as the reason for a slowdown in the availability of fish for supermarkets and restaurants.
And at one company in Arizona, one in 10 processing plant and distribution employees were out sick recently.
Shoppers around the US, meanwhile, have reported shortages across many different product categories, as we reported here. Including everything from cat food to pasta to certain medicines. Though, again, not every part of the US will see the same effects of these shortages — and the factors driving them.