Grocery Shopping During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I usually go grocery shopping on Saturday and I only had one bag of Trader Joe’s orange chicken, peanut butter, half a bag of berries and a bag of frozen Brussel sprouts. I do a weeks’ worth of shopping and maybe a few extras. It was one of the most bizarre experiences I have ever experienced. I love grocery shopping but it was the one time I was just like, man this is a really rough situation. I went with my dad who was just in disbelief he couldn’t even buy cheap toilet paper. Some food things to know about me to give some background before we discuss my day and get a view of my buying habits. I have peripheral neuropathy and muscle damage so I do best on low carb foods (not keto) and higher fats. I can not digest a variety of ingredients that involve all legumes, whole wheat, flaxseed, and chia. I live in the DMV area and shopping in two different states. I get some financial food assistance and will note if I spent that or my monthly money. This post is just an exploration of my thoughts and experiences.

First stop of the day. All out of caramel and mocha syrup. I mentioned that probably other Saturday shoppers decided to treat themselves as well. I got the French vanilla instead it wasn’t bad. I heard the blueberry is good so I’ll try that one day. Can you get two flavors?

Lidl- Noon
The first store of the day. The first thing I noticed, there were plenty of baked goods! I mean a lot. I enjoy their croissants but they’re not big enough for sandwiches so I left it alone. I think the virus-induced panic shopping wouldn’t be so severe if people knew how long they should probably stay in. Then add on people whose kids are now going to be home for at least a month you need to stock up. The produce in the boxes was getting low. The only items I saw fully stocked were tomatoes and potatoes. Almost untouched. I thought potatoes were popular? I feel like that is a substantial vegetable that could be used in so many ways. I didn’t but any because my hands are too unpredictable to be peeling and cutting that much (they go into paralysis when they feel like it or get shaky out of nowhere) and also, they can make me feel fatigued sometimes. There were a few bags of iceberg left which didn’t shock me. What did, however, was just the lack of your more basic vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, corn. Also, are y’all not buying riced vegetables like that anymore? There was a lot of it left. I personally don’t because I don’t like stalks but I thought it was popular. The seafood section was decent besides no raw shrimp. Then I got to the meats. I have never seen such a lack of chicken and pork. Not even whole chicken. Plenty of red meat. There were maybe 15 packs of wings left and I bought two. I was still hopeful that I would be able to find other things. I didn’t get too anxious until I noticed 90% of the vegetables were gone. I’m 28 and I just never thought there would be a day where I couldn’t buy broccoli. There were a lot of frozen pizzas, seafood,  different kinds of pasta left though. The fresh stuff seemed to be most affected and some canned items. Lots of dented cans left.

Here’s what I bought-
Whole fresh natural wings 1.81 lb $4.14 (I don’t buy this often but I'm thinking about it because thighs get old and so does rotisserie chicken)
A second pack 1.56 lb $3.57

Kale Chips- $2.99 ( I love these and wanted to get more but I was trying to not go over the top although I’m still thinking about if I should have got more. )

Organic Baby Kale $2.99 (trying to expand my green leaf vegetables)
Paprika $0.79 (my favorite seasoning besides smoked paprika)
Broccoli Quiche $2.29
Sweet Relish $0.95
Brazi Bites Bread $4.49 (I love this. It’s made from tapioca flour. Recently came to my attention Costco sells these)

Dijon Mustard $0.89
Habanero Pepper Jack Cheese $3.89
Sopressata $3.39
Pork Carnitas $5.99
Zucchini Spirals $2.49 (one of the last few)
Organic Popcorn $1.59
2 Skyr Yogurts $1.98
Organic Frozen Strawberries $2.29
Olive Oil $ 4.99
Stuffed Salmon $3.49
Total: 52.70 (assistance money)

Most of this stuff is usually things I buy or keep around for that one random recipe. I tend to get food that doesn’t involve too much prep because of my neuropathy. A few new to me items but nothing panic bought or anxiety-driven.

Aldi at 1pm-
This was a quick trip because there was less than half of the store stocked. No meats, milk, low produce, not even a lot of canned items. This is when I started to get a little anxious. Still a strong lack of green vegetables. No onions or herbs in sight except dill. The only cheese that was left was some sliced cheese and shredded cheddar. Not a Mexican blend or Italian insight. Plenty of feta though that was great. Second store without any nut milk. I noticed that any store with milk left it was whole milk or half and half. I don’t drink it but I thought it was popular?

Here’s what I got:
Lobster Mac N Cheese $5.99 (this was on my list, its new and caught my eye)
Shrimp and Lobster Bake $5.99 (this was an anxiety purchase. After seeing another store with a lack of meat I decided that I can't be too picky. )

Organic Mixed Greens $2.49
Feta $2.19
Beer Battered Filets $3.99
Coleslaw $1.49
Total: 22.14 (assistance money)

Mom’s Organic Market at 1:13 pm
I do not usually shop at organic markets. It’s really expensive and you can get organic products at more affordable stores. My dad was going in for produce and I was hoping for nut milk. This store had some stuff missing but I didn’t even walk the whole thing. I did find the last bit of broccoli left so I grabbed it. I felt kinda bad about it but I was starting to worry about not getting enough vegetables this week. I have never spent that type of money on broccoli before. Once I grabbed it, I went to look for the milk because the prices are high! I wanted to get something I knew I would eat. I don’t think this is the time to experiment with something you really might not care about like radishes or beets. I was able to get one of the last few cashew milks which is my favorite because of the texture. Completely out of almond and plain soy milk. Plenty of macadamia nut milk though. Not going to be shocked when it was almost $7. Is it that good? I still keep wondering if I should have bought some of the milk situations that don’t improve. I don’t digest cow milk very well. Wasn’t in here long either, nice store but out of my price range.

Here’s what I got:
Fresh Organic Broccoli 1.64lbs for $4.08
Organic Cashew Milk $3.29 on sale
Total $7.37 (personal money)

Target 1:45 pm
Store 4 with no avocados. I have never seen that in my 28 years of life. Even when there was that shortage last year, they were still out just really expensive. Also still no sign of Italian blend cheese. Plenty of red meat though. There were some pre-seasoned chicken and pork left. I didn’t buy any because I thought I had enough and also let's be honest it didn’t look great. Dad was able to find paper towels though. Very large jugs of water that were in front of the store but I didn’t see anyone buying it. I didn’t because I already have water that was bought two weeks ago and I can use the fridge if things get really desperate. While trying to browse for things I need at a slightly faster pace because I know the less, you’re out the better, I connected the dots and noticed that the only nut kinds of butter I have seen are almond or the more exotic blends. I’m talking over $10 dollars. So, I got two samples. I really was trying to be aware of not doing the most because other people haven’t had a chance to be out. I didn’t need to buy the mixed nut butter for 13 dollars. I still have some peanut butter left (not a lot but I only put it in smoothies sometimes). I noticed I was trying to be more mindful than usual if something is low. Also, I don’t want to just eat that for however long. Something else I was thinking about because I was trying to distract myself is that no one was in a huge rush or being nasty with each other. No one was being too leisurely. There was urgency but it felt pretty controlled.

Here are the food items I got:
Good and Gather Shredded Mexican Cheese $1.99
Good and Gathered Salted Butter $2.99 (five stores later)
Justin’s Almond Butter Sample $0.99
RX Bar Vanilla Almond Honey Nut Spread Sample $1.25 (4 cents off apparently?)
Total: 7.22 (personal money)

International Market 3:19 pm
Twitter definitely helped to remind me about checking them out. I do shop at these stores occasionally; I just tend to do Aldi or Lidl more for budget reasons more than anything else. This was the most relaxed environment all day. Perhaps because they were about 75% stocked. There was so much selection. New to me things I’ve never seen or if I have only on TV. I have never seen jellyfish for sale so that was interesting.  I learned what jackfruit looks like in real life (absolutely humongous) and sugar plums are real food. Plenty of avocados! Cases of water and quite a few single bottles as well. I only got two but I will say they were either very solid or almost overripe. The first store I saw Italian cheese as well. It was busy but so calm until I walked by the seafood section. No raw shrimp or salmon. I noticed that there was plenty of meat except pork. However, the only chicken left was the more exotic parts. Backs, feet, organs, etc. I just don’t know how to cook those or quite frankly what to do with them. A lot of the meats looked super interesting but I want a plan to cook them and be prepared to spend the money on a lot of the higher-priced items. Also like I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t trying to spend too much extra time out in public.

Here’s what I got:
Pre Cut Squash $1.99
2 Hass avocado $3.58
Seafood Mushrooms $1.49
Italian Cheese $1.79
Total 9.07 (personal money)

Aldi’s (Different Location) 3:29 pm
This trip was just for wine. It’s affordable and good quality. There was a decent amount left but some very huge gaps like the cheapest section were 90% gone. I usually get the $2.99 bottles but there wasn’t much left at all. That was one thing that truly surprised me. I decided to try a new one In a flavor I like in general. All of the bottles that cost more than $15 were fully stocked.

Here's what I Got: 

Red Moscato $4.95
Prosciutto $2.69 (impulse buy, I usually get cheaper versions of cured pork but I couldn’t ignore the price.
Total: 8.01 (personal money)

Walmart 4pm
Last store of the day. There was a level of intensity among shoppers. I usually don’t go to these many stores but since this virus is an issue I did. I was getting tired. This store is the only one I noticed a loud argument over the last pack of napkins. It was older women who were a bit surprising. There was some produce, the most lettuce I saw. Lots of potatoes and vegan products. I can't have a lot of those but there was a decent selection. I finally found almond milk. I got a more expensive brand because I didn’t want to buy chocolate and there wasn’t a lot of milk left. Plenty of creamers that I was excited about. The only meat I saw was red meat and turkey breast. I was looking for those travel packs of tissue but there was none at all. I should have looked at the target. I had a grocery list but it got to a point I was just trying to get things at a reasonable price.
Food Items I got:
Strawberry Margarita in a Can $2.50
Crush Pineapple Flavor Packs $2.00 ( no one else had much selection left)
Hershey Creamer $2.77
Almond Milk $3.48

Final thoughts:
I wonder if stores don’t restock quickly if people will either buy more luxury meats and seafood or find other solutions. Will this issue cause people to branch out more? To be honest I might if I spend more time learning cooking preparations. Will prices on red meat and crab decrease to move product? Whenever I saw meat available almost every cut of red meat was available. I know I don’t buy red meat much because of mainly the price. I do hope this teaches people who can afford to be more prepared to keep a small stash. I want stores to start settings limits as well before it gets to a crisis point. I hope this also shows people alternatives as well and maybe learn how to cook more with cheaper items.