Some of the grocery-store photos coming out of the coronavirus outbreak resemble those usually seen on Black Friday, or in towns awaiting hurricanes or blizzards.
Images capture emptied shelves, especially in cleaning supply and bathroom tissue sections, while some stores post limits on specific products.
Don’t give in to the panic buying. Be a smart shopper by using the tips we outline below to keep calm, and carry on.
1. Consider a meal kit
For more than a year now, I’ve had a box delivered to my house every Monday from a meal-kit service. Each box includes all the ingredients, plus recipes, for three dinners-for-two that I chose from an online menu.
And it’s been a lifesaver time and time again, when the clock ticks down to dinnertime and I realize we haven’t given thought to what to make. It’s especially helpful now that I’m trying to limit my exposure to large shopping crowds.
Meal kit services include HelloFresh, Blue Apron and others. Now, some grocery chains sell their own boxed meal kits as well. To learn more about the options, check out Money Talks News’ rundown of meal-kit services.
2. Don’t be a lemming
Make a list and stick to it. It’s silly to be swayed by a near-empty shelf of bath tissue when you’re in no danger of running out. If everyone continued to buy their normal amount of such staples, shortages wouldn’t be a problem.
For help making a smart shopping list in times like these, check out our articles like “10 Foods You Should Always Have In Your Pantry or Fridge” and “7 Tips For Building An Emergency Stockpile.”
3. Think creatively when choosing stores
Those people who panic and buy up all the bathroom tissue and bottled water at Costco are making it tough for those of us who only need a small amount. If you’re faced with empty shelves at your regular supermarket, consider which other types of stores may sell the items you need.
Office supply stores, for example, often dedicate several aisles to necessities such as bathroom tissue, coffee pods and water — all good supplies to have on hand. And some resturant supply stores are open to the public: I found my daughter’s favorite ramen noodle cups at one when grocery stores in our area didn’t sell them.
4. Use store pickup or delivery
No one likes elbowing through a crowded store, especially when you’re on edge about germs anyway. Thankfully, more and more retailers today offer store delivery or pickup.
Grocery store delivery can be a boon for the homebound, or those who really shouldn’t expose themselves to large crowds. And store pickup is ideal for those who don’t want to pay delivery fees.
5. Shop during off-hours
I was a cashier at a grocery store for two years, and always laughed at the difference between Saturday and Sunday shifts.
Saturdays dragged, with so few shoppers that I often spent hours just straightening the shelves. Sundays, however, buzzed with life, as families realized a new week of meals was approaching and started planning for it.
Figure out when your local stores are quiet and when they are crammed, and you won’t face a rush hour at the register.
6. Buy online when possible
Can you afford to wait a few days for your delivery? Online shopping can be the answer if you aren’t comfortable going out, and also if your stores are suffering shortages.
Of course, online vendors face the same demands on popular items such as cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer as brick-and-mortar stores. Don’t panic and pay $1,500 for a roll of Charmin on Amazon.
7. Use your freezer
Panic buying helps no one. Be ready next time. If you have a large freezer, or better yet, a second one, it’s only smart to keep a stockpile of items you use regularly. Ground beef, chicken breasts or thighs, pre-packaged fruit for snacks or smoothies — many frozen items last for months with no reduction in quality.
What are your best tips for shopping when others are panic-buying? Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.