How to deal with food shortages and unpredictability

Some specific items are not being produced at this time and will not be available for some time. Others are gone for good. And bare shelves may be due to reduced delivery schedules in markets. But in many cases, locating the must-haves on your shopping list comes down to tactics. Try these ideas and, if you can, also contact the seller before shopping in a store or buying online to ensure that the product you want is available in real time.

• Be friendly with your grocer. Ask the manager of your favorite store when shipments of your product typically arrive and be at the store at that time (or send a proxy). Depending on your relationship with the manager, they may set the items aside for you. Or they may have a line indicating if the item has been abandoned.

• Be an early riser. Deliveries from major manufacturers to major grocery chains and outlet stores typically take place between 4 and 7 a.m., Flickinger notes. “If there’s a product available, it’s stocked at 8 a.m.,” he says, “but it may sell out at 10 a.m.”

• Go to a warehouse club. Assuming you like the limited selections at BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, and Sam’s Club, you’re more likely to find what you want there. These stores receive 12 to 20 deliveries per week from branded manufacturers compared to three to six for a typical supermarket, Flickinger says. Brand manufacturers favor warehouse clubs because their orders are less complex than those of grocers, requiring less variety and fewer sizes, he explains. You can even save money: Costco scores highest for price competitiveness in CR Grocery and Supermarket Rankings.

• Check the manufacturer’s website. It may contain details about what affects the offer, as well as tools to help you find your favorites. PepsiCo, maker of Gatorade, attributes its tight supply situation to higher demand but also provides a link to a product locator which identifies nearby stores that should carry your favorite flavors. He has a similar tool for Fritos. The tool also connects you to delivery services through local grocers and third parties like Instacart and Amazon Fresh. But the fine print says, “*All products are subject to availability.” Translation: Call the store first.

• Post queries on company social media pages. Try this on Twitter and Facebook, on the pages of the makers and any major grocers you frequent. Just know that you might not always get an answer, and if you do, you might not like the answer. Condolences are in order, for example, for the Twitter poster who received a reply from @KelloggsUS: “Hello – we’re sad to say that Rice Krispies Treats Cereal has been discontinued. You may, however, enjoy Rice Krispies Cereal Frosted or Cocoa Krispies. Have you tried them?”

• Seek help from other consumers on social media. In a recent NextDoor article in the Hartsdale, NY area, a plea for help finding Fancy Feast canned cat food generated over 90 responses, including advice on current availability at several local supermarkets. .

• Use store-sponsored and third-party grocery apps. Some store apps, like Target, will point to the nearest location where your item is in stock. Third party app Basketfor example, finds the products of your choice from a variety of local stores and also allows you to compare their prices.

• Check with independent grocers and convenience stores. They use different distribution systems than those used by traditional grocers. They can have a line on the items you want, even when they’re not at your local grocery store. When we scoured the Frito-Lay product locator for items in the New York metro area, it showed products available at convenience stores and bodegas rather than supermarkets.

• Sign up for a subscription delivery service. On this Fancy Feast NextDoor channel, for example, several reviewers mentioned finding their favorite flavors through, an online pet food delivery service.

• Look for wholesale sources. Typically, you’ll need to buy in bulk or larger sizes, so you’ll need the means and storage to make it worthwhile. After a poster on Reddit r/Shortages mentioned grabbing the last package of ready-to-bake Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls from his local store, we typed “pillsbury cinnamon roll” into Google’s search engine and found a case of 100 Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls Frozen Supreme – comparable in size to Pillsbury Grands, but not frosted – for $100.95 at FoodServiceDirect.

• Buy from a third party online. Some eBay resellers or third-party Amazon sellers may have what you want, but possibly at a higher price and with shipping costs. Pizza-flavored goldfish were definitely out of stock recently in stores in Odessa, Texas. Amazon and eBay also did not show individual packages. But consumers in Odessa could get an assortment of Goldfish packages through a third party on Amazon — six cheddar, six parmesan and six of that coveted pizza — for $23.55, delivered within a week. Shipping for Amazon Prime members was free.

• Be open to substitutions, especially private label items. CR has found that private label or private label items are as good as, or better than, comparable branded products, and can cost up to 25% less. Also, consider switching to a comparable food or drink that’s as healthy or healthier, says Amy Keating, a registered dietitian and nutritionist who leads CR’s food testing. “For snacks, I popped a lot of popcorn and salted it or added parmesan cheese,” she says. “It’s hot, fresh and cheap.”

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