empty shelves

Where to Find Basic Essentials When the Shelves are Empty

The disruption to U.S. food supply chains is now playing out in grocery stores and supermarkets across the country. It seems like shoppers empty the shelves just as quickly as supermarkets can restock, especially on high-demand items like non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, and, of course, toilet paper. empty shelves

Good news! Finding the essentials you need may not require you to stand in long lines or spend hours clicking through Amazon search results, only to be disappointed over and again.

Today, I have alternatives for you to consider plus options for where to find the essentials you need that are—surprise!—in stock.

Meat, poultry

While we’re being told there’s no shortage of food in the US—for whatever reason, fresh meat and poultry have pretty much disappeared. And when found you’ll discover shockingly high prices, at least for now.

Reasonable alternatives for fresh meat and poultry are canned options that are just as nutritious like tuna, albacore, salmon; chicken, corned beef, and … Spam! And don’t forget the frozen food aisle where meat, seafood, and poultry seem to be more plentiful.

Pro tip

Consider this challenge the perfect opportunity to try out more meatless meals, built around eggs, cheese and other non-meat protein.

Meal Kits

Home Chef meal kits with contactless delivery right to your front door are looking better than ever, starting at  $6.95 per meal—with no delivery fees or gratuities. You can still use this link to get $35 off your first order, and that looks like free food to me! Seriously, that is a great deal for excellent quality fresh food that is super easy to prepare.

Home Chef continues to be the cheapest and most family-friendly meal kit service out there—available for delivery in 95% of the US. And of course, you can cancel at any time. Might be time to give Home Chef a try.


While supermarket baking shelves continue to be cleaned out, online sources like King Arthur Flour and Bob’s Red Mill are fairly well stocked; however, that changes day by day. Keep checking.

Webstaurant is another online resource for flour. Just know you’ll be dealing with professional baker quantities in 25-pound or even 50-pound bags. An easy solution there is for family and friends to go in together on those large quantities.

Another option for flour is to call a local bakery. One reader reports that she called a local bakery in her city to inquire if they might be willing to sell flour. The answer was a resounding Yes! She picked up 25 pounds for just $18 and got to support a local business at the same time. It just might be worth your time to make a call.


Can’t find yeast anywhere to save your soul? I know the feeling. But good news! You can make it yourself using just two ingredients—flour and water. No joke!

In just 5 to 7 days, you will have a beautiful sourdough starter (yeast) made from scratch. This is so amazing. Complete step-by-step instructions here for how to start, feed, and bake fabulous sourdough bread using your homemade yeast.

Toilet paper

If you absolutely cannot find toilet paper locally at Walmart, Target, supermarkets, Costco, or Sam’s Club—turn to online and janitorial suppliers.

While not the lowest price you’ll ever pay, No.2 Toilet Paper has high quality, 3-ply luxury TP in stock right now.

Also check out wholesale suppliers Clean It Supply and Total Restroom where you’ll find those jumbo-sized, two-ply rolls you’d usually find in public restroom stalls in stock, at least today. Nice if you’re in a pinch.

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.

Personal protection

As I write, boxes of 50 face masks are available at Clean It Supply; also large size hand sanitizers.



Our favorite SNiPER Hospital Disinfectant Cleaner and Odor Eliminator is back in stock and available right now with free shipping. It goes fast so a word to the wise should be sufficient.

NOTE: We hear from Ted at Nok-Out that the sprayer tops that usually come with Nok-Out products are in super short supply, as they are imported from you-probably-know-where. Ted says, “Do not toss out your sprayer tops! Soon we will have no choice but to ship product without sprayers.”


Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol

While stores like Costco and Kroger are still having problems restocking with lowly rubbing alcohol these days, both  Amazon and Walmart stores are currently stocked. Crazy, isn’t’ it? But for now, that’s the way it is.

I have an alternative for you to consider—and please consider this very carefully. It is a little odd, but a possible substitute nonetheless.

Denatured alcohol, available online and also in the paint aisle of home improvement stores like Home Depot, maybe a good alternative for making disinfecting wipes and homemade hand sanitizer. I say “maybe,” because I’m going to insist that you research this and come to your own conclusion. Start here.

Bottom line is that isopropyl alcohol and denatured alcohol have much the same disinfecting properties, albeit with different chemical makeup. Denatured alcohol is stronger and best diluted with water. Denatured alcohol has a stronger odor than rubbing alcohol. And it is readily available and usually by the gallon.

Both types of alcohol are flammable, so don’t be surprised by that. Both types—isopropyl alcohol and denatured alcohol—are NOT TO BE INGESTED.

Altering our shopping habits in order to get what we need has been quite a wake-up call, hasn’t it? The change has been inconvenient, to say the least. But it continues to lead us to understand our food supply system. And look how creative we’ve become in finding what we need!


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13 replies
  1. Nancy Chancey says:

    Mary,You are a treasure!
    Thank you for all the wonderful tips and information you share with us.
    God bless you and your family and keep you safe.

  2. Diane Heim says:

    King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill are both out of regular flours. All they have currently are gluten-free flours.

    • Patty Hazelrigg says:

      My total cost for 1 box (meals for 2 people) is $49.95. I do not always use the ingredients as suggested, but the food is good.

      • Mary says:

        You’re probably order 3 meals, 2 servings each. Am I right? So that’s 6 meals total.

  3. Shirley says:

    Mary, Your ideas and suggestions are very much appreciated. Right now, when things are so seemingly out-of-control, your articles are extremely helpful. I read every column and save most of them. Thank you. You are always a bright spot in my day!

  4. Alice says:

    Hi Mary, Thanks for the tip on how to make your own yeast. I plan to give the sour dough starter a try. I have been unsuccessful in finding whole wheat, rye or bread flour from King Arthur, and have been on a notification list for when those are restocked. They do have all purpose white flour in stock at present. I have been trying to obtain rubbing alcohol, but to no avail. Walmart’s site says that it is available in store only, but there was none in stock in my nearby local store. Thank you for all the tips you are providing and for your wonderful recipes, many of which I have pinned.

    • Maria says:

      Alice, try looking in the dollar stores for rubbing alcohol. I found it in Dollar Tree if you have them in your area. I am in the Northeast. Good luck.

  5. Barb says:

    Thank you so much Mary for passing along this information. Any tips on how to choose the best deal for toilet paper from the 3 sites you mention? I can’t figure out the best way to compare them. Thank you!


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