empty shelves

Where to Find Basic Essentials When the Shelves are Empty

The disruption to U.S. food supply chains continues to play out in grocery stores and supermarkets across the country. Our best proactive move is to know where and how to find basic essentials when prices skyrocket or shelves are empty.

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.

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 most economical and family-friendly complete meal kit service out there (others claim to be cheaper, but when you consider how many ingredients you may have to come up with to supplement what comes in their kits/boxes, it’s not only frustrating and time-consuming, you may end up spending way more than you bargained for)—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 shortages

Should we face shortages of toilet paper and 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.


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 it appears that the isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol shortages are behind us (for now) we need to know how to respond and react should that problem reappear. While I don’t know how to make it myself, 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, may be a good alternative for making disinfecting wipes and homemade hand sanitizer. I say “may be,” 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!

You can look for updates to this information as we move through the days ahead.


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2 replies
  1. Tina says:

    We are so thankful for your common sense, always relevant solutions!! It’s definitely time for all of us to stop bemoaning our situation and start being more creative!

  2. Mary says:

    You may be able to buy yeast from a bakery also. In spring 2020 when dry yeast was not available in stores, I purchased a pound of cake yeast from a local bakery for $1. I hadn’t baked with cake yeast, aka fresh yeast, for years, but it worked perfectly once I proofed a small cube in some sweetened water.


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