Were hordes of selfish Britons really squirreling away 90 tins of tuna each? As the fog of panic dissipates, the answer is clear: No. Instead, the data show that small changes in the habits of a minority of shoppers prompted lurid headlines about empty shelves—which then made others, quite rationally, change their behavior. That has led to short-term supply issues.
Those words caught my interest in a recent MSN news alert. The article that followed confirmed some reasons why our @HomeCrazzyHome was better situated than most to weather this crisis – and how I can and will do better in the future. I encourage you all to read it for yourself.
The bottom line though was that hashtags like #PanicBuying, #StopHoarding, and others which implied the problem were misleading. It was not #preppers or people like me who had topped up existing stocks days and weeks in advance of the rush on stores that was the problem.
The true problem was the people sending those tweets. And the stores and warehouses that were caught unprepared for a crisis that has been looming for all of 2020. The problem was the almost instantaneous nature of the supply chain itself. Shoppers who only purchase a single meal on the way home from work, stores who have, in a valid attempt to minimize waste, developed tracking and stocking systems that accommodate that pattern.
That has never been how I shop. And though I too have been guilty of copying that pattern more than I perhaps should, it is not at the core of our @HomeCrazzyHome. So, how do I shop and why did that help in this crisis?
Alan gives me a monthly household allowance for my personal use and to buy groceries. So, when he transfers that into my account, I do a massive monthly shop. Some of it, I do online, especially Tesco, as the quantities are too large to transport via a taxi (we don’t drive for environmental reasons). I also use Amazon pantry for some things.
How much do I usually spend online? Around £200 per month. How much did I spend this month? Double that, but that is misleading since about £150 of that went to our local food pantry. The bottom line, I spent perhaps £100 more than the average month to top up a three-month pantry.
The problem was that even ten days to two weeks ahead of the crisis all the delivery slots were booked solid. So, I had no choice but to do my shopping in my local store. And yes, I got loads of nasty looks. Especially on that second trip when most of my purchases were for the food pantry. My bad, I should have thought of them on that first trip.
The other thing that I do, though far less than I used to when I lived in America, is that when I do shop in-store, I go from shop to shop. I buy my meats at M&S. I buy frozen and canned goods at Icelands, who will then deliver my order to the house later that day or the next.
But I also have two secret weapons in my arsenal that many shoppers overlook.
1) Ethnic Shops – Swansea is a wonderfully diverse place for such a small city, and its offering of small grocers reflects that. Just down the hill from me are a dozen or more shops that offer a variety of bulk items, exotic fruit, and vegetables from around the world. I buy my rice in ten to twenty-kilo bags from a Chinese store. My vegetable oil in five-gallon metal containers from the Turkish shop. And I check out each one for that fresh fruit and veg.
2) Farmers Markets – These are an excellent source of ethically sourced and locally grown dairy, meat, and produce. I have touted this one before because if you get to know these people many will even be happy to supply your needs in more sustainable packaging such as reusable plastic containers that you supply. What is more, since I know them and am a regular customer, I am awaiting an order of meat, delivered to my door right now.
Yes, doing those things has meant that our @HomeCrazzyHome is better situated for its up to four months or more of total self-isolation. But this has also highlighted some failings in my own supply chain.
As I said before, when I lived in America, I would get weekly circular advertising special sales from all the grocery stores. I would go through each of them, circling what I felt were good deals. I would then compare the offers and select the best ones. We would go from store to store buying the cheapest at each one.
I have gotten exceedingly lax with this one. Partly this is because very few of the stores in the UK send out those circulars. But the other reason is that we don’t drive and most of those discount stores are too far out of town for me to walk. I don’t want to impose on my friends, though before they moved to America we had one who would ask if we wanted anything before she went to her local discount chain.
Once this is over, that is going to change. I am going back to shopping in those discount chains, whether that means ‘imposing’ on friends or paying for taxis. This type of comparison shopping especially allows you to stock up on those essential can goods like tomatoes, beans, and tuna that are just preparedness staples.
The reason that I keep writing this blog is to encourage everyone to be more prepared. Yes, this crisis is uncomfortable and most, myself included, got caught with our knickers down.
But I honestly believe this is just the goddess’s gentle warning to remind us how much worse things can get. As I have said before and will keep warning, global warming, mass extinction, and the environment are still looming, not that far on the horizon. It is my hope that my words will encourage even one to be more prepared. It is a lifestyle worth doing.
Goddess bless and keep you all,
From our @HomeCrazzyHome to yours.