Covid Thoughts: Grocery Store

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, about spending time with my daughter (there is also a follow up if you want to hear her playlist), and the inexplicably controversial idea of wearing a mask. Today’s entry is pretty short and to the point, the experience of grocery shopping.

20200529_084703This is me about to head to the grocery store today. Obviously, still wearing a mask, but have dropped wearing gloves as they have been shown to be unhelpful and the risk of surface contamination is must less than originally feared (this is how science work, hypothesis based on existing conditions and prior knowledge, then tested against updated data). You can also see that I have, unfortunately, not been able to get a hair cut yet.

The first drip during the pandemic was odd. We usually go to the store at the end of the week, so this was a full week of people being at home. I didn’t wear a mask, but had gloves, and when I cam back home, I took my shoes off in the garage and went straight upstairs to put my jeans and shirt in the laundry. I took a travel pack of Clorox and we also whipped everything down before putting it away.

As most of you know by know, there were massive shortages of many things, and then went a few returned, limits were placed on most. Some of the shortages or other issues we ran into:

Toilet Paper – This is the most famous of the shortage, and one that was pretty much stabilized. We were told to stay inside for two weeks, so people started buying 10 and 20 packs of paper. It took a few weeks for people to realize that they had bought nearly years worth of paper. Luckily, third party sellers (Amazon) stopped allowing people to sell them (as well as banning hand sanitizer) and most grocery stores stopped returns. As of today, which is the end of Week 10 as I’ve counted it, Aldi has had single ply packs for about three weeks, and I haven’t seen any in Publix. With one exception, and I don’t know the exact time. It was maybe Week 5 or 6, and I was there fairly early for some reason, and they were unloading all the toilet paper, I asked the guy for the biggest pack they had. He told me the limit was two, and asked if I wanted another. I told him, I didn’t want to be one of ‘those people’, but he said they fact that I cared meant I wasn’t, but that I should take another anyway, because so they would soon all be gone again. We haven’t even finished the first pack, so I feel good about that.

Baby Wipes – This might not have affected too many people, but the same jackassess who took all the toilet paper, also took a all the baby wipes. Normally, I suppose I wouldn’t care, but I happen to be quarantined with two infants, so this really started to piss me off. Luckily, as a gift, my mom bought me a giant pack (over 1,000) of wipes, and around the same time I found the toilet paper, I also found a three pack of wipes (as in three containers of 100 bound together) and grabbed two of those.

Paper Towels – This was another thing that was hoarded, and I’m not entirely sure why, unless they were back up toilet paper. All the stores were instantly out, and it wasn’t until around the time I found toilet paper did they have them again. I don’t know what normal people do, but Mrs. MMT uses paper towels like a villain from Captain Planet, so this was a huge issue for us (except it really wasn’t, we just used cloth napkins to eat and old washcloths to clean).

Hand Sanitizer/Soap/Clorox Wipes (and bleach for injecting) – This wasn’t really a big deal for us. Of course, all the stores were cleaned out instantly. People were hoarding hand sanitizer and then trying to sell it on mark up (this jackass is my favorite story). I wasn’t too worried about this, for two reasons, I read a story early on about the ridiculousness of sanitizer being empty while soap sat on the shelf (it was soon gone, but I grabbed a pack first) and we happened to have a few of the foam ones from the hospital. Also, we somewhat randomly (long story) had a few triple packs of full containers of wipes and maybe 10 travel packs.

Meat – This has been the wildest one. The first week, there was pretty much everything. It was right before St. Patrick’s, so I grabbed two corned beefs (they last a long time, I have one in there now that is use by the end of June). The next week I went, there was nothing. No meat at all, Aldi had a curtain over the section. The next week had some ground beef and dark meat chicken, so we smoked a bunch of wings. Publix was the same; this was the pattern for about a month. Close to Easter, there were a few hams, so we grabbed some of them, and pork was back, so I smoked shoulder. Still no white meat until maybe Week 8. Everything seems back to normal now, but warning of shortages(ish) are coming. The first problem was people hoarding, not it is not being able to process all the meat due to the amount of people out sick. I’ve read a few things that said we have plenty of meat, it just may not be the cuts (or not cut at all, like whole chickens) that Americans are used it. Of course, prices could always go up; which then makes all the right-wing ‘free-marketers’ want government investigations into ‘gouging’.

Bread – Most of the bread we eat comes from the Publix bakery, which seems to have no issues, at least in our area. Early on, all the sugar bread in the middle isles was gone, as were hamburger/hotdog buns. Maybe Week 3, Aldi had no bread at all, but I think that was a logistical/shipping issue. Bread hasn’t been an issue.

Frozen Fruit/Veggies – When this thing started the Nuggets were eating baby food, which for us means veggies blended up. So, I did hoard a little when it came to frozen veggies (especially whatever the ‘California mix’ was, which was cheap and they liked it) and grabbed a couple of bags of frozen fruit. Aldi always had some, but Publix until week 4 or so, was almost completely out of veggies. Have you ever been to a liberal city in a red state? People there are always quick to smugly point out that they are ‘blueberry in a tomato soup’ or something along those lines. That is kind of how it is where I live, but with it being South/Not South. The northside of this metro is basically Ohio or New Jersey. So, all frozen veggies were out except: butter beans, black eyed peas, okra, cut okra, collards. At least we were set.

Formula – When this started, we were going through about three containers of formula a week, so I’d usually grab four to have a little lead time. Sometimes Aldi only had three, so other weeks I’d get five or six. However, a few weeks in, they put a limit of two. I put four in the buggy anyway. I figured I could explain that I had two babies (show pictures if needed) and they’d understand. They did understand, and were sympathetic, but the limit is actually in the system; they literally could run the extra. It wasn’t too big a deal, I’d just hop back in line and buy the other two. Luckily, we are off formula now.

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Eggs/Milk – Of formula and straight into three to four gallons a milk a week. Luckily, by this transition, there was no more limit (though Aldi, due to how good the price it, usually has a four or six limit, I don’t remember which). There was never a shortage of milk. There was a fun on eggs maybe a week or so after the run on meat. We go through two or thee dozen a week, but never had issues, except the price has almost doubled. Still cheap and easy, though.

Beans/Pasta – This one was another that had a big run, then limits, though some of the limits have now been relaxed or removed. We are usually pretty well stocked with these, especially dry beans. Legumes are a staple for us and we eat them more days than we eat meat, and always use them to supplement meat. Similarly, we make a lot of soups with beans. They are also perfect for the Nuggets. All of our kids started on butter beans and it is one of their favorites (and mine) now. Luckily, they never went out of stock, and my parents grow them, so no issues there. Dry pasta seems to be back, but fresh or specialty is still short. It is more perishable, so I wonder if this is a logistical or change in production focus situation.

That is about it for the weird waves of things being in and out of stock. The Nuggets transitioned to eating solid foods and out of formula since this has started. Sprout went from eating two meal a day at school to all at home and likewise Mrs. MMT went from having business lunches almost every day, to eating them all at home. People often look at me like I am hoard, due to what feeding a family of five three meals a day, seven days a week looks like.

I’ll have only one pack of chicken, but four gallons of milk, three to four dozen eggs, three to four bunches of bananas (breakfast for the Nuggets, good for PB&J for Sprout), three to four bags of grapes (just because Mrs. MMT is crazy), and usually a 10 pound bag of potatoes, among other various things.

I admit I was nervous at first, and did try to load up our freezer. Then for the first maybe four or five weeks, I’d buy thinking in terms of having food for two weeks, but go every week, that way we had some lag time, just in case. I also doubled our supply of dry and canned beans. Things seem generally normal now, and I’m not too worried. I think the food supply has stabilized, and the hoarding/rush buying has stopped. I’m sure there will be blips and other issues over the next few weeks/months. I stopped taking a list around Week 3, because meals would just be whatever they had, but things are normalized enough now, that I’ll probably take one next week.

Somewhat related, the liquor store was always full; despite all the jokes wondering why there was a run on toilet paper but now booze when we were now all stuck with our wife and kids all day long. The clerks would make jokes about needing to see ID, despite the fact that I was wearing a mask. In my ID, I’m clean shaven with also buzzed hair. My hair now is easily over 6 inches long and I have a beard, which I didn’t trim for the first 6 weeks, so I pulled down my mask once and they guy agreed he wouldn’t recognize me either way. One of the Publix people appreciated me being willingly to pull down the mask, he obviously had been fighting too many people about it. Twice at Aldi, I was told they ‘knew’ I was old enough (mid-30’s, so that’s fair), but I asked why. One told me because I laid the wine bottle down on the conveyor belt (instead of up, which falls) and the other because I made a dad joke. I thought that was pretty funny.

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This was before I received any proper masks (I use this for fishing), still used gloves and a grocery list, and, of course, before my hair was too crazy. It was really been an odd time.