Monday, January 16, 2023

Shopping, ug

Last week, I did something I've been trying to do as infrequently as possible: I went into the city for some shopping.

I go as infrequently as possible for several reasons: (1) I hate shopping; (2) it's a long ways away; (3) it's increasingly expensive.

It's the expensive part I'd like to discuss today, because last week's shopping expedition was eye-opening.

When I go to the city, I go almost exclusively to hit the big box stores, and I tend to buy the same thing every time (toilet paper, cheese, etc.). The stores I go to most frequently are Winco, Costco, and Chef's Store (formerly Cash'n'Carry, a wholesale restaurant-supply store). And here's the interesting thing: I've been saving the receipts. These receipts give a snapshot of price increases over the last couple of years.

Let's start with toilet paper. We always buy Costco's Kirkland brand. On Oct. 26, 2021, a bundle cost $16.99.

On Jan. 11, 2022, the price had increased to $17.99.

On Aug. 30, 2022, the price was $18.99.

Last week, the price was up to $19.99.

We also enjoy Costco-brand pesto. In March of 2022, the price was $9.49.

The price had risen to  $9.99 by August 20, 2022:

Last week, the same product was $11.99.

How about dog food? We purchase a brand called Nutra Nuggets. On Jan. 11, 2022, the price was $26.99:

On March 9, 2022, the price was $29.99:

Last week, the price was $35.69:

My favorite vegetable is broccoli. For years I've purchased three-pound bags of broccoli florets from either Costco or (preferably) Chef's Store. Last week I went into Chef's Store and gaped at the empty vegetable cooler.

The potato and onion section was also sparse.

When I inquired of an employee about the status of vegetables in general and broccoli in particular, she shook her head. "We haven't been able to get much by way of produce," she said.

This is a store, you understand, that caters to restaurants. When I remarked that it must be causing great hardship to restaurants, she nodded in vigorous agreement. "We're getting about half of what we order," she said. "But with produce, we're getting even less of that."

So, unable to find broccoli at Chef's Store, I tried Costco. Last March, I got my usual three-pound bag for $5.99:

Last week, the only – the only! – broccoli they had in stock was a two-pound bag of organic for $5.99:

This isn't exactly comparing apples to apples, since organic tends to cost more anyway. But the fact that broccoli was scarce or absent from both Costco and Chef's Store was telling.

At Chef's Store, I had mayonnaise on my list. Normally I purchase this in gallon jugs (Don's a sandwich guy, so we go through a fair bit of mayo; plus we repurpose the empty mayo jugs for endless uses). I hadn't bought mayo in a long time, so I don't have paper proof of the earlier cost, but one thing is certain: It sure as heck wasn't $25.35 a gallon. 

After sputtering in shock for a moment, I purchased a gallon of the house-brand mayo for $15.55, which is far closer to the price I had previously paid for Kraft. (I'm not married to Kraft as a brand, you understand; what I'm married to is the wonderful jug with a handle. We reuse these jugs constantly.)

Olive oil was up. In January of 2022, it was $18.99 for a gallon. Last week it was $21.65.

Cheese was up. In March of 2022, it was $16.29 for a five-pound block. Last week it was $18.60.

Dog biscuits were up. In October of 2021, a 20-lb. box from Winco was $22.38. Last week, the same was $26.18.

Then I took myself to Walmart. I seldom shop at Walmart, even on my rare city excursions, but this time I had a mishmash of odd things I was looking for. Interestingly, one of those oddball things was a product called Covermate, which is like a plastic shower cap for food bowls.

We wash and reuse these for years, but eventually they give out. The only place I've ever found them is Walmart, so that was on my list.

I walked into the plastic-wrap aisle of Walmart and stopped short. What was up with this?

Is there a shortage of plastic wrap and bags and food coverings I'm unaware of? (I ended up ordering a few bags of Covermates online.)

Another item I wanted was the Walmart-brand of Loratadine (both Don and Older Daughter have allergies). They had plenty in stock, but I did notice the shortages of cold medicines for both children and adults. That is a shortage I've been hearing about.

I was so glad to put the city behind me and flee back home, let me tell you. It always takes me a day or two to recover from such excursions.

So what are you seeing as far as prices and availability goes? Have you noticed shortages? Let us know.


  1. I have loved reading your blog for years and don’t want to sound like a smart ass— but where have you been? Get your garden seeds now and your chickens as well. The crap is beginning to fly . . .

  2. There seems to be a produce shortage at certain stores in my area (Oregon), but other stores seem to keep well stocked. The quantity/quality for the price is what I wonder about. Toilet paper rolls have been shorter for a while (I just opened a package of pre-2021 TP and noticed quite a difference). Packages sometimes vary in ounces, even the ones that have stayed the same price.

  3. Yikes! While I haven't been tracking as well as you, some items I know off hand are butter. I was previously able to purchase 2lbs for $5, not I'm paying nearly that for a single pound. Eggs were $8 for an 18 pack, nearly double the price of a year ago. Most bread I see is at least $1 more per loaf as well, averaging $4 for a generic loaf of white sandwich bread at the discount stores. Chicken for under $1/lb used to be a typical deal, not I'm happy to find it at under $2/lb in any form. I'm really looking forward to getting my garden going this year, that's for sure. I've expanded my chicken coop, and am thankful for the preps I have on hand to help offset some of the cost of this crazy inflation.

    1. How does the cost of producing your own eggs compare to the cost of store bought? In the store I cannot purchase eggs of any kind for less than $4 a d0zen. If someone replies, I am not counting the one time costs of constructing a coop or fencing, etc

    2. How does the cost or raising your own eggs compare to the price of storebought? I cannot buy eggs of any kind for less than $4 a dozen right now. If someone replies, I am not going to count the onetime costs of coop, fence, feeders, ets

    3. Cost is variable as you can feed solely on kitchen and garden scraps or buy feed. For us it’s not the cost of eggs…it’s being able to get them at any price. That’s why we have chickens.

    4. It's no longer about cost comparison. It's about getting the eggs at all. What will you pay for an egg? period. Are you prepared for a life without eggs? As it stands now the only sure way to guarantee you'll have eggs is to raise your own hens. To heck with the cost comparisons!!!

    5. I’ve thirty hens in my flock. They produce sufficiently to pay for the feed since we are good neighbors that sell our excess.

      We’re currently charging $3 dozen and selling what we don’t consume.

      Building communities one egg at a time

    6. Last year I got about 1600 eggs from 10 hens. Some were first season and others were second. I go through a 50 lb. sack of non-GMO layer pellets every 2 weeks, plus they're in tractors so they have access to grass, etc. during the growing season. My current cost for the feed is $17.72 including tax. So that works out to $3.46 per dozen for the feed cost. The two tractors, built at different times, cost about $450 in materials... if they depreciate to zero over 5 years, that would add another $0.67 to each dozen (it'd be a couple of sets of birds over that time, so there'd be additional costs there, but chicks are still relatively inexpensive and I have roosters and an incubator).

      But as others have said, I have a more reliable supply eggs: less this time of year but I set aside some in the fall for the low-production times.

  4. Here in Southern Illinois I am seeing the same thing. HUGE price increases and many, many empty shelves. I've also noticed how there used to be a variety of say for example 15-20 mustard brands but now maybe 5. It's a bit scary to see and makes me wonder what does the future hold.

    1. What general part of Southern Illinois do you live in? I’m in the Shawnee National Forest area, very close to Kentucky.

  5. The romaine I buy for salads has gone from $2.99 for 3 heads to $3.99 ON SALE or $4.99 as regular price. Bananas from $.49 a pound to $.59 a pound—again the sale price. Eggs are $4.95 a dozen. Milk almost $5 a gallon. Zucchini and yellow squash are now on sale (a rare occasion) at what had bee regular price. Dehydrated soup mix is $4.29 a packet rather than $3.59. There is literally nothing that is the same price that it was a year or two ago. Since I live alone, I eat a lot of roasted vegetables, salad, or soup. In August of 2021 I found my favorite canned soup for $.99 a can on sale. I hit 3 of the stores nearby and bought many cans of my favorite variety. This last August the sale price was $1.79 per can I’m still eating my cheaper soup and enjoying every bargain spoonful.

  6. Here in rural New England, some stores run out, but a small independent employee-owned grocery store is always well stocked....AND they butcher their own meats and poultry...gotta love 'em!

  7. I'm in the Walla Walla valley area. We had to go to Tricities last week, and stopped in at the Chef's Store there as we had a little time to kill. They were not even half full of foods, and their prices seemed higher than the markets. Only one check out was open and had a long line. So when we returned to Walla Walla, I checked out the Chef's Store there just out of curiosity. This store was very well stocked but still high prices. Also eggs are still around $1.67 a dozen here.

  8. Here in southwestern virginia, the prices are up, reflecting inflation, more or less... ya just have to live with it and adjust as best ya can.
    haven't seen empty shelves, and only the occasional spot shortage.
    i am also looking forward to getting my garden in and going. now i'm retired, i have time to tend it the way i've always wanted to, but never had time to.

  9. Colorado area - Just to see - I re-loaded an Amazon Fresh cart from January of 2021. Nothing exotic - 1lb ground beef, a red onion, a bag of tortilla chips etc

    11 of the 24 items - 'unavailable'
    3lb bag of shredded cheese - $00.02 cheaper
    The rest of what was available - 12% ~ 60% increase since 2021

    Ongoing availability issues with some breads, eggs etc so looking to re-open the chicken coop this year

  10. Yes, the price increases are massive! We haven't had any shortages for a while now though. I wonder what is holding that part of the country up?

  11. And it's only going to get worse.

    Mama J

  12. In north Florida, we're still seeing dog and cat food shortages to the point that I haven't been able to get the dogs any bagged food* this week (I was able to get canned food for the cats). The dogs are getting things like the demineralized bones and meat and veggie scraps that are strained out of bone broth, leftover dinner scraps, and boiled eggs.

    There are shortages of eggs here, too, and the prices are much higher. Family members and acquaintances are complaining about the high egg prices in the stores, and urging me to add artificial light to my portable pens to encourage my chickens to lay more. Feed prices have gone so high that I was thinking about telling them that $12/dozen are a bargain compared to feed prices! If I added in additional light to stretch the day, oh, mercy. This is the hen season of rest. I have enough eggs (for me and husband and grandkids) from some pullets that are maturing during the winter. I am content to let the hens eat a lot of fresh green grass, sprouting dog fennels, dollar weed, and forage through the last of the sorghum, beggar's lice, and other weed/wildflower seeds still standing.

    There is an abundance of locally-grown fresh lettuce, radishes, collard, turnip, and mustard greens. I noted with surprise that we have a LOT of stinging nettles growing in the fence lines that have grown big enough to harvest. (I'm going to dig out the welding gloves and snip some to cook for dinner tomorrow and to freeze for future meals.)

    *I should say that bagged dog food is 'available'. Some of it is extremely poor quality; some of it is so expensive that I'd expect the dogs to poop out gold nuggets after ingesting it.

    1. When I was a child many many moons ago, I don't remember anyone feeding dogs dog food Dogs got scraps. The basis of their food was cornbread, and if you think about it, it contained milk and eggs and oil. We always ate peas too, one of our primary garden veggies.
      Now I know that commercials have us thinking they need a grain free diet and there are always pictures of wolves to help guilt us into that.
      Well, have you ever seen a stand of corn torn up by coyotes? It's a game changer. And the paw prints everywhere say exactly who-dunnit!
      I don't often give my dog cornbread, but when I do he acts like it's the best treat possible! My cats also beg for corn, but that I don't give them much. I wouldn't give a cat cornbread.
      I have had many cats that lived long lives and invariably died from kidney disease. I spent a fortune on kidney disease food, until an old vet told me to stop. He told me cats need wet food and any wet cat food would do. Part of why they get kidney disease is from all the dry convenience foods we feed them. So I switched the current kitties at the time off the stuff that cost 5 times more than friskies canned. Those two cats actually got healthier and ate better on their own while I saved the bucks. One was 21 and the other 22 when they died.
      Animals weren't created to live the life span of humans. Well, after the fall they don't. We are not living in a time many of us can afford to be guilty over not feeding critters better than your children. If you and your children are eating beans and rice, keep some back that is unsalted and unseasoned !】for the dog.
      And anybody needing pet food, call Chewey. I think part of why it's in scant supply is because they have most of it going through their warehouses to doorsteps of America. Chicken feed too.

  13. From Northern Arizona, there seems to be plenty of most. Short on cat food and dog food and the occasional thing. Like Walmart being out of saltine crackers and Safeway having plenty. Prices are all up, and the new greenhouse is going to get a workout this spring along with the garden. Just trying to get by is getting harder every week. Hang in there!
    Judy now in Arizona.

  14. In Birmingham, AL, I have gone to Publix and Piggly Wiggly and found plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eggs are outrageous, but I will buy at any price. I may not bake as much! Good sales are practically non-existent.

  15. Just for future reference, Dollar Tree carries something similiar to the Covermates. I'm sure not the same quality, but for $1.25, the price is probably better.

    1. Definitely not the same quality. It's been a while since I purchased them, but I remember the plastic not staying attached to the rubber bands :(

  16. I feel the same about the city in general and shopping in particular. I tend to avoid both as long as possible. It's too traumatic, lol!

  17. Here in Indiana the shelves are occasionally bare. The flu and cold medicine was wiped out when I went to buy some a few weeks ago. Prices are going up and have gone up every week I’ve been shopping. My husband and I both work and we have not gotten pay increases. The grocery bill is really hurting our family right now. I’d love to get ideas on cheap meal ideas for a family.

    1. I have 5 children & when they were all home I would make economical meals that stretched. I made some of my own sauces, etc. You can check out budget101 for ideas. Along with searches for frugal recipes. I made up meal plans of what to do with hamburger, chicken, etc. I had summer meal plans & busy night ones. It worked for me. Debbie in MA

    2. also check out "Living on a Dime" website; they have a huge amount of frugal tips and recipes (for free), along with their "dining on a dime dime" cookbooks (e-book or hardback) available, excellent resource, all of their resources have helped me immensely

    3. Snacking, aka, refrigerator grazing, can sabotage any budget. Plan snacks, not just meals. And find a way to incorporate them into your overall nutrition plan for your family. Don't make other snacking easily available.
      Something else that can sabotage the budget is everybody's other half. Spouses who shop together are more accountable to the process and each other.
      Family meetings. The whole family needs to get involved in the planning and budgeting process and the why's and how's.
      I was listening to a program about an Indian tribe once, and at tribal meetings, children also had a voice. Sometimes it's the voice of a child who helps guide the way.

  18. Prices are up for everything. I used to buy a box of 5 dozen eggs for about $7.00. Now its $19.52! Also, the quality of produce is poor. It already looks sad at the store and then perishes quickly once home.

    1. You're shopping Walmart. I recently checked online for the price of a 5 dozen box of eggs at Walmart and online it said $30. I got to the store and it was $19.52.
      They are paying those people that walk around shopping for you a small fortune per hour plus benefits, plus they're making plenty on the process.
      Do your own shopping.

    2. Not Wal-Mart, HEB and that was the in store price. Crazy, I know!

  19. Pesto and Mayo are easy to make at home, you should try it.

  20. Here are a few notes from N Idaho. I also did the going to the city for that dreaded shopping trip. I want to mention that about a year ago I brought home a Costco TP pack and then realized that they of course raised the price and lowered the amount of squares per roll, from 425 squares per roll to 380 per roll. Also Eggs at Winco were $3.49 per dozen however all the signage for eggs clearly stated that there was a limit of only one per customer. Cheese at CHEF store was of course higher and the variety was less. Good thing I don't need to buy my eggs due to my chickens. Speaking of chickens, some of your readers are stating how they are going to be getting some chickens, may I recommend that they start pre ordering, I am sure there will be a shortage of them too. Since I have a good solid 4 setters, maybe this year I should let them each sit on a larger clutch and sell them to the local store in town.

  21. I recently bought a large bag of frozen broccoli from my local small town store. There, right on the bag were these words, "a product of Egypt"!! What? We can't grow broccoli in America??

  22. We eat a mostly vegan diet and for that I am grateful. Meat and egg prices are outrageous! We splurged and made a dish requiring eggs for Christmas. I almost fainted when I saw the price! The biggest price increase I've noticed is lettuce. We eat a lot of salads. I am so grateful that our Smith's grocery store marks down produce. We snatch up packages of lettuce when they mark it down. Otherwise we probably wouldn't buy as much.
    We buy in bulk at Winco as much as we can and I buy some at Azure Standard. We buy very little packaged food. Cooking from scratch saves a lot of money for sure!
    Buckle up, I think it's gonna get worse before it gets better.

  23. We're stationed at a teeny-tiny base that borders the Netherlands/Germany. The commissary on the US base in the Netherlands is super convenient. That being said, the produce options are nothing less than pathetic (especially in winter). If we survived on that produce, we'd be in sorry shape indeed. There are weeks between stock ups in most other things, as well. What we are able to get there is hit or miss throughout the year. Right now, 2% store brand milk is about $1.80 for a half gallon. Chicken breast halves are $10.40 per pound. Eggs are about $2.25/dozen on base.

    On the local economy, things are better quality, but pretty expensive. Our local German grocery store had chicken breasts between 14-34 euro per kg, which is roughly $8 per pound for the cheap stuff. Eggs are super reasonable, compared to the US from what I hear (free range organic being 3.29 euro for 10). It's been interesting to me to see what the price differences are as different places have shortages at different times.

    I do have a question for you, though. I've been a long time lurker and have learned so much, including that your family uses reusable feminine products. Given the price increases and supply issues, has your family considered reusable or un-toilet paper?

    1. Consider a portable bidet (Bio Bidet). Investment cost is high but need for paper is nil and it is so much more comfortable.

  24. We're stationed on a teeny tiny base on the border of the Netherlands/Germany. The US Commissary in the Netherlands is the closest to us, and super convenient. The next closest US commissary is 2 hours away.

    What we can get produce-wise there is pathetic, especially in the winter. There are weeks between re-stocks of many regularly used items, though of course, they do their best. A half gallon of 2% milk is around $1.80, eggs are about $2.25/dozen, fresh chicken breast halves are $10.40 per pound, while Tyson chicken breasts ring up at $5.64 for 30 ounces (they come frozen).

    On the local German economy, things are typically a much better quality across the board, but can be much more expensive. Chicken breasts range between €15-34 per pound, organic whole milk is €1.45 per liter, organic, free range eggs ring in at €3.29 for 10.

    I always find it interesting to see which countries are affected by shortages at different times. Unfortunately, it can be super challenging to have any kind of preparedness level (at least for us) living overseas. Tiny apartments, small fridges, no real freezers, super high cost of power, different plumbing, etc all contribute to a steep learning curve in preparedness. All that being said, I know that your family uses reusable feminine products. Have you or your family given any thought to reusable, or un-toilet paper?

    1. We have a good stock of TP on hand; but yes, we also have a reusable variety. Years ago, we purchased a bunch of cheap three-for-a-dollar washcloths from the dollar store. They're ugly and of poor quality, but will do in a pinch for washable toilet paper. They even come in different colors, so each family member can have their own color.

      I don't know if those cheap washcloths are still available, but it's worth looking into for an emergency option. Let's put it this way: we got close to using them in 2020.

      - Patrice

  25. Patrice, I love when you post these "open thread" kind of questions! There is always such neat ideas that pop up. We don't have nettles in my part of the world, but my garden is full of some kind of weed. Turns out it is Lambs Quarters! Totally edible, like spinach. And I don't need welding gloves to harvest! Keep these ideas coming.

  26. I like those jugs with the handles too. A restaurant used to save them for me, along with gallon and half gallon glass jugs. Those gallon jugs are $5 apiece with no lids now! The cooks used to ask what I wanted that "junk" for. The plastic jugs I would fill with cat and dog feed out of big bags and it was then easy to use plus safe from pests.
    The glass jugs?
    Eggs alone made those worth keeping! I like to pickle eggs, adding a can of pickles beets. So good on salads.
    They are good for storing water bath eggs also, though the lime etched the glass, which doesn't bother me because they were free. And when my hens were over producing jugs were nice to either hold some in the fridge or give away.
    So many more uses too.
    You may be able to Google plastic jugs or bulk salad dressing and find some, but like everything else there may be sticker shock.
    Every time I pass the pickle aisle, the jugs those pickles are in would cost almost what the jar of pickles cost. I keep thinking re-canning might be a good idea.
    I think things are going to get better down the road. Just hang on.

  27. SE Wisconsin here. Milk has held pretty steady - I think it's $3.09 or so for a gallon of whole milk... A couple of years ago, it was $2.65, but about 8 years ago, it was over $4 a gallon for whatever reason. Eggs are crazy. $4.65 at Meijer, $4.99 at Aldi. The only dollar loaves of bread seem to be at Aldi. I've also noticed "sale" prices being the "regular" price from last year. Soda got a ton more expensive - not because of it being tremendously more expensive to make, but Coke & Pepsi decided that if the price of everything else is going up, they were going to stick it to everyone, and apparently, some German stores refused to go along with the price hikes and stopped carrying it.

    The thing that's bothered me, though, is the shortage of kids' medicines. We're finally getting over some nasty stuff, but it's absolutely insane how empty the shelves are. Kids Tylenol or Advil (or the generics) are rare. I usually have extra on hand, but when I've had three sick at the same time (like a couple weeks ago) those bottles of liquid get drained fast!

  28. Used to buy Purina pro plan for $56. Last I saw it was $86. Costco eggs were $11.99 for 5 dozen. Now $16.99. Haven't been able to find my Oil of Olay toner for 2 years-ordered from Amazon, tho. Mayo has gone up. Bread is like $5 a nice loaf. We butcher 2 steers tomorrow. Thank goodness as the price of beef has skyrocketed. Used to by chicken leg quarters to can for our dogs at 88 cents/pound. Now $1.48. Will be re-establishing the chickens this spring. Seems like I better order chicks now, layers and meat birds.

  29. Over $10 for 18 ct for eggs here in Northern California

  30. I have been using cloth wipes for 5 years now and love it. (only for urine) Saves me money!

  31. Northern KY here. Prices are on the rise & have been since 2020. For the most part, the shelves are at least 3/4 full depending on where one shops. Various produce can be so-so quality sometimes. Shortages of store brand, powdered coffee creamer & saltines have perplexed me though. And has anyone else noticed a difference in quality and/or taste of items bought for years? Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I think things don’t taste as good now. (I’m thinking specifically of a jarred spaghetti sauce I buy for when I need quick & convenient.)

  32. I'm on the other side of the country, catty-corner from you, and we're experiencing the same thing. Pet food especially, has skyrocketed. For the past 4 weeks the walmart shelves have been bare of most pet foods. Ditto for the cheap brand TP, flour, and saltines. I'm so thankful for our garden, goats, and chickens.

  33. We are spoiled. So spoiled. We have turned over so much of our lives to corporations most of our society has gotten completely out of touch with taking care of their own needs. And China is supplying us.
    China is not our friend. They poisoned our pet food a while back, and we should have wised up back then. I think people here are trying to change, but we as individuals have to produce as much as we can for ourselves.
    A lot of the otc meds we take mess up our livers. And much is from China

    The aisles of the grocery stores have medicinal teas. They aren't antibiotic, but ginger tea does quell nausea and vomiting. The apple cinnamon tea has chamomile and puts me to sleep pdq
    And there are more that help respiratory, and so on and so forth. I have teas stocked for ailments. There's also plenty of aspirin on the shelves. That's all we ever used to have. And thanks to heart patients, there are plenty of 81 mg aspirin tabs, and coated to protect your tummy
    Check with your doctor, but those might work for a child.
    Back to the producing part. People used to have herb gardens not just for food but for their medicine.
    Also, we need to use wisdom in the things we do. Popping ibuprofen every day for aches and pains will hurt your liver too. What are you doing that causes pain? Are you drinking enough fluids? Dehydration is the main culprit of arthritis and muscular pain. Not just all the tiny little injuries from working dehydrated, but our muscles produce waste when they work, and if it isn't flushed out it will cause muscular and joint pain. Check your body mechanics and modify them. We have to get off pills as much as possible and the mindset of using them all the time.

    We all need to have a homestead mindset even if living in an apartment.
    There are beautiful balcony gardens all over you tube using empty plastic jugs in a multitude of creative ways. There is also a multitude of good looking hydroponic systems you can keep inside around the house if they're in your budget. If not, back to you tube for cheap diy hydroponics.
    Buy in bulk and stay out of stores as much as possible. That eliminates impulse purchases. It also will free up some time and save some gas and all those savings can be spent on your "homestead". Be helpful and friendly to your neighbors and build your community. We are all in this together.

  34. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned pasta . We live in rural SE Arizona and none of the 5 markets within 10 miles have any pasta . Dee