Heading into winter, the United States is reporting about 150,000 new coronavirus cases per day. These numbers are far higher than they were in March and April, when Americans were panic shopping and stockpiling toilet paper, bottled water, and boxed pasta.
"We have a hard 2 to 3 months to get through," former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC's "Squawk Box" Wednesday.
Infection rates are expected to continue rising, and experts predict a second lockdown could be around the corner. To prepare, many Americans are beginning to stock up on groceries to make a quarantine a little more comfortable.
"It's not the same panic-fueled response we saw earlier this year, but consumers are definitely stocking up or at least considering it again," says Julia Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com. "Some are afraid that, yes, items they want will sell out and might not be restocked for an indefinite amount of time. But there are also concerns that if there's another surge, shopping in-store will become less safe again."
Stocking up now as opposed to in a few weeks can help you get the products you want, and reduce worries that you'll face long delivery delays or have to visit a crowded store and risk contracting the virus.
Here are six grocery items that are selling quickly as Americans prepare for winter in lockdown.
"If you're hoping to stock your pantry with canned soup to make the winter easier, beware that supplies may be short," Ramhold says.
Demand has affected staple soup ingredients as well. "This isn't to say you should be buying a bunch of fresh veggies, but rather make sure you have a good supply of dried spices on hand as well as broth or stock for a base, and if you can get your hands on them, canned veggies," Ramhold says.
At Costco, you can get six 32-ounce boxes of Kirkland's organic chicken broth for $11.79.
Baking supplies are beginning to sell quickly once again, but it's not only yeast and flour that will be hard to find at this time of year, Ramhold says. "This has been the year of bread thus far, but with people preparing for a possible second lockdown, they're expanding their quarantine hobby to include more dessert-driven items," she says.
Add in traditional holiday baking, and that means sugar and canned pumpkin might be hard to find.
While there isn't a pumpkin shortage, retailers are starting to put purchase limits on canned pumpkin, Ramhold says: "Farmers were forced to plant them later than usual, and so harvest is coming later than usual. Add to that the race in trying to beat a possible second shutdown, and I can see why retailers are being cautious." For example, at Giant Eagle, there is a three-can per transaction limit on canned pumpkins, according to reporting from Trib Live.
At Walmart.com, the two-packs of Libby's canned pumpkin is sold out, but you can buy a single, 30-ounce can for $3.16. At Target, a 15-ounce can of pumpkin is $0.89, but in many ZIP codes there are only a few left.
Americans will be drinking more coffee and tea as the weather gets colder, so if you have a specific brand you prefer, go ahead and stock up before it's hard to find, Ramhold says.
"If you prefer something like hot chocolate and want packets for an easy comforting drink, that's another thing to stock your pantry with," she adds.
While we're not seeing the same nationwide panic we did in the spring, it might be smart to buy a couple more rolls of toilet paper, says Kristin McGrath, shopping expert at Offers.com.
"Some retailers are now putting limits on the number of paper products and soap people can buy again," McGrath says.
Walmart is seeing customers stockpiling toiler paper, according to statement from the retailer's CEO Doug McMillon. Kroger, Publix, and H-E-B have started to limit in-store and online purchases of toilet paper, according to reporting by NBC News.
If your local store has not put a limit on toilet paper yet, you might want to stock up. Like in March and April, you don't need to buy a year's worth of toilet paper, just enough to get you through a few weeks.
At Costco, a 30-pack of Kirkland toilet paper is unavailable for online order until December 31 due to "limited supply," according to the company website. But at Walmart, 18 Angel Soft rolls are retailing for $15.
"If you come across disinfecting products like wipes or sprays, and have the room to store them, it's probably a good idea to go ahead and buy a couple," Ramhold says.
Once again, Costco's Kirkland brand wipes are unavailable for online order until December 31 due to "limited supply." On Amazon, the two-packs of Clorox wipes are only available from third-party sellers. However, Solimo (an Amazon Brand) is selling a pack of three 75-count disinfecting wipes for $8.99.
If your grocery store sells pharmacy items, buy a thermometer now, Ramhold says. Hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients, and while a thermometer won't replace a doctor, it can help you keep an eye on Covid-19 symptoms. It can be useful when deciding if you need to visit a doctor, or if your symptoms are improving, should you already have Covid-19.
Thermometers and the batteries that fit in them have been difficult to find because businesses have been buying them to scan incoming workers and customers, too.
"If you don't have a pulse oximeter and a thermometer, it's a good idea to go ahead and grab them now before prices start going back up and they start selling out," Ramhold says.
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