Spending

8 foods to stock up on now before they sell out this winter during Covid

"There's a chance we won't see shelves fully stocked and ready to meet demand again until January."

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The Covid-19 seven-day average daily infection rate is at an all-time high, according to CNBC. As the number of reported cases rises, many states are implementing more safety measures.

California issued strict stay-at-home orders. Iowa issued a statewide mask mandate and banned gatherings of 15 or more people, and Kentucky closed indoor dining, along with issuing a statewide mask mandate and indoor gathering limit.

Americans' concern about coronavirus is increasing, according to data from Morning Consult, and many are stocking up on foods they like to help them endure a winter in lockdown.

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 grocery delivery delays or have to visit a crowded store. Don't forget, many fresh foods can be frozen. Perishables that would otherwise go bad and cost you money can, if stored the right way, last for months.

However, there is no need to panic buy, experts say: Just purchase enough to get you through a couple of weeks. Here are eight smart foods to stock up on that are selling fast, according to consumer analysts.

Canned soup

Grocers are seeing "stocking problems" with canned soup, says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com. Not only is soup a comforting winter meal, it also has a long shelf life and can be used as an ingredient in other recipes.

At Costco, you can get a 12-pack of Campbell's chicken noodle soup for $11, and at Walmart condensed tomato soup is 88 cents per can.

"There's a chance we won't see shelves fully stocked and ready to meet demand again until January," Ramhold says. "With green bean casserole being a very popular Thanksgiving side dish, it's no surprise to see that standard cans of cream of mushroom soup sold out in many areas, and shelves remain empty."

Coffee and hot cocoa

Packaged coffee sales were up 60% from last year as of November 21, according to Nielsen data. 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.

Standard cans of cream of mushroom soup sold out in many areas, and shelves remain empty.
Julie Ramhold
consumer analyst at DealNews.com

Salad greens

When pandemic-induced shutdowns began in the spring, consumers largely opted for canned goods and boxed pasta. As cases rise again, this time grocers are seeing a spike in sales of fresh produce and salad fixings. Lettuce sales were up 27% from last year as of November 21, according to Nielsen data. And crouton sales were up over 23%.

This might be because Americans are "prioritizing health and immunity boosting in their purchase habits," says Greg Doonan, marketing communication consultant at Nielsen. "Health measures are becoming integrated into all walks of life and manner of purchasing for consumers," Doonan says.

If you want to use lettuce or other greens to cook with, you can chop it up and freeze it.

[Americans are] prioritizing health and immunity boosting in their purchase habits.
Greg Doonan
marketing communication consultant at Nielsen

Meat alternatives

Meat alternative sales, such as Beyond Meat, were up over 55% from last year as of November 21, according to Nielsen data. If you're thinking of stocking up on plant-based meat, look at the freezing directions first.

Beyond Meat, for example, should not be refrozen, according to the product website. So you either need to buy it frozen and continue to freeze it, or eat a refrigerated package by the expiration date. Impossible Burgers, however, you can refreeze, according to the product website.

Jackfruit and nectarines

Consumers are buying lots of fresh fruit, especially less ordinary items that are "beyond the typical choice," Doonan says. Nectarine sales were up 109% and jackfruit sales were up 68% from last year as of November 21. Specialty melon sales were also up 10%.

If you find a good deal on your favorite fruit, stocking up might be a good idea, as most fruit can be frozen if you de-pit and cut it into chunks first. Then you can enjoy your favorite fruit throughout the winter.

Oat milk

In the spring, oat milk sales had increased almost 300% compared to last year, according to Nielsen data. Right now, sales are up 148% — down significantly from April but still outselling last year.

Still, if oat milk is your go-to dairy alternative, you might find a thinned-out selection when in stores.

You can freeze oat milk, but the texture becomes grainy once it thaws. You might also look for a shelf-stable variety to store in your pantry until you're ready to drink it. (Then it needs to go in the fridge.) For example, Oatly sells some shelf-stable varieties on its website that can last for months.

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Pizza crusts

Although Americans have been on a health kick, Ramhold predicts that December will bring an end to that and we'll see a run on more products like pizza crusts. Pizza crust sales are up 40% compared to last year.

"I think that buying comfort food and the ingredients for it have taken center stage again," Ramhold says.

Yeast and other baking supplies

Holiday baking is driving sales on baking ingredients. Cobbler and crisp mix sales are up over 42% compared to last year, yeast sales are up 71%, and flour sales are up nearly 19%.

"We saw bread baking jump in the first half of 2020. But we know that some consumers have been stocking up on other baking supplies over the last couple of months — things like sugar and flour — to prep for holiday baking," Ramhold says.

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