The past 2 months, or is it 3, have seen some enforced changes to life that will endure long after the current pandemic has passed. This is a personal perspective so doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone out there. This is the story of my experience of maintaining our household during the last few weeks.
The rude awakening for the stores and for people like me happened before the Lockdown was implemented. For a number of years I have habitually gone to my local Waitrose supermarket to do the family shop at around 08:30 on a Saturday morning. It’s a ritual that a small number of us religiously carry out – I’d guess there are around 30 of us normally in store at that time. Mostly we are on nodding terms and, in a few cases, happy to have a chat. So that first Saturday was a real shock to the system 😦 There were people there rushing around our usually calm environment, stripping the shelves of everything except the paint! Locusts had nothing compared with the hoards of panic buying selfish fools. On that day I got around 1/3rd of my normal weekly shop – it was enough. Fortunately, we have always held a stock of essential supplies to cover around 4 weeks of not being able to go out – because, well, you never know. The most galling thing about that experience was that many of the ‘Locusts’ bought perishables that they then didn’t use before the goods went off. A lot of meat and vegetables ended in the bins – selfish and disgusting. Meanwhile I have an image from an overheard conversation between staff – ‘There’ll be nothing left when I go off duty’ – clearly the staff were already worrying about their own family situations given the influx of panic shoppers.
I decided that day that I’d not be going to the main supermarkets until things calmed down – I don’t need the stress and I certainly don’t need the exposure to this virus given that my Wife is high risk. There are some good small retailers close to us and I usually give them some custom – notably fresh produce and milk. So I went there. It took around 5 days for the locusts to find them too. Things could have become very difficult but fortunately the lockdown came into force. With the Police empowered and guidance issued some form of order replaced anarchy. Most stores introduced security personnel to control entrance and limit the number of people present to allow social distancing to be maintained.
I continued to diversify my shopping, utilising my daily exercise as a way of getting to the stores for essential fresh goods. Our local Garage, BP / M&S proved to be a good reliable source of milk along with some vegetables and bread. The Little Waitrose also proved to be a good option in those early weeks when the main supermarkets were stripped bare. My local corner shop was a useful source for some vegetables, and some of the many canned items that were not available elsewhere. Some of the prices were really odd – chopped tomatoes £1-20p a can while tinned peas were 49p. I guess it was all about supply and chopped tomatoes were hard to get at the time. Shock-horror, the price of beer went up too! However, all this shopping in various stores was good for me because I was walking everywhere!
There are a number of things that I have taken from these shopping expeditions that I think will continue into the future. M&S at the garage do a rather nice stir-fry mix that will continue to be part of my shopping into the future. There’s also a couple of nice cereals that I probably wouldn’t have tried had this not happened. The sliced cheeses have also proved to be a useful stop gap. My local corner shop does nice bananas – though there is an element of luck about when they’re available. He also easily beats the supermarkets on garlic for quality and price. Tins of chickpeas and black beans are well priced too. I’ve just scratched the surface here. Suffice to say, some things will be bought locally now rather than from the main supermartket.
Last week I finally visited my main Waitrose again and things are getting back to normal although there are still gaps on the shelves. I haven’t been on a Saturday morning yet because my usual 08:30 shop is reserved for the truly elderly, NHS and other essential workers, and people classed as at high risk. Technically, I could go to shop for my Wife in that slot but I really don’t need the hassle of jumping through the hoops to prove it. Instead I go mid-morning, midweek and that seems to be a good option currently. Oh, and I haven’t used cash for a very long time – I guess we won’t need notes and coins in the very near future!
That’s a brief ‘how it was’ from me… How was it for you???
I was shocked the first time I went to the supermarket after the COVID restrictions were put in effect. It was an interesting study in humanity to observe which shelves were empty and which were still fully stocked. I’m lucky that my husband likes to keep our freezer and pantry well stocked at the best of times so I wasn’t in dire need of anything. I am happy to see things getting closer to normal again.
It seems your experience was much the same as mine. I wonder if the ‘maintain a stock’ is a generational thing or perhaps a personality trait? It is good to see normality slowly returning in food stores. I wonder when that will be true of life in general.
I feel like maintaining a stock is a personality trait but it would be an interesting thing to study. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see normality return in other areas.