The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021

The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021
The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Scavenger Hunt (AKA Grocery Shopping) - Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Who knew a few weeks ago that our society in the U.S. would be turned upside down? There are some who have been predicting doomsday for years and they're probably puffed up like pufferfish saying, "I told you so."

Well, this happened so fast it makes your head spin, and your psyche wondering where do we go from here, and how do we find food? Here's my tale of the last three weeks when the panic-buying of groceries started. 

In my experience, there has not been a dearth of groceries in my lifetime. Well, except in 1961 when I was 8-1/2 years old and there was a Bay of Pigs threat. I remember going to the grocery store with my mom and stocking up on some things, but I was too little to remember exactly what. It was short-lived. 

My tale begins three weeks ago. That was before Bob and I flew to Portland, Oregon. I was shopping at Costco and buying the items on my list. What's this?  All the rice, Oreos, and a number of other items were gone. I wasn't shopping for those items. I did buy toilet paper (there was plenty then) and Kleenex (they were down to four Costco-sized Kleenex packages). So, that was my first inkling that something was brewing. 

Bob and I flew to Portland, but we cut our trip(s) short. At that point, I was in Portland (for Mom's 90th birthday) and he was in Phoenix (after he had performed his uncle's funeral). We each flew back to San Antonio from our respective locations. That was Sunday, March 15 (mom's 90th birthday, but we couldn't take her out to dinner because the assisted living facility went on complete lockdown the night before).

Last week, when more episodes of coronavirus were found in San Antonio, our mayor asked us to shelter-in-place (stay home). That's when the run on grocery stores started. First to disappear was toilet paper, followed closely by eggs, Kleenex, hand sanitizers, bleach, soaps, other cleaning supplies, soup, other canned goods, cheese, milk, flour, sugar, almond milk (surprising!), and bread. I'm thinking probably diapers and baby items also disappeared quickly, but we haven't had little ones around for 36 years.

Before that, there was an abundance of food, no problemo; we never thought about a lack of goods. Then came the "stay home, stay safe" order. Things went from bad to worse. This is when people began digging through the boxes of newly arrived grocery store supplies that employees were using to try to stock shelves. People began buying hoarding quantities, not usual, everyday quantities.

One day, I made a grocery list of items I needed for recipes for the next week or two and I set out to find those things. The first couple of things I needed were almond milk and Wickles relish. I went to Walmart. They did not have either item, but I did find bananas, a 2 lb. block of medium cheddar cheese (the last one), and a 4 lb. bag of frozen blueberries for our smoothies. I also got two bags of Hershey's chocolate, one for me and one for Bob.

From Walmart, I went to H-E-B. I grabbed a cart and looked for the almond milk and relish. Nothing at H-E-B I wanted, so I left empty-handed. Next door, was a Target. Guess what? Their small grocery section had almond milk and they had dill pickle relish, so I got those items. So far, no lines.

Fast forward to this week. I still had items on my list from last week. Here's what it took to get those items. On one day, Monday, March 23, I went to Costco (store #1 today) which is 18 miles from our home. The store opened at 10:00 a.m. When I got there at 9:00 a.m., the line was around the building. I decided not to shop at Costco, but I got gas at $1.49 per gallon.

Just down the freeway access road was a Walmart (store #2 today). List in hand, I stopped in at Walmart. Here's what was on my list:

  • carrots
  • zucchini
  • spinach
  • avocados
  • eggs
  • creamed corn
  • frozen corn (large bag)
  • poblano chile 
  • canned Hatch chiles (2 small cans)
  • flour
  • sugar (10 lb. bag)
  • flour tortillas
  • red bell pepper
  • 8 oz. pkg Monterey Jack cheese
  • red enchilada sauce (3 - 3 oz. cans)
  • cheddar cheese
  • rice
  • bread
  • cornstarch
  • noodles
  • chicken noodle or chicken rice soup
  • evaporated milk (1 can)
At Walmart, I was able to get fresh vegetables, flour tortillas, four cans of chunky chicken noodle soup, two 1-lb. boxes of sugar, Hatch chiles, and the Monterey Jack cheese. 

From there, I went across the freeway to the H-E-B (store #3 today). At H-E-B, I was directed to the other side of the store from where I had parked and informed they only had once entrance open. I was directed to the end of the line which went down one side of the building. An H-E-B employee was giving the line of people information about going into the store: only a few people were being allowed in at a time, what items they were out of, they had lines on the floor for how far apart you were to stand in the aisles and check-out line, etc., etc. I stood there ten minutes while she kept on with the rules and we didn't move. This was going nowhere fast or even slow for that matter. I left. 

On the way home was a Super Target (store #4 today), so I stopped there. That was the worst supplied store of all. I found frozen corn on the cob and figured I could cut the corn off the cob for my recipe. I also bought gluten-free flour (since it was all they had), 2 8-oz. pkgs. of cheese, and green enchilada sauce (in case I can't find the red sauce anywhere).

A few items were checked off my list and I was frustrated. On Tuesdays, Walmart now has the store open one hour early (from 6:00 - 7:00 a.m.) for seniors over 60 to shop. I went there at 5:45 a.m. The line was already along the whole front of the building. 

Senior line at Walmart, 5:45 a.m., Tuesday.
As I waited in line, two ladies behind me were yammering about how it looked like not everyone in the line was a senior. And why didn't they have a line for people with problems? She was complaining about how her back was hurting. She's 67 years old and it was hard to stand. On and on. Then she started with a dry cough. Really?

When we made it to the front door just shortly after 6:00 a.m., I had my I.D. ready but wasn't asked for it. I found two small bags of frozen corn, 5-lb. bag of sugar, almond milk, jasmine rice (the kind in a box, and even though I was looking for a 2 lb. bag of brown rice, I bought what they had left), a turkey, and eggs! (There was a line to buy eggs. Most people stood in the line, but every once in a while someone would go to the front of the line from a different direction and get in front of everyone. The eggs said you could buy two cartons. I only needed one carton, but I watched EVERY SINGLE PERSON in front of me take two dozen eggs. Wow!)

I saw a Walmart clerk go up to someone to tell them that they were limited to one item (I didn't see what item), and she asked if she could take the extras back to the shelf. They acquiesced. It was a zoo.

On Tuesday, March 24, I played a detective. I was walking to the office in the RV park to pick up our mail. Along the way, I stopped to talk to people and was lamenting not being able to find the groceries I needed. One helpful gentleman, Bob, told me I should try La Fiesta Market a few blocks away. He said they had good luck there. It couldn't hurt, so after I picked up the mail, I headed out to La Fiesta. 

There were a number of cars in the parking lot, but the store was not crowded. I found creamed corn, cornstarch, stewed tomatoes (for future spaghetti sauce), and a couple of boxes of rice. I also bought two cake mixes and two cans of frosting. The checker asked me if I found what I needed and I told her I was only missing red enchilada sauce and evaporated milk. She said, "Oh, I saw those at the Dollar General," and she gave me directions. 

Next stop, the Dollar General. Sure enough, I got the red enchilada sauce and evaporated milk. I also bought some cookies and potato chips.

So, all in all, it took me 1-1/2 weeks to complete my grocery shopping. Now, I will only need to go for fresh fruits and veggies in the next few days. Whew. Crazy how life has changed in three weeks!

I want to sign out with a photo from our walk last night. It was a lovely, clear, warm San Antonio evening. I hope all is well where you live. 

Over and out.