Strategies for getting everything you need at the grocery store

Posted at 7:00 AM, Apr 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-25 07:15:42-04

Getting your groceries isn't as easy as it used to be.

Many of us are still finding items out of stock when we go shopping, and it can be tough to find open time slots if you're trying to have groceries delivered.

There are some strategies you can use to get everything you need, though.

News 3 Anchor Erica Greenway spoke with Consumer Reports' Senior Editor Tobie Stanger for tips on shopping smarter.

Q: Why has it gotten so challenging to get groceries? Is it simply because people are stocking up?

A: That’s part of it, but there are other factors. An analyst I spoke with blames poor supply-chain planning by a number of grocery chains for some of the difficulties. Labor is also a factor. Some grocery workers may be home sick or caring for others, and new hires may take a while to get up to speed. And grocery delivery services are gaining many more customers and are struggling to keep up.

Retailers and grocery delivery companies have been ramping up hiring and expanding options to safely and conveniently get you your groceries but challenges remain. You really do have to be strategic to have the best chance of getting what you need.

Q: Let’s talk about some of those strategies. You say there could be valuable intel in local news feeds?

A: Right. Folks posting on social media like NextDoor and Facebook may report in real-time what’s available locally in stores, what vendors are doing to protect consumers and what strategies they’re using to get home deliveries. You might find similar information through local TV and newspapers, so check them before you shop.

Q: Is there any advantage to shopping at mom & pop shops?

A: Smaller, independent grocers may have an edge on hard-to-find items like toilet paper and batteries. The distributors that stock their shelves aren’t necessarily the same suppliers that stock big chains such as Target. Small grocers are initiating their own delivery or curbside pickup services to keep up with demand, too.

Q: You can also find groceries at places that aren’t supermarkets, right?

A: A widening variety of businesses are now selling groceries. After the eggs have sold out at your local supermarket, you still may find them at CVS or in the refrigerators of a service station’s food mart. Home stores like Lowe’s may have paper goods and cleaning products that aren’t available at local grocers.

  • Subway, Panera Bread and Moe's Southwest Grill are among the chains that have started selling bags full of their own ingredients — like fresh produce and bread.
  • Open Table has started accepting shopping reservations for grocery stores that helps maintain social distancing and in turn could make shopping easier.
  • Food distributors that normally deliver to restaurants can be another resource as well. Check to see if those in your area are now taking residential orders.

Q. If you’re using grocery delivery or pickup, how can you get your order filled quickly?

  • Set up orders with more than one service.
  • Check throughout the day for delivery slots.
  • Organize your list.
  • Be loyal, be a good tipper.

Q: Any tips for those who shop in-store?

A: A supermarket analytics company says the best time to go is often right after the senior hour if you're not a senior yourself. Our research also found Thursday is the best day to shop in terms of social distancing.