Living with ongoing shortages

MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭
edited October 2021 in Other News

At first when I read this article, I thought--well, he's basically just stating the obvious. But then I began to wonder what else there is to say about it. He presents a pretty good summary of the problem and the main strategies for dealing with the shortages that keep popping up around us. Things are obviously going to be like this for a while. Anybody have other good ideas for dealing with a future of unpredictable shortages?

Of course, as we've said so often on this forum, the best answer is grow your own food, make your own medicine, learn to be as self-reliant as possible, which is what TGN is all about.....



  • Paradox
    Paradox Posts: 187 ✭✭✭

    Interesting, because for the most part, I haven't noticed many shortages once we got past the initial TP scares and such. But then, I don't shop at the grocery store for too much of my foods, and I tend to stock well in advance for most things. what are you guys seeing shortages on still? The one thing I did find out at the local wally's was regular mouth rings w/ Lids... I've gotten too many used jars over the years, so i'm finding myself short of rings.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    @Paradox These days the shortages in the stores vary a lot from week to week and from one area to another, which is why it seems to me more often like problems with shipping and transportation than actual lack of the goods themselves. We've had that one thread going for well over a year now--called "Anybody seeing shortages lately" or something like that, with over 250 posts last time I looked. It's down a few pages on the discussion list today, but pops back up to the top every so often, when some one finds yet more empty shelves at the store. Canning jar lids ad rings are a persistent problem many places, but there are many others as well.

    I was hoping we could pull together a list of practical ideas for dealing with these ongoing shortages as this author tried to do. It's east to say "grow your own food, make more of the things that you need yourself, become more self-reliant," but that's pretty general and pretty overwhelming, especially for folks just getting started on the path to self-reliance. I tried to start a list a couple days back, with "beginner," "intermediate," and "advanced" levels, but got myself hopelessly overwhelmed😕.......Ended up thinking maybe the best advice is "pick out the shortage that is giving you the most trouble at the moment check out the TGN pages and any other likely site for ideas, then start a new thread here to work out a solution......But it still seems like there ought to be better answers than that?.....

  • Paradox
    Paradox Posts: 187 ✭✭✭

    I think i get what you are saying, and even the "grow your own food" is wrought with difficulties.. You typically then have to find seed, possibly fertilizer, etc, etc.. and then to preserve it! Don't even get me started! Freezers, canning supplies, etc are all more scarce because everyone is trying to grow their own. (and really most of them are failing miserably because they don't have any idea what they are doing, and think all you have to do is toss seeds on the ground and wait a few weeks)

    And then other things--you need clothes, so you want to sew.. do you have a machine? needles? fabric? patterns? knowledge???? and TIME!

    I'd love to make my own soap, but I've never tried it, and frankly it has me terrified, but it's also a matter of time. I'm working a full-time job and a side gig.

    On the other hand... I buy my meat from local farmers. I get my milk & eggs as well from farms and I'm in a CSA to get my veggies. At the start of the pandemic, I jumped in and planted over 150 strawberries and 50 raspberries in the backyard. Other than cheese and whole-wheat pasta, I don't usually need to go to the store for much.

    So... I think the answer to shortages is.. do the best you can for today's shortages. But, it's the NEXT one that you work to alleviate before it gets here! build your local network, slowly accumulate your equipment and improve your knowledge. but it's like the 'best time to plant a tree', you know?

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,633 admin

    I'm with the "build your local network" idea. Its nearly impossible to find the time (and energy) to make everything we need from scratch. I have the knowledge to make soap if necessary but I have a soap maker who lives right across the lake from me. We also have a candle maker and a knife maker in the community. At a nearby First Nation village there is a lady who tans hides and makes really nice moccasins and gloves. Just north of me, there is a wheel wright (for wagons) and we have a local saddle and harness maker. Lots of farmers and ranchers here with a variety of meat and garden products. Several people at our area's Farmers Markets make vinegar. I find my herbal products make good barter items in exchange for any of these items.

    A local network for equipment is a good idea, too. I have a friend with a cider press and its always easier when you do projects like this on a communal basis. We have wine making equipment. Another neighbour has a still. And I have access to a freeze drier whenever I want. I have a spinning wheel (and really need to get back to spinning as its been quite awhile) and there are sheep about a mile from my house. I had a treadle sewing machine but recently sold it to a neighbour who has much more in the way of sewing skills than I do, so if needed I would still have access to it or have her do my sewing for me. Lessens the cost of equipment for individuals if we can all share.

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 1,277 ✭✭✭✭

    Learning different skills along the way and knowing people who have other skills is important. I learned how to knit along the way and have made sweaters and wound bandages (humanitarian) along the way. I learned about gardening from going to gardening meetings and then trying it on my own. Canning was also learned.

    I also have sewing skills and make recycled clothing and that will probably be my winter project. My sons all have different things that they do that help me. One of them is my mechanic; two of them do woodworking and building things; my daughter is a great cook and met a man who is a chef.

    I have another friend who does sewing for everyone. She is here to be of service and does charge anything.

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,515 ✭✭✭✭✭

    My local stores have had some odd shortages. One week I can't find the cat food my 2 prefer. So when I found it, I got an extra bag and tucked it away. I still buy my usual bag and switch out with the extra one.

    Another week it was all the bottled electrolyte and sports drinks. I like the Body Armour brand, and I haven't been to the store since I couldn't find it. When it's back in stock, I will get a couple of extra 8 packs.

    Canned apricots are scarce. Other canned goods seem readily available.

    I do think that it's good to develop the ability to switch plans when needed. Can't find X this week? Substitute Y. Instead of making chili, it might be soup. Instead of my preferred brand I might try a competitor.

    At my work, in the kitchen of our hospital, we have had shortages, too. One week it's apple juice. The next it's bananas. Then frozen Italian ice cups, which our surgical patients get as first meals, along with clear liquids.

    Mostly, I think it's supply chains. If our vendor can't get something, we won't either.

    It's frustrating since we are accustomed to easily getting what we want when we want it. But I don't think it's going to be that way for a while.

    I am giving the cats different brands/flavors, to get them accustomed to change, even though I have that extra bag of food tucked away.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭


    "Interesting, because for the most part, I haven't noticed many shortages once we got past the initial TP scares and such. But then, I don't shop at the grocery store for too much of my foods, and I tend to stock well in advance for most things. what are you guys seeing shortages on still?"

    Anything that has to come from Asia, especially China, has had its manufacture and supply lines seriously disrupted. That includes not only items manufactured in Asia, but items manufactured in the US that depend on parts from Asia. The most obvious examples is manufacture of cars and trucks being held up by lack of computer chips.

    Food is probably the thing least affected right now. The only foods I've seen routinely out of stock are highly processed foods such as meal bars.

    But I hope you don't need to buy a new refrigerator, freezer, car, or computer right now, because it can be challenging. Supply is not meeting demand.

    Even in the food world, though, if parts are not available to keep the trucks running that delivery food to the grocery stores, things could change very quickly. A typical grocery store needs deliveries every week even under normal demand conditions, with no panic buying.

    Grow what you can, stock up on what you can't. Don't tell your friends and neighbors you are doing so, or they may start coming by to "borrow" things that you have.

  • Paradox
    Paradox Posts: 187 ✭✭✭

    actually, I did have to get a second (used) car this summer as my daughter was going back to on-campus for her college. They were higher priced, for sure, but still plenty of options if you were willing to pay the higher rate.

  • Paradox
    Paradox Posts: 187 ✭✭✭

    Interesting on the apricots. I know there were some local fruit shortages here due to intensely wonky winter weather. One farm lost their entire summer raspberry crop. Another 98% of their pears. We were fortunate here that the 27" of snow insulated my raspberry & strawberry plants quite well when the polar vortex hit. I suspect that kind of shortage--relatively localized-- will become the norm. What used to be a once every 20 years late freeze hitting the citrus crop may become every 2-5 years (on top of the disease pressure they've had lately). Same with peach crops getting damaged. When the bulk of a crop is grown in one area (like almonds in CA), it doesn't take much to wipe out nearly the whole crop for everyone.

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭

    I love the points this discussion brings up. Living in the city, I have noticed different items are missing or low at various stores. @torey I miss having neighbors with all of those useful skills that we could barter with. Vehicles are harder to come by do to the parts shortage. Heaven forbid you need parts for a camper, I hear it is taking months to get those.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,513 admin

    I also like this discussion. It is much better than the hopeless sounding, what don't you have in the stores? It is a more positive, what can we do about it. We have to take action. That is our solution.

    Networks are very important. We still need to learn skills, one at a time so as not to overwhelm ourselves, but still know how to network. Know your neighbor and your neighbor's neighbor. Work on building strong connections with them and be mindful of your interactions. Be kind, be generous (but not taken advantage of generous), be honest, deal honestly, be reasonable and fair. This often will be reciprocated.

    Print out your most useful advice (I have most of my homebirth information printed out, for example) as computers can crash, and aren't always there when you need them, and gather the best and most concise reference books. Make a list of what you have and is most useful. it isn't much different that any other emergency kit, really, just a little more complete.

    I recently listened to an interview of Israel Wayne, a Christian homeschool dad, writer, and lecturer (that sounds so formal). He had good advice and I am looking forward to hearing more in his series of how to prepare for what is to come. He said not to panic, hoard, nor become fearful. None of those things help...which we all know already on here. He said just to prepare for the future. He referenced a bible verse, which I will paraphrase, that a wise man prepares as he sees (recognizes) the evil day approaching.

    He said to have multiple streams of income, invest in things that will bring in income/pay for themselves+, get rid of is your mortal enemy and prevents you from moving in any direction that you may need to turn. He said, grow your own food, cultivate relationships that are beneficial/matter, build your network, and much more.

    Now, with our neighboring province of Saskatchewan signing into service an old emergency plan to "fight" the recent virus, they now have the emergency power to remove you or anyone else from your property, seize your property and destroy whatever they deem suitable to fight whatever they deem needs fighting against, which makes no sense, but it is what it is right now. They can do all of this without a warrant. What this made me think of is it is still good to invest in property and animals & gardens, if you can, as it is valuable. But, when these emergency powers infringe on that ability to keep your person, family, and property, skills are going to be what is needed most. Still learn the homesteading type skills, and make your networks strong, but be sure to also know how to forage for food and medicine and make/gather safe water. Know how to build a shelter. Store up your knowledge. It is one of the most valuable things that you can cultivate and possess.

    The best time is to learn these things is always now. Don't do a whole lot at once as has been said by others. Learn one thing one step at a time, baby steps. Then add to it with something else of benefit. Grow your network of knowledge, resources, and connections. Together, we are strong.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    A friend of mine told me years ago that her mom always told her that getting yourself educated is of prime importance since you never know where life may lead you.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    We went shopping in two grocery stores yesterday.

    Neither had any 10X confectioner's sugar, any large bags of white granulated sugar, or any whole wheat/whole grain hot dog buns.

    They did have light and dark brown I, and white granulated sugar in 2 lb boxes.

    Baking this fall may continue to present challenges.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,633 admin

    Re: Sugar shortages.

    We have a lot of honey producers in our area. I'm starting to find more recipes using sugar alternatives. I don't use white sugar very much anymore. Just for recipes where it really makes a difference on the end product.

    I thought about processing sugar beets and even grew them one year but I wasn't prepared enough to try to make the sugar.

    I processed Birch sap one year. A lot of work for very little syrup but it was very tasty.

  • Sharie
    Sharie Posts: 276 ✭✭✭

    Regarding toilet paper, get a hand held bidet bottle to rinse and then just dry with a little washcloth or any piece of cloth for that matter. We are far too addicted to disposable items.

    Some of these "shortages" are only affecting the USA. South of the border they still have all these items at regular prices.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,513 admin

    @Sharie Our prices have certainly increased, but we are not seeing the same shortages here either.

  • karenjanicki
    karenjanicki Posts: 968 ✭✭✭✭

    I have heard more about the shortages than I have seen them, locally anyway. Thankfully we seem to be doing well in this area. I do think the prices of some things have gone up, however.

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 1,277 ✭✭✭✭

    I have seen some prices going up especially paper products and heavy duty foil.

  • Alison
    Alison Posts: 179 ✭✭✭

    It's been interesting to read comments.

    One of the things I can resonate with is a lack of time. I grow all of my herbs, fruit and veggies. I now grow some nuts, have chooks and a small amount of diary.

    Different seasons, and transitions from one growing season to the next see's an increase in the work load. So, while I can have skills to do a range of other meaningful tasks, it comes down to if I have time to do it.

    Recognising this now however also gives me the chance [and all of us as it seems we are doing], to take a step back and determine if we are using our time in the ways that benefit us, our families and communities the most. To see if there are changes we can make.

    There are so many good suggestions in this thread, and I think one was to find the biggest need or shortage you have and try and focus on that one, to move to the next when you can. 🌼

    About 20 years ago I was talking to a very wise woman. I had a 'blah' moment where I told her all the huge things I had to do and take care of. She looked at me and said 'nobody can do that'. I thought 'great, she's preaching hopelessness'. Then she said 'no one can do that all at once. But all you have to do is the very next thing that is required. When you do that, you then do the next thing that is required.'

    I know it seems simple, yet it's a very powerful truth to bring to mind when it all seems too much. We simply can't do it all, and thinking or trying to will quickly become overwhelming. However, if we do what is most needful and then continue that way, we can all achieve an abundance and make a difference for ourselves and others.

    One Aussie youtuber and gardener says 'you can't be self sufficient in everything, but you can be self sufficient in something'🌱

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey That's why artisanal maple syrup and similar sweet items are so expensive. It takes a lot of labor to make a small amount of syrup or sugar! I buy maple syrup from my neighbor, and it costs $100 for 3 gallons. That's actually a very fair price. I find I use about 2 gallons a year, though I also buy regular white granulated sugar at the grocery store.

    Everything I have been reading, including articles that interview people in the shipping industry, suggests that the rolling shortages will continue through all of 2022. This is especially true for any manufactured items that have to come from Asia, which includes parts for repairs.

    We definitely need to think in terms of extended shortages. This is one aspect of the ongoing emergency that I wasn't mentally prepared for. When I think of food storage, I think in terms of "unable to go get groceries at all for a month," not "able to get groceries intermittently for 1 - 2 years."

    My past experience with serious weather events was not a good predictor of future performance. Until now, things usually returned to normal within a week (e.g, ice storms) and always within a month (e.g., major hurricanes). It's been quite an adjustment.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,513 admin

    @torey One thing to be mindful of if using honey in baking, is that the temperatures essentially turn that honey into something equal to HFCS, as far as our body processes it.

    I really don't know of a great natural substitute for in baking, unless you really like the taste of stevia, and I don't remember how stable that actually is in baking either. I have no idea how or if maple syrup would be more stable, but some things may not pair well with the maple flavor.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,633 admin

    @LaurieLovesLearning I don't actually bake that much with honey. I use it as the sweetener in other things. A lot of it goes in medicinal syrups. Really trying to eliminate how much sweet we have overall. I use palm sugar for some things but it is much more expensive and even though it is lower on the glycemic scale, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is good for you. And of course it is subject to the supply chain as well. Certainly not something that I could grow and process.

    So we are trying to eliminate baked goods, too. Unless it is a high fibre muffin or a special occasion.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm doing some end of year canning to use up the remaining apples. While I have enough lids for the season, I thought it would be a good time to buy, or if necessary order, more.

    I was not surprised that our local grocery store had no more canning supplies. But looking around online, I was quite surprised to see that none of Ball's official retailers appear to have any in stock anywhere near me.

    A few websites of chains such as Ace Hardware show that some stores do have lids in stock, but they will not ship either to my local store or to me directly.

    Ball does not sell any of their products on their own website, presumably to avoid competing with their retailers. So there doesn't appear to be any place to order Ball lids at the normal, non-scalper price, even if you are willing to wait 3 months to actually get them.

    Tattler reusable lids and seals are available for immediate order, but they cost almost $1 a lid and reviews show a very high failure-to-seal rate.

    I can wait to get more canning lids, but when they are readily available again I am going to stock up heavily!

  • Suburban Pioneer
    Suburban Pioneer Posts: 339 ✭✭✭

    We are in the process of having some badly needed hardscaping done so I can do other things than pull volumes and volumes of weeds all summer, and there's a cement shortage going on. Only a few of the old-time landscapers can get cement right now, and they do it thanks to long-established connections (talk about the value of community!) Our landscaper is relatively new to the scene (hasn't been around for at least five decades or two generations), so in order to get the cement for our job he had to go to one of the old-timers who would let him purchase the small amount we needed only if his guy could do the pour job. So the price went up for us because our guy had to hire someone else as a sub and pay him more. I wonder if that counts an inflation? 😑

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,156 ✭✭✭✭

    @MaryRowe We have noticed shortages at the grocery store and the manager says transport is the main problem.

    We don't live where we can garden, but I have been growing all types of sprouts--makes things taste fresher! Just ordered some seeds for micro-greens, every little thing helps!

  • Cornelius
    Cornelius Posts: 872 ✭✭✭✭

    @Alison I love Mark from Self-Sufficient Me!

    I agree that community is vital. I have been networking with friends and if stuff hits the fan I have a friend with a farm and 40 acres land to go stay with. They have additional friends with different skill sets as well that would also go there. If you haven't already, now is the time to find a group to survive with.

  • Lisa K
    Lisa K Posts: 1,916 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The trucking situation is definitely showing its effect, I went to my local Trader Joe's yesterday and many of their shelves were empty or near empty, even in the beginning of the pandemic the only thing they rationed were things like toilet paper. But yesterday it was common everyday things like my dad's favorite potato chips. Trader Joe's also sources locally with exception some of their fruit such as blueberries which come from Peru.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    My husband managed to get one box of a dozen Ball lids and rings yesterday. I had asked for two, but he got the last one left. The store employee told him that they there were getting lids in, but they were bought almost immediately after arriving.

    Living under shortages requires constantly keeping an eye open and picking things up when they become available briefly, even if you won't need them for months, because everyone else is doing that.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,633 admin

    I got 4 boxes of standard lids at Walmart the other day. Absolutely no sign of wide lids anywhere this year.

    I have started prowling second hand stores for the old glass lids (screw type tops, not wire bails). They are quite the price when you find them, though. You can still buy the rubber rings for them at any store here that sells canning items. I learned how to can using these type of jars and lids and never had any issues. If Tattlers lids are not doing a proper seal, maybe the instructions given for glass lids in older canning books would be a help when it comes to using the Tattlers.

    We don't seem to be seeing any grocery shortages at the moment. We were in our nearest "big" city (70,000) yesterday and no shortages there. We needed to purchase a new printer as ours died a couple of months ago. Costco didn't seem to have any shortages in electronics and we got a good deal on one of the new "tankless" ones. We were at another electronics store, too, and no shortages there either.

    One good thing in these days of shortages and rising prices, vanilla is finally starting to go back down in price. Half of what it was last year at this time. I didn't notice a drop in the price of vanilla beans, though.