You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Grocery Store Shortages Are Back—Here's How Long They Might Last This Time

Delish logo Delish 6 days ago Felicia LaLomia
© Getty Images - Getty Images

Whether you’re walking the groceries aisles yourself, having them delivered straight to your door, or just have a social media account, you’ve probably noticed something that brings back not-so-fond memories from spring 2020—empty grocery aisles. Over the past few weeks, on top of bad weather and a new COVID-19 variant ravaging the nation, many people around the country are finding themselves searching for basic food items like meat, dairy, and more only to discover they are out of stock.

“I have DEFINITELY noticed shortages,” Los Angeles resident Tesia Walker told Delish. “The stores are very rarely stocked these days, even with the basics sometimes. But my understanding is that it is much worse in other places. My friend in Turkey told me you can only buy one bottle of olive oil at a time. That’s how bad it is there. So when I can’t find my favorite rice, it puts it into perspective.”

Some stores, like ALDI, have released statements apologizing for a delay in restock of certain items. “We know it is frustrating and we are sorry for any and all inconveniences,” reads the released statement. “These delays mean that the below ALDI Finds may not be in store on the advertised on sale date.”

But what's causing the shortages? After two years of living in a pandemic, why are consumers once again having to wonder when chicken, pasta, cream cheese, and other items will be stocked back up again? Well, it’s sort of a perfect storm of reasons.

The winter storms that have hit the country over the past few weeks have caused massive delays in the transportation of goods. But another reason is labor shortages. The highly contagious Omicron variant is affecting a high number of service workers, causing employees to call in sick to quarantine and leaving grocery stores understaffed. This makes it hard for shelves to be restocked and products that are sold out to be sourced. Beyond grocery stores, the same thing is happening at other companies in the supply chain, such as the places that ship the goods to the grocery stores.

"It's entirely reasonable for all of us to project that the next month or so could remain strained within the supply chain as Omicron runs its course," CEO of food company Conagra, Sean Connolly said in an earnings call. Conagra owns brands like Duncan Hines and Healthy Choice.

On top of the number of employees calling out sick, many people have simply decided to quit, fed up with the lack of pay and benefits, while having to deal with customers and work in person during a pandemic. Dubbed the Great Resignation, more than 20 million people quit their jobs in the second half of 2021.

The Washingtonian, a newspaper that covers the D.C. area, published a list of grocery stores with what products are in short supply, out of stock, and restocked. Of the 30 stores listed, almost half had either limited meat, dairy, eggs, or produce. A few were completely out. Basics like cough medicine, cereal, and pet food are completely out of stock at some Wisconsin grocery stores, according to NBC26.

“You don’t know when they’re gonna be in, when they’re gonna be out," John Tadych, assistant manager of Tadych's Econofoods, told NBC26. "I’ve gone from orders of a thousand pieces and I’m only getting 250 of those pieces.”

And in New York City, Whole Foods is setting limits on some essential store items to prevent totally empty shelves, but customers are still finding basics out of stock. “There’s been routine shortages for important stuff like eggs completely being out of stock for days at a time,” New Yorker Sal Kimura told Delish.

With the potential of another winter storm hitting the East Coast, it’s unclear when the grocery shortages will stop. However, there are reports saying the Omicron variant is peaking, which means rates could be slowing. Until then, try to avoid panic buying.

More from Delish

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon