When it comes to groceries and coronavirus, you already know that some items are harder to get a hold of than they used to be.
Good thing you’re a smart shopper, so you’re here looking for unexpected or alternative ways to get items you can’t find at Walmart or Kroger right now. I’ve found a few workarounds for getting high-demand items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, meat, and more. One thing to realize is you might not always save money with these suggestions, but you’ll get your hands on items you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find.
Also, I’m making a few local suggestions, so you’ll need to call your local farm or bakery in order to find out exact pricing. Estimates here are based on my local prices.
Don’t forget to download the KCL app — we’re writing deals on these items as quickly as we can, but some items (like toilet paper and hand sanitizer) are selling out before we can publish a deal!
Who has toilet paper in stock?
Toilet paper is definitely the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow right now.
Showing up at a store like Target right when it opens (after senior shopping hours) is the most reliable way to get your hands on a pack of TP. I’ve heard that some stores are restocking midday, so if you strike out first thing in the morning, consider calling your local grocery store to find out what time they restock toilet paper.
You can also use the Relish.com stock checker to see if you can find toilet paper in stock at Target or Walmart before you head out. Since TP is leaving shelves so quickly, the stock checker may not reflect real-time updates about what the stores have.
Here at KCL, our team has found random packs of toilet paper at gas stations and convenience stores, boutiques that normally sell high-end clothing, and even at our favorite local brewery!
Local businesses are using their commercial supply hookups to order and sell toilet paper to customers. Smart!
Buy distillery hand sanitizer or make your own.
If you’re waiting for hand sanitizer to be in stock long enough for you to get it on your next grocery order, you’ll be waiting a long time.
You probably already know that washing your hands with soap and warm water works better than hand sanitizer, but if you must have hand sanitizer, I recommend you take matters into your own hands (punny, I know).
Find out how to make hand sanitizer yourself, or look into local distilleries. Businesses that normally make spirits like vodka, gin, and more are pivoting and making hand sanitizer to meet the huge demand.
Locate your state on this list of local distilleries making hand sanitizer — prices vary as some distilleries are charging up to $45 per gallon of sanitizer and some are giving sanitizer away for free with a spirits purchase. Call your local distilleries to find out more.
Buy meat and eggs from a local farm.
Local farms are definitely having a moment right now. So far, they’ve been able to keep up with demand because they don’t have to compete with big chains who are having supply chain problems. Many local farms offer meat that they butcher and package by the pound and eggs by the dozen.
Another idea is to look into the cost of buying a cow and whether it makes sense for your family. Buying a cow or a half-cow is a great option if you want to stock your freezer for the year.
Also consider meat boxes like Omaha steaks. You won’t have as much control over what you receive, since you’ll need to select a “package” from the options they list. Common packages include steaks, sausage, and meatballs.
Farm pre-packaged ground beef: $6 – $8 per pound
Farm packaged chuck roast: $4.50 – $6 per pound
Farm packaged chicken breasts: $5.50 – $9 per pound
Farm packaged pork chops: $4.50 – $6 per pound
Omaha Steaks “Stock Up Box”: $149
- 4 (5-ounce) Filet Mignons
- 4 (5-ounce) Top Sirloins
- 4 (4-ounce) Boneless Pork Chops
- 4 (4-ounce) Omaha Steaks Burgers
- 4 (3-ounce) Gourmet Jumbo Franks
- 4 (3-ounce) Kielbasa Sausages
- 1 (12-ounce package) All-Beef Meatballs
- 4 (2.88-ounce) Potatoes au Gratin
- 4 (4-ounce) Caramel Apple Tartlets
- 1 (0.33-ounce) Signature Seasoning Packet
As far as eggs go, buy them from the farm too.
Can you freeze eggs? Yes! Absolutely. Just crack them open and whisk as if you’re making scrambled eggs. Pour mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, remove them from the trays and store the cubes in a gallon zip-top bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge when you want to use them.
Farm-fresh eggs: $3 – $5 per dozen
Get butter at your local farm or (gasp!) use Crisco.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to spread Crisco on your toast — I have standards. But if you’re finding that your quarantine coping skill is baking, Crisco works as a butter substitute for cakes, cookies, and quick breads in a pinch. It’s in stock at grocery stores, and you can save what little butter you have to spread on toast or corn on the cob. You can also use coconut oil. It gives your baked goods a delicious buttery taste and helps them stay moist. Coconut oil also tastes amazing on toast.
Or you can find butter at your local dairy farm. If you’re wondering if you can freezer butter, yes, you can. Frozen unsalted butter stays fresh for six months and salted butter for up to one year.
Join a produce CSA to get a weekly supply of produce.
CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture” — you’ll buy “shares” of a farm’s produce harvest up front and then once the harvest happens, you get your portion until the season is over.
A CSA typically results in a box of produce every week, but the amount and type of produce varies based on the farm and what’s in season. You don’t handpick what types of produce you want — you get what you get.
Produce CSA full share (one full box of produce every week for 17 weeks): $600 or about $35 per week
Produce CSA half-share (one half box of produce every week for 17 weeks): $400 or about $24 per week
Find vegetable seeds for your garden at Azure Standard.
While it’s pretty hard to find vegetable seeds on Amazon right now, you can find them at online health food stores like Azure Standard.
Azure Standard isn’t your typical online order. Here’s how it works: If Azure Standard delivers to your area, you’ll place an order online and a truck delivers to a drop-off location in your area once a month. You’ll show up at your designated drop-off, based on your home address, when the truck arrives (don’t worry, drop-offs have COVID-19 procedures in place). You can order other pantry goods and household supplies through Azure Standard as well.
Ask a local bakery if they’ll sell you flour.
Many local bakeries have a local wheat supplier they work with on a regular basis to supply them with low-cost wheat. And many bakeries mill their own flour.
Call around to bakeries in your area to ask them if they will sell you flour by the pound. In my city, one bakery in particular is trying to stay in business right now by selling flour, since people are more interested in flour than fresh-baked cinnamon rolls right now.
All purpose flour: $1 – $3 per pound
PRO TIP: You can also make your own oat or almond flour by whizzing the grain or nut in a food processor or Ninja blender.
Look for canned goods like tomato paste, black and refried beans, and tuna at Zocalo Foods online.
Ethnic grocery stores like ZocaloFoods.com sell many of the same items you’d find at Walmart, but not as many people shop them, making this a great option for hard-to-find canned goods.
If you’re wondering how long canned food lasts, it’s typically good for 2 – 5 years. Follow the expiration date on your can.
Buy dry pasta from local Italian-themed restaurants.
Just like other small businesses, local restaurants are getting scrappy and trying to find ways to meet consumer needs while their dining rooms are closed as required by their state.
If you know of an Italian restaurant that makes pasta in-house, call and ask if they will sell you the dry pasta. One restaurant in my city is doing this and staying alive because they’re selling dry pasta and wine to go! Yes, it will be more expensive than a box of Barilla penne pasta, so keep that in mind.
Local handmade dry pasta: $8 per pound
Check out Asian Food Grocer for bags of rice.
Just like with Latino grocery stores online, many people simply don’t think to shop ethnic restaurants for basics as quickly as they think of Walmart or Kroger. But this works in your favor because Asian grocery stores may still have items in stock!
For example, AsianFoodGrocer.com has bags of rice in stock, along with soy sauce.
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