Eau Claire eats

Grocery store shelves empty during COVID-19 pandemic

Grace Olson

More stories from Grace Olson

Student speaks
November 17, 2021

Note: “Eau Claire eats” is a rotating column where Spectator writers explore the intersections of food and culture.

Grocery shopping in the age COVID-19 is quite different from the normal grocery store trip. 

Aisles were once filled with parents as they prepared for the week or college students trying to find the cheapest options. Now they are occupied by workers who wear gloves and masks. 

Personally, I try to do my shopping during the week or later in the day on the weekends to avoid the big crowds, which I continue to do during the quarantine. 

Besides the insane amounts of toilet paper being bought, other grocery items sales have increased in the past weeks. 

Sales of rice have increased more than 50% and canned meat is up more than 40%, stated a New York Times article.

Other basic items like pasta, beans, bottled water and peanut butter sales have gone up since Jan. 18, the article stated. So naturally, these were the items I wanted to purchase. 

On Monday afternoon my first stop was my local Meijer grocery store. It was a weekday and there was continual encouragement to stay home, so I was surprised to see a full parking lot. 

There was black tape on the floor in the shape of an X near the checkout, to mark where customers should stand. 

There was also a worker near the carts with sanitizing wipes, who offered to clean people’s carts. 

Because it was so busy, many of the shelves were nearly empty. The basics: pasta, beans and peanut butter were definitely low and those aisles had the most traffic.

I did not expect the pancake mix to be low in stock, but as a big pancake fan myself, I understand. 

Overall, people seemed to be on edge, a lot of customers were wearing gloves and some had masks on. Even with a larger crowd in the store, it seemed to be eerily quiet. 

Second, I went to my local Festival Foods. It wasn’t too busy and the atmosphere seemed to be a bit more calm overall. 

The store was pretty well stocked, aside from the bread section with the least amount of options. 

Similar to Meijer, they reminded customers to practice social distancing with signs posted around the store. 

My last stop of the afternoon was Pick ‘N Save. I am originally from the Milwaukee area, where Pick ‘N Save is a common store. In Eau Claire there aren’t as many. The store is similar to Festival Foods. 

Their stock was not as hopeful as Festival — but they definitely had options. Cereal, boxed meals, instant potatoes, bread, meat, frozen meals and paper products were the items with the least amount of stock.

In all of these stores I noticed the self checkout card readers seemed cleaner than usual and there was an overall heightened cleanliness, which I appreciated. 

Customers seemed to be on edge in all locations and no matter how many people were there there wasn’t much chatter among customers. There seemed to be an overall feeling of uncertainty during this time. 

Based on my experiences, I would recommend going to Festival Foods because of the well-stocked shelves and it was the least busy. 


Olson can be reached at [email protected].