ELYRIA, Ohio — Brittany Henkel found herself desperate for help 10 years ago.
“I was a single mom; a young single mom and I didn’t realize how much expensive stuff was when I went to the stores,” she said. “I needed to find a way to be able to afford everything my daughter needed with not necessarily having the budget to do it.”
So, Henkel turned to couponing.
“Right now every penny matters,” Henkel said.
Inside a small closet sits her stash of essentials to survive everyday life and a pandemic, including toothbrushes, razors and toilet paper.
“The things that people don’t really think about, you’re going to want to have,” Henkel said.
The stash has been a lifeline for her and her daughter since March when Henkel was laid off because of coronavirus cutbacks at her job.
“March, April, May and June obviously my stockpile started to get low. Not low to the average household probably, but low to me,” Henkel said. “People don’t understand, it’s a safety net. That’s why people are rushing out to get all these things.”
But not everyone has that safety net ready as statewide shutdowns loom over the nation once again.
“The stores didn’t overreact necessarily, but the consumers did. Stores just got blindsided,” said Sayan Chatterjee, Professor at Case Western University Design and Innovation.
Chatterjee said grocery stores are already stocking up for surges and planning to avoid empty shelves. Only this time they may not have the manpower to keep up with demand.
“The grocery industry, they are glued into this whole thing and they are not panicking,” he explained. “Unless they close down stores because they simply cannot staff all the stores that they currently have, which may lead to consumers thinking 'I better go and get more stuff.'”
Henkel said consumers can help by gradually picking up items over time and leaving some items behind for other families like hers.
“Clearing the shelves is just not something you should do,” she said. “You have to remember that there are people that can’t get out as much as others and clearing the shelves is just not something you should do.”
Henkel said rebate apps are extremely helpful for those wanting to save money or those who cannot afford to buy food and supplies. One app called “Ibotta “is even offering a free Thanksgiving meal.