/ Food & Drink

Which items are you struggling to find?

Supermarkets have started lifting restrictions on certain products, but are there essentials and other items you’re still struggling to find?

With demand beginning to ease, we know that shoppers are beginning to find it easier to get the items they want.

But some products are still proving tricky to find – according to our survey, hard-to-source products included flour, pasta, rice and paracetamol.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

While many people have been struggling to get a supermarket delivery slot, others have been venturing to the stores to do their shop.

We asked on Facebook which items are proving tough to find.

Your views

Here’s a selection of the responses we received. Does your experience match the products people can’t get their hands on?

The emerging theme is certainly around individual ingredients, while products that have been ‘like gold dust’ for a while now, such as hand gel, are still proving illusive.

As for the flour shortage, Kate Bevan has explained that one here!

Do your experiences match up with what’s been reported above?

Making food last

Last month we compiled 10 tips from members for making your food go further, now we’d like to hear your tips here on Which? Conversation.

Personally, I’ve been tending to cook in larger quantities since shopping has become less frequent. That way I can then freeze the smaller portions to have for future meals.

I’ve found it’s been working well for mince, such as lasagne and chilli.

A guide to what you can and can’t freeze

How are you making your ingredients and other food last longer? What are your tips for making the most of the food you have in your kitchen?

And which food items and other essentials are you struggling to find? Share your experiences with us in the comments.


I’m with you on mince Grace, as I have also cooked batches of beef/lamb/turkey mince and onions to put in the freezer.

There is so much you can do with it . . add herbs and tomato sauce for pasta, Indian spices and vegetables for curry, make it go further with mushrooms, tinned beans, sweetcorn or lentils, eat it with pasta, rice or spuds. I might try a mince and veg pie this week. Pastry is not something I make very often so that might be interesting.

Here’s my recipe for savory pastry suitable for topping a pie:

Take 250 g of flour …

… come back in about 6 months and I’ll post the rest.

Ha Ha Em!!!

Ettie says:
30 April 2020

Lol Em at least you have the flour.
I can supply the 500g butter

Is this turning into the Which? Convo version of stone soup?

I’ve been shopping online for myself and my mother at both Morrisons and Waitrose over the last 5 weeks. The service and availability from these two companies has proven quite different. Waitrose availability of items has been extremely good and any substitutions they have made have been very good. Waitrose have made no errors in the deliveries. For the last 5 weeks we have found poor availability at Morrisons of for example UHT Milk. Morrisons have also made errors in 2 deliveries – providing a wrong size of fresh milk. We are now in the process of switching to Waitrose for my mother.

I am finding lamb tagine is a great meal to cook in batches, freeze and microwave. You do need a good mix of spices on hand to make it initially, but as long as you have some rice, you don’t need vegetables to serve later. It is great served with bananas, mango, chutney, much as you would a curry … .

BBC have a good starter recipe for Moroccan lamb tagine on their website, but I like to vary the recipe, sometimes using pomegranate juice instead of tomato juice or lamb stock. I never bother with the argan oil or saffron (who has those?) and it makes no difference to the taste. You can also add some extra dried fruits and nuts from your store cupboard.

I like lamb the best and buy legs when on special offer, cutting most of the meat off for stewing or our favourite saag gosht. I leave just enough meat on the bone for a roast and usually get 6-8 meals out of the rest that go in the freezer.

I have not managed to get any bread flour. Even when it is shown as a stock item on the website none was available when I collected my recent or previous orders. I did manage to get a bag of plain flour so will resume baking biscuits. 🍪🍪🍪

Shea Philbin says:
29 April 2020

Look out ~ Kitchen towels are in short supply across Europe !

Flour is almost impossible to find here, as is dried yeast.

Hilda Robinson says:
30 April 2020

Demerara sugar seems to be in short supply locally as well as dried yeast.

i have found eggs hard to get hold of. online orders never have them so it means going into the stores and hope they have some. flour is also scarce.

Flour, my kingdom for a bag of flour. I’ve given up baking which helps with the weight a bit. Have not been in a large supermarket since middle of March and am forced to use a small M&S food hall which does not stock a large selection. Hey no as every one has said, I have always cooked double in order to freeze a portion which has been a godsend. Take care and stay safe everyone.

I managed to get a bag of plain flour in my recent online order from Tesco. Now if I could get some baking powder I could pretend it’s self-raising flour.

As an experiment I had tried making shortbread with wholemeal bread flour. I now know why there are no recipes for this. 🙂

Em says:
1 May 2020

“Now if I could get some baking powder … ”

Don’t say that’s in short supply! Of course bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar mixed 1:2 is the usual substitute. If you’ve no cream of tartar add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice at the last minute before baking.

Em says:
2 May 2020

Dear Miss Manners,

I was in Waitrose yesterday and parked my trolley in front of the barren flour shelves, as it seemed a good place to stop and check my shopping list without being in anyone’s way. Another couple approached, so I backed away slightly. They knelt down and caught sight of the two remaining 500g bags of Essential plain flour I hadn’t noticed, right at the back of the bottom shelf. As they put them in their trolley, they asked if I would like one of them. So sweet! I thanked them but said to keep both, as I have been sourcing my flour commercially to leave home baking supplies free for others.

I am now having strong feelings of guilt and cannot sleep, as I didn’t offer to share some of the 500 g tin of yeast I had at home. What is the correct thing to do in response to acts of social kindness, when everyone is supposed to be self-isolating?


Dear Em

I feel so sorry that you are wracked with guilt over the unsolicited act of kindness from your anonymous trolley buddies. Apart from going on a seven day fast of wheaten products there is little else you need to do to assuage your sense of guilt. You did not accept the other couple’s spontaneous offer so were not honour-bound to reciprocate.

Uplift thy heavy heart and go forth next week at the same time and wait in the floury aisle with a portion of yeast and the compliments of the season for it will be a bank holiday to celebrate victory in Europe. You’ll meet again . . .

May your bread always rise


P.S. Such consideration towards a fellow baker is the only sort of conduct I would expect from a Waitrose customer.

I elected to use alternatives to supermarkets where possible. There are online food specialists still delivering though they can be expensive as mostly premium market. Even better my local butcher having closed his shop is delivering locally and a county wholesaler is delivering vegetables and fruit to retail customers. Another local shop is delivering ready meals sourced from a specialist supplier. So not too bad really as local businesses have clearly decided to fill the supply gap.