Items Left on the Shelves That Even COVID-19 Panic Buyers Didn’t Want

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Toilet paper? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Non-perishables? Triple check. When stocking up during the COVID-19 pandemic, these are just some of the essentials. And that’s led to empty supermarket shelves — well, almost empty.

Despite panic buyers sweeping up these essentials and long-lasting goods, there are still some products that even the most prepped among us have left untouched. From health food substitutes to Corona beer, here are the items even panic buyers don’t want.

Lima Beans

Experts recommend stocking up on dry goods and non-perishables. Chief among those items? Beans, rice and pasta. Although kidney, pinto and black beans are scarce, folks don’t seem to have the same love for lima beans.

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Have lima beans gotten a bad rap? Maybe. This loveless relationship might boil down to shoppers’ lack of creativity or know-how when it comes to lima bean prep. After all, they aren’t the sort of bean you toss in a chili or a burrito. To quote Twitter user Leigh (@stweetleigh), “Poor Lima beans.”

Baby Shark Cereal

If you aren’t aware of the viral earworm “Baby Shark,” you probably don’t have (or know) a YouTube-savvy toddler. Recently, the catchy tune was reworked into “Wash Your Hands With Baby Shark” to reinforce good hygiene habits amongst families.

Photo Courtesy: @slydanno70/Twitter

The video for the refashioned jingle kicked off a dance challenge, encouraging families to upload videos of parents and kids washing their hands along with the song. While the folks behind the “Baby Shark” craze are doing their part to combat COVID-19, the same clearly can’t be said for the branded cereal.

Manhattan Chowder

If you’re familiar with the Great Chowder Battle raging on the East Coast, then this next one shouldn’t come as a surprise. As Twitter user Hillary Monahan (@HillaryMonahan) sagely puts it, “Even in a plague, New Englanders refuse [to eat] Manhattan Clam Chowder.”

Photo Courtesy: @HillaryMonahan/Twitter

For the unanointed, New England clam chowder — the superior form of chowder — is known for its creamy, white broth. Manhattan clam chowder, on the other hand, has a thin, red-tinted broth, and it’s this inclusion of tomatoes that’s a true affront to New Englanders. Right up there with choosing Krispy Kreme over Dunkin’.

Hawaiian-style Pizza

According to Twitter user Claudio (@claudversion), New Englanders aren’t the only ones refusing to bend their food preferences right now. In response to the Manhattan clam chowder debacle, they tweeted “…and Italians refuse American pineapple pizza.”

Photo Courtesy: @claudversion/Twitter

Look, it’s kind of trendy to hate on Hawaiian-style pizza right now. Even Gordon Ramsay has stated that pineapple doesn’t work as a cheese pie add-on. Pizza-delivery app Slice asked users about the controversial topping, and a whopping 54% of the 34,000 folks surveyed claimed the fruit had no place on a ‘za.

Carrot Spirals

Carrots are low in carbs and, thanks to their stock of beta-carotene, promote eye health. What’s not to love? Evidently, despite the veggie’s benefits, its masquerading as a pasta substitute doesn’t sit well with Trader Joe’s shoppers.

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While spaghetti squash has been lauded for its ability to mimic pasta, “carrot spirals” aren’t quite as decorated. Instead of boiling the spirals in water, the packet suggests cooking them in a skillet. But no amount of cooking can hide the fact that this pasta substitute is, without a doubt, just a curlier version of those shredded carrots you find in a diner side salad.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust & Broccoli-Kale Pizza Crust

You can’t go wrong with pizza, they said. Even a mediocre pizza is still pizza, they said. Well, whoever “they” are clearly hasn’t stumbled across these pizza crust substitutes from Trader Joe’s.

Photo Courtesy: @julianaillari/Twitter

While plant-based substitutes can be great for those who can’t process gluten-based crusts, these offerings clearly aren’t the cream of the crop. Sure, spinach may have gotten away with it, infusing itself into tortillas and tri-color rotini, but broccoli and kale just don’t have the same effect.

Black Licorice

Across the United States, the battle to determine which movie-theater licorice is better — Twizzlers or Red Vines? — rages on. What’s out of this red licorice feud? Black licorice, which, although decidedly popular outside the States, doesn’t quite satisfy one’s sweet tooth.

Photo Courtesy: @avanishmishra/Twitter

According to the FDA, eating too much black licorice, especially if you’re over 40 years old, may cause health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart issues. But only if you’re feasting on it. If eaten in moderation, it’s a fine treat and it can actually soothe an upset stomach. Like Twitter user Avanish Mishra (@avanishmishra), come for the tofu, but stay for the fun facts.

Cat Litter

Aside from Clorox wipes and hand sanitizers, toilet paper was one of the first products to fly off shelves during the COVID-19 pandemic. The why is a bit perplexing, but, clearly, panic-buying took hold of the population and folks started to stock up on what they deemed necessities.

Photo Courtesy: @mattwrighttv/Twitter

One Target found a rather creative — and accidentally comical — way to fill those empty toilet paper shelves. The store in question loaded that barren aisle with cat litter as far as the eye could see. Clearly, the cat isn’t out of the bag: Our feline friends aren’t aware that they should stock up on all their restroom needs.

Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower seemed to be having a moment. What Forrest Gump‘s Bubba did for shrimp, the low-carb health-food craze did for cauliflower, which is to say we were made to think it could be used as a substitute for nearly any carb-centric meal.

Photo Courtesy: @The_Tim/Twitter

These days, cauliflower can be made into rice, pasta and mashed potatoes. However, when it comes to stocking up, shoppers are throwing those diet books to the wind and grabbing buttermilk pancake mix before cauliflower rice. Just as the gods, Krusteaz and Bisquick, intended.

Charmin Toilet Paper

“Cha, cha, cha, Charmin!” Close your eyes and you can A) Hear that jingle and B) picture the red and blue cartoon bears who just love their soft, cloud-like toilet paper. However, unlike the charming Charmin mascots, New Yorkers opted for other brands first.

Photo Courtesy: @senorita_badas-/Twitter

Sure, the Charmin is basically wiped out, but it also points to an interesting trend. Admit it: We’ve all been guilty of accidentally taking way too much of that padded stuff. With toilet paper becoming a scarce commodity, it’s likely that shoppers who can’t spare a square are trying to find ways to make the product last.


In any supermarket, the condiment aisle is often reliable. Full of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and every salad dressing imaginable, the goods located there are happy to help take your meals to the next level.

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While the ketchup shelves have been completely decimated here, the croutons remain virtually untouched. To make matters more perplexing, they’re garlic and butter croutons. What could be better than that combo? After all, enough croutons can transform any salad into a bread-riddled comfort food.

Kitchen Towels

Normally, reusable items are all the rage. We’ve been trained to discard single-use products, like plastic straws and shopping bags, in favor of aluminum sippers and canvas totes. However, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, opinions have shifted.

Photo Courtesy: @Bob_Shaffer1/Twitter

Exhibit A: the reusable kitchen towels on display here. If someone in your household is displaying symptoms of the novel coronavirus, it’s best to switch to single-use products — think paper towels instead of hand towels — which may account for these left-behind items. In fact, many states are even temporarily revoking plastic bag bans and upcharges to help mitigate the spread.


Traditionally eaten as a savory spread on toast, Marmite is essentially the United Kingdom and New Zealand’s version of Vegemite, that Australian delicacy that doesn’t sit too well with the typical American palate. Unsurprisingly, the product’s slogan is literally “Love it or hate it.”

Photo Courtesy: @iainkenney/Twitter

Made from yeast extract, the food spread is a sticky, dark brown substance that’s almost too salty for the Morton Salt Girl. Hence the polarizing opinions. Clearly, this Stop and Shop’s Marmite-laden shelves indicate that the substance is an acquired taste, to say the yeast.

Protein Shakes & Powders

While we’re all sheltering in place and practicing social distancing, it’s important to keep up healthy habits. Movement or exercise can improve our moods, combat anxiety and depression, help us sleep better and aid our immune systems.

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However, while many folks are keen to participate in Zoom-hosted exercise classes or use their living rooms as ad-hoc yoga studios, they seem to be ditching protein powders and supplements. After all, protein-rich shakes don’t exactly scream “comfort food.”

Multigrain Flaxseed Crackers

Crackers can be a wonderful snack. They complement so many other foods, from cheese and apples to peanut butter. However, it’s important to find the right cracker for you, and, as evidenced by Trader Joe’s shoppers, that right cracker likely doesn’t include flaxseeds.

Photo Courtesy: @CKaftonKTVU/Twitter

Full of “health-conscious” trigger words, multigrain flaxseed crackers kind of sound like edible cardboard incarnate. Not only are they a worse snack than a more buttery cracker, like Ritz, but they also don’t do wonders for the stomach, unlike the ever-helpful Saltine.

Saucy Scallops With Mushrooms

No, that isn’t a typo. These saucy scallops and mushrooms come with an “Emmental” cheese sauce. What’s Emmental, you may ask? It’s a hard Swiss cheese — like Gruyère with holes — which sounds like a weird thing to get from Trader Joe’s.

Photo Courtesy: @rrrobertooo/Twitter

The only thing stranger? Pouring that cheese sauce over Trader Joe’s scallops. Although review site Freezer Meal Frenzy claims the sauce is “rich and creamy, with some sweet undertones that really make it pop,” it’s clear that when it comes to stocking up on microwave-friendly meals scallops aren’t shoppers’ first choice.


Growing in clusters that more closely resemble garlic, shallots are a sweeter sort of onion. If you ever panic-tried a meal-prep service like HelloFresh or Blue Apron in your mid-twenties, you probably became fast friends with these fellows.

Photo Courtesy: @CKaftonKTVU/Twitter

Although shallots sound refined and very “adult,” they clearly aren’t the go-to bulb during the pandemic. Honestly, it’s even surprising that onions would be cleared out completely, but, as you channel your inner chef, this fun, tear-inducing substitute might be worth a try.

Chocolate Hummus

These days, it’s wonderful to find comfort in the little things, which is something that Twitter user @noahgo has taken to heart. “Somehow reassuring [that] in the midst of [the] #coronavirus shopping frenzy…people still have the sense not to buy [chocolate hummus] and buffalo hummus,” they write.

Photo Courtesy: @noahgo/Twitter

We couldn’t agree more. Hummus, a spread made from chickpeas, is a wonderful savory snack. It goes well with pita chips, crackers and (most) vegetables. We cannot, however, imagine eating a chocolate hummus, especially not in a world where Nutella exists.

Mr. Clean “Clean Freak” Deep-Cleaning Mist

When Twitter user Alex Philippidis (@AlexWestchester) headed to their local Stop and Shop and Target locations in White Plains, New York, they were surprised to find the aisles wiped clean of sanitary wipes.

Photo Courtesy: @AlexWestchester/Twitter

That was back on March 3, just before the widespread social distancing directives were put in place. Even early on, shoppers were keen on the Clorox wipes. One sanitizing product line that didn’t get as much love? Mr. Clean. We’re not saying it was those unsettling and mock-soapy commercials about Mr. Clean and his unrequited love, but… Yeah, it might’ve been those.

Peter Pan Peanut Butter

When J. M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, he called the fictional land where the unaging, titular character resides “Neverland” for a reason. Although we’re pretty sure that reason had nothing to do with the fact that panic shoppers would never, ever buy Peter Pan brand peanut butter.

Photo Courtesy: @RedBeardedN1nja/Twitter

These days, the peanut butter options are never-ending: There’s Skippy and Jif and Planters and Justin’s and Smucker’s and so many others. And then there’s smooth PB and crunchy and extra crunchy. There are stir and no-stir options. Needless to say, someone was going to get left behind.

Glad Garbage Bags

“Don’t get mad, get Glad!” Well, in this case, “Don’t get lax, toss your trash!” It’s a strange sight to see: In this Wisconsin-based Target, all of the cleaning supplies have been bought up, but a sufficient stock of garbage bags remains.

Photo Courtesy: @SusanKim4/Twitter

It’s possible that folks already stocked up on garbage bags, but, we’re just saying, if you’re using Clorox wipes and paper towels on a near-constant basis, you’re going to generate a lot of trash. Meaning, it’s wise to throw an extra box of garbage bags into your shopping cart.


“Look at these empty shelves I saw at Costco this morning,” wrote Twitter user Ben Owen (@hrkbenowen). Well, Ben, you’ve overlooked a few crucial items here. Yes, a lot of the non-perishables are missing from this aisle, but folks have left behind Honey Bunches of Oats and maple syrup.

Photo Courtesy: @hrkbenowen/Twitter

But, the most egregious oversight of all is that the Nutella is still fully stocked. The chocolate-hazelnut spread is a versatile, cupboard-friendly snack sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. It’s the chocolate lover’s peanut butter equivalent. We’re not encouraging panic-buying by any means, but please do right by Nutella, Costco shoppers.

OFF! Bug Spray

With social distancing and shelter-in-place directives firmly implemented for many states throughout the U.S., many Americans have been forced to trade the great outdoors for the great indoors. Staying home means mitigating the spread of COVID-19 — and it also means avoiding some of nature’s less-fun aspects.

Photo Courtesy: @Riot_Relevance/Twitter

Spring has sprung. Across the country, the weather is warming, flowers are blooming and all sorts of critters and insects are cropping up. However, avoiding the outdoors — apart from the occasional walk — means you don’t need to worry about bug spray or citronella candles.

Pasta That’s Not Spaghetti

Okay, okay — this one might be more of a fluke. This is the most full we’ve seen the pasta aisle in quite some time. But it’s still worth pointing out that even in a semi-stocked pasta aisle, spaghetti reigns supreme.

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Pastas like penne and fusilli may seem more versatile than meatballs’ favorite sidekick, but nine out of 10 Lady and the Tramps agree that nothing beats spaghetti. Comforting and easy to dress up, spaghetti is always there for us. All the other pastas are just trying to keep up.

Off-brand, Naturally Essenced Sparkling Water

“I stopped at [Target] to get a refill at the pharmacy [and was] stunned by all the empty shelves,” Adam May (@adammaytv) tweeted. “I noticed people didn’t want pear or hibiscus flavored water.” That’s not all we noticed, however.

Photo Courtesy: @adammaytv/Twitter

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably well aware that La Croix and Bubly, naturally essenced, zero-calorie sparkling waters, have taken the country by storm. From Target to Safeway, every big-name supermarket has tried to create its own versions of these hit products, but, even in a panic, shoppers prefer the real deal.

Cranberry Sauce

When it comes to a proper Thanksgiving dinner, cranberry sauce is an essential part of the meal. The rest of the year, we assume it exists — stranded out there in the soup aisle — but, not unlike Peeps marshmallow chicks, we aren’t actively thinking about it.

Photo Courtesy: @SteveOStereo/Twitter

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak being named a pandemic, experts recommended folks stock up on enough supplies for two weeks — namely because the self-quarantine period, should you need to abide by it, lasts 14 days. Stocking up on canned goods, like beans and soups, is highly recommended — but, like these shoppers, you can safely leave the can-shaped cranberry sauce behind.

Chili-and-Lime-Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips

From the makers of chocolate hummus comes another very specific snack food: chili-and-lime-flavored rolled corn tortilla chips. While these chips are actually pretty tasty, they clearly aren’t anyone’s must-have snack food.

Photo Courtesy: @Martwork/Twitter

And that’s fair. We’d probably just go with Cool Ranch Doritos, too. As Twitter user Marta Freud (@Martwork) points out, this might be a clear indication that Trader Joe’s should try out something new. If shoppers aren’t scooping up this junk food now, they probably wouldn’t do so under normal circumstances either.

Kettle Unsalted Potato Chips

The fine folks over at Kettle Brand chips have given us some truly wonderful flavors. From honey dijon and bourbon BBQ to sour cream and onion, there’s a Kettle chip flavor for everyone. Do you like salty potato chips? Of course!

Photo Courtesy: @strickinato/Twitter

Luckily, Kettle has both sea salt and salt and vinegar chips, in addition to a standard salted chip. But then, horror of horrors, they offer an unsalted variety. While some shoppers may be on a low-sodium diet, most chip eaters are in it for the salt, so these remnants are no surprise to us.

Ziploc Bags

While single-use Ziploc bags aren’t the best for the environment, there’s no doubt that many Americans rely on these disposable lunch and snack bags. They’re a staple when it comes to bringing a sandwich to work or loading up your kids’ lunch bags with everything from carrot sticks to Goldfish crackers.

Photo Courtesy: @Rigor_Relevance/Twitter

However, with schools and most nonessential businesses closed for now to observe social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place directives, the need for safely transporting food has dwindled. After all, you’re not going to pack celery sticks into a Ziploc for your commute between your kitchen and bedroom, right? Right.

Corona Beer

Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, the company behind Corona, suspended production of its beers in accordance with the government’s mandate to suspend nonessential services through April 30 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Despite this, you can still find Coronas on supermarket and liquor store shelves.

Photo Courtesy: @TimHarf/Twitter

In a stranger-than-fiction moment, sales of Corona beer in the U.S. dropped by around 40% in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak — and the beer has been the subject of memes and jokes. Sure, sharing a name (sort of) with the virus is a ridiculous reason to forgo the beer, but, clearly, one wayward shopper had second thoughts and left this six-pack behind.