Grocery Shopping Under a National Lockdown

Photo by Anna Shvets on

I am an American expat living in Ecuador, South America. We have been under a national lockdown since the second week in March. The national laws of mobility have become even more restrictive in recent days due to the increase in the number of confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus.

The days of the week when a person can leave their home to go to the supermarket or pharmacy is based on the last number of one’s automobile license plate. Those with an odd number can leave their home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The days for an even number are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

There is a strict curfew of 6:00AM – 2:00PM. This is enforced by the local and national police forces and the armed forces of the country.

Though my wife and I stocked up on non-perishable food and other household goods two weeks before the lockdown, a family cannot stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables for more than what will be consumed in a week since many fresh fruits and vegetables will spoil. The supermarkets in my city of 520,000+ residents are open 8:00AM to 12:30PM. In addition to the these limited hours, there are other qualifications to be allowed entry into the supermarket.

  • One must be wearing a mask, be wearing gloves and must have their cedula (national ID) with them. Your temperature will also be taken. You will not be allowed entry if you have a fever. Additionally, your hands are thoroughly sprayed with a hand sanitizer.

One you are granted entry into the stores. You will notice that there are no “sales” or promotions. Retailers are unable increase prices due to the epidemic because wholesale and retail prices are government controlled — there is a minimum price and a maximum price any item can be sold for. This prevents price gouging and the large national supermarkets gaining oligarchic control in the market place through artificially low and unsustainable pricing.

The next thing you’ll notice is that while the shelves are full, not all the brands they normally carry are available on a dependable basis. Only the local or national brands are fully stocked. The regional or internationally imported products are only available on a hit-and-miss basis as these larger companies aren’t mobile enough to service all the supermarkets in the country on a regular basis under the restricted business hours. Hence, the supermarkets are only receiving products from these companies once a week or so.

The only exception to this new norm is ice, masks and latex gloves. These products typically sell out of these items within an hour of delivery.

The bottom line is that living within one’s budget is quite doable as long as you aren’t brand-loyal during this lockdown.

It also helps that any layoff of employees is not permitted. The government is providing financial aid to companies to maintain their payrolls. Because of this, the working class will not suffer the financial devastation that workers in other countries are having to endure. As a result, the country’s economy has less chance of collapsing.

Published by W. M. Brown

I am a retired U.S. expat living in Ecuador. I was a business owner for 32 years before retiring in 2012.

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