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Just when it seemed that grocery shopping might be returning to normal, we may find ourselves back to where we were a few months ago. Some stores that recently lifted purchase limits on high-demand items are reinstating them, in anticipation of more panic buying and more shortages.

H-E-B and some Kroger stores are among the grocers reimposing stricter limits on the number of certain items that shoppers can buy. H-E-B in Texas has released a full list of mostly nonfood items that shoppers will no longer be able to buy to their hearts’ content. Some are unsurprising, like toilet paper, paper towels and antibacterial products, which will once again be limited to two purchases apiece. But there are some new items on the purchase-limit list, including Pepcid and other acid relief products, which now come with a limit of one. This comes as some scientists are looking into whether famotidine, Pepcid’s active ingredient, can be used to treat COVID-19. Also making the purchase-limit list is brisket – it is Texas, after all.

H-E-B is urging calm, and patience. “Limiting product purchases is a proven way to ensure the best service and product availability for all customers,” the retailer announced Monday. “Our stores are in strong supply and we continue to restock products daily.”

Kroger hasn’t announced any chainwide limits, but some shoppers are reporting new, stricter purchase restrictions at their stores. One image circulating online shows an in-store sign limiting paper towel and toilet paper multipack purchases to just one. “Please have patience during this difficult time as we are all working through the current supply chain opportunity together,” the sign reads.

So don’t fret – because according to Kroger’s cheerful sign, only being allowed to buy one pack of toilet paper isn’t a hardship, it’s an “opportunity!”

The new limits come even before some stores have lifted their initial limits, which were imposed back in March as lockdown orders began to take effect. For a while, it seemed that panic buying had eased and shelves were becoming more fully stocked. But with coronavirus cases on the rise in some areas, and local governments beginning to consider or impose new stay-at-home orders, it could be panic buying time all over again.

You can look overseas to see whether these new limits are isolated cases or a sign of things to come. Panic buying took hold in places like Australia earlier this year before it started happening in the U.S. And now Australia is seeing a second wave of panic buying, empty shelves and purchase limits.

As store shelves begin to empty, Australia’s largest grocery chains are once again imposing purchase limits for products including toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, flour, sugar, pasta, milk, eggs and rice.

“Stop it, it’s ridiculous… there’s no need for it,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told toilet paper hoarders on Friday, echoing what he said back in March as panic buyers first started emptying shelves. As for purchase limits and temporary shortages, “I’m sure it will pass as it did last time,” Morrison said.

Or not. Australian economic adviser Macquarie Wealth Management is warning that shortages and purchase limits, followed by replenished shelves and renewed calm, may be a cycle that repeats itself again and again for at least the next year.

So if the stockpile of toilet paper that you bought back in March is beginning to run low, you’d better grab a package the next time you’re at the store. Better yet, grab a couple – before your store won’t let you anymore.

Image source: H-E-B

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