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The Worst Costco Shortages of 2021

Here's what caused bare shelves or product limitations this years.

In 2021,  Costco customers reported numerous product shortages that, at times, called to mind the terrible first days of the pandemic in 2020. Just when people thought things might just return to normal, what with vaccines rolling out nationwide and people venturing out into the world again, things took another turn. And then another. And another. The first proverbial monkey wrench thrown into the national (and global) recovery from the pandemic was the virulent Delta variant, which saw a reversal of trends and sent COVID infection rates soaring again.

Then a faltering global supply chain began to lead to further shortages of foods and products of all types. This was followed by a severe labor shortage that saw companies of all types and sizes struggling to maintain operations while spread thin staff-wise. Consumers saw the effects of all this everywhere, from limited hours at fast-food chains, higher prices at retailers, and at times bare shelves or product limitations at wholesalers like Costco.

Here are the worst shortages that we contended with at Costco during 2021. Plus, don't miss Top COVID Symptoms People Notice First.

Toilet Paper

toilet paper costco

In the early fall, CNBC reported that Costco was going to begin limiting the amount of toilet paper customers could buy at one time. Unlike the horrible toilet paper shortages of the spring and summer of 2020, which were caused by people hoarding the products, this time the issue is, of course, supply issues.

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Bottled Water

water bottles costco

Bottled water sales were limited to five cases per Costco customer in the early autumn of 2021, according to Reuters. But the limit was only set at five cases per purchase, so people could still stock up decently.

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Cleaning Supplies

cleaning supplies costco

In another eerie echo of the early days of the pandemic, when store shelves were bare of cleaning products people hoarded in hopes of combatting new and frightening germs, Costco was forced to once again limit sales of cleaning products earlier this year, according to NPR. The company announced "limitations on key items" in late September, though Costco did not at the time specify exact limits.

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Cooking Oil

cooking oil costco

Olive oil is one of those commodities you likely take for granted, but that you'll acutely miss once it's gone. And while not quite gone, oil was in short supply at Costco in 2021, which was part of the reason the company temporarily rented several ships to fill the gaps.

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Chicken Nuggets

chicken nuggets costco

The Great Chicken Shortage of 2021 was partially caused by all the many issues that impacted America's supply chain this year, from domestic labor shortages to breakdowns in logistics operations. But things were made even worse by a poor year for chicken breeders and a surge in demand. Thus for much of the summer chicken was hard to find at Costco, especially frozen chicken nuggets.

Paper Towels

paper towels

One of the most basic household goods sold anywhere was sold in more limited volume this year, according to Yahoo! That household item was paper towels. Along with limits on cleaning supplies, paper towel sales were limited starting in the fall of 2021.

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Pet Food

pet food costco

Costco was not the only retailer that experienced severe shortages of cat and dog food, but indeed Costco shoppers were hard-pressed to find canned pet food for much of 2021. And this was not an issue of a few obscure brands or anything, but of Costco's own Kirkland Signature pet food.


chips costco

Potato chips and tortilla chips are other products probably not causing you to lose a lot of sleep worrying about a shortage but that you miss when in short supply. This year many Costco shoppers found just that, though: a shortage of chips. In this case, aside from supply chain problems, the rise in commodity prices played a role.

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Tomato Sauce

tomato sauce costco

In the latter half of the summer of 2021, Costco ran low on tomato sauce stores. In fact, for a while Kirkland Signature tomato sauce was not only scarce at many Costco stores but was not showing up as available on the Costco website.

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Christmas Trees

christmas tree costco
ZikG / Shutterstock

The supply chain issue was part of the reason Costco stores ended up with fewer Christmas trees this year because trees have to be delivered before they can be sold. But climate change also played a serious role. According to Fox 5 DC, months of drought led to a very poor growing year for the conifers used as Christmas trees, resulting in a smaller supply and higher prices—much higher in some regions—than in years past.

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workers costco

It would be a mistake to discuss all the things in short supply at Costco in 2021 and not circle back to the workers. Facing a severe shortage of staffers at locations across the nation in the fall of 2021, Costco scrambled to fill the gaps. According to Eyewitness News ABC 7 NY, the chain raised the minimum wage to $17 in an attempt to keep existing workers and attract new hires, especially as the holiday shopping crush approached.

Read more about what's happening at Costco:

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4 Best New Bakery Items Costco Added in 2021

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven