What the Hell is Everyone Baking?


Photo by Adrian Benepe.

Fairway has been well-stocked for much of the crisis, but one shelf seems to always be empty: the baking shelf. This does not appear to be an isolated incident.

Just the other day, we got an email from a reader with the subject line “How about a story about yeast.”

It went on to say “Everyone is sold out. Even online one can’t buy it.” (That was the whole email.)

So…What is going on? Who needs so much flour? Where’s all the yeast? What we really want are photos of whatever you’re baking. Send them to westsiderag at gmail.

NEWS | 45 comments | permalink
    1. Marie says:

      Yes! I have been looking for yeast at Fairway and online for 2 weeks. It is wild that it is no longer available. To be fair, I realized that my own yeast was 5 years beyond its expiration date when I tried to make pizza at home recently. So it might be everyone else is just trying to make pizza for the first time too.

      • Deb says:

        My experience has been that the stores are out of butter and margarine. Anybody agree?

        • Naomi says:

          YES, that was true 2 weeks ago!! But they have it back now. Trader Joes/Bodega on W72 and West End and Pioneer all have it.

    2. UWSRachel says:

      Curious to know if any WSR readers can give an update or opinion of what it’s like to shop at TJ’s and Fairway currently…

      My husband and I have been avoiding these two stores since the week of 3/9 when we went in for some light groceries and unbeknownst to us the shelves were empty and the lines were insane. It has felt extremely unsafe since then to be around so many people waiting in lines for groceries and dangerous for the workers. We have been opting to go to other less frequented but definitely more expensive stores in the area.

      BUT.. I am wondering.. Have the crowds have died down and do the shelves actually have stock? Are they tempering the amount of people they are letting in? How many people do they let in at once?

      Thank you to everyone who responds! I appreciate your insights.

      • Noma says:

        I haven’t been to TJ’s, but i’ve been going to Fairway about once a week at what i would consider to be an “off” hour – 9pm to 10pm ish.

        Overall I’ve found the store generally well stocked and manageable. It’s not quiet nor is it by any means full. The majority of shoppers actually appear to be instacart workers, who are just looking to fill their orders as quickly as possible and get out.

        You can avoid people in the aisles when needed and probably get over 80% of the groceries you’re looking for.

        I’m careful to wear my face mask and disposable gloves, but otherwise feel comfortable going shopping. I’m sure there’s a wide variety of opinions here though – it is the WSR after all.

        • Julia says:

          Which Fairway, 74th or 125th?

        • Danielle Remp says:

          The lines outside of Trader Joe’s (72nd St.) are much too long. Sometimes they cover the entire block between B’way and West End Avenue, and even curl into WEA.

          I find that Fairway’s is never safe; the aisles are too narrow for distancing. The same is true for Pioneer on Columbus.

          I like the large Jubilee at Freedom Place (68-69 St.) This morning, for instance, it was very quiet there — and well stocked. (I even saw a lady come out with at least one pack of toilet paper sticking out in her cart.)

          The Morton Williams just a block or so east of Riverside Boulevard (60th street or so), was busier around 9:30 a.m. this morning, but was comfortable and had no lines to speak.

          I hope that this helps.

      • Sue says:

        Shelves are much better stocked at Fairway than they were the you were there. Still a few items hard to get (ie the baking supplies) But week of 3/9 they had no canned salmon, tuna, sardines, etc. After that, plenty. They only allow a certain number of people in the store at a time. Waiting line can be long outside (with staffers keeping shoppers waiting to get in 6 feet apart.
        If you are a senior, TJ’s has 8-9 seniors only shopping.

        I’ve barely been out in past month – but have been to Fairway on the few times I did go out. While it isn’t as scary as it was, and despite the new limit of people in the store at a time – it is hard to social distance in the aisles….

        I wanted to go to Citarella and/or Zabars on the same trip – lines were around the corner. I just wanted to see if the glasses I lost (last time I had them was in Zabars) had turned up. I’ve been trying to get them on the phone for days now. (I checked the day after I lost them, they weren’t there. But sometimes things show up later.
        (Anyone find glasses a few weeks ago on Broadway between 79th and 80 :))

      • Ben says:

        I’ve been to Fairway several times in the last few weeks. I usually shop after midnight and I use Fairway’s app with mobile checkout to avoid the cashier (not that there’s much of a line that late anyways). Under those conditions, it’s been pretty manageable. The store is not completely empty of people, but certainly not crowded — and most are observing the distance rules, wearing masks, etc. One trip, they were completely out of packaged meats but in general, the stock has been decent. Even picked up some T.P. a few weeks back!

      • HelenD says:

        I don’t go into the store but I can tell you that the line is still stretching from TJ’s door on Broadway to 72nd street, and around the corner to mid-block between B’way and WEA on a daily basis. I check the mail anytime between 8:00 am and 11:00 am and the line is always there. There’s a TJ’s employee with a sign so you can’t miss the end of the line. Good luck!

      • Paul on W 67 says:

        IME Fairway has been inconsistent. One day they have people lining up to get in, other days, you can walk right in without waiting. It doesn’t seem to matter the time of day, I’ve stood on line at 11pm and entered without delay at 3pm. I actually prefer Fairway as I can use their app to pay and get out much quicker.

        I have not been in TJ’s for a month. Every time I walk by the line to get in goes up Broadway to 72nd and then down 72nd, so I don’t bother.

        The only place I found flour was at Gourmet Garage. In response to the headline, I mostly bake cranberry-orange scones or blueberry muffins to go with morning coffee.

      • Elly says:

        Don’t know a thing about either of those two stores but West Side Market (98th St) has been very well stocked the entire length of this crisis. Hats off to them.

        • melsybelsy says:

          Agreed. I decided they are our go-to. We go one weekend evening a week between 8-10 PM and the store isn’t crowded and they have everything. Their meat and fish section IMHO doesn’t compare to Fairway or Citarella but if you need any form of commercial staple they have it (except yeast) + their brand of chocolate chip cookies is unrivaled

      • Abby says:

        Have you tried Target on 117th? I live on Broadway and 105th and will take a cab early morning to Target. There’s been about 2 or 3 people lined up outside, the security guard is nice and let’s people in and out quickly. I got everything I needed, people obeyed all the rules and I was home fast. Maybe consider it?

      • Jyoti says:

        It’s been better in terms of being stocked but like everyone is saying there is random stuff that is out. We’ve been going on rainy days so that has helped with the shorter lines.

        All that being said – do you want us to do a grocery run for you? We are relatively younger and (knock on wood) healthy and we are already doing so for some of our more vulnerable neighbors. I have a relatively flexible schedule and would be happy to do and drop off a run this week if you need. Just let me know!

        • UWSRachel says:

          Thank you so much for your offer, Jyoti, that is extremely kind and speaks to just how generous and wonderful the WSR community is!

          I appreciate everyone’s insight here and I will take note! My husband works in broadcast television and has continued to work during this time, so we have been extra careful should we be unknowingly carrying the virus. We are relatively young and healthy and using masks but just didn’t want to contribute to the congestion at those stores (Fairway 74th & TJ’s 72nd), especially for those who are in financially uncertain situations or on tight budgets.

          Thank you everyone! Please stay well physically and mentally… We LOVE NY!

      • Ashley says:

        I live on 72nd and am able to see the line out my window everyday. The line is long, which can be a pain, but everyone is spaced out so o always feel safe. Once you get inside it is the most wonderful TJs experience or really any grocery store experience I’ve had since bing in NYC. You have room to move and breathe without people all around you. We typically go in the morning and I have not found anything missing yet. Every shelf seems to be fully stocked. Once you get in line to check out, it is an absolute breeze. The lines are not long at all because you did all of your waiting outside.

      • JannaD says:

        I went to Fairway at 9PM last night. It was DEAD. NO ONE waiting to buy anything at the deli counter. I almost didn’t go after reading these comments, lol!

    3. Stu says:

      Its a bit like the toilet paper. Flour and yeast went really quickly. Survival mentality – the thought being that if you are stranded for months, at least with flour and yeast one can make bread. That being said, people are actually baking more bread now, even folks who never have before. People have time and anxiety, and baking is a great stress reliever. The ironic thinkg is that people bakes bread without commercial yeast for centuries, and in fact there is a trend now to begin sourdough starters – which uses wild yeast and needs no commercial yeast.

    4. Sue says:

      My friend in Arizona loves to bake =says she can’t find flour anywhere

    5. JS says:

      chocolate chip cookies, birthday cake, pumpkin bread, biscuits

      do not need yeast 🙂

    6. Julia says:

      I have not been in either Fairway or Trader Joe’s, but we scheduled a Fairway delivery 5 days ahead through InstaCart and although she called us to clarify as she was getting the orders, the wrong order was dropped off. Could not get it straightened it out, stopped our payment, kept a little of the food (very different tastes) and gave the rest to building employees. No more Instacart for us! I did just manage to get a FreshDirect slot (again, a few days ahead) after stalking their website for a week. I feel like on on-line hunter-gatherer!

      • fellow west sider says:

        Wow. Surprised to see you got a FreshDirect delivery slot. I had been trying for what felt like weeks and finally gave up; I figured that all the slots must be spoken for by people with delivery passes, rendering my chances as nil. Maybe I should reevaluate and give them another try; hope springs eternal.

        • EricaC says:

          I recently was bombarded by ads for Mercato – haven’t tried them yet, but you might want to see whether it looks useful (because FreshDirect slots are rare- but they are doing a great job when you can get them).

          • fellow west sider says:

            Thank you for the suggestion. We actually just got a Fresh Direct slot! Still kind of in shock after trying endlessly for weeks now.

            Just wanted to give fellow West Siders a heads-up that, amazingly, FD seems to have a number of slots open for this Wednesday (April 22).

            Hope this info may be of help to someone, good luck

      • Young Sally says:

        We FINALLY got a Fresh Direct slot for the first time in almost a month – granted we are out in Westchester (former UWS) but it looked like FD slots were much more available in the city than here in the boonies.

    7. Mark says:

      I’m surprised the yeast ran out. Yeast multiples like wild fire, but maybe the commercial process of drying and packaging wasn’t ready for this surge in demand. I have been baking myself and can deliver a fresh loaf to you on the UWS so you avoid the mess and uncertainty of learning how to bake.

      What’s more, my bread relies on sourdough leavening. So no commercial yeast needed. That also means more flavor and probiotics to keep you healthy.

      Why go outside for lackluster bread?
      Please support my initiative. I also want to donate some loaves to good causes like medical personnel and people in need.

      • Anya Schiffrin says:

        I would love some of mark’s bread. Am not particularly deserving but I can give a loaf to my neighbor who is an. Emergency room doctor at a public hospital in the south Bronx. Acs76@Columbia.edu is my email address. Thanks very much

    8. melissa says:

      I think Fair Way should have the essential items like paper, toilet paper, bread, etc

      I think Fairway should go to suppliers and get the essential stuff.

      Upper westsider

    9. melissa says:

      I think fairway should talk to their to spot suppliers and get the ascensional C like toilet paper bread paper towel and every time I’ve been going to fare away from my elderly mother there’s absolutely nothing except tissues to blow your nose fairway is doing an adequate job

      Upper westsider

    10. NYYgirl says:

      You can make bread w beer instead of yeast…just saying…lol

    11. Bob says:

      My wife is definitely baking more than she used to, because we’re eating more (indeed, exclusively) at home and some variety is nice. Bread, pancakes, cake, cinnamon rolls, etc. — all the stuff that keeps it interesting when you’re stuck somewhere.

    12. Penny says:

      Pioneer on Columbus has been doing an incredible job staying well stocked, including with hard-to-find items like flour, TP, and paper towels. Same with Wellness pharmacy on 72nd (which also delivers). We should do a series on the heroes of the UWS who have been indispensable for residents during this time. I’d nominate the staff at each store.

    13. Stephen Doiron says:

      What?! You don’t know !?

      No bread, or Bagels, not even pancakes.
      No sir… it’s Sugar Cookies!
      If they’re going to lock us down make us put up with the kids, the least we can ask is:
      S U G A R C O O K I E S !
      I don’t know what the yeast is for, probably just a cover in case we might get caught.

    14. Naomi says:

      I’ve asked the same question… Butter was also out for a while. Seems like everyone became French during this pandemic… -signed your French neighbor 😉

    15. Rafaela says:

      Im baking bread at least once a week. Made chocolate chip cookies today and a lemon pound cake on Saturday…cant wait to see what else gets baked! Oh, and I’m not a last minute hoarder, bought everything back when we all thought everything was normal.

    16. UWSmom says:

      RE baking. Our middle-school age kid is seemingly constantly (ok maybe every 2-3 days) making something: cakes, cookies, cake pops, layered brownies (brownie + cookie dough + crushed oreos), plus smoothies and other concoctions like fruit art. We can’t eat it all of course, and are not sure how/if to give it away in the time of corona. But it keeps the child occupied in a mad scientist / food artist sort of way.

      Luckily we already had a stash of flour and sugar and other ingredients. Also bags of frozen fruit — if I may make a suggestion! — for smoothies and for baking.

      I just did a mini restock at Broadway Farm for cake mixes, baking soda, frostings and some decorative elements. I chose Broadway Farm because they have a good variety of baking items and no/short lines. Gristedes and Dag are in the shorter-line category but have higher prices and less variety of specialized products.

      BTW Last week we (husband and wife shopping separately on different days) waited 2 hours for Trader Joes on Columbus/93rd and 45 minutes for Whole Foods on Columbus/97th. At each we managed to find maybe 60% of what was on the list.

    17. Leon says:

      Ironic that baking supplies are sold out when the huge number of us Jews in the neighborhood can’t even use them due to Passover!

    18. Donna says:

      This may be too late in the day, but does anyone know what’s going on with the Gourmet Garage on 66th Street? The shelves are looking increasingly bare.

      • Naomi says:

        Good to know! I went there 3 weeks ago and it was fully stocked, but haven’t been back since.

    19. Taryn says:

      I go to the Trader Joe’s on 93rd & Columbus pretty frequently, at least once a week. The trick is to go first thing (doors at 9am, I generally get there around 8:20, takes about 20mins to get in once they open, so roughly an hour wait) or around noonish. Don’t be discouraged by the lines, they moved fairly quickly. The shelves stay pretty stocked now that they’re prepared and take time overnight to stock them. I’ve also been to Key Food, and I’m shocked how long the lines get there, but I think they keep the actual people in the store down to a minimum. I haven’t had a problem finding things there, but mostly canned goods. I haven’t checked for flour!

    20. RCP says:

      When you haven’t baked anything but Poptarts since sixth grade, you make a lot of mistakes. Hence the need for buying extra.

    21. pizziolo says:

      I am making pizza right now.

    22. Kate says:

      I have been trying my hand at bread. I made English Muffin bread and several loaves of a no-kneed white. I have also been baking cookies (ranger cookies and snickerdoodles), Muffins (surprise muffins), and banana bread.

      I am a baker, so I had most of these things before lockdown, but have had to refresh. The Korean vegetable stand, near my home, has packets of yeast on hand. I am planning on making my own starter. soon. I would bake more, but have no one to give it to and there is only so much the four of us can eat.

    23. Janis says:

      For those in the vicinity of Trader Joe’s on Columbus and 93rd, on weekends the line is crazy. However go on an off hour on a weekday, and it isn’t nearly as bad.
      And, if you are a senior citizen they have A separate line for you and they will let you in, at any time of the day, along with folks at the front of the line.
      My husband and I went about a week ago, there were four people in the Senior Line.
      And the shelves were well stocked, except, of course, for the toilet paper.