Items that make the festivities special, such as turkeys and cabbages, will be given priority.
But other lines such as pasta could be restricted to buyers if a shortage of truck drivers hits deliveries.
The crisis has led to a traffic jam of sea containers at England’s largest commercial port, Felixstowe in Suffolk.
An industry source said: “Retailers will prioritize essential Christmas gifts.
“If there was a lot of pressure from drivers and the stores couldn’t get everything they needed, they would ration the lines. So rather than seeing 15 types of pasta, you might see ten.
“Or they might decide they don’t need as much bottled water which is bulky and bulky in the store.
“It’s a difficult and evolving situation and it’s hard to say what’s going to happen now.
“The government’s action on visas for heavy truck drivers has clearly been too small and too late to solve the problem and there will be disruption over Christmas. “
Measures to tackle the shortage of 100,000 truckers include allowing European drivers to pick up and drop off an unlimited number of times over two weeks before returning home.
Meanwhile, talks will take place between Unite leaders and their transport sector at the union’s political conference in Liverpool which begins tomorrow.
They threatened to go on strike to demand better wages, saying their treatment was “just a disgrace”.
Unite boss Sharon Graham said, “It’s time employers paid workers a rate appropriate for the job. “
But Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps played down any discussion of industrial action, saying Unite only represents 15% of truck drivers.
On Friday, he also said that only dozens of foreign truckers had accepted the 5,000 British visas on offer.