Pandemic food storage tip: You can freeze ground beef for up to four months

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused almost everyone to do more home cooking, and more food shopping to go with it. Which means we’re all storing more food in our pantries, refrigerators and freezers. So it’s a good time to remember some food storage safety advice.

Hamburgers are an American staple, especially during the summer grilling months. If you’ve bought ground beef to make them, or bought them already made, how long can they be kept? Some people think once you freeze food, it can stay in the freezer indefinitely.

96% lean ground beef
96% lean ground beef is great, if properly stored and handled.

Well, not exactly. This piece in Myrecipes.com suggests four months is the amount of time you can keep ground beef in the freezer. If you bring it home from the store and stick it in the fridge, don’t leave it there more than a day, two at the most, the article notes (I’d say a day tops to be safe).

I usually immediately divide a one-pound pack into four burgers, wrap them in some type of cling wrap, and freeze them.

Continue reading “Pandemic food storage tip: You can freeze ground beef for up to four months”

Pandemic summer shopping tip: Carry a cooler or insulated bag when you food shop

The pandemic has changed how we grocery shop, cutting down drastically on the number of trips to the store we make each week. In colder times, you could leave food from one store in your car while you ducked into another to grab a few more items, but summertime is different (as is shopping in perpetually warm climates).

Cooking Light recently had a piece on the dangers of leaving groceries in your car, you can read it by clicking here. One of the tips it suggests is something I’ve been doing for years  – bringing a large cooler filled with ice or reusable ice packs.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how we grocery shop.

I started that practice years back when Costco was still selling fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt in its food court and I would stock up on yogurt swirl cups every week. Costco stupidly cut chocolate frozen yogurt two years ago, something I wrote about in a rage, and now has almost no carryout items at its food courts because of Covid-19. Continue reading “Pandemic summer shopping tip: Carry a cooler or insulated bag when you food shop”

More pandemic food casualties: Salt-free teriyaki sauce, low- and no-fat cheeeses

Healthier food options have definitely been casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. With demand up because people are eating at home more, food processors have stepped up production of their most popular offerings — normally the least healthy ones — and dropped healthier ones. The same is true for mainstream supermarkets which are having trouble keeping their shelves stocked, still today.

Preparing salmon with Mrs. Dash no-salt marinades.
Preparing salmon with Mrs. Dash no-salt marinades.

The latest healthier product that’s become impossible to find in stores near me — Mrs. Dash sweet teriyaki sauce.

Mrs. Dash teriyaki is salt-free, a miracle when it comes to anything with an Asian flavor to it. I use it constantly on fish and in stir fry veggie, chicken and shrimp dishes I create.

In normal times, I could buy it locally at Food 4 Less, a Kroger store in my area.

But the pandemic has wiped it from the shelves here. Checking the store website, it’s not even listed for shipment. Continue reading “More pandemic food casualties: Salt-free teriyaki sauce, low- and no-fat cheeeses”

Another Pandemic Shortage: Propane for backyard barbecues tough to find

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about all sorts of food and home supply shortages — try buying disinfectant hand wipes if you don’t believe that. I stumbled across the latest shortage just before July 4th — propane tanks for backyard barbecues are non-existent at most of the usual places.

I went to five places one day, mostly Walgreens that carry the propane brand I usually buy with rebates it offers, and none had any. I then started calling places instead of driving, and was told much the same thing, whether it was a local home center or my neighborhood CVS — tanks are scare and stores never really know when a delivery is coming or how much they’ll receive. Continue reading “Another Pandemic Shortage: Propane for backyard barbecues tough to find”

Pandemic Food Casualties: Costco sheet cake, McDonald’s salads, yogurt parfaits

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of food purveyors, whether retailers or restaurants, to cut back menus and just concentrate on their top sellers, or, for restaurants, on items that are quick to prepare. So several of my favorites have fallen by the wayside.

The most painful loss is that McDonald’s has cut what I considered the two healthiest items on its menu — salads and yogurt parfaits. I was a regular at a local McDonald’s before the pandemic, ordering a salad, side salad and two parfaits. The staff came to know me by my order, which I usually placed ahead of time through the McDonald’s ordering app.

What had been my weekly Costco lunch is no more. Who dumps chocolate from the vanilla-chocolate combo? Shame on you Costco.
Those were the days my friend — gone now. No frozen yogurt at Costco, no salads at McDonald’s.

With those options gone now, there’s no reason for me to stop at McDonald’s, even if it has reopened for eat-in service.

On the other end of the food scale — totally unhealthy but delicious, Costco has stopped selling its giant sheet cakes. Those were a mainstay when we had large parties, there was inevitably enough to freeze for ourselves to have on later occasions as well.

Costco already broke my heart when it dropped its fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt for the trendy acai. I used to eat lunch there once a week, getting a salad (bringing my own oil and vinegar to avoid it’s fatty dressing) and a yogurt swirl. I had shifted to McDonald’s salads after that. Now with both gone, there’s I am confined to eating lunch at home.

By the way, Costco also has dropped acai from its food court! Ha!!!!

Pandemic snacking: Try sugar-free chocolate pudding

A lot has been written about people gaining weight while they sit home in quarantine because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The so-called “Quarantine 15” likely resulted from people loading up on high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar snacks. It’s been difficult for me not to do the same, and I have had my mini-binges as stress levels rose to hideous heights.

All you need to make pudding at home.

But I have found one snack that has no sugar and minimal fat — sugar-free chocolate pudding. You can buy it in pre-made cups, but those became harder and harder to find in my area as the pandemic persisted, so I bought the box variety instead and made it myself.

Chocolate pudding comes in two varieties, instant which requires no cooking, and the old-fashioned regular kind which requires you to do some very simple cooking. You can use either low-fat or no-fat skim milk, thus controlling the bad-fat levels you eat in the pudding you make.

The instant kind just requires you combines the powdered pudding mix with milk and mix it for a few minutes. I use an electric mixer but you can do it by hand with a whisk or fork too. The traditional kind requires heating the milk in a small pot on your stovetop and adding the mix, combining them in the pot.

This is my production from two boxes of pudding mix.

One regular-sized box requires two cups of milk, a pint, so two boxes work with a quart. I found a larger size box as well that requires three cups of milk.

Once mixed, you pour it into whatever small serving bowls or glasses you want and then put it in the refrigerator to cool and thicken.

If you need some chocolate every day, this I a great way to get it. Enjoy!

Covid-19 cooking trends: Everyone is making banana bread, apparently

I just finished blogging about one study on how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted American cooking and eating habits. And now a second study has crossed my desk, this one looking at the most searched for recipes since the pandemic began.

Banana bread (which I don’t like or eat, by the way) was the number one recipe searched for in all 50 states in April, found Bid on Equipment.

Tiny Rhode Island had the most searches for banana bread recipes, followed by New Jersey and Washington state.

So obviously the country likes banana bread more than I do and is finding some comfort in making it. More interesting, because of the range of choices, is which recipes came in second in every state. Regional differences can clearly be seen there. Continue reading “Covid-19 cooking trends: Everyone is making banana bread, apparently”

Pandemic eating means quick meals and more take-out, study finds

I’ve been blogging for several days about fascinating new research from Influence Central about how the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted how people eat and cook. Today I’m focusing on what it’s meant for cooking time and take-out behavior.

While people are being forced to eat more at home, they don’t seem to be turning into health-conscious cooks who spend hours each day in their kitchens, the study finds. For example:

  • 46% are willing to spend 15 to 30 minutes cooking
  • 44% will spend 30-60 minutes.
  • Only 23% are willing to devote more time to dinner prep
  • 73% are devoting about the same as prior to stay-at-home orders

Sadly, what this means is many are eating unhealthy meals.

My mix and match fish dinner cooking away, walleye in the white pan, tilapia in the black with peppers and onions in the third.
My mix and match fish dinner cooking away, walleye in the white pan, tilapia in the black with peppers and onions in the third.

“Frozen meals from pizzas to more substantial heat and serve entrees, prepared meals ready to cook from the supermarket, and canned goods such as soups and chili become go-to items,” says Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder, Influence Central.

“It’s clear that even with more time at home, some people still don’t necessarily want to spend all day in the kitchen,” she says.

All of those choices are normally very high in salt and can be high in fat and sugar as well.

When it comes to take-out:

• 69% of consumers have ordered take-out or delivery food from restaurants during the pandemic.
• 71% order from restaurants they ate in prior to the crisis.
• 87% order take-out from a specific local restaurant out of a desire to support the restaurant financially.
• When it comes to getting food delivered, consumers’ top choice is direct from the restaurant itself (60%). Favorite delivery services: Door Dash, followed by GrubHub and Uber Eats.

“More than half said they have not been concerned to leave the house to pick up food or collect it from a delivery driver,” DeBroff reports.

Influence Central found that the top ordering choices are:

1. Pizza (79%)
2. Fast Food (52%)
3. American and Pub Food (ex. Burgers and wings) (45%)
4. Mexican (39%)
5. Asian (35%)
6. Italian other than Pizza (23%)

Sadly, again, not very healthy choices. Continue reading “Pandemic eating means quick meals and more take-out, study finds”

Pandemic Shopping at Food4Less: hit and miss but hand sanitizer was available

Finding groceries during the Coronavirus pandemic has been a hit and miss affair, much like shopping during any natural disaster can be. I’ve written about my experiences with home delivery, and have been reviewing stores I venture out for. Food4Less is a Kroger-owned chain that operates in the Chicago area.

My local Food 4 Less was quiet Sunday morning.

In normal times, I find produce deals there as well as some low-salt and no-salt items not available elsewhere.

I journeyed there the past weekend specifically to find Mrs. Dash salt-free teriyaki marinade but was sadly disappointed. It was out-of-stock and I didn’t even see an empty space on a shelf with its tag, so I’m concerned the chain may not be carrying it any longer.

That would force me to buy it online, which would effectively double the cost to more than $7 a bottle because of shipping costs. Amazon does have it for Prime members without shipping charges, but the cost is close to $6 a bottle, about 50% more than in stores.

Another item I looked for, low-salt soft taco shells from a local Chicago company,. also was out-of-stock but that;s likely because that company had to shut down when employees there tested positive for Covid-19. I think the plant is running again, but it must be having difficulty meeting demand.

I stocked up on hand sanitizer and some disinfectant.

One pleasant surprise at Food4Less was that it had hand sanitizer in stock, two different brands in fact. I bought two bottles of each (the per-shopper limit), just in case I’ll need it this fall should I be able to reopen my theater (a possibility that’s seeming less and less likely).

The store itself was relatively empty on a Sunday morning and everyone I saw was masked, which was reassuring. The quiet and the lack of person-to-person interaction was very sad, however, another impact of this pandemic.

Having digestion issues with your Covid cooking…here’s why

Americans are eating at home in record numbers these days, with many who have never been that comfortable in the kitcehn suddenly forced to cook — and to shop in food stores with limited supplies.

Finding it all spells some indigestion for you? Well maybe it’s not your cooking so much as what you’re cooking and eating these days. Cooking Light ran this insightful story on eight types of foods that can cause indegestion. Some of these may surprise you, others you should know you shouldn’t overdo.

Here’s one more reason not to eat fried foods.

Top of the list is fried foods, no surrpise there. “They can lead to tummy aches and diarrhea for some, or possibly contribute to reflux for those who experience it,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club, says in its article.

A surprising one might be raw vegetables but I know from experience they can be a killer depending on your stomach and how it reacts to them.

Other items on the list:

  • Sugar-Free Packaged Foods
  • Chewing Gum
  • Coffee
  • Garlic and Onions
  • Soft Cheeses
  • Legumes

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