Pandemic Shopping: Food Prices Will Continue Climbing in 2021

It’s no secret that food prices shot up as the pandemic took hold last year. The bad news is you can expect those prices to continue to rise this year. Grocery store prices will climb 1-2%, predicts the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Restaurant/take-out food prices will increase 2-3 percent after climbing 3.9% last year, the USDA says.

The actual impact of the pandemic on your food bills has likely been much more severe than a percent or two. Pandemic shopping has meant shortages of items and an inability to shop for deals from store to store.

Shopping at Trader Joe's
The line I encountered waiting to get into a Chicago-area Trader Joe’s. These were all seniors waiting for the 8 a.m. opening of the store for senior shopping.

How many stores have you gone to in the average pandemic week? Pre-pandemic, I would normally go to three or four different stores, searching for the best deals on low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar products. During the pandemic, I’ve limited myself to one store a week, sometimes two.

The first change I plan in my life now that I’ve had both my vaccine shots is a return to more normal food shopping to combat rising prices.

Pandemic Snacking: Crispy Broccoli at Trader Joe’s

Any list about healthy snacks always gets my attention because normally those words — healthy and snack — are a conflict in terms. Anything you want to snack, i.e. binge, on generally is not healthy because it contains high amounts of salt, fat or sugar, or perhaps all three.

That’s why a recent list of so-called healthy snacks at Trader Joe’s caught my attention with one list, crispy broccoli florets. I eat a lot of broccoli, but had never thought of it as a snack, or as crispy for that matter. So I bought a bag and gave them a try.

The result was mixed. Salt-wise, they’re ok with only 15 mg a bag. Fat content seems high at 20 grams, about half what I’m supposed to have every day on my heart-healthy diet. And there’s 5 grams of transfat, again about half what I can have.

Taste-wise, they taste like broccoli, but having that cold and crisped up somehow just didn’t seem right. The taste of them actually became less palatable the more I had. So I guess that would preclude binging on them.

So my search for healthy snacks goes on, sans broccoli.

Smart Sugar Swaps? Not for me

I’m approaching the end of one month without any sugary snacks, cakes, candy — in short I’m eating nothing that I enjoy. This was a challenge from my wife as she realized we’d been going a bit overboard with such treats during our Covid quarantine.

I’m now four days from the end of the challenge. I’ve lost six pounds and am constantly hungry. So I was intrigued by this headline, 5 Smart Swaps to Make the Next Time You’re Craving Sugar.

Counting the hours until I can have one of these again.

Sadly, the swaps left me disappointed, and still craving sugar. Here they are (or you can click on this link to read the full story).

  • Sugar sweetened beverages: Instead of soda or sports drinks, make unsweetened fruit teas (hot or iced), sip sparkling water, or add fresh fruit or herbs to still or bubbly H20 for flavor.
  • Desserts and sweet snacks: Make fruit dessert, whether that’s combining dates with cocoa powder to make a truffle; dipping fresh berries in dark chocolate; making DIY ice cream with frozen bananas; grilling up fresh peaches or plums in summer; or enjoying cooked apples with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Sweetened coffee and tea: Add flavor by stirring in vanilla, cinnamon, coconut collagen, or cocoa powder.
  • Candy and sugary toppings (like syrup or jam): Use mashed fruit for syrup, DIY your own chia jam, or rely on unsweetened dried fruit like mango to satisfy your need for sweet.
  • Cereals and breakfast bars: Whip up a batch of overnight oats, make your own no-sugar granola, or prep grab-and-go options like protein pancakes so you always have something on hand.

That’s the best they have? I think I’ll wait for my sugar binge day February 1.

2021 Food Trends — breakfast is in, so are cookies

The Food Network is predicting that 2021 will be a year of big breakfasts, cookies and easier ways to find “healthy” foods, although what healthy emans depends on who is using the term, as ever.

The pandemic disrupted the usual breakfast routine for 80% of Americans. Less commuting to work and school meant more time for the most important meal of the day and food manufacturers are adapting. Look out for more convenient breakfast foods that are packed with functional ingredients like protein and fiber, such as Jimmy Dean Casserole Bites and Flourish Pancake Mix. Also expect familiar brands to up their breakfast game with tempting offers like Cinnabon’s CinnaBiscuit Chicken Sandwich,” Food Network reports in a piece entitled The Biggest Food Trends We’ll Be Talking About in 2021.

You can read all the predictions by clicking on this link.

Two weeks into my no-sugar challenge — and five pounds lighter

As the year started, my wife challenged me to go for the entire month of January without any added sugar treats. I made it official by blogging about it here. Like a lot of people, we had been eating treats during the pandemic that we normally would not have in the house, such as candy galore from Chicago candy icon Fannie May, or cakes from a local bakery, Tag’s.

The bakery started delivering during the pandemic, even small orders. How could we pass that up? Not well, and you can probably tell that, after 18 days without sugar, I’m now hallucinating about chocolate cake.

The good news, I’ve lost five pounds in the past two weeks or so. The bad news — I’m hungry all the time as I was when I first completely changed my eating habits after a first stent was put in back in 2012.

What would a celebrity trainer say about Drake's Yodels?
Favorites like these haven’t touched my lips yet this year!!!

I also find I’m substituting starchy things — like bagels, English muffins and even whole wheat bread. I had pretty much cut those from my diet in recent years but had some in the freezer this month and so have turned to them.

I did buy some price-reduced after-Christmas candy, M&Ms and chocolate to be specific, which are sitting in our pantry waiting for Feb. 1.

This experiment has reminded me that if you eat healthy, I mean really healthy which means cutting most salt, fat and sugar from your diet, weight loss becomes simple.

You cannot eat enough plain veggies to gain large amounts of weight. Believe me, you should see my broccoli portions these days!

Another Salt-Free Salad Dressing from Farmer Boy: Balsamic Vinaigrette

After I wrote about a great low-salt, low-fat salad dressing find, Farmer Boy Lite Greek, the company was kind enough to send me samples of other dressings it makes. I discovered its Balsamic Vinaigrette has no salt and only four grams of fat per serving.

I’ve been enjoying it since it arrived, so much so I didn’t get to take a picture of the bottle before finishing it all, so the photo here is a stock shot from the company’s site. I’ll also post the nutrition info here.

A good choice for a low-salt, low-fat dressing.

The company also sent its regular Greek dressing, but with seven grams of fat per serving and salt, I passed it on to someone not as worried about salt and fat as I am because of my heart issues.

I found the brand on Healthy Heart Market. It’s also available on the company site and others.

Love eating local? Then here’s where you should live, according to a new study

I’ve written before about the challenges of eating local. How much locally grown food is available to us is often a function of geography. A new study shows the truth in that, with a few surprising exceptions.

A firm called Lawn Starter looked at the 150 largest U.S, cities and came up with the following rankings of the best cities for eating (and drinking) local:

Continue reading “Love eating local? Then here’s where you should live, according to a new study”

Did You Miss National Cookie Day? It’s every day during the pandemic, apparently

Did you know Dec. 4 this year was National Cookie Day? Me either, but it’s ok because it seems like during this pandemic, every day is cookie day for many. many Americans. U.S. cookie demand is up 25% in the pandemic while global cookie demand (crisps in Britain) is up 31.6%, found integrated marketing network Top Global LLC.

And almost all Americans, 95%, eat at least one cookie per month, Top Global found in its research. Roughly four in 10 of us eat many more than that (see the table here, provided by Top Global).

Top Global also has a map of the United States showing cookie consumption by state, along with data on which cookies are most popular where; just click here to see all that…and then have a cookie to celebrate 2020 being almost over!

Pandemic Shopping Trends: Back to online grocery buying in November

With Covid cases, as well as hospitalizations and deaths, rising across the country, Americans turned increasingly to online grocery shopping in November, according to new data from firms Brick Meets Click and Mercatus Grocery Shopping.

“U.S. grocery delivery and pickup sales for November 2020 totaled $5.9 billion, up 3.6% from August’s $5.7 billion, in a market where the customer and sales mix are shifting toward delivery and pickup services,” states a release from Brick Meets Click, a supermarket industry consulting firm.

More poeple are buying groceries online and they’re doing it more frequently, apparently.

“The number of active online grocery shoppers placing at least one delivery or pickup order during the past month increased to 38.7 million, up 3.6% from 37.5 million in August 2020, and they placed an average of 1.62 orders per month, up 2% compared to 1.59 orders per month in August 2020,” the firm found.

Roughly 39 million people ordered online in November, below the peak of about 46 million in June.

Brick Meets Click conducted this online survey Nov. 11-14, 2020 with 2,067 adults, 18 years and older, who participated in the household’s grocery shopping.

Pandemic Food Shopping: Predictions for 2021

While talk of vaccines is everywhere these days, those in the know seem to agree we’ll be well into 2021 before a large part of the country has access to vaccines, let alone has gotten the two shots of one to protect themselves. So how will that impact food shopping trends as 2021 begins?

Florida-based sales and marketing firm Acosta has put together the following predictions.

“Many of the changes we saw implemented in 2020 due to the pandemic will carry over into 2021,” said Colin Stewart, executive vice president of Business Intelligence at Acosta, ina press release. “Health and safety will continue to be paramount for retailers and consumers, and e-commerce growth will continue on its accelerated path. Grocery shopping was not fun this year, and post-COVID, stores will need to make it a more enjoyable experience with unique offerings, better prices and stocked shelves.”

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