The Covid-19 pandemic sent grocery sales soaring early this year. Reports say that peak has leveled off in more recent months, but sales are still up significantly year-over-year in the supermarket business.
And because we’re buying more, I thought this would be a good time to review how to keep the items we buy fresher longer, especially when it comes to perishable produce.
Recalls of lettuce, both loose and in bagged varieties and salad kits, were widespread in 2019. Now, a new one is occurring right in several states.
The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued safety alerts June 19 for the following:
ALDI Little Salad Bar Brand Garden Salad, sold in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri.
All Hy-Vee Brand Garden Salad, sold in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska.
Jewel-Osco Signature Farms Brand Garden Salad sold in Illinois.
The reason for the recall this time? Something called Cyclospora cayetanensis, which “is a parasite that can cause an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis that’s spread when infected feces contaminate food or water,” reports the Evanston Patch.
“So far there are 76 confirmed cases of illness, including 16 hospitalizations, in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Minnesota,” the Patch reports.
I wrote yesterday about how difficult it’s been to get groceries delivered during the Covid-19 pandemic. Getting a time slot is next to impossible on all the major food store apps like Tagret, Walmart and major supermarket chains.
If you do finally get a time slot, it will likely be a week away from when you order. And the second thing to know is you’ll spend a lot more than you normally would. I’m usually a deal shopper — each week I’ll go to three or four stores to get the best prices on everything I need.
That’s impossible now. Some apps do list “Deals” but you’ll find when you click on those, the items are often gone, listed as out of stock.
And forget finding any type of disinfectant for your hands or dishes. Those are universally sold out. Search for disinfectant wipes or anti-bacterial soap and the only things that pop up are toilet bowl cleaners.
Apparently Americans are hording toilet paper but not cleaning their toilets, which is a scary picture.
All the food apps also have minimum spend amounts for delivery, or some for free delivery (some charge even when you get the minimum dollar amount of products). That means you can’t use online shopping to grab one or two things you may have run out of or have a taste for.
So approach online shopping like you would shopping during time of war — expect scarcity, expect to spend up to twice what you normally would, take what you can get to prepare decent meals, and be prepared to wait days or weeks to get your groceries.
Indeed, for part of my career I wrote about the food retailing business and would regularly visit supermarkets to see what they had to offer, how they displayed new items, what their fresh food sections were like and how many prepared items they were offering.
But all my joy of grocery shopping is gone now, crushed by current shopping conditions brought on by this pandemic sweeping the globe.
I’ve tried shopping during so-called “senior” hours that food stores have instituted for people like me who are over 65. But I found those horrible beyond description — aisles packed with masked, frightened people walking slowly and unsure of what to do next as they confronted one empty shelf after another.
So now I’m trying to have groceries delivered and I’m finding stores are totally overwhelmed for such orders.
The major chain in the Chicago area, Jewel, routinely has no delivery slots available for the next week — the length of time you;re allowed to book on its shopping app.
I was finally able to get a slot for this coming Saturday by going on line at midnight last Friday when a new day was added and quickly booking a time window.
To do that, I had to have my cart of items ready to checkout.
Walmart, which was promoting its pickup service during this year’s Super Bowl, has a grocery app that only allows you to book pickup times for the current and next day — and all slots for those are always full. I have yet to find the magic time of day when I can schedule a pickup of food at any of their local stores near me.
The Target app for food was no better. Amazon Fresh seems no better.
If you do somehow secure a time slot, your troubles aren’t over. More on that in my next post.
If you are being brave enough to venture out to supermarkets and other food stores, it’s important to use that time wisely and efficiently to minimize your possible exposure to others.
So take a look at this story on basics you should be sure to buy, if you don’t have them already. Oils can be essential to cooking, for example.Grab fresh veggies and fruits when you can, I’ve been finding many in short supply in my Chicago suburban area.
Grocery shopping during this pandemic is a sad, sad experience — aisles filled with people wearing masks, not speaking to each other, except to yell at anyone who gets too close.
And the new “senior citizen shopping hours” are even worse. I’ve tried shopping during them twice but will not do it again. Stores are jammed with people having difficulty getting around and truly fearful of getting ill.
The number one mistake — ordering too little. If you can capture a precious delivery time, utilize it to the fullest. Stock up on no-perishables and grab any cleaning supplies you can find since store shelves are still largely empty of dish soap, antibacterial hand soap and antibacterial wipes.
Heart-healthy approaches to eating usually emphasize eating a lot of fresh, rather than processed, foods. That means your refrigerator should be stocked with fresh produce, fresh fish and fresh chicken, depending on your tastes.
But how long can you keep those before they start to spoil, even in the refrigerator?
Food processors are getting the message that today’s consumer, especially millennials, want to eat healthier and won’t shop in traditional stores unless they change their product mix to reflect that.
But rather than simply make healthier products, some processors have turned to buzzwords that appear to mean healthier while not actually conveying anything healthy about a given food. Don’t be taken in by these terms, read labels and actually study what is in a product before buying it.
It’s literally been years since I regularly shopped in the deli section of a supermarket. The processed meats there are loaded with salt and fat plus other additives most people, not just those of us with heart issues, should avoid.
Last year was a good one for food shoppers with several factors keeping retail prices down. But don’t expect the same in 2018, predicts Cooking Light magazine and the Wall Street Journal.
Commodity prices have been rising but food retailers have absorbed those rather than pass them on to consumers in the face of increased competition from online retailers like Amazon. That could change in 2018. something has to give, basically, retailers can’t keep paying more for what they buy without eventually charging you more for what you buy from them. Continue reading “Expect your food shopping bills to rise in 2018”→