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.

Super foods? Maybe think again about these 25

I’ve never been a believer in so-called “super foods,” items that someone or other decides will do amazing things for our bodies. Every body is different which is what makes giving nutrition advice so complex.

So when I see articles like Don’t Spend Your Money on These 25 “Superfoods”, Say Nutritionists in Men’s Health UK, I’m not surprised.

Salt is salt, no matter where it comes from, I avoid it to help control my blood pressure.

The story says such offerings as banana bread, a pandemic favorite, cauliflower, raw spinach, Himalayan salt and turkey bacon aren’t all that some have said they are.

It’s a good reminder, no one food is going to turn your life around. Find what works for you and stick with that.

How about eating that freezer-burned food? Yes and no

With everyone stocking their freezers during the pandemic, it’s likely whatever ends up at the bottom or back of your freezer will develop freezer burn. You know, that look, a frosty layer and a bit of discoloration.

Is such food still edible? Mostly yes but sometimes no, according to a recent piece on CookingLight.,com.

What do you do with freezer-burned food like this?

” USDA officials say that any meat affected by freezer burn is safe to eat. While your steak may taste a little ‘off,’ you won’t actually be at any greater risk for foodborne illness,” the article states. 

But don’t let freezer burned meats defrost on a counter and check the packaging.

“You should never leave freezer-burned meat out on a counter for an extended period of time. Bacteria can grow rapidly, thanks to the melting ice that has formed on the exterior of the meat (rather than on the interior, which can preserve the meat for longer periods of time). Continue reading “How about eating that freezer-burned food? Yes and no”

Pandemic Food Storage Tips: Keeping grapes and mushrooms fresh longer

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.

Trout, with mushrooms as a garnish.

So here are two articles from Myrecipes.com that give tips on storing mushrooms and grapes. Continue reading “Pandemic Food Storage Tips: Keeping grapes and mushrooms fresh longer”

7 pandemic food shopping trends

The food business is keeping a close eye at how people’s food shopping habits are being changed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

We wrote about an early study of shopping habits. Now, the New York Times has done some good, old-fashioned reporting, talking to a variety of industry sources and looking at a variety of surveys, to come up with its own seven trends of pandemic shopping. Its findings echo those of earlier research.

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

People are taking fewer trips to the supermarket and planning their shopping lists more, the Times reports.

Trips are now very business-like with people wanting to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Stores are responding by cutting down on the variety of products they offer, figuring people are there now for their tried and true choices, not new and unproven products. Continue reading “7 pandemic food shopping trends”

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”

Here we go again: another bagged lettuce recall

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. My Garden Bar salad

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.

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”

Covid-19 Pandemic changing how we food shop, and eat, new research confirms

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused major changes in the way Americans shop for their food, and in how they feel about grocery shopping, reports marketing firm Influence Central in new research it recently published.

Among the findings:

• 72% of consumers are going to the grocery store less frequently than they did before the pandemic.
• Consumers now overwhelmingly prefer shopping online with home delivery, followed by drive-by or curbside pickup, as opposed to actually going into a store to shop.
• 56% of consumers say they feel anxious about forgetting to pick up or not being able to find specific foods when shopping in-store.

My local Food 4 Less supermarket ona recent trip. I couldn’t wait to get out because of pandemic fears.

I’ll be doing several posts on this research. It quantifies and reinforces a lot of the anecdotal shopping experiences I’ve already been writing about, plus provides more details about what people are buying.

More than half of families’ eating habits have changed as they’ve been staying at home with 70% snacking and eating more frequently than they did pre-pandemic. And it’s not clear if they’re eating healthier or simply throwing down more junk food.

  • 43% eat more fruit and
  • 42% eat more vegetables,
  • 30% are eating more protein in the form of meat, poultry or fish.
  • 47% are turning to more sweets,
  • 24% have decreased their vegetable intake,
  • 21% east less fruit and 19% are eating less protein.

Continue reading “Covid-19 Pandemic changing how we food shop, and eat, new research confirms”

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