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”

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.

Coronavirus impact: your food bills are climbing

Feel like you’ve been paying more for every item you can find in your local food store during this Cornoavirus Pandemic? You’re right and now reports are coming out to prove it.

The food at home index, compiled by the  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics rose 2.7% in April compared to March 2020, its sharpest one-month climb since February 1974. Prices in April are up 4.1% compared to April 2019. Prices are up pretty much in every category, according to the bureau. Examples include:

  • Poultry, meat and fish — up 4.5% in April compared to March
  • Cereal, baked goods and non-alcoholic beverages — up 2.7% in April compared to March
Grocery prices are climbing during this pandemic — if you can find the items you want in stores that is.

Demand has soared as people eat at home more than they ever did before the virus struck and supplies dwindle as processing plants close because of sick employees. Imported food supplies likely also are down. And we’ve yet to hear about deliveries breaking down because of sick truckers, expect some of that as this goes on too.

Don’t expect the price picture to brighten anytime soon. People who are filling their shopping carts to the brim every time they go to a store likely are wasting a lot of that food because they aren’t accustomed to planning meals to use everything before it goes bad. So they’ll likely be back in stores making the same mistakes all over again and keeping demand for everything high — along with prices.

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

Trader Joe’s shopping in the pandemic. Hurry up and wait

I took my first trip to a Trader Joe’s in more than two months this week, which also means it’s my first trip there since the Coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. I had to wait on line to get in when the store opened for senior shopping at 8 a.m. But once inside, I found the items I wanted and even a few I don’t normally buy there.

I went to a checkout lane with no one waiting in front of me, but the checkout was a sad moment for me, so much different from the pre-pandemic Trader Joe’s.

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.

Checkout clerks now are surrounded by plastic shields. I was asked to push my cart to the clerk but to remain at the six-foot away line on the floor while she checked out my items.

Once she was done, she asked me to walk past her and her sheild to the card processing terminal to pay and leave.

The usual friendly banter with the clerk was gone. I am someone who looked forward to talking to those clerks when I shopped there. Chalk it up to me being an old man with few, if any friends nearby anymore.

Those days of chatting at the checkout are gone. Continue reading “Trader Joe’s shopping in the pandemic. Hurry up and wait”

5 problems with online grocery shopping during your quarantine

Sheltering in place for many Americans has meant trying online grocery shopping and delivery for the first time. Food retailers are clearly overwhelmed by the demand for such services. It’s a bit ironic since they’ve been touting curbside pickup and online ordering for some time, perhaps a case for them of be careful what you wish for.

After several weeks of hit-and-miss service, I’ve put together this list for you of 5 problems you should expect when using online grocery shopping and delivery/pickup.

  1. You’ll pay a lot more. Shopping in stores means you can search out the week’s specials, discounts, etc. to cut your grocery bill. Forget that online. There are specials but by the time your order arrives they’ll likely be unavailable even if you ordered them. Which leads to problem two…
  2. You won’t receive everything you ordered. Retailers are so backed up with orders that they can’t keep items in stock apparently. A recent order I placed at Walmart.com came with half of what I ordered missing (see the photo here of my post-order screen below). That leads to the next issue…

    All these items I ordered from Walmart were unavailable by the time my order was delivered.
    All these items I ordered from Walmart were unavailable by the time my order was delivered.
  3. Delivery fees are high, especially considering you won’t get everything you ordered. Retailers generally have minimum delivery amounts you have to buy, $20 or $30. Walmart charges a $9.95 delivery fee for every order. I recently ordered about $25 of groceries but when it was delivered I received only $10 worth of food that was still available,. That means I paid double for every item when the $9.95 fee is included. I complained about this but never heard back.
  4. Beware substitutions that will drive your bill higher. I’ve used both Walmart.com and Jewel, my local mainline supermarket. But it took me two orders from each to realize I needed to click on a small button on the ordering screens not to allow substitutions for what I ordered. I didn’t see that button on my first Jewel order so instead of getting chicken breasts that were supposed to be on sale for around $3 a pound, I was sent chicken that cost $7.50 a pound because the special I ordered was out of stock. That was a significant price increase I wasn’t expecting and wouldn’t have agreed to. On my first Walmart order, I ordered diet Pepsi only to get diet Coke, again at a higher price.
  5. Speedy delivery doesn’t exist. Need some quick items for tonight’s dinner? Forget it. If you;re lucky you can book delivery a week out from the date you order. To do that, you need to be online when the food store you shop adds a new day to its delivery schedule. Some do that at midnight, others at 6 or 8 a.m., depending on how their shopping software is programmed.

All-in-all I’d say online delivery has been a painful, unsatisfying experience. So much so that my wife decided to venture out to a store today to look for all the items which aren’t available for online delivery, such as low-salt, low-fat products and lean meats and various produce which seems almost impossible to get online.

 

 

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