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.

 

 

Pandemic shopping tip — frozen food cooking tips

You’re likely spend less, or no time, at supermarkets and other food stores during this pandemic. I tried shopping a few times but became too depressed by the dour atmosphere and empty shelves and so have turned to home delivery, for example. That has it’s own challenges which I’ve written about here.

However you’re getting food, you need to think and cook differently now, a nutritionist says in this interview from wpxi.com.

She recommends frozen veggies and other items, being mindful of how much you;re eating, and several recipes she likes. Just click here to see the full interview.

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Grocery delivery in a pandemic — Forget deals or disinfectants

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.

This was what awaited me at a recent senior shopping hour at a local supermarket — packed aisles and endless checkout lines.

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.

Grocery Delivery in a pandemic — for me, it’s close to impossible

I was someone who loved grocery shopping.

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.

This was what awaited me at a recent senior shopping hour at a local supermarket — packed aisles and endless checkout lines.

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.

What to buy when you go pandemic grocery shopping

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.

For more tips, just click on this link to read Forget baked beans: How to prepare a healthy ‘pandemic pantry’ in an age of coronavirus.

Some other recent articles on the topic (just click the title to reach the sites):

A Guide to Cooking and Eating During a Pandemic

Grocery rules for your coronavirus lockdown: Buy beans, freeze milk, don’t hoard, and more

Coronavirus: Nutritionist explains what frozen foods you should stock up on during pandemic

 

Ordering groceries online? Here are common mistakes to avoid

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.

So the alternative is ordering food online for delivery or pick-up. That’s easier said than done in some areas where delivery slots book up weeks in advance now. But if you’re lucky enough to be able to order online, I’d suggest you click this link to read 6 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid the First Time You Order Groceries Online.

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.

Good luck, stay safe.

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