How you doin’? Over the last several weeks, have you been doing the grocery shopping or has someone else done it for you? Many people really don’t like to go grocery shopping. I can give you various reasons why, but the fact is, people have better things to do—that is up until recently. With the quarantine orders in place, except for going out for groceries and to the drug store, there hasn’t been many places to go.
Before we found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, most of us thought nothing of grocery shopping. We didn’t just stop at one store… we shopped around to different stores. If I wanted snacks from Trader Joe’s and meat from Huntington Meats, it was no big deal. We didn’t worry about what time or even which day we went shopping. We just went whenever and wherever we wanted.
Today, going to a grocery store is a potential health risk (for myself, my family, and the store workers. I’ve learned that running out for a few extra potatoes isn’t just inefficient—it’s also irresponsible and downright wasteful. We’ve had to change the way we approach meal planning and shopping. It’s been a period of adjustment.
Below are several ways the quarantine and ongoing social distancing might change your approach to shopping—some habit changes you might want to consider for the future.
Before you even go to the store, be sure to check to see what you have in your own pantry. Rather than starting with a craving, coming up with a recipe, and then making a special shopping trip—cook what you have on hand. Be creative with what you have. Pretend every day is a new episode of Chopped.
Now that you’ve got the time, take inventory of all the foods in the pantry, fridge and freezers and plug all the information into a spreadsheet. You’ll find there is so much more “stuff” that you’ve had forgotten about—lentils, beans, noodles, canned goods, and more. You also might want to add a column for “best buy” so that you can keep track of what’s in and out of code. Now you can browse through the list and come up with meal ideas instead of mindlessly running to the store despite having full cupboards. You can also go online and type in the ingredients you have and see what recipes pop up.
Finally, if you have to go out grocery shopping, be sure to write a detailed shopping list—try to do it in the order that you shop, i.e. meat and poultry first, center of the store (cans and bottles), produce and then frozen foods. That will get you in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Please, please don’t over-buy, leave something for the next family
We are all watching small businesses struggling to survive amid mass closures. It has been painful to watch. I’ve always liked shopping local, bringing money back to the local economy. I also like small farmers, ranchers and producers. I look for the Made in America on the label. Every dollar counts to these independent, local businesses now more than ever. I also realized I’m not spending more money than usual; I am, however, wasting less of what I buy. When I put my dollars toward quality instead of quantity, there is more incentive to use up everything I buy.
You might also consider investing in one of those vacuum-sealing storage systems. They really do help to keep things fresher longer and you can save space in your refrigerator or freezer by stacking bags instead of containers. I use the FoodSaver system and find it works pretty well for bagged storage and when you are using your sous vide system (Lesson #8). When a container is needed, I prefer the Lasting Freshness Vacuum Seal Food Storage containers. I’ve tried a few different brands and have had the best success in drawing and keeping a vacuum to extend shelf life a few days. They also stack pretty well in cabinets and the refrigerator.
In the last couple of weeks, proteins have been harder to find, so I’m using less by supplementing meals with more vegetables, beans, and grains. This strategy is better for our budget, health, and the environment.
When eating less meat or chicken, you will appreciate the fresh produce more than ever before. Your quarantine salads made with greens from local farms will taste amazingly better. You’ll find that greens purchased locally will still be vibrant and fresh long after the pre-washed packaged stuff which can go limp pretty quickly. You may have never known how incredibly delicious truly fresh produce can be.
If you have kids in the house you already know that “food” to them means snacks. If there aren’t any chips, crackers, or granola bars in the house, You’re out of food. In this current environment try cutting back on processed snacks; try making treats from scratch instead. Experiment with Instant Pot yogurt (see recipe in the Instant Pot section of the blog), freshly baked breads, muffins, cookies and crackers. Homemade ice cream and sorbet are the very best and fun to make. You will feel so much better cooking from scratch, not to mention most items are less expensive to make and better quality than store-bought, processed foods.
Let us know how is the quarantine changing the way you grocery shop and prepare food for your family?
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