Grocery Shopping in the Age of Social Distancing
Oh man the world is changing fast! With more than three quarters of the United States under mandatory stay at home orders, it’s important we all do our part to stay home and stay safe. And, even though grocery shopping is considered “essential”, you don’t want to be running to the store every day. So, here’s a few trips to navigate grocery shopping responsibly:
1) Have a plan, seriously –
Having a plan is essential. Learning to plan out meals and groceries is a skill that will serve you well into the future. I can’t stress this enough! A menu and grocery list ensure that you have food on hand – food that you actually want to eat, food that you know how to prepare, and food that fits with the realities of your daily schedule.
Start with a menu. Consider all the meals you’d like to eat in the next week or so – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This may seem like overkill, but you don’t want to buy a bunch of produce only to discover than you don’t have an entrée to serve with your green beans.
You can stock your fridge but if you don’t have a cohesive plan for meals, you may find yourself with lots of food but nothing to eat.
Oh yeah, and make sure to allow a few days for takeout or leftovers. No need to slave in the kitchen seven nights a week!
Then, make your list. Shopping with a grocery list is always a good idea but more so now than ever. You don’t want to spend time (or risk exposure) browsing aisles unnecessarily. And you definitely don’t want to get home only to realize you forgot something critical. Like toilet paper. Try keeping a note pad to track items that you’re running low on throughout the week instead of writing your list all at once. Or, if you have an IPhone, you can keep a digital list using your Reminders App. That way you can tell Siri to, “add peanut butter to my groceries list” while you’re spreading the last of it on your toast.
2) Limit yourself to one grocery store every seven to ten days –
Most weeks, I like to get the bulk of my groceries at a lower cost store and then make a second trip to a higher end market for a few specialty items. But in the age of “shelter in place”, multiple grocery runs doesn’t feel socially responsible. Instead of making several trips, try alternating stores from week to week. That way you can still get all your budget friendly and gourmet foods with fewer trips outside your home.
3) Consider shelf life and freshness –
Shop for foods that have varying shelf lives. For example, fresh fish should be eaten within a few days of purchase while chicken can last a little longer in the fridge or be easily frozen. Lettuce mixes tend to wither pretty quickly while spinach and kale keep much better.
Make sure to prep and eat your more temperamental foods early in the week and save the packaged and canned goods for later.
4) Practice acceptance if you can’t find exactly what you want –
Grass fed beef? Free range eggs? Even bulk items may be harder to find. Recognize that there is literally nothing you, or your grocery store, or their manufacturers can do to get you your specific brands or varieties right now. It’s ok to buy the product with plastic packaging. It’s ok to buy conventional instead of organic. And it’s ok to eat white bread if whole wheat isn’t available.
5) Stock up on foods you’ll actually eat –
We’ve been assured that there’s no need to hoard food or supplies but even so, many of us feel better with a fully stocked cupboard just in case.
But if you’re planning for a worst-case-scenario, make sure you’re choosing foods that you’ll still want to eat even if it turns out this isn’t the apocalypse.
Don’t buy twenty cans of soup if you hate canned soup! Instead focus on pantry staples like flour and sugar (if you like to bake). Or nuts, dried fruit, and oats (if you already eat a lot of oatmeal). Canned beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables are also good choices, but again, only if you have a genuine use for those foods in the future.
Alright I hope this helps! And of course, remember to practice distancing while shopping, wash your hands, and thoroughly rinse your produce. These are trying times but we’ll get through them together. And hopefully with some good food too!