Farmers Market

Food Shopping Now: Clicks, Lists, Frozen, and Local

Mask Required for Food Shopping

photograph © Roman K via flickr

Eight years of change packed into one month. COVID-19 has changed food shopping. All of a sudden, everything about the ways we hunt and gather our meals is different. For one thing, we’re making fewer trips and more clicks. But we’re buying more and buying in new ways. Professor Anna Nagurney tells the New York Times:

This is a pivotal time in our history. Not all of what we’ve seen will stick, but a lot of it will.

In other words, food shopping will never be the same.

More Clicks, Fewer Trips

Before COVID, eight out of ten Americans had never shopped online for groceries. Never. Online grocery sales were growing only modestly – about three percent annually. By the end of the year, Business Insider projects that roughly half of us will be shopping for groceries online. Last year, online grocery purchases added up to about $1.2 billion. By June of this year, they amounted to $7.2 billion. Walmart is going head-to-head with Amazon to grab that money.

So we are getting better at making shopping lists. Online shopping nudges us in that direction. Fewer trips to the grocery store with bigger hauls when we go has that effect, too. The number of people making frequent trips to the store has dropped by half. It’s not so fun to go to the store when it feels like a roll of the dice for your health.

Frozen Is Hot

Suddenly, frozen foods are a hot commodity. In fact, the popularity of frozen foods has grown so much with the pandemic that it’s putting a strain on supply chains. Sales are growing by nearly 20 percent versus 2019. It fits with a preference for less processed foods along with a need for a supply that will last for the longer time between trips. In a word, we’ve been stocking up on frozen staples. Huffpost calls it “panic buying.”

Buying Local

Oddly enough, another focus has become buying local. That pattern of stocking up and eating more at home has put a pinch on far-flung supply chains. So people are taking comfort in buying local food and produce. It feels like supporting your community at a time when the rest of the word seems a bit fractured. “I’ll be damned if I’m buying a pear from Australia right now,” says Brooklyn writer Sean Gullette. So grocers are forging closer relationships with local producers. Farmers markets are thriving. Neighborhood grocers are finding a solid footing for themselves.

Life goes on despite this nasty virus and food is an important part it. More than anything, the pandemic has changed how food weaves into our lives. Some of these changes will turn out to be lasting improvements. Others will fade like a bad memory.

Click here for more from the New York Times and here for more from the Washington Post.

Farmers Market, photograph © TravelBakerCounty / flickr

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September 9, 2020