COVID-19 is forcing Americans to spend more at the grocery store and get creative in their kitchens.
A new survey from Self Financial, a fintech firm dedicated to helping people build credit, revealed that Americans are changing their food habits to cope with this unique situation and that means bloated grocery bills, altered diets, and rationed portions.
But the change in palate is less about culinary exploration and more about the need to stretch a dollar.
“At a time when people are losing income, jobs, and getting furloughed, it seems like the worst time possible for a lot of people to be having less money coming in, while having to spend more money on essentials at the same time,” said Lauren Bringle Jackson, a spokesperson for Self.
Without the option of dining in restaurants, two-thirds of Americans are spending an additional $69 a week on food during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the average weekly grocery bill up from $86 to $155, according to the survey.
Exploring plant-based diets
The disruption to the grocery supply chain has caused a 50-year high in prices on meat, eggs, and dairy, otherwise known as staples of the omnivore diet, and many are priced out.
The adoption of vegan and vegetarian diets is an emerging trend from the pandemic with almost 1 in 4 who said they were now eating more plant-based meals during lockdown, compared with just 11% of respondents who said they were eating more meat at this time.
With the majority of people no longer commuting, the temptation to swing by a fast-food drive-through for dinner is waning. Instead, there’s more time for planning and preparation that didn’t necessarily exist pre-quarantine.
“You do have a little more time to step back and think: ‘What am I putting into my body?’” Bringle Jackson said.
The switch could be less about adopting a healthier diet and more about shopping smarter at the grocery store. Produce is less expensive than meat, and recipes for cooking with leftovers and scraps are beginning to trend in the mainstream.
Worried about economic instability and uncertainty, more than a quarter of people are rationing their food, according to the survey.
Bringle Jackson said that it might be a function of avoiding crowded grocery stores, parents going without to feed their children first, or a loss of appetite from fear and anxiety.
While financial constraints and fear of what’s to come have forced people to adapt, Bringle Jackson tried to identify the crisis’ silver lining: Ingenuity and resourcefulness.
“That's the flip side to this,” she said. “It's an amazing testament to how resilient and creative people can be in the face of a challenge.”
Read more information and tips in our Spending section