Lindsay Watts, MS, RDN
Many people’s lives changed drastically since the onset of the pandemic last spring. Kids started learning virtually from home, eating out became a distant memory, and simple trips to the grocery store required more planning. People’s habits, purchasing behaviors, and relationships with food became very different compared to a year ago. Major changes over a short period brought financial and emotional stress to many. Guidance for living in quarantine came front and center and flooded people’s newsfeeds. Stocking a healthy pantry became a common topic among health professionals and will likely continue to be an important tool for people over the next several months. However, given the cumulative financial and emotional impact on families, it is important for experts to be thoughtful with their recommendations. The next time you share healthy eating advice, consider changes in priorities among different households. This month, we share insights on common consumer challenges and how your advice can help clients meet their health goals.
Budgets Are Tight
Many people feel an ongoing financial impact from the pandemic. When considering ways to cut food costs, many households turn to the pantry more often. Pantry items are typically more affordable than fresh options, but even these products can be costly. You may need to consider what your client has access to through food relief programs, and the availability of the products you recommend. Having clients take a snapshot of their pantry may help you see where they are, places to save and discuss opportunities for improvement. Above all, your recommendations should be tailored to the pantry needs of each household. For example, the needs of a young family with children will differ significantly from an elderly couple with chronic diseases or those with limited access to food.
Food Prep Fatigue & Recipe Ruts
Some people see-sawed between tackling new culinary adventures in the kitchen and dreading another round of meals to prep and clean up amidst work, school and the general chaos that comes with having people around one another 24/7. Most people ate throughout the day BEFORE the pandemic, but the added pressure of ALL meals at home can take a toll. How can you motivate families to keep the meal momentum going? Remind clients that meals don’t have to always to be prepped from scratch. Effectively stocked pantries provide not only balanced nutrition and simple meal solutions but also convenience. While suggestions like canned beans, brown rice, etc. are important components of a healthy pantry, they do require prep. Balancing nutritious scratch ingredients with convenience items like heat and eat soups, and simple sauces gives households a realistic shortcut and prevents cooking burnout!
The early days of the pandemic brought very different stockpiling and food purchasing behaviors. Clients may have an excess of ingredients they simply don’t know how to use. Maybe your client has a huge container of old-fashioned oats (because instant packs weren’t available) and needs a creative way to use it. Or maybe they bought large quantities of canned fruit, corn and black beans and want a simple way to incorporate them into dishes. Before telling people more foods to buy, work through what they may already have. Simple pantry staples can be used to make homemade granola bars and easy recipes like Chicken Tortilla Casserole can help them use up pantry ingredients.
Find a Place for Comfort Foods
There was an uptick in bakery and savory snack sales as we find joy and comfort in such indulgences. Find a place for those foods and evaluate opportunities to make comfort dishes more nutritious like with this recipe for Lightened Up Chicken Enchiladas. As clients restock their pantry remind them of balance for success. Scratch ingredients and convenience products can share shelf space and work together to provide realistic mealtime solutions!
Lindsay is a nutrition communications analyst at the Campbell Soup Company where she coordinates health professional and consumer communications. She also works with internal and external partners on retail health and wellness programs. Prior to her role at Campbell, Lindsay worked as an in-store retail dietitian. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from West Chester University and completed her dietetic internship with Pennsylvania State University. Lindsay received her Master of Science in Health Communications and Marketing from Boston University.