Wrap up of the Grocery List Project

Thank you Rick Wright for this wonderful image!

A BIG thank you for everyone who participated in this project for not only letting us peek into your shopping cart but for helping to bring attention to food insecurity. Below are answers to a question I put out last week. That question was: Did you change anything in your cooking/shopping habits during the pandemic that ended up to be something you like and will continue? 

Below are the answers. Each * indicates a response from one of the participants. Following those answers is the compilation of hints for donating to food programs and lists of food pantries throughout the U.S.

Answers to the Question:

*Before shutdown, my husband and I, busy with our own schedules, ate lunches out, alone or with friends.  Dinners were a combination of home prepared, left-overs, or take-out.  After shutdown, home prepared, a little take-out.  Our main meal is together and eaten around noon.  The evening meal is usually “every man for themselves”, prepared in our kitchen. Once the kitchen was cleaned out, reorganized, then restocked … began to realize there was money left at the end of the month!  I knew a good portion of funds ear-marked for entertainment were spent on eating out, seeing what was still in the checking account and/or not on the credit card bill was eye opening! My goal is to never return to that level of eating out again.  To remain mindful of how often I am going out.  I learned the more I shopped, more I cooked, the easier, more streamlined the process became. 

*I have become much more organized with a well-stocked freezer and pantry. I actually label what I put in the freezer so that I know what it is. I rarely used a shopping list before, so I would forget half of what I needed. The list is a new, great idea. I am buying what I really want (ignoring cost) because dinner is the day’s big event.

*I think the one thing that changed, since we tried to grocery shop less often, was fresh vegetables- we started our indoor seed starting light and started growing our own lettuce and cilantro, as those were things that don’t last as long when you shop fewer times a month, but that we eat a lot of.

*Honestly, I don’t do that much different except try to plan a little farther ahead so I don’t go to the store very often.  I just wear my mask and go to the store when I need to.  I did use the coupons in the Charlotte Observer for Harris Teeter to plan my shopping sometimes.  They offer a $20 off $100 purchase sometimes and I try to take advantage of that and buy things FeedNC needs with that purchase.  Good motivation.  Otherwise I’m not likely to spend $100 at once at the store!

*I started to add more vegetable and chicken stock to my grocery list, as I was trying to eat more healthy by making soups. They fill me up and I found them easy to make and a good part of my dinners with salad. 

*The pandemic has increased my appreciation for the abundance that surrounds me. It has also taught me to be more patient with myself, others and my surroundings.

*I was using curbside pickup often pre-pandemic (at Target), and am using it more as more stores offer it.  The biggest change for me was beginning to grocery shop on weekdays vs weekends. I initially did it since I was working a less hectic schedule when we first began working from home, and I figured stores would be less crowded mid week mornings. I realized I really enjoyed freeing myself of that chore on the weekend. I could just have leisurely weekend mornings. Now that I work a more normal schedule, I still go on Wednesdays, just after work.

*1. We stopped eating at restaurants and I cook every day. Now I like it better and don’t plan to return to eating out except for special occasions. 2. I rediscovered old favorite recipes from the past and found new ones so I shopped for different ingredients. 3. We changed grocery stores to one that was not as crowded. We used to go to Whole Foods but now picked a local chain. Whole Foods has turned into one giant fulfillment center for internet orders and it is stressful to shop there now. 4. We replaced our dishwasher with a better model (after years of skimping on dishwashers I finally decided to upgrade a little). Well worth it. I love the cleaner dishes (less streaking, etc) and it makes me feel just that little bit better  about each meal I put on the table.

* 1. Discovering Imperfect Foods and online grocery shopping — when I go to the grocery, I tend to buy the same things over-and-over…I’ve varied my selections more with online shopping, probably because I have a few days to mull over what we need, what I want to make, foods to round out the diet.  2. Same experience with curbside! I LOVE Target’s super efficient curbside service, especially now that they are doing perishables.

*The pandemic forced me to plan meals so I wouldn’t spend more time in the market than I needed to. Therefore, I planned healthier and more creative meals because I was really thinking about my food instead of dashing into the supermarket on the way home to pick up something for dinner. 

*I shopped less often and went to the Commissary where I felt they followed safety rules better and more consistently. 

Helpful Hints when Donating to a Food Program:

*Community Food drives are a great way to help. Youth organizations, companies, and houses of worship often sponsor them as a service event and also individuals and HOAs collect from neighbors to deliver to local food pantries and soup kitchens.

*Don’t forget the furry friends! Many food panty and food banks also accept pet food.

*If you garden at home or with a group, consider sharing some of your crops with the local food pantry or soup kitchen.

*Remember that hamburger helper does not help if there is no meat. When donating peanut butter, also consider crackers or bread to go with it.

*Consider donating some pantry staples such as cooking oil, which is needed for a great deal of food preparation, as well as items like sugar, flour, spices, coffee & tea.

*In addition to food, items such as personal grooming products are also needed as well as things like dishwashing detergent. Make sure to donate full size items unless there is a particular reason the organization is looking for “hotel” or “sample” size items. It you are not sure, it is always ok to ask exactly what is needed.

*Food Banks are able to buy in bulk for very good prices so donations of money are always very useful, maybe even more useful than actual food. However, Food Pantries benefit from both actual food items and money. The difference between Food Banks and Food Pantries are as follows: Food Banks feed lots of people from a wide area, either directly or by supplying to soup kitchens and other community food programs. Food Pantries are locally based and address individuals’ needs in the immediate surrounding community. They are often located in churches, or social service agencies as part of larger missions. It is a good idea to check with your local Food Bank/Pantry to see what is most useful to them.

*When donating to backpack programs, choose canned items with pop off or peel off lids in case the recipient does not have or cannot use a can opener.

*When donating macaroni & cheese try to get the kind that is premixed so that no additional ingredients like milk, which may not be available, are needed.

Food Relief Programs:

Feeding America (National program)
National Council on Aging Food Assistance Programs (National program)
Friends of Forgotten Children (New Hampshire)
Brookings County Food Pantry & other resources ( Eastern South Dakota)
Virginia Peninsula Food Bank (S.E. Virginia)
Cherry Hill Food Pantry (Camden County, New Jersey)
Jenkintown Food Cupboard (Montgomery County, Pennsylvania)
Beach Haven Food Pantries (Mid New Jersey Shore Area)
Harry Chapin Food Bank (Southwest Florida)
New Life Food Cupboard (Montgomery County, Pennsylvania)
Media Food Bank (Delaware County, Pennsylvania)
Cape May Community Food Closet (Cape May, New Jersey)
Northern Illinois Food Bank (Northern Illinois)
Hearts and Hands Food Pantry (Huntersville/Charlotte, North Carolina)
Feeding NC (Serving parts of Mecklenburg, Rowan, and Iredell Counties, NC)
Food Pantries in the Coastville, PA area (Chester County, PA)
Cluster Outreach Center (Greater Pottstown, PA area)
Bucks County Housing Group Community Food Pantries (Langhorne/Doylestown, Bucks County, PA)
Maryland Food Bank (Maryland – statewide information)
Food Pantries for Southern Delaware
**Dialing 2-1-1 will connect a person with information on local services that provide assistance.

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