Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Grocery shopping today and a week ago...

The new normal keeps shifting.  First there were lines.  You can tell "social distancing" was still not a thing in the Bay Area last week as we crammed in for Trader Joe's even before the stay-at-home order. And less than a tenth of the people were wearing face masks.

And now, the lines snake around as we are given these helpful 6 feet guidelines.  Almost everybody now has their faces covered except some fearless young-uns.  I tried to go to Berkeley Bowl but the lines were so crazy long with people standing in the rain that I lost heart and went back to Trader Joe's.  Since TJ's store footprint is smaller with a limited inventory, shoppers move this line pretty fast.  TJ now imposed a limit of 1 paper, 2 meat, 2 bean, 2 rice.


There were 6 feet guidelines inside the store as well for standing in the checkout line although it was hard not to swarm certain shelves. But it's still very orderly, no fighting over the last few items.  And since only a small number of people are allowed in the store, the TJ lines in El Cerrito at least are relatively short.

Last week at the beginning of the stay-at-home order,  the shelves had gone bare for beans.  Gluten free options and quinoa however was in abundant supply. 
Donde est Beans?
Nobody want's quinoa
I could only fill half the order my neighbor had given me so I had to substitute her beans for quinoa. Quinoa with the higher protein content may be a decent nutritional option but is not a comfort food. I didn't get any quinoa since I still had pounds of canahua(aka kaniwa) at home- a better option than quinoa without quinoa's bothersome saponins. But since we stopped eating grains, I've held onto this giant bag of canahua for 5 years which I kept as starvation food.  We don't eat too many beans but I picked up the allowed 2 can limit in case someone might want them.

Every home has to make decisions about how much provisions to store for the month to come given available funds and storage space.  South Koreans noticeably did not hoard food as delivery service and the food system was working fine. As the main quartermaster of our household and as part of earthquake preparedness, I normally keep a 4 week supply. I've stretched this out to be 6 weeks.   Since shopping is now such a hassle and potential location of infection, I'm compelled to make each trip worth my while which naturally leads to overbuying.  We are both in excellent health but there is a non-zero chance one of us can get sick; I'm mindful trying to ease the burden on each other by at least having the pantry stocked.

But having adequate nutritional fare vs food you want to eat is an entirely different matter.  Many are joking about a covid-5 or covid-10 from being at home and eating more treats and snacks that is good for us.  I find myself buying all manner of grain based snacks and dried fruit I would not buy during regular times.

After the hassle of standing in line, it's as if one has to treat oneself somehow.  I treated myself to a giant bag of dried peaches.  As I munch on a few slices now with a winter frost nilgiri,  I long for the early stone fruits of late spring.  The thought of the first apricots and peaches gives me a small flash of hope before it fizzles out reading the New York Times.

As we have stopped altogether eating out, variety is a challenge. I had bought 3 bags of shishito peppers last trip which pared excellently with grilled lamb chops. More expensive meats like steak and lambchops (over $14) were in ample supply but given the 2 (fresh) meat limit for this trip and 1 of which I had used up for my neighbor who wanted ground beef, I went for bratwurst which I will serve tonight with roasted cauliflower and sweet potato fries.  Predictably, pork and sausages provide more mental comfort than lamb in our household.

Our pantry was overstocked from the last 2 trips that I only had to re-up the week's supply on most things.  I started taking the grocery haul pictures mostly to show C so he knows what's available.  The fridge and pantry is bursting full and with stable goods tucked away in obscure corners of the kitchen, it's hard to see the inventory. I started keeping a trello board of inventory to gauge supply levels.
Trip #3, just a week supply except for extra jars of cornichons.
I get the bulk of my produce and groceries from Berkeley Bowl and staples from Trader Joe's so it's been a dietary adjustment to be forced to rely only on Trader Joe's.  Anybody who's been through a true shortage like the Korean War or the world wars would see the above photo as a gluttonous abundance for a household of 2.   I noticed prices have gone up noticeably compared to the trip last week. 

My first grocery trip after our European vacation was a disorganized jet-lagged dash to Trader Joe's as our fridge had been completely emptied out.  This was the one of the rare rare times my cart was not organized by category for easy packing.  I threw items in the cart in urgency as the line outside was long and I didn't want to hog up more time than necessary.  I've never bought so many unnecessary snacks in my whole life but carbs definitely ease the anxieties during these times.
Trip #1, jetlagged from Europe, uncharacteristically grabbing munchies

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