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Home Cooks: How the Pandemic Changed Home Cooking

One year into the pandemic, home cooks have come away with more than new recipes in their repertoires. The pandemic year has shaped how we plan meals, how we shop for groceries, and even what we cook. Like many other recipe and food sites, we saw a rise in pageviews for comfort food, baked goods, and vegan recipes, and alcoholic beverages in 2020, but behind the increased interest in these categories were people coping with their new normal. Americans on the whole adapted their eating as the pandemic unfolded.

  • Americans have made more meals at home, expanded their palates with new flavors, and gravitated toward premium items as an indulgence or healthier option during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Even with the Covid-19 vaccine’s rollout, the global health crisis will likely influence how people grocery shop, cook and eat for years to come.

  • Consumers’ changing habits have shaped retailers' and consumer packaged goods companies’ approach, too, such as inspiring PepsiCo to launch globally-inspired potato chip flavors and a drink to aid sleep.

If I thought food waste was complicated before Covid-19 emerged, now it blows my mind. I started to research a version of this article in January – those carefree days when people worried about supermarkets overstocking, not the disappearance of pasta and flour. Even then, the picture was hazy, but it was much clearer than it is now. Until lockdown, most of us were accustomed to any-time, any-place food shopping. Remember when you could eat in all sorts of places? Food was available everywhere, for those with means – and we ate everywhere, too: leaning against a wall with a box of slow-cooked pork from a street-food market; sharing popcorn at the cinema or chips at the pub. They say you’re never more than 6ft from a rat in Britain’s towns and cities, but we were also never much farther from a snack. Then, in an instant, it was gone.

Most of us shop less often now and use more of what we buy: new data from Wrap, a charity that aims to reduce waste, shows a 34% reduction in wasted potatoes, bread, chicken and milk at home; it also shows that people are actively trying to waste less – making meals with what they have, batching, using leftovers, planning menus before shopping. Many family meals are now driven by what we need to use up: wrinkled peppers roasted or grilled, the potatoes my children reject at night mixed with mayo and chives next day.

Shifts in Grocery Shopping

March 2020 marked a turning point in how people in the United States responded to the coronavirus. Schools veered to virtual learning, offices to remote work. Businesses braced for short-term shutdowns; some shuttered and never reopened.

Then, March 19, the first statewide stay-at-home order came out of California. And as more states issued orders to keep people at home, it became clear to Americans that t