Planning for the holidays will certainly look a lot different than in past years, even when it comes to your grocery shopping. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, more closures across the country and the unfortunate panic buying that can ensue, customers are left wondering how to best plan for Christmas dinner in the middle of a pandemic.
Some stores, like Stew Leonard's, a popular supermarket chain in the tri-state area, plan to open earlier on December 22-24, starting at 6 a.m. with a senior shopping hour.
“It’s really hard to plan ahead when you’re buying a lot of fresh food," Stew Leonard Jr., president & CEO of Stew Leonard’s told TODAY Food. "Wednesday the 23rd will be our busiest day, so we’re trying to get our customers to buy all of their non-perishable items a week ahead of time. That way, when they shop for fresh food closer to Christmas Day, there will be fewer crowds in the stores, and it’ll be easier for social spacing. We’re telling our customers to stay positive but test negative!”
Shopping ahead of time for your non-perishables is a smart strategy. For fresh items that you need to purchase closer to Christmas, consider shopping at off-peak hours to avoid the crowds. Google Maps identified Mondays at 8 a.m. as the least-busy time to do food shopping (Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. were the busiest).
In addition to shopping at off-peak hours, remember to wear your mask and choose to patronize stores that require masks for all shoppers and employees. In the store, do your best to maintain social distancing. For example, if there's crowding in the dairy department, take a pass to another aisle of the store until the crowd thins out.
Also keep in mind that while some stores will stay open on Christmas Day for any last-minute needs, most major grocery stores will be closed to give store employees a much-needed day off from work.
If you plan to do your grocery shopping online, be aware that delivery slots may fill up fast. If you do manage to nab a slot, take advantage of special services like Instacart's "Leave At My Door Delivery" for a contactless experience.
And while it's possible that there may be some shortages of popular items, supply chains have for the most part been shored up and grocers are working hard to meet customer demand. If you can't find an item you need, now is the time to be flexible with your ingredients — try to find substitutions or adapt your menu to fit what you can easily find. And remember, mindfulness goes a long way this holiday season, so don't be that person who grabs all the stuffing off the shelves. When it comes to the holidays (and the pandemic), a little goodwill goes a long way.