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After the pandemic, will people stay in the habit of cooking at home?

Marielle Segarra Feb 11, 2021
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More people are getting their food from grocery stores during the pandemic and saving money in the process. Mario Tama/Getty Images
COVID-19

After the pandemic, will people stay in the habit of cooking at home?

Marielle Segarra Feb 11, 2021
Heard on:
More people are getting their food from grocery stores during the pandemic and saving money in the process. Mario Tama/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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When Alex Bianchi does his weekly grocery shopping, he is very aware of how much he’s spending, thanks to his phone calculator.

“Every time I add something to my cart, I’ll add it on the calculator,” Bianchi said. “That’s kind of how I try to keep my spending curbed a little bit.”

But Bianchi, who’s 23 and lives in North Carolina, used to go to restaurants regularly, and he wasn’t going to break out the calculator there.

“It’s a little weird to do that in a restaurant, especially if you go with a friend. They’re like, ‘Alex what are you doing?’” he said.

It’s easy to spend more than you’d like when you’re out at a restaurant or a bar. Now, Bianchi is cooking almost all his meals at home because of the pandemic. And he’s saving about $200 a month.  

Jillian and JL Johnson, who live in Missouri, used to eat at restaurants a lot. Now they get most of their food at the grocery store.

“We’ve saved so much money and so many calories,” Jillian said.

They’re saving about $1,000 a month, and they’ve lost a combined 70 pounds.

Also, it turns out they like cooking together. It’s a bonding experience.

“We set all the smoke alarms of the house off this week making our own flour tortillas. It was great,” JL said. “Apparently it’s known that like if you don’t set your smoke alarms off, you’re not doing it right, so.”

They expect to go back to restaurants when things open up — just not as much.

Chris Stover in California is really missing restaurants. He used to go out with his co-workers near their Sacramento office for coffee, for lunch and for drinks after work.

“That whole social routine has been disrupted,” he said. “And it’s starting to feel like it’s not coming back.”

And it may not come back. He’s working from home 20 minutes away from the city, and it looks like that’s gonna be permanent.

“I’m devastated by the fact that I’m gonna end up making sandwiches in my kitchen for lunch every day,” Stover said.

One person who thinks he might actually eat out more after the pandemic? Alex Bianchi. He likes saving money. But there are so many restaurants he wants to explore.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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