By Laura Ali, MS, RDN, LDN, Sr. Manager, Nutrition & Regulatory Affairs at StarKist Co.
Today’s average consumer may not have the cooking knowledge, skills or more importantly the time their grandparents had, but the desire to prepare interesting and healthy meals for their families is growing. A study in Nutrition Journal in 2013 found the number of consumers eating away from home seems to be leveling off, if not diminishing among some socioeconomic groups.1
At the same time, the amount of time spent preparing meals seems to be decreasing with recent surveys showing many consumers spending only 15 to 20 minutes preparing meals. This time crunch makes it challenging to pull together healthy meals.1,2
Online grocery shopping, prepared meals and the new rise in meal kit delivery options give some consumers new and creative ways to feed their families. For many consumers these options are too costly to use regularly. This leaves the door wide open for Retail RDs to help consumers pull together healthy, lower cost meals that are easy to prepare.
Meal Kits/Bundle Packs: The appeal of meal kits is that everything is provided and in some cases ready to assemble. The recipes are easy to follow with pictures, often the ingredients are premeasured and meals can be assembled relatively quickly. Even those with little cooking experience can pull together quality, healthy meals in very little time.
While high end kits are out of reach for many there are numerous lower cost items that can be gathered to make healthy meals and offered in your regular and convenience stores. Consider your top sellers in the prepared foods area, food trends and quick serve restaurant offerings as well as cost when determining kits to offer. Complete entrees like a chicken rice bowl, pasta bake with vegetables and seafood tacos would be quick and easy to assemble, family friendly and would not be budget breakers.
Pantry Staples: A well-stocked pantry enables even the most inexperienced cook pull together healthy meals. Help them get started by developing a pantry staple list that shows how creative meals can come together simply by supplementing a few fresh or frozen ingredients. Assemble pantry bundle packs with a list of menu ideas and recipes attached. Add a check list of various items they can to add to make a complete meal such as ground beef, chicken, salad, fruit, milk and yogurt.
Below is an example of a pantry pack. With a few extras like chicken, salad, turkey sausage and cheese you can make a week’s worth of healthy meals including tuna cakes, minestrone soup, polenta, chili, rice bowls, barley risotto and fajitas.
Quick Cooking Tips: Place a card with quick cooking tips near the register – simple ideas that will make meal prep easier, such as:
- Write out your menu for the week and double check ingredients
- Cut vegetables for the week on Sunday night
- Pull all the ingredients out and organize them before you start prepping for the meal
- Pull the meat or chicken out of the freezer the night before and thaw in the refrigerator
- Cook a roast chicken on your day off and shred it for chicken salad, soups and chicken tacos
Creating useful tips, budget friendly grab and go items and pantry builders will help your consumers get back in the kitchen and inspire them to combine different foods from throughout your store.
1 Smith, LP, Shu, WN and Popkin, BM. Trends in US Home Food Preparation and Consumption: Analysis of National Nutrition Surveys and Time Use Studies from 1965 – 1966 to 2007-2008, Nutrition Journal. 2013. 12: 45.
2 2015 International Food and Information Council. 2015 Food and Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Safety, Nutrition and Health. http://www.foodinsight.org/research