What Americans Bought to Prepare for the Pandemic

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Food: Eggs

Eggs and toilet paper (see below) tied for increased popularity in Coupon Follow’s survey, with 63% of respondents saying they had purchased both, and 37% saying they had bought more eggs than usual. While some might think of eggs as perishable, in fact raw whole eggs in their shells will last for at least three weeks after purchase if refrigerated at 35 to 40 degrees F. In addition, raw egg whites or yolks can be frozen for up to a year.

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Food: Milk

Coupon Follow doesn’t specify what categories “milk” includes, but milk ranked as the third most-often bought item. Nielsen also reported a 245% increase in the purchase of powdered milk products over the previous year, and an astonishing 477% rise in sales of oat milk. Why oat milk? Possibly because some brands are shelf stable until they’re opened, which isn’t true of dairy milk or other milk alternatives.

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Food: Fresh meat alternatives

While they don’t show up on Coupon Follow’s list, plant-based meats from companies like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Tofurky, and Dr. Praeger’s are enjoying dramatic increases in sales, coming in second among food products in the Nielsen, with sales 280% higher than last year’s. Factors contributing to the rise might include reduced availability of some meat products in markets, bad publicity about COVID-19 outbreaks in meat-processing plants, and even, according to Beyond Meat’s chief communications officer, Rachel Konrad, concerns about zoonotic virus outbreaks from eating animal products.

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Food: Pasta and rice

Pasta appealed to 59% of the Coupon Follow respondents, with 54% saying they had bought more than usual. Dried pasta can last for at least a year or two and probably longer past its “best by” date if kept dry (fresh pasta, made with eggs, has a much shorter life, and should be refrigerated). White rice will last indefinitely if kept dry and in airtight containers to stop bugs from getting in. Brown rice might be healthier, but because it has a high oil content, it can go bad in a few months’ time.

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Food: Dried beans

Economical, easy to store, and full of protein and numerous important nutrients, beans showed the fourth-largest sales increase of any food product in the Nielsen survey. Besides having an indefinite shelf life, beans are extremely versatile, not just as a side dish but in soups, salads, stews, pasta dishes, and more.