Every single person I asked (in this very unscientific research) had the same confession of a big swing to treats, luxury and comfort foods.
We’re talking generous helpings of chocolate, pizzas, ice cream, cookies, fancy cheeses, a steady flow of snack foods, chips, dried fruit, bread and a lot more tasty condiments. Not only has there been an increase in the type of luxury and comfort foods being consumed, but levelling-up on quality was also a common story.
There’s also been a higher frequency of in-between eating and that apparently male habit of the open fridge stare to check what might have moved since they last checked-in.
Adding to the lockdown diet has been a big up-tick in alcohol consumption. Once occasional pleasures of wine, beer, or cocktails have become part of the daily routine.
Cooking habits have slowed down with more time available to bake, slow roast and barbeque. An alignment of home cooking values in sync with a forced time at home.
Apparently during last year’s initial lockdown New Zealanders were shopping to the level of a country of 10 million people in grocery stores. I suspect we’re on the same track this year.
Constantly scrolling through my social feeds (another lockdown habit) tells me that the booze companies have certainly picked up on this need to regularly restock the home with luxury treats. On the other hand, food companies have been significantly absent from this need for treat time.
According to Pricespy data New Zealand has been tooling up for COVID-scale home cooking. Apparently the key drivers of “low effort and delicious” have been paramount. This translates to a huge lift over the past year in fryers (up 285%, especially air fryers), espresso machines (up 99%) and breadmakers (up 74%).
Our survey of lockdown habits asked the big question of how people were feeling about this surge in luxury and comfort calories. Consistently, the feedback was an affirming positive without strong feelings of guilt, or shame.
There are several underlying factors at play that are helping appease the increase in consumption and cost.
It brings sensory pleasure. Food and drinks stimulate our taste buds, sense of smell, our eyes and touch or mouthfeel. The general rule of thumb here is good is good and better is better.
Lockdown is a time of social togetherness. Doing this at home in times of existential threat is comforting and reassuring. We commonly relate to others through sharing food and consequently the more time together the more we share food.
Lockdown at home distorts time. Days melt away and blur into one another. Weekdays feel like weekends. In this time of disruption our routines become unfamiliar and normal mealtimes can easily be renegotiated by fleeting pangs of hunger.
Eating can be an antidote to boredom. Being couped up at home can easily lead to boredom for the unresourceful, or for those who have exhausted everything watchable on Netflix.
From our research there was a clear hint of food entitlement. Part of the cost of lockdown, it seems, can be repaid with treats and luxuries in an informal calorie compensation scheme.
Despite grocery bills bulging it is relatively easy to offset the cost of luxuries and treats with comparative savings made from not dining out, or refuelling the car, or other costs of everyday living.
Lastly, as with tall mountains, lockdown luxuries can be explained with a touch of availability bias: “because they’re there”.