After more than half a year of living the pandemic lifestyle, consumers are getting comfortable with their digital lives – and a bit bored with their own home cooking.
That’s what PYMNTS surveys tell us, anyway. Consumers’ interest in going back to their old habits when it comes to things like shopping for groceries and retail goods has persistently been diminishing since we first started asking them about it in the spring.
But when it comes to getting back to dining out, consumer interest has been on the increase. As it turns out, we as a nation have simply reached our limits with our own cooking.
We’ve baked all the sourdough bread we can reasonably bake, and are ready to return to a bygone time when it wasn’t someone else’s job to just cook for us (something we can replace with takeout), but to actually serve us as well. (And perhaps most critically, do the dishes when we’re done.)
And on that front, PYMNTS can offer few solutions. The weather is turning such that Boston has already had its first snow, and eating outdoors at restaurants is losing its appeal in the northern United States. And with COVID-19 cases climbing, dining in a restaurant isn’t even an option in some zip codes – and is less appetizing than it might otherwise be.
But just because we can’t fix restaurants doesn’t mean we don’t have solutions for our readers’ dietary malaise that are a bit more out-of-the-box than simply suggesting ordering takeout from someplace new. Nor are we suggesting a late-night larceny campaign to purloin some of your children’s hard-won Halloween candy on Saturday night.
Granted, recent polling indicates that 82 percent of parents are already going to steal some candy, so it’s not clear if eating a purloined Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup should even count. And it doesn’t really matter if it does count, because we have a better idea: Go to the grocery store (either physically or digitally) and open your mind and your eyes to the array of goods around you.
There are all kinds of culinary adventures we bet you’ve never had – or even thought were possible to have. And it’s all just a click, swipe or tap away from your dinner table.
Luckily, we have some suggestions on places to start:
An Infinite Variety of Ways to Do Something Simple: Cookies and Milk
The idea of picking up some cookies and milk probably doesn’t sound too adventurous or like much of a meal, but try skipping the regular milk aisle.
Instead, head straight to where they keep the Nestle Nesquik milk selection and the Oreo cookies. You’ll find an experience that doesn’t lack for adventure.
Because while most readers are undoubtedly familiar with both chocolate milk and Oreos, both brands have gone far, far beyond their original roots. There are, at present, six different variations of Nesquik’s flavored milk and more than 20 separate variations on Oreo cookies.
There are Birthday Cake Oreos, Vanilla Oreos, Chocolate-Dipped Oreos, Coffee Oreos – the list goes on and on. A Chocolate Peanut Butter Oreo is a flavor one might expect cookie science to pair with ice-cold banana milk.
But if one is looking to go where no one has ever gone before in Oreo terms, Red Velvet Oreos, Carrot Cake Oreos, Sakura Matcha Oreos and Peach Oolong Oreos are also out there.
Why so many flavored Oreos? Well, notably, not all of these flavors exist on shelves simultaneously. Many of the more exotic offerings, like Apple Pie or S’mores Oreos, are limited-edition releases for superfans.
“Our Oreo flavor buyers buy 50 percent more Oreos than the average buyer,” Justin Parnell, Oreo’s senior U.S. marketing director, told the Huffington Post. “We see that they’re buying Oreos for more occasions, whether it’s a holiday Oreo cookie for more festive occasions, the original cookie for those simple moments when you just want the good old classic or when we do something really different and exciting, like a Peeps/Oreo partnership.”
And Parnell noted that Oreo is getting better at following snacking trends in the dessert space and launching new flavors to speak to them. So if you haven’t seen an Oreo flavor you fancy, keep checking back, because more exotic varieties are always hitting stores.
Some will ask themselves what on Earth clamato juice could possibly be. It’s exactly what its spelling implies: a mix of clam juice, tomato juice and some spices blended into a bottled drink.
The next, most obvious question is: “Why in the world would anyone want to drink a spiced mixture of clam and tomato juice?”
That question is admittedly harder to answer. Clamato juice has been around for a while, having been on grocery store shelves since the 1960s.
However, it’s not something that has ever been popular as a beverage all on its own. It was invented by two Motts employees in the 1960s who were trying to come up with a cocktail mixer that tasted like Manhattan clam chowder. (Exactly why they wanted a drink in that particular flavor is not in the history records.)
And in truth, the beverage never really took off in the U.S., despite its persistence on the grocery shelf. However, by picking up your own bottle of Clamato juice this weekend, you can mentally travel to Canada by mixing yourself a “Bloody Caesar.” That’s Canada’s answer to the Bloody Mary. If warmer climates are your preference, mixing clamato juice with beer is also an option to get a taste of Mexico.
A Taste of Something New
Though matcha Oreos and briny variations on the Bloody Mary tend to be eye-catching, the options abound.
Like lox on a bagel? Keep your eyes open for gin and tonic-flavored salmon to give brunch an extra kick (particularly if you pair it with a Bloody Caesar).
Is there enough hemp in your diet (in seed, oil or salad-topping form)? According to the literally two million websites extolling the virtues of adding hemp to your diet, the answer to that question is “no.”
Hemp is apparently the healthiest product in existence. Kale is basically Doritos next to hemp, and we should all convert two-thirds of our diet to it if the average Reddit dietologist is to be believed.
What about pickled watermelon rind? It’s sold in grocery stores in both regular and spicy versions and is good for cooking … something. We’ve yet to find any recipes that call for pickled watermelon, but we do assume Oreo is working on a way to flavor a cookie with it.
Because as it turns out, adventures in dining don’t require going much further than the local grocery store – along with a sharp eye and a willingness to try something new.