Over the past few years, Americans’ spending on eating out had finally surpassed what we spent on groceries. But after more than two months of stay-at-home orders, restaurants are just now starting to reopen with a fraction of the business they had in early March, while grocery stores are still trying to keep up with demand.


While many grocery store workers, including those at H-E-B, the largest private employer in Texas, are continuing to earn extra pay for working on the frontline of an essential industry, customers are dealing with rising meat prices caused by interruptions in the supply chain because of COVID-19 outbreaks at meat-processing plants.


Some Austin shoppers, including Jennifer Weltz, are shopping at stores that have less foot traffic and taking advantage of restaurants that are continuing to sell grocery provisions, including Crema Bakery and Cafe in South Austin, whose owner has said the cafe will continue selling pantry items.


But the biggest change might be customers’ willingness to buy food online for pick-up or delivery. Online grocery shopping is up between 20 and 50 percent over a year ago, according to several recent surveys, and more than half of shoppers say they plan to order even more groceries online in the future.


Whole Foods Market opened a new Austin location in the Plaza Saltillo development in East Austin that is being used as a fulfillment warehouse for orders placed online.


Customers are trying delivery services from traditional retailers and delivery-only companies, such as Imperfect Foods, Farmhouse Delivery and Thrive Market, for the first time, and food wholesalers, including Farm to Table and Brothers Produce, are also selling directly to customers for the first time.


Some grocery stores, such as Trader Joe’s and Wheatsville Food Co-op, are continuing to reserve the first hour of each day for older and high-risk shoppers, while others, including H-E-B, are offering assistance to help seniors order groceries online for pick-up or delivery.


Farmers markets continue to operate as critical food access points, and the Sustainable Food Center has a new program to set up pop-up markets in restaurants.


Cedar Park resident Shellie Hayes-McMahon says all these changes have already shifted her grocery shopping — and cooking habits — indefinitely.


She usually shops two or three times a week at traditional grocery and club stores, but since the pandemic started, she’s buying from a wider variety of sources.


"When restaurants and vendors started selling groceries, it was like a whole new world opened up,“ she says. “Being able to order for contactless pickup from shops that I already trusted for quality makes the drive worth it.”


She started buying flour from Easy Tiger, mozzarella and ricotta from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop and fresh vegetables from Hardie’s, a food wholesale company that formerly only sold to restaurants and food service establishments and is now selling produce, meat, dairy and eggs directly to customers.


She will still stop by Costco, but she’s also shopping at a wider variety of stores, including 99 Ranch Market and La Adelita, a meat market near her house in Cedar Park.


She’s also buying fewer bananas and more apples because they last longer. “I've had to adjust to buying larger quantities to last a longer period of time.”


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