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Q&A: How retailers can encourage shoppers to gather around the grill for family meals

Families gather around the grill for Family Meals Month
(Image credit: iStock)

This post is sponsored by the National Turkey Federation.

Shari Steinbach, MS, RD

September is National Family Meals Month, when retailers around the country can participate by helping families spend more time at the table with ingredient and recipe suggestions that are healthy, easy to prepare and appeal to a wide range of tastes. Grilling is a great way to prepare fast family meals with delicious flavor, and families can gather around the grill for tailgating celebrations and to enjoy the season’s crisp weather and changing leaves. About 70% of consumers plan to keep grilling into autumn, according to a survey from Acosta.

We interviewed Registered Dietitian Shari Steinbach, nutrition manager for Meijer in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a member of the National Turkey Federation’s Nutrition Advisory Board, about how retailers can help inspire families to include grilling in their dinner plans for Family Meals Month and all autumn long. She shares tips for retailers as well as grilling safety tips and seasonal flavor inspiration to help consumers prepare safe, flavorful meals.

Grilling is a popular summer pastime, but the grill also plays a part in fall rituals such as tailgating. What are some of your Game Day favorites that families can prepare on the grill?

We all love to grill meals during the warm summer months, but consumers are also using their grill well into the fall season! Many delicious seasonal recipes bring something unexpected to the grill, infusing fall flavors into easy-to-prepare meals and autumn celebrations. Tailgating is one fall ritual where the grill is a perfect portable cooking source to entertain and celebrate the football season. I come from a football-loving family so we are always ready to create some new discoveries and game-time recipes. No-fuss tasty options made with healthier ingredients are perfect for tossing on the grill, such as grilled barbecued brats served with root vegetable chips and apple cider, or herbed turkey burgers with sun-dried tomatoes and arugula served with deli cole slaw and fresh pears with caramel dip.

September is National Family Meals Month.  How can retailers promote grilling as a family activity now and through the fall season?

Customers are looking for ways to make mealtime easy, and retailers can provide the answers. Reminding customers that sharing meals together is a great way to connect with kids and to teach them food preparation skills and nutrition is a great start. Providing shoppers with recipes and meal ideas can bring them into the store for the ingredients that help them put fast, affordable meals on the table. Simple side dishes suggestions from the deli or produce department help round out the meal.

What are your top five food safety tips when it comes to grilling?

Basic food safety practices for grilling should be reinforced with cross-merchandising meat thermometers and insulated coolers. Whether grilling with the sun shining or the leaves falling, these simple guidelines will keep food safe:

  • Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing.
  • If tailgating, keep all food cold to minimize bacterial growth. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs for a temperature below 40°F.
  • Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature. Remember it will brown on the outside quicker than reaching the right internal temperature of 165°F. Use a food thermometer to test internal temperature.
  • When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Never use the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.
  • Promptly refrigerate any leftovers in shallow containers and discard any food left out more than 2 hours.

How do you help consumers create delicious meals using fall flavors and seasonal ingredients for their family meals?

One way to keep fall family meals fun is to provide recipes and meal ideas that combine the bounty of seasonal produce and flavors. Draw attention to your local apple or squash display and provide recipes that encourage shoppers to try something new. Demo some easy recipes or provide them on your website or in ads. Look for recipe resources to get you started. These delicious grilling ideas come from the National Turkey Federation:

Shoppers love the fall flavors of pumpkin spice, cinnamon, or maple and will appreciate your store providing ideas to create family-friendly meals.  Have a happy, healthy and delicious fall!

Shari Steinbach, MS, RD, is the nutrition manager for Meijer in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a member of the National Turkey Federation’s Nutrition Advisory Board.


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