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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a story about how people in their twenties “are eating out more, keeping restaurants in business and leaving their kitchens untouched -- even if they don't have the dough.”

Harry Balzer, vice president of food consulting for the NPD Group, tells the paper that this is typical, that “Americans eat according to life phases, and there are two times when eating patterns change the most: when you move out of your parents' home and when you have your first child.”

Balzer says, “You lived with your parents and then you moved away -- you lost your cook. The thing you noticed immediately was the lack of food. Who will teach you how to cook? It will be a baby.”

The next time that eating habits shift, according to the story, is when the kids move out and parents become empty nesters…and once again turn their backs on their kitchens and choose to eat out more.
KC's View:
Part of the problem, we think, is that most supermarkets haven’t established themselves as legitimate alternatives for these people.

One male, twenty-something consumer tells the paper that “grocery shopping requires too much planning. You have to go with a list, and you can't go on an empty stomach, he said. These factors only all fall into place for Mr. Santos about once a month, during which time he spends about $200 on such food as tuna steaks and frozen pizzas. He ends up using the oven to cook the pizzas, but only because they don't fit in the microwave.”

We’re not sure what the answer is, but part of the problem is that most supermarkets assume that everybody shops pretty much the same way. Which they don’t. Our kids are 12, 17 and 20…and we don’t even shop the same way today that we did a few years ago. By and large, stores don’t pay any attention.

By the way, we were amazed yesterday morning when we were listening, as we do every morning while we write MNB, to the “Imus in the Morning” program. Imus was quizzing the program’s recently married sportscaster, Chris Carlin, about his eating habits, and Carlin said that he and his new bride eat out or order take-out almost every night. And when Imus asked what kinds of take out foods he would order, Carlin responded, “Pizza. Pasta. The usual.”

Pasta? He orders pasta to-go? Didn’t someone give him a pot as wedding present along with instructions for how to boil water?

Blazer has one thing wrong in his interview with the Post-Gazette. Babies don’t teach people to how to cook. Which is an enormous opportunity for stores that want to embrace it.