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The New York Times reported over the weekend on consumers finding numerous ways to save money on groceries as they cope with the economic downturn, including:

"In Ohio, Holly Levitsky is replacing the Lucky Charms cereal in her kitchen with Millville Marshmallows and Stars, a less expensive store brand … and in Michigan, Jennifer Olden is buying Gain laundry detergent instead of the full-price Tide …(and) Holly Levitsky, a 56-year-old supermarket cashier in Cleveland, buys a brand of steak sauce called Briargate for 85 cents and surreptitiously pours it into an A1 steak sauce bottle she keeps at home." The Times notes that while in some cases people are trading down in terms of brand names, there also are times when people are simply choosing less expensive options – like pasta instead of red meat. And, as they do so, it forces "retailers, restaurants and manufacturers to decode the tastes of a suddenly thrifty public."

It isn’t just in supermarkets that people are making such decisions, of course. This same trend is seen when people choose an airline, a hotel, a brand of clothing or a restaurant. It means, according to various measurements, that people are drinking less booze (or the cheap stuff when they are drinking) and less Starbucks, while Wal-Mart's "always low prices" promise suddenly seems exceptionally timely.

"Behind the belt-tightening — and brand-swapping — is the collision of several economic forces that are pinching people’s budgets or, at least, leaving them in little mood to splurge," the Times writes. "The price of household necessities has surged, with milk topping $4 a gallon in many stores and regular gasoline closing in on $3.60 a gallon nationwide. Home prices are sliding, wages are stagnant, job losses are growing and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, a broad measure of stock performance, is down 6 percent in the last year. So consumers are going on a recession diet."

KC's View:
The Times piece got my attention when the great Burt Flickinger was quoted as saying, “It hasn’t gotten to human food mixed with pet food yet, but it is certainly headed in that direction."


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