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(not the author)Last summer I joined a CSA. And while I’m a decent cook (I’ve always been able to feed myself at least), I’ve never been an adventurous shopper and tend to purchase familiar fruits and vegetables. But the CSA changed that—or at least forced me to confront my aversions. Each week’s collection of kohlrabi, zucchini and kale (so, so much kale) forced me to stretch my recipe collection. Last summer, I developed two sure-fire ways to use all the zucchinis I receive: harass my friends via e-mail and Pinterest and also websites and iPhone apps such as Epicurious and All Recipes.

Turns out I’m not alone.

A new Recipes are Cooking Report from NPD looked at how people “search for and use recipes for preparing meals, desserts, and side dishes.” First, the respondents to a two-year NPD study said their biggest cooking challenges were finding new ideas for meals (55%) and finding quick meals (52%). And many of these consumers are turning to the Internet for ideas and often same sites I do: Epicurious and All Recipes.

Pinterest’s debut was too recent to be counted by the long-term studies though it will be interesting to watch its influence over the next few years. But other social media networks are having a significant impact according to other NPD studies. A study titled The Evolution of Private Label — Does Brand Name Really Matter? found that, not surprisingly, the more a customer interacts with a brand, the more brand loyal they become. And the National Eating Trends report found that 25 million Americans use coupon apps each month.

Whether for recipes or coupons, consumers are using apps and Web sites to make their shopping cheaper and easier, and the more stores and brands are able to streamline the shopping process, going from the shopping list to the store layout to the coupons at the checkout, the better they’ll be able to serve and keep customers like me who are looking for easier recipes. (Or who are looking for recipes that use unfamiliar ingredients. Can anyone suggest a way to cook kohlrabi? This year’s CSA season starts soon.)

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