Signs on the economic horizon look grim for many shoppers — the costs of gasoline and home heating have continued to rise this winter, unemployment is creeping back up in many parts of the country, inflation is at its highest point in 17 years, and many economists are forecasting a recession. Yet for supermarket prepared-food departments, these challenges may present a rare opportunity. Many chains have spent the past several years focusing on consistency and quality in an effort to compete ...

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