When it comes to planning their weekly diets, cash-strapped consumers are consulting sales circulars and moving promoted items to the top of their grocery lists. So it's no wonder that shoppers are also making a beeline for websites that help them manage life on a tighter food budget.
Visitors to Allrecipes.com, for instance, can enter a single ingredient and search the site's 40,000-recipe database for meal ideas that include items they've already got in their pantry.
More and more consumers are relying on the resource, said Esmee Williams, vice president of marketing for the site.
During the month of March, 7.2 million unique visitors searched Allrecipes' database. The site also experienced a 15% jump in traffic during the first quarter of 2008, compared with the previous quarter, which has traditionally been the site's busiest of the year.
“During the fourth quarter we see the most extraordinary 50% increase in visitors, because people are searching for holiday recipes,” Williams said.
To see what's cooking with consumers, Allrecipes recently polled its visitors about how the economic downturn has affected their food consumption habits and shopping behavior.
Higher retail prices seem to have had an effect on the number of meals these shoppers prepare at home. More than one-fifth of respondents (23%) reported making more meals at home this year compared with last year, while 8% reported making fewer meals. Likewise, 45% of respondents said they're relying less on prepared meals purchased at the grocery store, while 9% are buying more.
The survey also found that the majority of participants (54%) are more mindful of price this year than they were last year, while only 1% are less mindful.
Meanwhile, three out of five respondents (60%) reported spending more on groceries this year compared with 2007, and 6% reported spending less. More private-label items are reaching these shoppers' carts. Twenty-two percent of participants said they're buying more store-brand items this year, while 6% are buying fewer of these products.