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Monday, March 23, 2009

hamilton beach kitchen appliancesA Tough Economy Makes Cooking At Home More Popular Than Ever
Originally Posted at Winston-Salem Journal

The tough economic times are having an effect no one predicted: Cooking. At home. By you.

Cooking classes are packed. Sales of such cooking magazines as Gourmet and Bon Appetit have been up since last summer. Sales of quality ingredients and cookware are doing fine, too, even as high-end restaurants go out of business.

We may be watching our wallets by skipping the high cost of dining out, but some of us are apparently rewarding ourselves by trying to cook better meals at home.

"As the economy is going down, we're going up," said Vic Giroux, the owner of What's Your Beef?, a butcher shop that specializes in high-quality meat and poultry. "Perfect example -- Valentine's Day. We had a line out the door." Practical gifts are in - flowers that die and chocolates are out. With prices being slashed, this is a great time to buy new kitchen appliances.

That's the key to the whole thing, say many retailers who watch the food economy from the inside: quality. We're not buying much, but what we're buying is choice.

"They're not going out and just buying rice and beans, like we did in the early '70s and '80s, when the economy was just as bad," Giroux said.

Nationally, it's part of a bigger trend that has been pushing us back home for dinner for a while, says Harry Balzer, the vice president of the consumer research company NPD Group.

Since 2001, he says, the percentage of women working full time or part time while their children are young has hit a peak and started declining. When families have only one wage-earner, they make more frugal choices.

"It's being exposed by the economy," he said. "But it's been going on for years."

We spend half of our food dollar in restaurants and half at the supermarket, Balzer says, so the quickest way to save money is to skip restaurants.