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    Consumers are cooking more in their own kitchens as they keep a wary eye on costs.

    A new study confirms what many in the industry have thought (and what many of us as consumers are doing ourselves): People are preparing more foods at home.

    In fact, seven in 10 Americans say they are cooking more instead of going out in an effort to save money, according to a survey released in mid-May by The Harris Poll. Fifty-seven percent of consumers agree that going out for dinner is now a luxury, compared to their previous dining preferences, and less than a third (29 percent) say they would cut other expenses in order to be able to eat away from home.

    According to the Harris Poll, the economic malaise that started a few years ago has had a lingering effect. “At the beginning of the downturn, we saw consumers saving money by changing their behavior in two ways: eating out less frequently and shifting their eating-out dollars away from casual dining towards fast-food/quick-service restaurants,” remarks Mary Bouchard, VP and thought leader at Harris Interactive. “Now, with several years of experience with constrained budgets, they have shifted even further from the busy lifestyle convenience of eating out on a regular basis to making time for cooking at home.”

    In addition, the survey shows that when they do dine out, consumers’ preferences have changed and that they remain focus on price. Three in five U.S. adults say they have dined at a fast-food restaurant in the past month, compared to 18 percent who reported eating at a local fine dining establishment.

    Another consumer survey just released by the DuPont Teflon brand also highlights the fact that consumers are cooking more at home in order to eat better and save money. Of the 72 percent of respondents who said they are changing the way they eat at home, 37 percent said they are cooking more often.

    That said, many consumers still enjoy eating out and, if the economy picks up steam in the coming months, the pendulum may swing back a bit. One recent survey from SymphonyIRI, for example, reveals that 60 percent of Americans now report that they are eating out less often, down from 65 percent who said that in 2010. And, according to the SymphonyIRI survey, when they are in the store, shoppers remain price conscious, buying less food and looking for good prices.
     

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