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What to do about rising food costs

Q&A on rising food prices
By James Bernstein
2008, Newsday
MELVILLE, N.Y. ó Food prices are rising rapidly. So what are people doing about it? Harry Balzer, a vice president of the market research firm NPD Group and author of the firm’s annual report “Eating Patterns in America,” answered questions about the issue.
Q. What are people doing?
A. There’s a psychological issue here. You go to the supermarket and you say, ‘It’s cheaper to eat out.’ It’s never cheaper to eat out. People say they have been eating at home more. That’s been the case for the last six or seven years.
Q. Your survey says takeout is a big thing now?
A. Yes. The average American eats 81 meals a year in a restaurant, and takes out 127 times. Let’s go back a generation. In 1987, the average American ate 93 meals in a restaurant a year, and took out 85 times.
Q. Takeout is always cheaper?
A. Yes. The first thing you eliminate from the takeout is the beverage. Second, you’re probably going to go to a fast-food restaurant for takeout. About 90 percent of takeout meals come from fast-food restaurants.
Q. How much do you attribute to the economy?
A. Well, the economy goes up and down. But in recent years, we love to eat at home. Now, the question is who will do the cooking. I don’t want to make the statement that we’re not going out. But going out has not been an increasing market.

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