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Healthy Holiday Eating on a Budget

Retail dietitians can help differentiate and contribute to customer retention this season
Healthy Holiday Eating on a Budget
Align in-store displays and cross-merchandising with holiday meal deals to position your stores as affordable one-stop destinations for healthy holiday shopping.

In 2022, grocery inflation reached its highest point since 1979. Nearly one-quarter (23.6%) of U.S. households say that they don’t have spare cash. Americans are feeling the pinch of rising food prices, soaring fuel costs and the looming threat of recession. Inevitably, budget-conscious shoppers will need help balancing the cost of holiday gift-giving with the cost of holiday eating and entertaining this holiday season. 

Less Impulse Buying

When budgets tighten, impulse buying is one of the first consumer behaviors to change. More than 70% of consumers report being less likely to grab an unplanned treat while grocery shopping. Increasingly, cash-strapped consumers will choose online shopping with delivery to reduce the temptation to buy impulse items, while eliminating the related fuel costs of in-store shopping. In fact, 63% of consumers plan to do some or all meal planning digitally. Retailers can use e-blasts featuring discounts and links to digital coupons, along with social media posts, to entice consumers to add deserving items to their holiday shopping lists. They don’t have to be complex: Consumers often search online for basic holiday recipe favorites, including green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cookies and appetizers. 

[Read more: "How the Supermarket Can Be Destination for Managing Health Conditions"]

Trading Down

“Trading down” means different things to different shoppers. For example, some may swap traditional holiday fresh fruits and vegetables for smaller quantities of produce varieties that are on sale. Others may trade down altogether from fresh produce to less expensive frozen or canned private-brand options. Some may also trade down when it comes to meats and seafood, closely comparing frozen and fresh departments in search of bargain pricing. July purchasing data reflects an inflation rate jump of 28% in the frozen meat category. Therefore, the fresh case may still be the best place to bargain shop. Suggest holiday recipes featuring budget-friendly pork tenderloin and roasts, beef strip loin and sirloin, and case-ready selections in place of more costly cuts like prime rib and filet mignon.

Diluting Share of Wallet

As financial optimism and the purchasing power of the dollar drop, so can customer loyalty. Memberships to warehouse/club stores become more attractive to value shoppers, prompting traditional grocery retailers to lose some share of wallet to discount and big-box retailers. Consumers will also turn to online shopping and digital price checking to get the best deals. Retailers need to stay connected with their shopper base and offer affordable holiday meal solutions, both in-store and online. 

Differentiate During the Holidays

Retail dietitians can help differentiate and contribute to customer retention by offering budget-friendly holiday menu ideas, and tips on how to stretch food dollars, reduce food waste and gain the best nutrition out of their spend. Demonstrate ways to save on holiday menu favorites. Create holiday recipes using food brands featured on discount promotions, in combination with private-brand ingredients that help decrease price per portion. Align in-store displays and cross-merchandising with holiday meal deals to position your stores as affordable, one-stop destinations for healthy holiday shopping.

Help Consumers Reinvent Party Foods

Show customers how to make the most of leftover holiday entertaining menu items by first storing them at proper temperatures, and then using them as creative secondary meals. Save raw veggie tray leftovers to use as soup starters or steamed veggie side dishes. Offer recipes to use today’s fruit tray as tomorrow’s breakfast smoothies. Serving a holiday shrimp tray on ice? Reinvent the remainder as a hearty shrimp-and-frozen-corn chowder. Have leftover beef steak? Get creative by making steak-and-pepper fajitas or steak-and-egg omelets. 

One of the best ways that consumers can save holiday food dollars is to ensure that healthy foods purchased are eaten, rather than landing in the waste bin. 

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