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Milk, bread, and eggs all cost more than they did a year ago, motivating consumers to shop more creatively.

Milk, bread, and eggs all cost more than they did a year ago, motivating consumers to shop more creatively.

By now, we’re all spending less in order to save some dough. We’re driving less. Eating out less and cooking more at home. Shopping differently–everything from clipping coupons, to buying in-store brands, to trolling the aisles at discount stores. The market research firm Booz & Co.’s latest survey finds those are among the top behavioral changes consumers have already made or plan to make. Even well-heeled shoppers who make $95K+ are looking for bargains these days.

Traditional bargain outlets like dollar stores and other high-value retailers are seeing sales climb while high-end retailers are watching sales dip. Sales at the Commerce, Calif.-based 99 Cents Only stores rose 9 percent in the third quarter and the company now boasts “The Right Store..Now More than Ever” on its Web site. On the opposite end of the grocery scale, Whole Foods’ sales grew just 2.6% in the third quarter (down from 10% growth during the same period in 2006), and the company has trimmed plans for new store openings, according to the Wall Street Journal. They’re fighting back with weekly “value tours” to show customers how they can save and still have their Whole Foods, too.

 

I’m certainly shopping differently. A year ago, I cheerfully perused the aisles of Whole Foods, tossing gourmet cheese, exotic produce, and pricey meat into the my shopping cart. Last week, I bragged that I dropped just $18 at the store (picking up a few specific items and ignoring the temptation that lurked at every corner). My best buy was a couple of links of in-store-made lamb merguez sausage for less than $3. I cut them up, cooked them in a soup pot, and sauteed the aromatics in the rendered fat to make Potage de Lentille, which provided us with 2 generous suppers. You can pick up French lentils at gourmet groceries or online.

I’m also planning a recon mission to 99 Cents Only, now that I know I can 99 Logo-Color-Final-EPS [Converted]score a 3-pound sack of potatoes or a 2-pack of red bell peppers for a buck (gratin, anyone?).

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