Mom’s a Penny-Pincher

It’s a pity for supermarkets that mothers do more grocery shopping than fathers. Fathers are less tightfisted in the store than mothers, according to polling data in a Yankelovich Monitor Minute issued late last month.

While 69 percent of the survey’s fathers agreed that “Food choices are the last thing I cut back on in tough economic times,” just 48 percent of the mothers said so. Fathers were also more likely than mothers (77 percent vs. 63 percent) to agree that “Despite the economy, I still try to treat myself and my family to the best brands.”

When it asked respondents to forecast their grocery-shopping behavior for the next six months, the poll (fielded in July) found mothers more apt than the fathers to have systematic money-saving practices in mind. Fifty-seven percent of mothers, vs. 45 percent of fathers, said they’d “Stick to a shopping list, making fewer impulse purchases.” Mothers were also more likely than fathers (43 percent vs. 33 percent) to say they’d “Purchase fewer indulgences or treats for yourself and/or your family at the grocery store.”

And what sorts of items do the mothers regard as “indulgences”? Another part of the survey shed light on this question by asking mothers to categorize various supermarket products by the “mental wallet” in which they place each of them, ranging from “indulgent” on one end of the spectrum to “basic” on the other end. Many mothers consigned some major supermarket sectors to the ranks of “indulgences,” thus making them prime candidates for cuts in spending. Forty-eight percent classified ice cream as indulgent, while 31 percent said the same about salty snacks, 29 percent about soft drinks, 16 percent about frozen/prepared chicken and 15 percent about bottled water.
The foods garnering the most votes as “basic” were Italian sauce (classified that way by 59 percent of the mothers), bottled water (57 percent), condensed soup (57 percent) and ready-to-serve soup (49 percent). Of course, one mother’s indulgence is another mother’s basic. Thus, although many mothers viewed soft drinks as indulgences, 25 percent thought quite differently and included them among their “basic” grocery items.