The Food People Are More Likely To Eat During A Recession

There is a recession looming, per CBS News. Analysts say that inflation and the consequent rising costs of living are signs of a financial crisis in 2023. This is sure to impact the most fundamental aspects of how we live, including what we eat. If you're unsure what to expect, know that we've been here before.

The Great Depression may be before many readers' time, but it was too big a lesson to forget. The later abandonment of the gold standard and the consequent OPEC oil embargo of 1973 may feel like ancient history (via The Balance), but its effects are engraved into American heritage. And more recently, the collapse of the housing market and Great Recession of 2008 sent a tremor through the world. Events like these impacted the way retailers marketed their foods, per the National Library of Medicine, and as a result, the way we stocked our pantries and how we ate.

Now, here we are again. With inflation rates at the highest they've been in decades, some consumers are adapting to higher food costs by making different choices about their food purchases. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, in economic situations like these, it's almost instinctive that we lower the bar and look for ways to ways to save money on groceries.

Recessions can result in lower-quality diets

As you have likely noticed, the awareness of and enthusiasm for healthy, transparently produced food is growing, and these items often cost more than their generic or processed counterparts. During a recession, however, shoppers tend to make the contents of their wallets a bigger priority than usual, and healthy and organic food products are among the first to get replaced on their shopping lists. This was the case in 2008, per Reuters.

Even though Americans "are resistant to food-related behavior change," per the National Library of Medicine, there are historical accounts of Americans stepping up to the plate to save money on food during a recession. According to research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, people responded to financial turbulence in the 2000s by increasing their grocery shopping and cooking at home. They often switched to cheaper generic brands and used coupons, per the Chicago Booth Review.

Sometimes, cheaper food translates to a lower quality diet. A press release by the American Association for the Advancement of Science describes a new study sharing that, during the Great Recession, "adults overall ate more refined grains and solid fats and children increased their intake of added sugar." People also ate fewer healthy proteins and green vegetables. These changes were most apparent in food-insecure households, the number of which has increased during the pandemic. This suggests that during the upcoming recession, processed foods containing higher levels of sugar and fat may become a more significant part of food-insecure Americans' diet.