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Consumers Balance Time and Money in Purchasing Convenience Foods


  • Rahkovsky, Ilya
  • Jo, Young
  • Carlson, Andrea


Demand for ready-to-eat foods from restaurants and grocery stores has been growing in the United States. These foods save households time in meal preparation, but they have also been associated with inferior dietary quality and, consequently, poor health for Americans. The demand for such “convenience foods” varies significantly from person to person, and the factors that influence these individual choices are not clear. This study considers four broad groups of factors: consumers’ financial resources, prices, consumers’ time constraints, and the food environment consumers face. We find that higher income is associated with increased demand for restaurant food, while participation in food assistance programs is associated with increased demand for ready-to-eat and non-ready-to-eat supermarket food. Consumers facing tight time constraints from employment tend to purchase more food from full-service restaurants and less from supermarkets. On the other hand, consumers whose time constraints stem from childcare responsibilities tend to purchase more fast food. The location of restaurants and stores has little effect on demand for convenience foods after controlling for financial resources, time constraints, and relative prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Rahkovsky, Ilya & Jo, Young & Carlson, Andrea, 2018. "Consumers Balance Time and Money in Purchasing Convenience Foods," Economic Research Report 276227, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uersrr:276227
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.276227

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lin, Biing-Hwan & Guthrie, Joanne F., 2012. "Nutritional Quality of Food Prepared at Home and Away From Home, 1977-2008," Economic Information Bulletin 142361, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    2. Mancino, Lisa & Todd, Jessica & Lin, Biing-Hwan, 2009. "Separating what we eat from where: Measuring the effect of food away from home on diet quality," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(6), pages 557-562, December.
    3. Steven T. Yen, 1993. "Working Wives and Food away from Home: The Box-Cox Double Hurdle Model," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 75(4), pages 884-895.
    4. Clay, Marie & Ver Ploeg, Michele & Coleman-Jensen, Alisha & Elitzak, Howard & Gregory, Christian & Levin, David & Newman, Constance & Rabbitt, Mathew, 2016. "Comparing National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) Data With Other National Food Surveys’ Data," Economic Information Bulletin 242451, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    5. Patrick J. Byrne & Oral Capps & Atanu Saha, 1996. "Analysis of Food-Away-from-Home Expenditure Patterns for U.S. Households, 1982–89," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(3), pages 614-627.
    6. George Davis, 2014. "Food at home production and consumption: implications for nutrition quality and policy," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 565-588, September.
    7. Jessie Handbury & David E. Weinstein, 2015. "Goods Prices and Availability in Cities," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 258-296.
    8. Carlson, Andrea & Dong, Diansheng & Lino, Mark, 2014. "Association between Total Diet Cost and Diet Quality Is Limited," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 39(1), pages 1-22, April.
    9. Hamrick, Karen & Okrent, Abigail, 2014. "The Role of Time in Fast-Food Purchasing Behavior in the United States," Economic Research Report 191034, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    10. Todd, Jessica E. & Mancino, Lisa & Leibtag, Ephraim S. & Tripodo, Christina, 2010. "Methodology Behind the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database," Technical Bulletins 97799, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    11. Erik Hurst & Geng Li & Benjamin Pugsley, 2014. "Are Household Surveys Like Tax Forms? Evidence from Income Underreporting of the Self-Employed," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(1), pages 19-33, March.
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    1. Okrent, Abigail M. & Elitzak, Howard & Park, Timothy & Rehkamp, Sarah, 2018. "Measuring the Value of the U.S. Food System: Revisions to the Food Expenditure Series," Technical Bulletins 277568, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

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