National trend? Money saved at pump going to supermarket

With six people in her house to feed, Jennifer Streck keeps a close watch on her grocery spending.

And now that gas prices have dropped from over $4 per gallon last summer, the Kennewick woman says she's able to spend $75 more weekly for food.

"Now I can fill my freezer," Streck, 39, said as she shopped in the produce section of Albertsons on a recent weeknight.

Streck's spending on groceries seems to be indicative of a national trend. Many appear to be taking their savings at the pump to the supermarket.

A national survey by the analytics firm Precima last month revealed that 48 percent of people questioned said they were spending gas savings on groceries. That's more than the 42 percent who said they were saving, 30 percent who were paying off credit cards and the 10 percent who spent more on entertainment.

Darrell Toombs, manager of Yoke's Fresh Market in West Richland, said during the holidays, shoppers budgeted so they still could afford extra food to entertain.

But during times of financial difficulty, it's back to basics.

"When money is tight, they're buying basics. Milk, eggs, bread," Toombs said. "The things that they don't necessarily need, the snack items, they may not buy that bottle of wine or that nice cheese. It might be burger instead of steak."

Albertsons spokeswoman Donna Eggers agreed.

"What we have been seeing is our customers kind of going back to basics," she said.

Shoppers also are returning to practices such as baking from scratch and buying cheaper cuts of meat, Eggers said.

And coupons have become more popular than ever at Albertsons, Eggers said.

"People are really watching our ads and taking advantage of our sales," she said.

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