Move over beef, for a small but growing number of consumers, it’s Cereal For Dinner.

Cereal for dinner? It’s a tough reality for some cash-strapped people.

Rising popularity of cereal among those looking for a cheap meal combined with plunging ingredient costs to boost the second-quarter profit of Cheerios maker General Mills Inc. 50 percent.

The increase is a sign of the economic stress still facing families amid high unemployment who want to cut spending and save time, but don’t want to rely on fast food. Food banks are seeing rising demand for cereal as people try to find a nutritious meal that costs as little as possible. That’s blurring lines between traditional meals.

Kellie Hotz and her husband, Jeff, eat cereal for dinner three times a week as they struggle to stretch their budgets and care for a toddler. Hotz said cereal is less expensive than fast food, so she keeps a dozen boxes on hand. “It’s the fastest, easiest and at least somewhat half-nutritious thing to do during the weekdays,” said Hotz, 29, of Arlington Heights, Ill.

Breakfast foods such as eggs are popular now all times of the day because they’re quick, nutritious and inexpensive, said Christopher Shanahan, a research analyst with Frost & Sullivan. “The lines of when to eat breakfast, when to eat dinner, when to eat lunch have been slightly blurring,” he said.

Food banks across the country are clamoring for cereal to hand out to families, who are increasingly seeking out food assistance.

Cereal is the top priority for Gary Knuth, who coordinates food donations and purchases for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. On Thursday, he put in a bid for a truckload of Shredded Wheat in Iowa. “You can give one box to a family and feed a number of people,” he said. “It goes a long way, and it fills a lot of bellies with good stuff.”

Bacon, The Recessionary Version Of The Truffle

Justin Rohrlich writing for Minyanville expresses his thoughts about What Our Bacon Intake Says About the Economy.

Stop the presses, folks — your world is about to be rocked.

Take a look at this headline from Scott Hume’s “Data Confirm Sharp Increase in Bacon on Burgers and More.”

Yes, it’s true. A study by venerable Chicago research firm Mintel, commissioned by, shows that “menu items of all types that include bacon are up 26.5%” since 2005.

But the gripping statistics don’t stop there.

The report goes on to inform us that “the number of bacon-topped burgers at all 580 restaurants in its Menu Insights database soared from 424 in 2005 to 576 in 2009, a 35.8% increase.”

Houston fund manager and Minyanville professor Ryan Krueger thinks people are drawn to bacon right now because, in his words, it’s a “recessionary version of the truffle.”

Brian Dimarco, former account director for Burger King (BKC) at now-defunct advertising agency DMB&B;, says, “Bacon is the ultimate comfort food. In times of stress and economic trouble, eating bacon is like being swaddled in comforting fat.”

Author Sarah Katherine Lewis has a different take. She wrote, “Bacon is the cocaine of the ’00s, a visible sign of decadent rebellion.”

Elin Roberts, science communications manager at the Centre for Life education center in Newcastle, England, told the Telegraph newspaper that “The smell of sizzling bacon in a pan is enough to tempt even the staunchest of vegetarians. There’s something deeper going on inside. It’s not just the idea of a tasty snack. There is some complex chemistry going on.”

That’s why bacon’s not going away anytime soon. And it’s never going away for this gal, unless she’s got one hell of a laser surgeon:

What Gives Meat Its Flavor?

The accidental Scientist is pondering the question What Gives Meat Its Flavor? The answer is found in a link Justin Rohrlich cited on the Maillard Reaction.

Bacon, Cereal, Recessions

Let’s tie this together. Bacon is what you buy to satisfy your cravings when you want to be “swaddled in comforting fat“. In other words, a significant portion of the increased bacon burger buying reflects increased denial about the economic problems at hand.

On the other hand, cereal is what one eats when reality finally sets in and people realize they cannot afford anything else.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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