How to use recipe content to help consumers stick to a budget
In what is probably the least surprising news of the year, consumers spent more on average on groceries in 2020 than they did in 2019. The average weekly household spend on groceries increased from $153.85 to $160.35 for US households with children under 18 and from $99.90 to $106.64 for US households without children. In Ireland, the average yearly household grocery spend increased by €1000 in 2020, while in the UK, the average weekly household grocery spend increased by 3%. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, people were forced to cook for themselves more often when out-of-home dining opportunities reduced thanks to the pandemic. Secondly, stocking up became a normal part of our weekly grocery trips. Thirdly, supply chain issues and increased demand for grocery products meant an inevitable increase in price. For those already on a tight budget, this situation was a recipe for disaster. Add in those who lost their jobs or were put on furlough and you have a significant number of people who suddenly needed to budget more carefully.
Things are slowly starting to get back to normal with the rollout of vaccines, but economic instability will remain an issue for some people for many months or even years to come, pandemic or no pandemic.
How can grocery retailers, food brands and recipe platforms use recipe content to help consumers plan homemade meals that suit a lower budget?
Firstly, you should begin where your consumers begin when creating a lower cost meal plan by building your recipe database around lower cost ingredients. Rather than starting with a recipe and working out whether it fits within a particular budget, start with budget ingredients and curate a selection of recipes that use those ingredients. Pulses, for examples, are cheaply and widely available both tinned and dried so they can be used to bulk out a meal on a budget. By focusing on the ingredient and then the recipe, you can not only make the recipe curation process more efficient, but you can also build variety into your strategy from the beginning by choosing a wide variety of budget ingredients to build on.
Another benefit of starting with ingredients is that you can set expectations for flavour and nutrition from the beginning. Some lower-cost recipes rely heavily on highly-processed ingredients. These have their place, particularly when time is tight, appliances are unavailable or you're just too tired after a busy day. Alongside these recipes, there is room for recipe content that creates a meal that is cheap, healthy, tasty and made from scratch. By building your recipe strategy around cheaper ingredients such as pulses, vegetables, herbs and spices rather than highly-processed sauces, you're setting the expectation that the recipes should also provide nutritional benefits as well as flavour. There is a misconception that processed food is always cheaper than fresh, so this is an opportunity to guide consumers towards fresh ingredients that suit their particular budget.
Once you've curated recipe content that suits a variety of budgets, it's important to make finding these recipes as efficient as possible. Clearly tagging recipes by budget and enabling consumers to filter by cost-per-recipe/serving takes the hard work out of finding fresh inspiration that fits in with a consumer's budget. There are also opportunities to leverage budget recipe content in-store by creating displays that include low-cost ingredients alongside recipe cards that use those ingredients.
Finding the right recipe is not the only concern. Building a week's worth of recipes that suit a weekly budget is also time-consuming. This can be solved by creating low-cost weekly meal plans that are also shoppable, enabling online grocery shoppers to add all the ingredients to the basket at once. This could be achieved by enabling consumers to filter meal plans by the total cost of ingredients and clearly tagging lower-cost meal plans. The ingredients added to the basket in this case should be the cheapest available products and the meal plan should take into account leftovers to avoid food waste and overspending on ingredients that only need to be partly used. If a recipe calls for 250g ground beef, for example, and the smallest available pack is 500g, this leftover meat could be used as part of another recipe in the meal plan.
Creating a budget recipe content strategy takes time and effort, but in the long run it not only provides true value for consumers but also helps build brand loyalty as you build a reputation as a reliable source of cost-effective ingredients and the inspiration required to use them.