What Sells in a Recession: Canned Goods and Condoms

Supermarket sales figures reveal the mind-set of U.S. consumers in a recession

Chris VanKat / Ervin Photography for TIME

To cut costs, Linsey Knerl cooks a month's worth of food.

What's the last thing people want in a recession? More kids, apparently. According to data-tracking firm the Nielsen Co., dollar sales of products in the "family planning" category, which include condoms and over-the-counter female contraceptives, were up 10.2% for the first two months of this year. Unit sales were up 1.5%, which indicates that consumers are willing to pay higher prices today to prevent crib expenses tomorrow.

But economics alone can't explain this protectionism. To cut expenses, consumers are going out less, a phenomenon retail analysts call cocooning. Among couples, cocooning can lead to canoodling, which...

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