Archives for August 2015

When Millennials Move On: Gen X at the Grocery Store

It’s okay to admit it – you might be a little tired of hearing about Millennials.  I know I am.  It seems that every article I’ve read lately is spouting stats about the buying habits of this up-and-coming generation.

What I am more interested in, however, is what are companies doing to reach the generation that raised these youngsters who are just now coming of age and leaving the house?

I am talking about Generation X, those of us sandwiched squarely between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers.  As a card-carrying member of Gen X (those born between 1961 and 1981), I am wondering why we aren’t getting more attention.

There are certainly plenty of us out there; the Census Bureau projects that the Gen X population will peak at 65.8 million in 2018.1

Aside from our sheer number and associated buying power, it would be wise for retailers and packers to think about Gen X as the flip side of the Millennial equation:  as a result of Millennials growing up and moving on, older Gen Xers  are experiencing major life changes that impact how we shop for and prepare meat.

Although I am a brand-new empty nester (I just dropped my daughter off at college last week – sniff, sniff), I can already tell that grocery shopping is going to be a whole new ball game.  And I am ready to embrace it!

When my children were home, I made it a priority to put a decent meal on the table every night.  Protein figured pretty prominently in my dinner lineup:  steaks, roasts, ground beef, chicken, and pork tenderloins.  I bought lots of family packs and was a frequent freezer.

Now that the kids are gone, I don’t feel that obligation to be “Super Mom” every night.  The evening meal, thankfully, has become a much more casual affair.  I text my husband in the afternoon and confirm he’ll be home for dinner, and I pop in the grocery store.  The cart has been replaced with a handled basket, and I am now picking up meat packages with a pair of steaks to throw on the grill that night, versus mega packs for multiple meals throughout the week.  I was really excited the other day when my local grocery store had smaller rotisserie chickens in little bags alongside the standard-size birds in the plastic containers — perfect for just the two of us.  (Our dog was disappointed there weren’t any leftovers.)

My thinking is this:  since I don’t have to cook anymore (my husband is perfectly okay eating cereal in front of ESPN), when I do cook, it needs to be fast and fresh.  Since there are many nights we don’t even know if we’ll be home for dinner (we might go to the gym or catch a movie on the spur of the moment), I need protein  options that are convenient for that game-time decision, like pre-marinated pork tenderloins and grill-ready steaks.  Lots of older Gen Xers like me are experiencing new-found freedom from the kitchen, and the retailers that offer fresh, flavorful meat choices that fit our on-the-go lifestyle are much more likely to get our business.  So while Millennials might be getting lots of press lately, smart grocers and processors will be thinking about how to lure millions of suddenly-liberated Gen Xers to the meat case.

As for me, this empty nester thing is turning out to be not so bad.  Who says Millennials get to have all the fun?

 

1http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/16/this-year-millennials-will-overtake-baby-boomers/

Bending Gender Roles at the Grill

Yes, I like pink, and I wear a lot of jingly bracelets. I love every show Shonda Rhimes has created and own more bottles of nail polish than I am proud of. I totally embrace that I am a girl who enjoys fabric shopping and trying new casseroles. While all of this is true, I also grew up playing competitive sports, drove dump trucks one summer in college and should buy stock in Anheuser-Busch. I would in no way consider myself a tomboy, but I am not afraid of getting my hands dirty.

So in the world of “anything you can do, I can do better,” why is it that to “man the grill” is so gender specific (and annoying)?

Jacob Brogan discusses the gender roles associated with grilling in his article Grillax, Bro” and I could not help but question a few points he presents. While I do agree that grilling appears to be a male-dominated sport, I do not view it as a “societal trap” where, if sucked in, men are somehow waving the white flag to gender stereotypes. Instead, I look at it is a shared interest. If I wanted to be the Grill Master in our home, then I would learn how to do so.  I just have had no desire to dethrone my husband of that title, and am more than content being the Sultan of Salad. After reading the article, however, I was moved to create a social experiment of sorts. What if my husband and I switched roles in the realm of meal prep? I could still wear my ballet flats and he could keep his work boots, but the tongs would be swapped – salad tongs for Robert, grilling tongs for me.

But first, let me take a grillfie.

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First of all – silly me for thinking Robert would choose to prepare a salad. His side dish of choice: a squash and tomato casserole filled with cheese and bacon. I went with a fairly simple olive oil/vinegar ribeye marinade I found on Pinterest.  After we planned our meal, I made a list, because that’s what I do and he said “Well, I think I’ll just wing it!” So off we went to the grocery store, and the rest was delicious, gender-role-shattering history.

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While I had never even touched our grill, I was not new to cooking or preparing meat. I love trying new marinades and smashing chicken with my husband’s hammer to make stuffed chicken (perhaps I didn’t do that right), so I was excited about tackling the whole process. I felt fairly comfortable behind the grill, and had only one terrifying moment when I thought our patio would face a fiery end.  Robert fared equally well, jamming through casserole prep while listening to The Allman Brothers Band – air guitar in one hand, wooden spoon in the other.

Although I do feel more comfortable in the indoor, stovetop and preheated oven arena of cooking, I did enjoy my time behind the piping grates and would definitely do it again.

So what does our little experiment say about gender stereotypes and grilling?  Robert learned to grill by watching his dad and picking up tricks of the trade.  It’s what he’s comfortable with and good at.  But just because men have manned the grill since cavemen first rubbed two sticks together doesn’t mean there isn’t room by the fire for the females, especially millennial females like me.  We’re more likely to make grilling social (see my food pix on Instagram!), turn to our phone or tablet for recipe ideas (Pinterest is my go-to) and not be afraid to shake up age-old myths that only men are good at grilling.

Here’s to girl power at the grill!

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