Smaller hams may grace Easter tables

Tue Apr 7, 2009 5:31pm EDT
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By Bob Burgdorfer

CHICAGO (Reuters) - This year's Easter ham may be smaller and guests may be asked to bring a dish, as cash-strapped consumers spend less to celebrate the Christian holiday.

"I think people are more cognizant that we don't need these elaborate bashes," said Brian Leonard, whose Easter plans have shrunk to include only his family of five, down from previous years, when 30 were on the guest list.

"Sunday we are going to have a small family meal; normally we have a large family meal," said Leonard, who lives on Chicago's west side.

The ongoing recession, 8.5 percent unemployment, and 10 percent of Americans using food stamps have changed the country's eating habits and food buying decisions.

In addition to Sunday's meal, Leonard, who works at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, said his family will donate an Easter ham to a Chicago homeless shelter, where the number of tenants has jumped this year to about 240 from 130.

Dining at upscale restaurants is out for many, with more consumers eating Sunday's holiday meal at home.

Spending for that home-prepared meal is forecast to be down from a year ago, and the portions may be smaller.

"The question will be: Will it be a big ham or a small ham?," said Harry Balzer, vice president at market research firm NPD Group.   Continued...

<p>Ham is displayed at Alimentaria trade show in Barcelona March 13, 2008. REUTERS/Albert Gea</p>