Family Food Shopping: Strategies Used by Husbands and Wives

By Polegato, Rosemary; Zaichkowsky, Judith L. | The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

Family Food Shopping: Strategies Used by Husbands and Wives


Polegato, Rosemary, Zaichkowsky, Judith L., The Journal of Consumer Affairs


The increasing presence of women in the workplace is redefining the roles of men and women in household management. Role sharing among husbands and wives is one approach used to relieve some of the overload experienced by women in fulfilling their work and family roles (Hall 1972; Holmstrom 1972; Rapoport and Rapoport 1976). Husbands seem increasingly willing to take on food shopping (Maret and Finlay 1984). Industry (Donegan 1986; Progressive Grocer 1987) and academic (Blaylock and Smallwood 1987; Brayfield 1992; Charles and Kerr 1988; Maret and Finlay 1984; McCall 1984; Shelton 1992) data indicate that 25 to 45 percent of husbands share the family food shopping role with their wives.

Academic research on food shopping behavior includes the time between trips, day of the week preferred, segments of quick and regular trips (Kahn and Schmittlein 1989); effects of situational variables on in-store shopping (Park, Iyer, and Smith 1989); time and money costs in the supermarket (Blaylock and Smallwood 1987; Holman and Wilson 1982; Walker and Cude 1983); effect of several demographic variables on some supermarket shopping variables (Zeithaml 1985); and degree and nature of role sharing of this household task (e.g., Bird, Bird, and Scruggs 1984). The food industry has also monitored men's involvement in how the food dollar is spent (Dietrich 1981; Donegan 1986; Fitch 1985). However, very little research exists on family food shopping per se and virtually all that does exist is from the perspective of wives.

Understanding how the role of husbands in family food shopping differs from that of wives is important to consumer and family educators and food policymakers, as well as food industry members interested in creating consumer satisfaction and keeping up with social trends. Family food shopping, which comprises a necessary and substantial portion of family expenditures, has become increasingly complex due to pressures stemming from a rapidly changing competitive environment in the food industry and changes in the consumer roles of husbands and wives.

Husbands who share this task generally have not been socialized to do so (Maret and Finlay 1988; Shelton 1992). Husbands may make very different judgments when food shopping. There is not much known about husbands' willingness to compare prices and value, plan their time and energy for this task, and handle a food budget. Little is known about how husbands and wives who share the family food shopping task differ in their management. Similar approaches may be the result of uniformity in the spouses' value systems or due to one spouse, in most cases the wife, determining how food shopping is managed. Different approaches may suggest role specialization, as in various other areas of family decisionmaking (Davis and Rigaux 1974), depending on where the differences exist. On a methodological note, conspicuous by its absence is a conceptual model within which to examine the family food shopping process. Research is needed to provide a starting point for the development of such a model and to explore consumer issues associated with husbands sharing this household task.

Deacon and Firebaugh's (1988) model of family resource management and other systems approaches (notably Herrmann and Warland 1990; Rosen and Granbois 1983) suggest that household management involves decision tasks which, in turn, involve planning and implementing to put decisions into effect. The process of accomplishing the family food shopping task, therefore, can be viewed as moving from at-home strategies used to organize for the shopping trip to the actual in-store shopping experience. Figure 1 depicts the conceptual framework used in this study. It shows that At-Home Organizational Strategies (in terms of Time and Task Management Strategies), which when combined with the Store Orientation of the food shopper (in terms of Store Loyalty and Important Store Characteristics), lead to the use of specific In-Store Strategies. …

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