Objective: To evaluate changes in shopping behaviors among low-income families over a one-month period of time in Utah County, Utah.

Design: Two researchers conducted thirteen 90-minute focus groups.

Setting: Two community organizations serving low-income populations and a university campus.

Participants: Seventy-two low-income adults who were the primary household food shoppers and who had at least one child less than 18 years in their household.

Main Outcome Measures: Shopping behavior changes during one month period of time.

Analysis: Focus groups were recorded and transcribed, and then coded independently by two researchers with any differences reconciled. Paired t-tests were used to test differences of food expenditures by food group between the beginning and end-of-the-month shopping behaviors.

Results: Shopping habits among low-income families changed throughout the month and were impacted by use of food assistance programs, food prices, and shopping logistics. Participants reported purchasing more varied foods at the beginning of the month versus more starch-based and canned foods at the end-of-the-month. To overcome economic barriers, participants used numerous strategies including weekly or monthly menu planning, price matching, and bulk buying.

Conclusions and Implications: Low-income families make strategic decisions based on economic circumstances and other factors, including participation in food assistance programs, or the timing of the month, in order to stretch food expenditures. Our results suggest limited economics throughout the month may hinder families' ability to consume a varied, nutrient-rich diet, which may impact future health status.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science



Date Submitted


Document Type





low-income families, shopping behaviors, food assistance programs, food prices, food expenditures