What's the Big Idea?

After decades of American profligacy, credit card debt and McMansions, the middle class may be learning some financial responsibility. Large amounts of personal debt, a real estate crisis and a crashing global economy have many reevaluating their consumption habits that were so unrestrained during America's boom years. The most immediate cause is the rise in price of staple goods: gasoline and food. How are families coping? Some are taking frugality to a place unimaginable just a few years ago. Cheese powder and freeze-dried ham, anyone?

What's the Latest Development?

Shelf Reliance, a Utah-based company that makes food storage shelves, has shifted marketing strategies. Rather than talk emergency preparedness, they now sell solutions to tough financial times, and tough times are being felt by just about everyone. Even those whose well being has not been directly affected still feel a loss of psychological security as the enduring sirloin steak of the American economy tastes dry these days. Consumption habits are changing across the board with consumers switching to generic brands, if for nothing more than peace of mind—no small thing in today's America.