National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

For many of us, irrational exuberance is going off the dollar menu.

Further proof of this is found in the Food Marketing Institute's recently released U.S. 2012 Grocery Shopping Trends report. The consumer research reveals that since 2007, 19 million more households have become more frugal.

The study by  FMI and its research partner Booz & Company showed that consumers are willing to accept living with less and to travel farther for lower prices.

The data revealed 42% of consumers have always been frugal, with an additional 32% more taking up the behavior during the recession.

The inflation adjusted average household's annual spending on groceries rose 0.3% in 2009 but dropped 2% in 2010 and 3.1% last year, the study says.

In response to the frugality trends, FMI research shows that dollar stores increased 23% from 2005 to 2011, from 18,759 stores in 2005 and 22,782 stores in 2011. Meanwhile, discount stores also increased 23% from 1,964 stores in 2005 to 2,410 stores in 2011.

Supermarket growth was very modest, rising only 4% from 2005 to 2011. The number of supermarkets rose from 31,590 in 2005 to 32,924 in 2011.

FMI senior director of consumer affairs David Fikes said what was once seen to be a temporary move is a lasting shopping behavior.

In other words, the dollar menu will see a lot more of us.