Doral, FL ― It’s not surprising that most adults feel their financial situation is worse this year than last.  With overall economic uncertainty and food prices increasing at the fastest pace in 17 years, consumers are looking for value, trying to prepare meals at home, to use up leftovers and to stock up when items are on sale.  The economy may be pretty depressing but it’s not all bad news, especially for stores and businesses that sell pots, pans, gadgets and other cooking supplies.

“Before, you used to go to a restaurant.  That’s changing as people try to watch their pocketbooks more.  Tight economic times are sending folks back into the kitchen.  They’re entertaining and cooking more at home,” says Manny Gaunaurd, president of IMUSA, a Florida-based kitchenware and cookware company.

“Due to the fact that more people are cooking, they are buying more cooking tools.  For IMUSA, business is cookin’, because America is cooking more.”  IMUSA specializes in Latin cookware, but is crossing over into the Anglo market with affordable pricing and an aggressive promotional strategy. The strategy seems to be working because business is booming. “We’re close to virtually doubling sales this year compared to last year,” according to IMUSA vice president, Raul Corzo.

The convergence of two trends supports IMUSA’ s rosy sales forecast — a tight economy that is sending people back to the kitchen, and a new force in the kitchen as “Latino” weaves its way into all U.S. food and beverage categories.

The IMUSA name is well-known among the Latin community with 70% brand awareness.  The audience that is untapped is the non-Latinos who aren’t as familiar with the brand but are looking for authentic Hispanic cooking tools and accessories to prepare authentic meals at home.

Hispanic food and beverage sales are projected to increase from $5.7 billion in 2006 to nearly $8.4 billion in 2011.  With numbers like this and a wave of home-cooking taking hold, there’s no denying new cultural influences in the American kitchen.  Just like most Americans stir fry in their woks without giving a thought to “cooking Asian”, the Hispanic influence in the mainstream American kitchen is on the rise.

“Despite rising grocery prices, in-home meals still provide a better value to consumers,” said IMUSA’s Gaunaurd.  “I saw one estimate that an in-home meal costs about a third of a meal purchased away from home.”

And cost aside, there are other silver linings for those who are now cooking more at home. Home cooked meals are typically healthier meals.  There can be tremendous satisfaction knowing you are providing a healthy, satisfying meal for your family.  And those who cook at home get to spend more quality time with their families.

IMUSA is available nationally at Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, Bed, Bath and Beyond nationally, and in select grocery stores nationwide.

If you are interested in hot tips for saving dough in a chilly economy, consider the following suggestions:

• Cook at home more and eat out less. The most recession-proof items are seafood, dry pasta, candy, beer and pasta sauces. The most recession-vulnerable items are carbonated beverages, eggs, cups and plates, food preparation and storage products, and tobacco.
• Instead of meeting at the local coffee bar, invite a friend over for a homemade espresso or latte.
• Cut coupons or download them from Web sites and plenty of blogs that offer tips and links to online coupons.  The use of coupons had been in a long, steady decline until last year — when food prices started to climb.
• Make a shopping list and stick to it
• Unplug appliances when they are not in use to save electricity.
• Drive more slowly to conserve gas
• Go shopping.  Lessons in pinching pennies are being taught not in the nation’s classrooms but in its stores. The Stop & Shop and Hy-Vee grocery chains are offering “affordable food summits” where consumers are taught how to lower their grocery bills. Home Depot offers classes on how to cut energy bills. Wal-Mart Stores hired a “family financial expert” that can be reached via online chats.
• Record an old movie and invite friends and family to watch it together instead of hitting the local theater.  It’s more comfortable and the food is better, too!
• Pack a sack lunch more often to cut down on going out for lunch
• Use cash instead of credit so you don’t overspend.