The Great Depression replaced a spendthrift culture with a generation of frugal savers.  The recent  recession, too, has left in its wake a deeply changed shopper: the just-in-time consumer.

For over two decades, Americans bought big, bought more and stocked up, confident that bulk shopping, often on credit, provided the best value for their money.  But the long recession—-with its high unemployment, plummeting home values and depleted savings accounts—-altered the way many people think about the future.  Manufacturers and retailers report that people are buying less, more frequently, and are determined to keep cash on hand.

“Consumers are saying, “I’m going to buy what I need for a specific period of time, rather than loading up and buying two or three extra units just because they can get a good price on it”, says Richard Wolford, CEO of Del Monte Foods Co.  He calls the phenomenon “need it now”.