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The feasibility and utility of grocery receipt analyses for dietary assessment

Sarah Levin Martin1*, Teresa Howell2, Yan Duan2 and Michele Walters2

Author Affiliations

1 Morehead State University, College of Education, Department of Health, Physical Education, and Sport Sciences at the time of this study, USA

2 Associate Professor of Nursing, Morehead State University, 150 University Blvd. Box 715, Morehead, Kentucky 40351, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2006, 5:10  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-5-10

Published: 30 March 2006



To establish the feasibility and utility of a simple data collection methodology for dietary assessment.


Using a cross-sectional design, trained data collectors approached adults (~20 – 40 years of age) at local grocery stores and asked whether they would volunteer their grocery receipts and answer a few questions for a small stipend ($1).


The grocery data were divided into 3 categories: "fats, oils, and sweets," "processed foods," and "low-fat/low-calorie substitutions" as a percentage of the total food purchase price. The questions assessed the shopper's general eating habits (eg, fast-food consumption) and a few demographic characteristics and health aspects (eg, perception of body size).

Statistical Analyses Performed. Descriptive and analytic analyses using non-parametric tests were conducted in SAS.


Forty-eight receipts and questionnaires were collected. Nearly every respondent reported eating fast food at least once per month; 27% ate out once or twice a day. Frequency of fast-food consumption was positively related to perceived body size of the respondent (p = 0.02). Overall, 30% of the food purchase price was for fats, oils, sweets, 10% was for processed foods, and almost 6% was for low-fat/low-calorie substitutions. Households where no one was perceived to be overweight spent a smaller proportion of their food budget on fats, oils, and sweets than did households where at least one person was perceived to be overweight (p = 0.10); household where the spouse was not perceived to be overweight spent less on fats, oils, and sweets (p = 0.02) and more on low-fat/low-calorie substitutions (p = 0.09) than did households where the spouse was perceived to be overweight; and, respondents who perceived themselves to be overweight spent more on processed foods than did respondents who did not perceive themselves to be overweight (p = 0.06).


This simple dietary assessment method, although global in nature, may be a useful indicator of dietary practices as evidenced by its association with perceived weight status.