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    7 Splurges People Are Still Buying

    Little Indulgences That Defy the Recession and Boost Spirits

    2. Value on the Menu continued...

    The National Restaurant Association sees "some pull-back as some people have cut back on dining out," association spokeswoman Annika Stensson tells WebMD by email.

    Stensson says other diners are eating out as often -- but they're looking for good deals and they may be skipping wine or dessert, and ordering the meatloaf instead of the filet mignon.

    Cookware sales were up 3% in 2008 and bakeware sales rose by 4% last year, and there was "strong growth" in sales of Dutch ovens suited to making inexpensive comfort foods like soups and stews.

    Sur La Table, which has 74 kitchenware stores across the country, is seeing a rise in new customers signing up for basic cooking classes. The most popular classes teach knife skills and how to sautee, roast, braise, and make stocks for soup or other dishes.

    3. Entertaining at Home

    Most people may not be eating out as often as they used to, but they're still socializing -- at home.

    "People are having potluck parties, they're having people to their home as opposed to six or eight people going out to dinner," says Jacob Maurer, vice president of merchandising at Sur La Table.

    Not only are potlucks a great place to use your newly honed cooking skills, entertaining at home also takes some of the sting off the cost of alcohol.

    Alcohol sales are down -- especially at restaurants and for pricey beverages. But "people still want to get together, they still want to entertain themselves, have drinks with friends and family," says David Ogzo, chief economist at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

    And at your place, the tab doesn't pack as much of a punch.

    "At home, you're not spending $14 on a martini or $6 on a glass of beer, so it's considerably less expensive," Ogzo says.

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