Escalating energy prices have begun to affect grocery bills, and consumers have started looking for ways to stretch their food dollar. One of the beneficiaries is Spam, once considered hopelessly out of fashion but now enjoying a burst of popularity for its price efficiency. Easily stored and quickly cooked, Spam allows for a certain sense of security:

Love it, hate it or laugh at it — at least it’s inexpensive.

Sales of Spam — that much maligned meat — are rising as consumers are turning more to lunch meats and other lower-cost foods to extend their already stretched food budgets.

What was once cheeky, silly and the subject of a musical (as Monty Python mocked the meat in a can), is now back on the table as people turn to the once-snubbed meat as costs rise, analysts say. …

Kimberly Quan, a stay-at-home mom of three who lives just outside San Francisco, has been feeding her family more Spam in the last six months as she tries to make her food budget go further.

She cooks meals like Spam fried rice and Spam sandwiches two or three times a month, up from once a month previously. Pulling Spam from the shelf prevents last-minute grocery store trips and overspending, said Quan, 38, of Pleasanton, Calif.

Hormel recently launched its first advertising campaign for Spam in the last several years. Sales have risen over 10%, and the increases come from across the economic spectrum. Many of the product’s consumers are trying it for the first time, and Hormel says they haven’t seen household penetration like this for many years.

Lunch meats have seen sales increase as well. Oscar Meyer’s parent, Kraft, reports double-digit percentage increases. What does this mean? It indicates that consumers have begun to curtail their fast-food and restaurant dining in favor of less expensive, more efficient home meal preparations for both lunch and dinner. In order to get the variety they want, consumers have begun looking for a wider range of choices in the grocery aisles instead of at restaurants, and they’re willing to give Spam and other old stand-bys another chance.

That’s a fairly good indicator that consumer confidence has yet to rebound after the housing crisis. It could push marginal restaurants into failure and compound the economic slowdown in the short run. Long term, it might be better for realistic budgeting and perhaps even healthier eating as home cooking tends to balance better and use smaller portions than restaurants and especially fast food. That would give an ironic twist to the narrative of Spam.

In the meantime, let’s remember Spam’s most entertaining use: