CHICAGO ? When it comes to making food choices, members of the Millennial generation or generation Y, America’s 20-somethings, are connected, confident and tend to live in the moment, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company. Millennials are more likely to say their food choices at main meals are motivated by cravings, cost control, and minimal preparation time, based on recent NPD food market research.

Millennials’ food selections indicate a “here-today, gone tomorrow” mentality, NPD’s National Eating Trends reveals. These consumers are much more likely than those in other age groups to use frozen entrées or other food items that are portable and do not require preparation. As with most of these food offerings, there is usually little opportunity for leftovers, which correlates to their relatively low rate of leftover usage. National Eating Trends reports a typical Millennial has 68 meals a year that contain a leftover item, but adults in their 30s to early 40s are using leftovers in 82 meals a year.

In addition to convenience, cost control is a major motivation for Millennials, and frozen food and other convenience-oriented food products often provide relatively inexpensive meal solutions.

“Cost concern is particularly important to this age group since they have been among the hardest hit by the recession,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for The NPD Group. “The unemployment rate for adults under 30 was 19.5% for the second quarter of 2010, a rate more than double the 9.5% seen for the total workforce.”

Millennials are coping with their economic challenges by making use of low-priced retailers. One-third of Millennials use mass merchants, such as Walmart, as their primary food store, compared to 23% for all adults, National Eating Trends relays.

Young adults were once the heaviest restaurant users but have cut back dramatically in the last two years, According to NPD’s CREST foodservice market research. Meals and snack occasions per capita for ages 18-24, dropped from 242 in the year ending May 2008 to 216 in the year ending May 2010. For ages, 25 to 34, meals and snack occasions per capita declined from 257 in year ending May 2008 to 238 in year ending May 2010.

“The Millennial generation has grown up in a time of tremendous technological advances, coupled with new societal norms,” Seifer said. “They are connected like no other generation before them. This connectedness is both an opportunity and challenge for marketers. Communicating with – and selling to – Millennials requires an understanding of their attitudes and behaviors.”