You really don’t want to know my opinion about who is to blame for the ongoing recession we are in. All I know is that I saw it all coming. I saved diligently when the American savings rate was plummeting to zero. I didn’t buy an overpriced house in the most ridiculously overpriced market in the country. I didn’t buy things that I didn’t need. I drove my old car for seventeen years and when it could no longer pass a smog check; I dove into my savings to fund the purchase of a new car to keep myself debt free. I feel like I was one of the good guys – a cheap bastard who did not take advantage of the greed and stupidity that was running rampant for nearly two decades. So you would think I’d be bitter and angry to be a victim of the economy, laid off from a work place that I called home for seventeen years. I saw it all coming. It was no surprise to me. I am thankful that my foresight caused a nest egg. I am thankful that my hard work and years of service gave me the gift of severance pay. I am thankful that I already have good habits.
During the past few months there has been a noticeable shift in social mood. Whereas people used to make a point of boasting about the house they bought, the clothes they bought, the trips they were taking, the new car they were shopping for, etc, etc, now it is alright to talk about paying off your bills, putting off purchases, saving money and getting bargains. It is so okay that advertisements are beginning to acknowledge this new austerity.
To go along with this change, I noticed a shift in the articles in the food and lifestyle magazines I read. Food articles changed from telling us how to make the most lavish meals for our next extravagant party with our enormous social circle to showing us how little a meal costs to make for our family. Yes, even Bon Appétit magazine is putting a frugal price tag on the food they want us to cook.
I don’t really think it is only about a dollar amount. Here are some truths about food:
- Restaurants are a treat not your personal chef
- Food cooked from scratch is cheaper and healthier than processed or premade food from a grocery store.
- You are responsible for what goes into your body: put your life into someone else’s hands or do your own cooking and know what your food is all about.
- Money saved by eating at home can be used wisely to make better quality food at home.
That being said, use your splurges at a restaurant as your muse for eating quality food at home. If there is something you love, learn how to cook it. If there is something easy that you lazily go out to have, there has got to be a better and less expensive way to make it at home. Here is a ridiculous example: A favorite German style restaurant of mine in town has a wonderful chef who makes the most amazing food at dinner time. His lunch menu is a bit lazy. Sandwiches, served a la carte for a pretty good profit. People go there for the atmosphere. What is the biggest waste of your money on his menu for lunch? Smoked salmon on D’Angelo bakery pumpernickel rye bread with onions and capers with a pickle on the side. $11.95. You can order a side of German Potato salad for $4.95. Today, I did myself a favor. I bought wild caught king salmon for $13.95 for 12 oz. This much salmon will make this sandwich at least six times over, maybe more. (Instead of sandwiches, the leftover salmon will likely make many more meals of eggs or pasta). D’Angelo bread is about $6 a loaf at the local foodie store but I made another round of sour corn rye for pennies. I topped the sandwiches with a few cents worth of slivered red onion and capers. Mark Bittman’s How to cook anything contains a recipe for mustard potato salad that is to die for. I made this salad in 15 minutes. It was fabulous. What? You still have a job you say? How can you eat like this when you are so tired and busy? This kind of food packs well and comes together in minutes, make it tonight and pack it to work tomorrow. You will eat better than if you went out for fast food.
So what did I really want to say after this long convoluted rant and rave? Just this: Eat like a king, clean up like a maid.