Wait. Seriously. Is the title of this post for real? What could possibly be good about the terrible economy right now?
On one hand, not much. Consider:
1) The average investor lost anywhere from 30% to 60% of his wealth over the past year or two.
2) Unemployment in the U.S. just ticked over 8%, a multi-decade high, and it's probably heading towards 10%.
3) Consumer spending is down and likely going lower.
4) Interest rates are nearing historic lows, so even the people who were lucky enough to have their money in cash and CDs are earning next to nothing on their savings.
So why did I title this post "Six Good Things About the Awful Economy?" What good can possibly come from the current economic backdrop?
Here's what good can come of it: If we're lucky, our priorities will change.
Perhaps we'll start to eat out less often and cook better, healthier food at home. There is nothing wrong with eating out in restaurants per se, but isn't it worth thinking a bit more about the incremental quality and value you get from the extra money you spend on a typical restaurant meal? Too often restaurants rely on high levels of sodium and saturated fat to make their food taste cloyingly "good" to us. And one restaurant meal at even a casual restaurant can cost more than a week's worth of groceries. Eating out less is a classic example of a win-win in food: you save money and eat healthier at the same time.
Perhaps we will start to grow more of our own food. Anyone can garden in their back yard, or even grow herbs and simple veggies in a pot on their porch or windowsill. It's a great way to save money and a great way to eat better. Many home-grown plants, especially herbs and spices, grow and grow and provide many years' worth of produce essentially for free. Other plants, when harvested, will provide you with seeds for next years's crop. There is no better way to increase your self-sufficiency and save a little money on food than to walk over to your little garden and harvest something you grew yourself.
Perhaps we'll bias our diet toward first-order foods and away from less healthy second-order foods. Second-order food are foods with greater costs baked into their production, either because they are prepared foods, heavily marketed foods, or foods that have traveled a long distance to get to your shopping cart. First-order foods are simple, basic, building block foods that are generally much healthier for you and usually cost a lot less too. If you're curious to learn more about this unusual way of thinking about the food industry and food costs, I've gone into the subject of first-order and second-order foods in much greater depth in a separate post.
Perhaps we'll start to eat less meat, making our diets both healthier and less expensive. The average American diet contains much more meat than any human being needs, and meat is one of the most expensive food items in our diets. Worse, the production of meat is particularly hard on the environment. We can help our pocketbooks--and our arteries--by embracing part-time vegetarianism and substituting healthier veggies and legumes into our diets.
Perhaps we'll take more control and ownership of what we eat. The necessary corollary of all of the above points is that we will know more about what we eat and we'll exercise more control over what we eat. This gets at the very foundation of what I'm trying to encourage here at Casual Kitchen.
Perhaps we'll collectively become a bit less consumerist. Admittedly, this particular point goes a bit beyond the food-based scope of this blog. But I believe it is worth asking this very simple question: what good came of the last few decades of our cultural imperative of keeping up with the Joneses? We created an over-indebted, consumption-based economy that, uh, well, let's just say it wasn't quite all it was cracked up to be. If we collectively rethink this point and only this point, I believe we'll be much better off as a culture.
Perhaps all of these things will cause us, as individuals and as a society, to eat better, live better, and be healthier. If that starts to happen, then I consider that a really good thing about our current economic situation.
41 Ways You Can Help the Environment From Your Kitchen
15 Creative Tips to Avoid Holiday Overeating
A Recession-Proof Guide to Saving Money on Food
Cooking Like the Stars? Don't Waste Your Money
How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by linking to me, subscribing to my RSS feed, or submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, digg or stumbleupon.