What's "In" And "Out" For The New Recession

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year or two, you're well aware that the economy's in the tank. Unemployment is close to 10%. People are protesting on Wall Street while our entire banking system is still limping out of the last credit crisis. And our elected officials can't seem to stop themselves from spending money on boondoggles and benefits that we can't afford.

And yet serious recessions aren't entirely bad things. For one thing, they help put life back into perspective. Have you noticed that nobody talks about their wine cellars anymore? That nobody seems to be buying luxury goods anymore, and even those who still are finally know enough not to brag about it?

Everybody I know--everybody--has cut back on meaningless frivolities. And those status-related and aspirational purchases that we thought were important... well, they suddenly don't see quite so important after all. And, by the way, long-time CK readers know that thanks to my former career picking stocks on Wall Street, I know people across the entire socio-economic spectrum. Believe me, this phenomenon is occurring at every level of society. Every level.

Heck, even advertisers on TV and in the media are starting to tone down all the images of luxury and consumerism.

The era of conspicuous consumption that enveloped our culture in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s is over. I repeat: it's over.

Okay. In today's post, I'm going to walk a fine line between irony and seriousness by writing the rest of this article in a style that you'd typically see in Cosmopolitan magazine. In other words, the rest of this post is for the few remaining tone-deaf consumerists out there who never got the memo telling them they're totally out of style.

This is what's "in" and what's "out" in The New Recession:

Out. Dinner out five or six times a week.
In. Cooking at home, eating better and saving boatloads of money.

Out. Cooking with aspirational ingredients like truffles, designer olive oils, or artisanal cheeses airlifted in from across the planet.
In. Cooking with simple, easy-to-find and affordable ingredients.

Out. Heavily advertised, processed foods, when the consumer ends up paying for both the advertising and the processing.
In. Diets based on unbranded, affordable and healthy food items like lentils, potatoes, rice, whole grains, beans and other staples.

Out. High-priced restaurant meals and $12 appletinis.
In. Inviting your friends over for a casual dinner party and great conversation at a fraction of the cost.

Out. Obscure grains that are simple fare in the rest of the world, but are marketed here as high-priced aspirational goods.
In. Shopping at locally-owned ethnic food shops and finding absolute steals on bulk grains, spices and other staples.

Out. Ridiculously priced, out-of-season organic produce.
In. Reasonably priced, in-season produce.

Out. Second-order foods.
In. First-order foods.

Out. High-end, organic pet food.
In. Pet food.

Out. Driving to your grocery store in a brand new Hummer or ginormous SUV.
In. Hanging on to your five- or seven-year-old reliable car.

Out. Running out to buy the latest overpriced celebrity-endorsed cookbooks and cookware.
In. Relying on the foundation cookbooks and kitchen gear you already own.

Readers, this list is far from complete. What are you doing differently now in your diet, your home life and your consumption habits? Share your thoughts!

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Emmy said...

Creativity is in. Instead of running to the local Asian Garden when we feel like Chinese, I've started making it at home. We've also been tinkering with sourdough breads, sauerkraut, and making our own noodles. Nothing like empty pockets to inspire you to try some good old fashioned DIY!

chacha1 said...

Out: dinners at steakhouses.
In: broil it yerself.

Recently ... 2.5 lb untrimmed tri-tip, under the broiler for 10 minutes to char the fat, then into 450-degree oven for 12 minutes to take it to medium-rare.

Let rest, slice, and serve. Tastes like prime rib. Five *generous* portions for $25.

Anonymous said...

not food related but defiantly spending related:

Out: disposable diapers
In: cloth diapers

I never would have believed it, but I spent 600 up front for my cloth diaper stash, which will last the whole time my kiddo needs them, vs 2500 for disposables. And I splurged and got the "fancy" ones that are more user friendly.

Joanne said...

Out: Taking the subway/bus/splurging on a cab to get to the grocery store.
In: Walking. Everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Out: fancy useless landscaping
In: Gardens and "urban farming"

Anonymous said...

Going to the store in my THIRTEEN year old reliable car !

Marcia said...

I dunno - I do a lot of this, but I still see huge fancy cars at the grocery store, and my boss still has a wine cellar. He doesn't talk about it much though.

Ronda said...

I am sort of amused at this post. All of the thing on your "out" list were never "in" for us, so I guess the recession means something different for us than for many. We already did all the frugal things, and have done them all our lives. For us, cutting back is more a matter of not going to certain events because the gas for our 16 year old van costs too much!

Daniel said...

Ronda, the same is true for us, and your reaction is exactly what I want. I wrote this post with a tone that was intended to irritate those readers who simply must eat out six times a week, must have every aspirational good, etc.

However, I knew that the vast majority of CK's readers would laugh knowingly, just as you did. Most readers here already knew all along what was "in."