Saturday, May 24, 2008

Food Fallacy Two: We DESERVE...

This one actually comes in three forms:

1. I (or my husband) work hard and I need/deserve a meat and potatoes dinner (or gourmet meal, or going out, you get the picture).

2. My kids love out-of-season cherries/$8 English cucumbers/smoked brie and they are, after all, healthy.

3. Everyone deserves a treat every now and then.

So I will address them one by one. The first fallacy is one I have encoutered in my own home. My husband is a meat-and-starch lover who thinks iceberg lettuce is about the only pallatable vegetable. And he works hard, so who can begrudge him his desire to spend a portion of that on steak?

This is one of the reasons we have spouses: because two minds are better than one.

A meat and potatoes diet is not just expensive; it's also incredibly unhealthy. Even if the person eating this stuff is at a healthy weight, who knows what kind of polyps are forming in their colon? Or what damage their arterial walls are suffering as their body struggles to process the cholesterol?

You don't deserve giant chunks of red meat as much as your kids deserve to have you at their wedding. You don't deserve it as much as you deserve a balanced budget. So if your entitlements are infringing on either, it's time to get a little less entitled.

Okay, now for fallacy two. If your bills are paid off, your retirement and college funds are on track, and you are generally financially secure, exotic produce is a great way to blow your money compared to other alternatives. But most people who read articles on cutting grocery bills aren't quite there. In this case, you have to decide: cherries today, or college tomorrow? Would you like a side of supporting-two-ailing-elderly-parents-and-all-their-medical-bills with that artichoke? How about some lifelong-money-issues-because-your-childhood-home-was-foreclosed-upon with your salmon?

Treats are nice when they are treats, but a child who eats cherries every day views them with the same enthusiasm my children have for much cheaper bananas. You are not buying them a happier or healthier childhood; merely mortgaging their future so you can feel better as a parent. Worse, you may be setting them up for a lifetime of expecting "the best".

Last, everyone DOES deserve a treat every now and then. Budget for it, keep your bills down, and have that treat as often as you can afford it and as often a you can while maintaining the "specialness" of it. Cheetos every week are not a treat; cheetos every few months are sublime. Even I take my kids to fast food once a month.


Lisa Russell said...

My biggest gripe is when people see kids eating vegetables, they make a stink about it- in front of the kids. "OOH, you're eating vegetables. How did you get her to do that? My kid won't touch anything green." WTF? Kids eat what's THERE.

Emily the Great and Terrible said...

Yeah, I saw this Oprah show about a kid who would only eat chicken nuggets. Obviously at some point, the child had to get the idea that they could demand this day after day.