February 24, 2009

Carpe Diet! The Recession Diet, Cranky Fitness style

You know that phrase, dance as if nobody's watching?

I've updated it for today: Live as if you've already been laid off.

After reading the daily news, I started thinking what I would do if Crabby laid me off. For starters, I would go 100% vegetarian, grow my own lettuce and kale and things like that.

Then I thought -- why shouldn't I start doing this already? Apparently living as if you were laid off is becoming quite the In trend-du-season. There's even been a catchy name coined for people who do this: Recessionistas. Wiktionary defines this term as "who is able to stick to a tight budget while still managing to dress stylishly."

If I were laid off, I like to think that I'd read a lot of finance blogs, like The Simple Dollar for tips on how to cut back on expenses. Stop using my car to get about -- bicycle, walk, or take the train to get places. I'd read the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog to get enthusiasm for finding my ideal job. I'd eat lots more vegetables.

Why don't I do that now? Following this process would be good for me.
I'll save money, feel cheerful about my job, and become extremely healthy.

It's true that were I laid off, I would have a lot more time to do these things. On the other hand, the time to start living this way is while you're still employed.

Why? Because...

Once laid off, based on past experience, I'd probably sink into depression and stay in bed half the time, then go on frantic job searches, forgetting about details such as healthy vegetables and exercise.

Then I'd sit by the phone biting my nails rather than something useful like washing the floor, or polishing the door or trying to ignore some other bore chore. Probably start writing paragraphs that rhymed for no readily apparent reason.

So I figure this is the time to seize the moment. Carpe Diet. Make it a habit while I can. If nothing else, focusing my attention on living this way will take my mind off the daily news. (And does anyone else think maybe they should go on a News diet, just to clean the mind out?)

Judging by what's out there in Internet land, everybody's thinking along similar lines.

The BBC did a video report on the new Recession diet.
[Text for the video-impaired: everybody's eating at McDonald's these days, because it's cheaper.]

Diet Blog wrote about getting a recession-proof body.

Get Rich Slowly wrote about cutting your TV bill in half.

Even the New York Times had a post about their version of the Recession diet -- buying a cheaper brand of marshmallows.

The best advice I saw on this subject was the Recession Diet post written by The Simple Dollar back in April of last year: focus on inexpensive staple foods, keep to your shopping list, "Pay attention to what you like that also happens to be healthy... especially when it's on sale."

Do you have any good Recession Diet tips that you could share? I figure we're all in this together. We can toast that cheaper brand of marshmallows over the fire while we're at it.

Photo credit: mikebaird


  1. Some great suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

  2. ha! I like it! Sieze the recession!

  3. I love the simple dollar.

    and my simple dollars.

    and have such allergies that this is my comment.

    (ooh how about use a neti pot with saltwater and not the pricely RIP OFF PACKETS they sell? may that be my tip?)

  4. Eating healthy actually burns a hole in my pocket. I think its actually more expensive.

    But either way I'm screwed. With a family of 5 a trip to McDonald's for lunch costs over 20 bucks.

    My kids are greedy and spoiled. When the recession isn't sticking it to me, my kids find a way to.

  5. The catch-22 of course is that the most calorie-dense, least healthy foods tend to also be the least expensive. Funny how it takes more cash to grow a watermelon than make a twinkie!

  6. My friends and I like to be what we've termed "budget cool" - basically it means you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy yourself with your friends or to look good.

    Enjoy a bike ride or walk with friends followed by a barbecue or jacket potato supper!

    Check out those last minute bargains on the internet for holidays, go shopping in the sales, love a bargain - but only do it for stuff you really like or enjoy! Don't buy a bogof if you ain't gonna use it!

    Once you belong to a "budget cool" gang you have the best fun comparing deals and coming up with fun stuff to do that's good value for money!

  7. The “recession ready” diet starts with smiles and being frugal with funds initially. You substitute leafy greens for meals on occasion. This is good for the budget and waistline. Later when money runs out you turn down the cat food isle for that night's gourmet dinner.

  8. All great ideas, Merry. I hope Crabby doesn't lay you off. I was laid off once in 2001 and spent a year being angry (not about being laid off). Then I got 3 different jobs -- thought I'd show them. Anyway, now down to one job (by choice) I'm grateful every day that I have this job (for health benefits do not grow on trees).

    I think there are ways to eat healthy and still be recession proofed. Someone mentioned potatoes and eggs and vegs all go together. How about selling the kids? Or they can go work in the mines.

  9. I've been a devotee to voluntary simplicity for quite a while, so I've lived the recession lifestyle for years!

  10. I lovelovelove this post! Having been laid off in the past, I can tell you it is a fear that never leaves you afterward. The hubby and I were just discussing our "emergency plan" last night. You know, just in case. Eeek. Thanks for the great resources!

  11. I effin' HEART this post! I was laid off when the dot-com I was working for went bust back in the day and I spent the free time (thankfully only a month) sending out resumes, hanging out at the gym (membership had been paid in advance), and reading books for free in the bookstore in Union Square. Aside from the wild-eyed panic about how I would pay the rent, it wasn't *so* bad. Right?

  12. P.S. Jellybean, you should start a "budget cool gang" website! I would like to start such a gang. Perhaps I should recruit on Craigslist? Maybe it could even be a budget cool *bicycle* gang and we could all ride our Huffies around and terrorize Austin---for free, of course.

  13. "Apart from the wild-eyed panic about paying the rent, it wasn't so bad..."
    Yep. That one gets me every time :(

  14. This is SUCH smart advice. I think the proactive belt-tightening can go a long way to feeling a little more control over the uncontrollable.

    We've been eating out a whole lot less since the financial meltdown, though still haven't weaned ourselves of pricey organic produce. That may be next.

    And even if it's only financially motivated I'm glad to hear that being less materialistic is starting to get trendy again. I was kind of appalled at the whole conspicuous consumption trend when times were more flush. I wouldn't mind if that NEVER comes back.

    And of course you'd never get laid off from Cranky Fitness!!!! There'd be a reader revolt. I'm just sorry the "job" doesn't come with much of a paycheck.

  15. Eating healthy can cost more, but I've found I just spend what I will on different things...on things that are good for me, and waste less on things that don't matter. I'd rather spend $$ on good food than other stuff. Since I got regular work post university it was a promise I made for myself - always good food.

    As a recently broke student just discovering the joys of a regular salary and all the bills of life and mortgages, I sometimes read budget "tips" on some websites and giggle...this is just how you live as a broke student. I'm trying to keep some of that with me, so I enjoy things and just don't frittle away the $$.

    A lot of times the less I spend the more fun I have. It is good to be happy with less...I think you enjoy things more and would be more secure mentally when things in life go all pear shaped...

  16. Saving money/ McD's. Oh my. I suppose if you normally ate at a sit down restaurant then that would make sense. To really save money learn to shop and learn to cook. The money spent on McD fast calories could go to buy healthy staples. We'd be healthier and thus save money that way, too. Hm, I'd better stop here.

  17. 2 words: Frozen vegetables. Always inexpensive and healthy (OK, that's more than 2).

  18. I must admit, that puzzles me. On the one hand you have people claiming dollar menus as McD's are the only way to go. On the other hand, the other half say that home-cooked vegetarian-based meals are cheaper (to say nothing of a whole lot healthier).
    It's confusing.
    (And Ruth, our math around here is pretty bad. We'll count that as two words ;)

  19. Great advice all around. Leah's got the right idea though. I can hear her squirming in her seat. ;)

  20. I always think: ah, if I didn't work, I'd have time to hit four different grocery stores to get the best deals, to clip coupons and soak beans and make my own yogurt and bread and actually begin writing that novel...I really romanticize it. Perhaps I should start some of that bread baking and writing on the weekends and see how much I really enjoy it?

  21. Love this, hope you don't mind I twittered about it :)

    Gotta make the most of life!

  22. Um... if I've been twittered, does that make me a twit?

    (Luddites think like this. We can't help it ;)

  23. Great advice... I'm also a fan of the Simple Dollar. I've been challenging myself to a.) Go shopping only once a week and 2.) Use up all the non-perishable food in my cupboard that's been sitting there for ages. As a result, I rediscovered how much I love butter beans and quinoa. But it also reminded me WHY I hadn't touched that can of "mixed bean salad" hiding in the back of my cupboard. Sometimes it is far better to sacrifice money in the name of flavor. And it's also good to donate to your local food bank!

  24. since my husband has been laid off for three months now, we are working on being frugal without being miserable (we lowered our coffee budget but are still not drinking Folgers, we buy the cheapest microbrews, etc.).

    I switched from buying chicken breasts to buying CHICKENS, and then I can make my own broth, etc. We make our own bread now - pretty easy for the man who's home all the time. We waste almost NOTHING!

    We even *gasp* downgraded our Netflix. Times are hard.

  25. Just last night when I got the inevitable "what's for dinner", I replied chicken, mashed potatos and salad. Not bad, right? To which my 15 year old said "why do you always have to cook. you know it's cheaper to eat off the dollar menu." It's marketing and it's geared toward teenagers who know more than we do(who THINK they know more than we do).

    I read a good article (that I cannot find now) on when it's good to buy organic and when it's not worth the cost. Wish I could find that again.

  26. Heh, very helpful post for me, seeing as I got laid off back in November (damn has it really been that long?!)

    My tip is to shop around for groceries, especially if you live somewhere like a big city with competing chains. I get a lot of walking in doing my shopping, I go to one place for fruits and veggies, another for staples like bread and milk, and a third for luxury items like 100 calorie packs. I end up saving a ton and getting some exercise in the process!

  27. I stockpile-buy on sale with coupons.

    Only buy meats and veggies that are on sale and if it is a good sale (chkn breasts for 1.99 lb) buy enough for the month.

    Shop farmers markets (some tend to be cheaper and fresher than the store).

    Make a big cut of meat on Sunday then make soup from leftovers that can be eaten for lunches/dinners for the week (ie: chicken breast dinner on Sunday, chicken soup for trhe week; pot roast on Sunday, then beef stew for the week). Buy the meat on sale of course :0)

  28. These are some great tips! Thank you, everyone, for the suggestions.

    Robin? This link takes you to a chart that tells you which fruits & veggies really should be organic and which ones it's okay to buy cheap:

  29. Oooo, Cranky, you'll love this:

    I say take handfuls of condiments from McDonalds and never have to buy ketchup again.

  30. All my recession diet tips start with the line:
    First, go slaughter a cow....

  31. Bag Lady, you're a born tech writer.

    In my manuals, all the technical procedures begin:

    1. Turn on the computer.
    2. Sacrifice the ritual chicken.
    3. Commence the sacred chanting.
    4. Reboot the computer
    5. Yada, yada, yada.

    (Yada = more verbiage, but with really significant-looking diagrams)

  32. This is a great post. My co-workers often refer to the "recession special" which actually refers to Potbelly's versus growing your own greens.

    My next posting will include ways to cut back on daily expenses (as much fun as $120 electricity bills can be!) so feel free to check it out!

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