I was fascinated by this story in the NY Times about how the demand for Spam has risen as the economy gets worse.  What it tells me is that there's a lot of people who consider meat — even in the form of highly processed parts — essential to their diet.

Even if I ate pork, I can't imagine ever buying Spam.  If I don't have the money for regular meat, I'd rather eat vegetarian meals than Spam.  (Yes, I do occasionally eat beef hot dogs, which are only marginally closer to the "real meat" side of the spectrum.)

As I've said before, I think that my willingness to do without meat is a large part of the reason that we didn't have trouble doing the Thrifty Food Plan experiment.  The market basket that the plan is based on includes allowances for a reasonable amount of meat — for an adult male, they assume 0.63 pounds of beef/pork/lamb and 2.55 pounds of poultry per week.  (The equivalent numbers are actually slightly higher for adult women.)  When we were following the TFP budget, we were eating significantly less meat than that.

The TFP is overall an interesting construct.  It's designed to be low-budget, to meet all the RDIs for nutrients, and to follow the food pyramid, but it's also based on what low-income people actually eat.  It's not a fully artificial construct of "how little could one spend and still have a nutritionally adequate diet."  So, no, they don't expect you to eat oatmeal, eggs and lentils day after day.  And it includes a fair amount of convenience foods.  (Although they do note that they were unable as a result to get down to the recommended levels of sodium consumption, even assuming no added salt at the table.)

So what about you?  If you're not a vegetarian, do you feel deprived without meat?  What substitutes are acceptable and what are not?

29 Responses to “Meat”

  1. jen Says:

    Great question!
    Based on a perfect storm of factors earlier this year, I took the whole family down to eating meat no more than once a week. I don’t feel all that deprived, but of course it was my decision. I do miss being able to make my old standby recipes, especially family heirloom recipes. I’m not skilled enough to convert them.
    My 7YO’s vegetarianism was one of the perfect storm issues that led me to drastically reduce meat in the first place, so she’s fine. All she ever eats is refried beans and rice anyway.
    My 5YO has accepted some substitutes. Soy crumbles for ground beef works well for her; turkey kielbasa instead of ham flies. She begs for chicken burgers, she begs for meat in her tacos. But she deals when it’s not forthcoming.
    My husband is the tough one. First off, the rest of us may be skipping on the meat, but he’s still eating lunchmeat almost every day. At dinner he accepts what I make or have planned and says point-blank he does not feel deprived. However he’s gotten into a bad pattern. He’ll have a sandwich or a bowl of cereal around 8:30 because he’s hungry again. FWIW my husband is 6’5″ and usually hovers around 190 pounds, so I consider him a fairly large person who needs quite a few calories.
    Interestingly I don’t hear anyone saying, let’s splurge for steaks. The things people beg for: cheeseburgers, ham or bacon, fried chicken. We often get those out at restaurants these days.

  2. chicagomama Says:

    Nobody at my house is vegetarian per se but at the same time, meat is not a big part of the menus that I plan (I personally am not a big meat eater in general). To satisfy other, more carnivorous people in my family I do stretch meat out over several meals. I might make Italian sausage with peppers for one meal and then slice up the leftovers to layer in an otherwise veggie lasagna for another meal later in the week. I have also done the roast chicken, to chicken salad to chicken stock treatment but only when I am really on top of meal planning.
    But oftentimes (and this probably isn’t very thrifty, but hey – it is what we do and probably not terribly expensive since they are bought in bulk) I often will serve basically vegetarian meals with the addition of a couple of chicken nuggets for each of the kids to enjoy. Though we do much more with eggs as a protein source (scrambled or quiches) than a lot of others seem to. Eggs are easy, cheap and all three of my kids will eat them. With ketchup. Lots of ketchup. And quiche works for almost every meal – alone at breakfast and great with a big salad at lunch or dinner. I’m very lucky that all three of the girls really like veggies so it isn’t a struggle to get them to eat them.
    As with jen above, our occasional hunger for a hamburger (or cheeseburger) is usually satisfied when we go out to eat. I have a feeling Boyd eats a ton of meat at work, but his job often means eating out with clients, so I think he doesn’t feel very deprived of meat at home. If he does feel deprived – he does a great job of hiding it.

  3. amy Says:

    Elizabeth, for a woman who talks to Congress about helping the poor, how can you be so out of touch with what it’s like to be poor? I mean this and the iPod question…no, don’t answer. Seriously, though, I get the same kind of dismay at the Spam question that I do when people find _Nickeled and Dimed_ a revelation.
    Yes, of course Spam sales will go up, and so will the sales of a lot of other truly crappy food. A nutritious veg diet requires significant education, time for cooking and the wash-up, and time/money for experimenting on food that will turn out inedibly bland the first couple dozen times. Spam, fried, is less offensive than it looks in the can, you can pick up a taste for it, the kids will eat it, it’s easy and satisfyingly fatty, and it lasts forever. I bet that somewhere out there, someone’s still eating Steak-Ummms, too. Though I bet they’re more expensive.

  4. urbanartiste Says:

    Our family gave up red meat 6 years ago due to the lack of FDA testing for mad cow (me) and health reasons (my husband) and we never looked back. We also gave up all meat except for poultry and fish. I don’t find myself craving meat at all and try to avoid having it more than once a day. I favor lunch to be the heaviest meal, but it often winds up being dinner.
    Last year I purchased a few vintage domestic textbooks from the 1930s and 1940s and it us amazing what one could learn. Reading nonfiction accounts of everyday life during World War I or II in Europe is also an eye opener. For many reasons, none of which need to be named, people could not eat as well as we do today. Even when food was not scarce, somehow the education system felt it was necessary to teach students how to manage a meal plan for economic and health reasons. Granted this fell on female students, but I think we need to return this type of curriculum back into the school system.
    The only thing I worry about is that getting thrifty with food today does not equal eating less or making the most out of healthy foods. It usually means eating at McDonalds and other unhealthy eateries. So, I am not suprised that Spam makes a comeback when the economy is down. Pardon me if I don’t have sympathy to this issue, but I was raised by elders who came off the boat to Ellis Island and were dirt poor and lived off of soup all week. Sundays were the only time they cooked meat and that was made to last a few days. Eating out was only for extreme special occasions and dessert only accompanied a meal for a birthday or holiday. Brown bagging lunch was a necessity for adults and school age children.
    I don’t want to imply that this topic is not worthy of an intellectual discussion, but I believe that in general people know how to get back to basics.

  5. jen Says:

    I dunno, urbanartiste. I have a suspicion that one’s ability to deal with scarcity in general is very dependent upon age and experience.
    I come from a farm family, a family that regularly dealt with scarcity and was not ashamed of it. I have the old church cookbooks to fall back on, and I can always remind myself of things my mother did when I was a kid. (Note that she has given up many of her skinflint ways these days, as it’s no longer a necessity for her.)
    But I talk to my nieces and nephews, to my neighbors and colleagues at work, and if they are young they are thrown. I’m not sure what was going on 10 years ago when they were still living at home, but somehow they never learned to shop smartly or to cook basic, cheap things. These 20-somethings do not seem to grasp the concept of eggs or beans for protein instead of meat or peanut butter. (What is it with so many people thinking peanut butter is the only non-meat source of protein on this earth?) As you note, their coping mechanisms appear to be going to McDonald’s a lot and mooching off parents/stealing from work when possible. Not exactly the level of adjustment they’re going to need to get by.
    This reminds me of the recent spate of media about clipping coupons. Anyone who does any serious penny-pinching at the grocery store knows that coupons are typically only for very expensive, highly-packaged, non-necessary items. I still can’t believe the pieces I’ve seen profiling people who “saved” with coupons for bottled water. Huh? The MSM is just as out to lunch on this as my nephew who refuses to give up his Cap’n Crunch.
    We all learn when we have to, I guess. It’s an interesting process to observe from the outside.

  6. Andrea Says:

    It’s true, when I don’t have the budget for meat spam is not what I’d pick up. Though I’m not sure how available it is in Canada to begin with. Or maybe I’m shopping at the wrong grocery stores.
    I switch to eggs and cheese a lot, or canned fish. All three are things Frances will eat. I also have a number of ground meat recipes that I can fall back on, and ground meat is usually pretty cheap anyway. A typical week’s suppers might be: homemade mac & cheese, scrambled eggs (usually with cheese, and fruit and bread on the side), tuna or salmon sandwich (sometimes with melted cheese, sometimes without, and fruit on the side), grilled cheese sandwich (whole wheat bread and real cheese, w/ fruit), veggie soup w/ bread and a few slices of deli meat (ham or turkey).
    Mind: Frances is five, very picky, and it’s only the two of us most nights so everything is by necessity super easy to put together. Sometimes I’ll do something a bit fancier, meatballs or chicken fingers, which freeze for ages so it stretches. And when she’s with her Dad I do my real cooking–but for me, that means vegetables, not meat!

  7. amy Says:

    Andrea, you’re still talking about relatively expensive food. Fresh veg, salmon, $3-5 worth of cheese for a casserole, fruit. If you’re going to cook those things, you also need a reliable oven and something to cook them in. People living at incomes up to, oh, 150% of FPL tend not to have these things. One of the things I made sure to do over this crazy boom was to buy a lot of good casserole dishes, pans, knives, cake pans, dishes, etc., because in bad times it’s cheaper to cook more, and having lousy equipment leads to a lot of burnt or otherwise inedible food.
    You guys are also talking about an education in cookery and nutrition that people have not generally had in 30 years. That’s partly because of convenience foods, the appearance of 4928 after-school activities for kids, and credit, but largely because of the fact that a) there are few housewives left to practice domestic economy; b) families often don’t eat together anymore, which I think is nuts, but that’s why Barbara Bush has to go on TV and tell you to sit down and eat together. She forgot to tell us you’re allowed to bring a newspaper, though.
    My daughter’s 5, also picky, and brings a bag lunch to school every day; she’s the only child in her class to do so. Today’s lunch: Half a cream cheese & jelly sandwich on homemade ww, popcorn (the real kind, not the microwave kind), a sliced hard-boiled egg, milk. I reckon it cost maybe 60 cents all told. School lunch is $1.75. (I’m trying to master the taste of her daycare’s food, which is largely vegetable concoctions with a lot of cumin, garlic, sweet potato, squash, grains, etc. Personally, I thought the quinoa/pumpkin/leftover-pumpkin-soup casserole was boss, but she ate it only under duress.)
    I repeat, though — no other parents do this. I think food’s important because I spent a few years in real poverty eating filth, and ended up in grad school in a town with truly wonderful food — not restaurants, but groceries. I mean unbeatable. Any kind of flour, herbs, beans, seeds, whatever bulk hippie foods you want, they’re here, and you don’t have to spend $3 to buy a huge thing of basil – you can spend 18 cents and get as much as you need. So I got a few pots & pans with my fellowship money, and some food. I went to a good used bookstore (we have those too), got some hippie cookbooks, and started teaching myself to cook this stuff. How to bake bread, make yogurt, cook beans, bake squash; how to make them edible. How to collect fruit from decorative suburban fruit trees and can it.
    I’d say the education took me about five years, during which I was not responsible for feeding anyone else, and during which my time was largely my own. Most poor people will not get this chance. Keep in mind, too, that I actually grew up learning how to cook and bake. It was just much fancier stuff than I could afford — housewife-recreational dinner-party French cookery. Julia Child stuff. At this point most middle-aged adults don’t even have that.
    There’s something else, too, which is that you’re assuming that aspects of health are as important to the poor/uneducated as they are to you. This is not generally the case, and it’s why the free-breakfast moms will yell at the schools if they stop serving sugar cereal. I think maybe you forget how much education, and how many assumptions, go into your conception of health and its importance.

  8. Ross Says:

    The actions necessary for coping with financial adversity are, ironically the ones that that make the economy worse. It is why deflationary periods tend to be prolonged. Other than dropping money out of helicopters, there does not seem any quick fix. Anybody have any suggestions.

  9. Jennifer Says:

    Before Amy jumps in, let me state that I am not even close to poor. That said, I don’t believe in wasting money; also, if my husband were to lose his job for an extended period of time, we WOULD be poor — and since that seems more & more likely, I’m cutting corners, too. I started it this spring, actually, when fuel and grocery prices began shocking me. I’ve never eaten spam, though. My husband has a condition which requires low salt intake, so I couldn’t serve it w/o sending him into a tailspin.
    I didn’t know how to shop or cook until I was in my late 20s, by the way. My mom did all that & she never either asked us kids to help or lectured us on it, so it took a year or so of thinking damn, Ramen really sucks, before I got some cookbooks and began to consider grocery shopping an art form.
    The Cleaner Plate Club’s been doing a funny and useful series on Cooking For the Great Depression.

  10. dave.s. Says:

    We eat a huge amount of meat – fish, red, or poultry almost every night, sausages or bacon for #2 kid every morning. It’s hard to come up with something everyone will like if I don’t (and I like it myself, so I don’t work terribly hard at it). So it’s not, I think, so much that we’ll feel deprived without meat as that it’s difficult to get consensus on non-meat things.

  11. trishka Says:

    i’ve found that if i don’t eat meat at a meal i tend to end up hungry a few short hours later. 🙁
    i go out for lunch during the weekdays, and for our evening meals we tend to eat out of the freezer mostly. which means: venison, tuna, salmon, or maybe something from costco. plus fresh veggies from the co-op.
    we are not poor, btw, and don’t pretend to be. the reasons we would cut meat from our diet would be health – my husband has cholesterol problems and i try to watch my weight. but when i eat less meat i tend to eat more carbs, so as long as it is lean meat and not cooked with added fat, i’m probablly better off eating more meat.
    even though i know it is bad for the environment. 🙁 which is why i try to stick to what’s in our freezer, or buy the expensive grass-fed free-range meat from the co-op.
    oh, and this is especially weird because i was meat-free for over 7 years, something that ended during my second trimester of pregnancy. so it’s weird to me how much meat i eat now. i was a huge carnivore as a kid, though, guess i’m reverting back to that.

  12. Jackie Says:

    jen, I clip coupons, and I don’t use them for only “highly processed expensive” foods. Most recently, I used them in our last grocery trip for toilet paper, shampoo, sugar, chocolate chips and trash bags. I find a lot of them for non-food items and avoid the ones for packaged meals or other things I know we won’t eat. I save between $15-20 per trip between shopping sales and using coupons.
    I agree that people (not Elizabeth) often underestimate the amount of time, knowledge and equipment it takes to have a regular, healthy, mostly-home-cooked diet for a family of four (like mine). Most of my kitchen stuff came either from wedding presents, wedding shower presents, or family gifts– clearly a sign of privilege, of course. I taught myself to cook over the past five years or so, which involved time, some knowledge of nutrition, the aforementioned equipment, a kitchen with working decent appliances, a supportive husband and access to many cookbooks and recipe blogs. So much privilege!
    I have never eaten spam, but since all it needs is a working stovetop and a frying pan (no knowledge, not much time), and is cheap and long-lasting, I can see the appeal in times like these.
    As far as meat, we eat it several times a week, but it’s more likely to be chicken, pork, ground beef or bacon than anything else. But steaks or filets or tenderloins? Nope. We like pot roast, pork chops, meatloaf, roasted chicken, try to buy organic whenever possible, and stretch the leftovers.

  13. Lee Says:

    It’s common for us to go a couple of weeks without my cooking meat. We still get plenty of it elsewhere. I don’t miss the meat at home but there’s nothing easier than feeding a family of four with some sort of chicken concoction. Soups are my favorite things to serve; they’re cheap, healthy, easy, and make great leftovers. If pressed to do so, I could make them much more cheaply than I do now.

  14. amy Says:

    “The actions necessary for coping with financial adversity are, ironically the ones that that make the economy worse. It is why deflationary periods tend to be prolonged. Other than dropping money out of helicopters, there does not seem any quick fix. Anybody have any suggestions.”
    Yes. Recognize that thrift is a good idea, and that it’s encouraging that people have remembered how not to spend money.
    This is what the economists call “economic pain”. They’re freaking out now because, as happens very rarely, they have to participate in it. Most of the time they just stand back and watch, then go out for lunch.
    It would be altogether healthier, longterm, if we let this enormous financial souffle collapse, maintaining publicly meanwhile essentials like utilities, defense, and subsistence welfare programs (via debt, not currency devaluation); knocked it off with the bailouts and the freakouts, recognized that we had screwed up the economy to a fare-thee-well, and set to work selling things that people actually need. We will emerge from this and yes, in the meantime it’ll suck. People will die for lack of immediate medical care. Others will be in real physical pain for lack of instant analgesic. Corruption will be a serious problem. And it’ll likely last quite a long time, because we have so much debt to pay off.
    Please do not forget that we have a great many creditors in the world, some with large armies. This is the kind of moment when pressure for wars begins to build. If we took our lumps, were responsible debtors and refrained from devaluing the debt, and actually worked to reemerge a power, I think it’d be a testament to American character and strength. It’d require far greater discipline, hardheadedness, and focus than we’ve known for a while.
    Fingers crossed.

  15. Amy Says:

    Huh. I guess I always thought there were more of us out there who grew up eating Spam (and creamed tuna, my favorite as a kid). We ate it because it was cheap, tasted good, and cooked quickly. I didn’t learn to be ashamed of that until, well, now. As an adult, I cook mostly vegetarian meals (tonight, Cuban black beans and rice, with spinach salad, but it took me years to retrain my taste buds.
    I’m in agreement with Amy on how much background goes into cooking good food. And the time needed to buy and prepare it shouldn’t be underestimated. I wonder, too, if the lower quality of meat, dairy, and produce that stores in lower-income neighborhoods tend to carry (the expired yogurts, etc.) might make a stretched-to-the-limit consumer buy the canned Spam?

  16. amy Says:

    🙂 Yogurt takes a looooong time to expire. It’s basically rotten already. I usually keep it hanging around till stuff starts growing in it.
    I’m betting habit goes into Spam purchase. You already had it, or your mom served it, or something like that. Even when I was reading cat-food labels it never occurred to me to buy Spam, because it wasn’t in my Universe of Food. I was more likely to buy cans that said Goya on them. It really never occurred to me to put Spam in my mouth until a young friend introduced me to Spam sushi. Wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t run to eat it again, but if it was on a tray at a party, I’d eat it.
    Boy, I wonder now what other terrible food it’s never occurred to me to try. I didn’t know what Texas toast was till recently. I’m dismayed to see that Ellio’s Pizza still exists. There’s a whole world of monstrous fast food, but that’s not the same thing. Disgusting food recommendations, anyone?
    Anyway. The kid has been introduced to the phrase “It’s my job to cook the food, and your job to eat it.” Long may it live. Broccoli with a cheesy white sauce was consumed tonight. (Again, both foods that take practice and good cookware/appliances if you want to make them edible.)

  17. Amy P Says:

    Here’s a third Amy, weighing in on Spam. (I’ve heard it’s very big in some areas of Asia and the Pacific, due to American military influence.) I’ve had Spam maybe twice my whole life. It wasn’t that terrible, compared to other highly processed meat products, but I think that a lot of people may just be buying it in panic mode, rather than something they are planning to actually eat. Spam is your stereotypical bunker food. Consider that tuna, the other big meat in a can, now has a big question mark next to it because of mercury concerns.

  18. jen Says:

    You’re thinking of Guam, evidently a hotbed of Spam innovation. 😉
    I used to eat Spam in college; I was introduced to it by a boyfriend. As others have mentioned, it’s fine fried, and works as a sub for ham in omelettes, etc. Honestly, if you eat hot dogs it’s ridiculous to turn your nose up at Spam. But then again many people won’t eat hot dogs!
    Here’s a corollary question: besides meat, what other “standard” foods did people used to purchase without thinking, but have recently given up? I put ice cream in that category. It’s what, $6 a carton these days?

  19. carosgram Says:

    Dried beef gravy on toast or potatoes, tune noodle casserole, american goulash, ground beef gravy w/ onions on potatoes, chili con carne, meatloaf, soup w/ homemade rolls, mac and velveta cheese, grilled velveta cheese sandwiches, pancakes and eggs, fried rice, spaghetti w/ marinara sauce, baked ziti, cottage cheese lazagna, those are the foods I grew up on. Hot cereal is cheaper than the dry kind for breakfast. My family did potatoes at every meal – boiled potatoes for supperand then the left overs made for fried potatoes for breakfast and creamed potatoes for lunch. On special occassions scalloped potatoes and ham. They are filling, have lots of potassium and stretch a small amount of protein into a full meal. Good luck on learning to cook!

  20. amy Says:

    Good question, jen. I’ve stopped buying expensive frozen foods. Amy’s Organic, stuff like that. The kid loves it, but $3 for a burrito, I don’t think so. I picked up and put back lox the other day….you know, I think everything I’ve stopped buying falls squarely in the luxury/gourmet/organic category. Organic Medjool dates, prepared meals, Vruit, chicken-broth-of-virtue, that kind of thing. I’m still buying lots of fruit and veg. Also still have dozens of jars of applesauce my ex and I canned. Wonder how much of it’s safe to eat.
    Otoh, Mrs. T’s pierogies can’t be beat, and are still cheap. Yum.

  21. Amy P Says:

    Thanks to our Virginia Costco, we got used to some pretty nice stuff–smoked salmon, whole wheat ravioli, eggplant spread, huge tubs of hummus, etc. It was great, but since we moved to Texas, I’ve been sticking to the neighborhood grocery store, buying proletarian chow (but with more fresh fruit), and avoiding “saving money” at Sam’s Club or Target or Walmart. We eat at the cafeteria most nights for $9-12 for the four of us (total), which is very helpful, so we really only need to shop for breakfasts and dinners and snacks. We’ll probably lay in some fancy groceries for Thanksgiving day and Christmas day. It’s not going to be a month-long extravaganza.

  22. Jennifer Says:

    I pretty much gave up red meat when I lived in Britain in the early 90s (mad cow disease – ironic that they still won’t let me give blood, plus it was so expensive to an Australian). I did miss it. Our most expensive meat now is lamb, which we used to have as a dinner once a week, but at $20 for the meat part of the dish, we’ve given that up completely.
    I remember when I was in college living on sausages that my roommate accidentally bought (for a party, and then didn’t use them – we froze them) for months – we found a great set of sausage recipes that cost practically nothing. That’s been my cheapest meat, and probably as healthy (or not) as SPAM.

  23. bj Says:

    “The actions necessary for coping with financial adversity are, ironically the ones that that make the economy worse. It is why deflationary periods tend to be prolonged. Other than dropping money out of helicopters, there does not seem any quick fix. Anybody have any suggestions.”
    “Yes. Recognize that thrift is a good idea, and that it’s encouraging that people have remembered how not to spend money. . . . People will die for lack of immediate medical care. Others will be in real physical pain for lack of instant analgesic. Corruption will be a serious problem. And it’ll likely last quite a long time, because we have so much debt to pay off.”
    And, why is this better than dropping money from helicopters?
    I like the economy, the one where we make things of value for one another, and sell them to each other. I want people to determine value for themselves (one’s person’s iPod extravagance is someone else’s truly useful joy). I want people to understand what it means to exchange things of value (and not borrow indefinitely to buy things). But, I don’t see value in returning to a world where I try to make everything of value for myself, instead of exchanging the things I’m good at for things their good at, with intermediaries, and even borrowing int the middle.

  24. Amy P Says:

    “But, I don’t see value in returning to a world where I try to make everything of value for myself, instead of exchanging the things I’m good at for things their good at, with intermediaries, and even borrowing int the middle.”
    Even Neanderthals probably didn’t take things that far. You’re still going to be able to buy stuff.
    Right now, we’re in the process of figuring out what level of consumption US productivity can pay for. There’s been some pretty weird stuff going on. The housing stuff nearly everybody knows about by now, but I’m starting to think that the business model for auto sales was just as problematic, just on a smaller scale. I’m a Dave Ramsey fan, and I listen to a lot of hard-luck radio. A very common scenario is the underwater car owner: they bought a new car, it precipitously lost value, things got tough, and now they need $6k or $8k just to escape from the car–just selling it won’t do the job. In a second scenario, the car owner is $6k or $8K underwater. At least up until a few months ago, the dealership would take the underwater trade-in and just tack the extra debt onto the loan for the new car. The $20,000 car would leave the lot with $27,000 in debt and then it too would precipitously lose value. Wash, rinse, and repeat until insolvency. This was the sales model for the auto industry, and I think it’s absolutely terrible. (There’s also leasing–AKA “pay $500 a month every month until you die.”) The average car buyer can’t afford this rate of auto consumption. I don’t know what rate of car-turnover is optimal, but a new car every three years isn’t in reach for the average American, and that’s what the US auto industry is depending on us to do for them.

  25. Elizabeth Says:

    D asked me this week about what people did before money was invented — that was an interesting conversation.
    Pretty much anyone who buys a new car on credit is by definition underwater, as cars lose a significant chunk of their value the minute you drive them off the lot.
    And the “average American” never bought a new car every 3 years — in 2007, the median age of cars in the US was 9.2 years. (Source:

  26. Amy P Says:

    Here are a couple of thoughts:
    1. If the lenders demanded enough down, the new car buyers wouldn’t go underwater.
    2. My perspective is a bit skewed because (with barely any exaggeration) the local college parking lot looks like a new car dealership. (By the way, it would be interesting to see a map of the US, showing the average age of vehicles in different regions.)

  27. amy Says:

    Every three years? OMG! I’m reduced to OMG!
    I feel like a total slut even for _having_ a car. It’s an old Subaru. Like really old. I bought it for cash eight years ago, and it looks like hell, but it runs well and is cheap to maintain and insure, and I have hopes of never buying another car, ever. I use it for local commutes only, and keep it in a garage; if I’m going to drive more than an hour or so out of town (happens seldom), I rent a car.

  28. Amy P Says:

    “Every three years? OMG! I’m reduced to OMG!
    I don’t know how many people actually do that–from what Elizabeth says it can’t be a lot. On the other hand, what percentage of Americans is struggling to hold on to half a dozen heavily-mortgaged rental properties? And yet every day brings yet another news story with distressed would-be real estate tycoons.
    The follow-up to my underwater car story is that once the situation reaches a certain point, it’s time to “pay off” the car with a home equity loan.

  29. dave.s. Says:

    Back to the subject of, well, Meat: my kid’s middle school team had a Thanksgiving send-off feast. Everybody (and every kid’s parent) recruited to send food to the school for a nice meal before vacation. Lots of kids did lots of work, salads, fancy vedge, etc. My kid, under my direction, put a $13, 9 1/2 pound ham in the oven before he left for school. Three hours later, I took it out of the oven, sliced it, and took it to school. He was pretty pleased to have cooked it, his friends admired, total prep time 5 minutes before oven (him) and fifteen slicing after oven (me). And $13. The other day I made eggplant parmigiana for company and spent at least that, and lots of cooking time. Chicken and pork are really very cheap and easy, given the alternatives. Beef not so much.

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