Friday, April 24, 2009

Frugality and the Oddities of Human Behavior, Pt. 1

Wednesday night I had a meeting after work so by the time I got home, I was starving. I've mentioned on my blog a few times how I do my meal planning but for the new folks, I'll run through it again. Usually on Sunday I sit down with several of my favorite cookbooks and a big cup of tea and start planning out my menu for the week. I decide what I am going to make based off what is in the cupboards. At the same time I make my menu, I make my grocery list. I then shop on Monday so I know that I have everything I need to make the dishes for the next week. Clever, right? Well, mostly...

See, I don't really make a "menu" so much as a list of meals I can make. The theory behind this is that if I put down that Thursday I am going to have chicken and Thursday rolls around and I'm not in the mood for chicken, then I am stuck. But if I just make a list, then I can just pick whatever I feel like making off the list. This usually works out pretty good, but occasionally I have something on the list that I don't end up making. Sometimes it's because I accidentally use the ingredients for something else (Like planning on making quiche, but then deciding to make a omelet one morning and using up the last few eggs - which is why improvisation is not my friend.) Or maybe I go out to eat dinner one night unexpectedly. Then again, once and great while a dish doesn't get made because for whatever reason it just doesn't appeal.

My list this week was pretty messed up because I was gone all of last week and hadn't had the chance to go grocery shopping yet. What I had left on the list were a few things that had "carried over" from two weeks previous. I knew this driving home and that is where the craving for take out began. I drove by two fast food restaurants, both of which called my name (even though I rarely eat fast food) and then by a bad Chinese joint. I never like their food, but suddenly I was craving it. I held fast, at least until I got home...

At home I quickly glanced at the list. There were only three things left. One required a ton of work, one required thawed meat, which I didn't have, and the other was a Chickpea and Pasta Soup. Poor soup. It had been on my list for weeks actually, I kept not making it and then moving it to the following week. For some reason it never sounded appealing. But here's the weird thing about it - I had picked it out! So, I knew the recipe must have appealed to me at one time, yet every time I saw it, I went for something else.

It didn't matter though, what I was craving was pizza. Hot, gooey, cheesy pizza, preferably from the little gourmet pizza place I love. My frugal conscience and my hungry belly began warring it out:

FC: Eat the soup.

HB: I want pizza!!

FC: Eat the soup.

HB: I want that pizza, right there on the menu - the one with Gorgonzola and bacon!

FC: You are trying to lose a little weight, remember? Eat the soup.

HB: No! I want the pizza. I need the pizza. The soup will take too long, I'm going to call the pizza place.

FC: If you call them, how long do you think the pizza will take?

HB: 30 minutes, or so.

FC: And how long will the soup be?

HB: Don't know, don't care. Want the pizza.

FC: Check.

HB: Fine. The cookbook says.. about 30 minutes.

FC: Eat the soup.

HB: No, I don't want soup. I want pizza... with bacon.

FC: How much is the pizza?

HB: $12

FC: And how much is the soup?

HB: Free.

FC: Eat the soup. You are wasting precious time thinking about this, you know.

HB: NO! I am going to order the pizza anyway! See! I am going to dial. And then I will go to the convenience store next store and buy some pop to go with it!

FC: You are out of gas.

HB: What???

FC: Your car. The fuel light came on remember? On your way home? You decided you were just going to get gas in the morning at the station near work. The pizza place doesn't deliver. What if you run out of gas now because you waste fuel going to get a pizza you don't need. Eat the soup!

HB: I'll walk.

FC: And look like a complete dork carefully walking with a pizza that will undoubtedly be cold by the time you get home? Eat the soup.

HB: Fine, I will eat the soup.

Seriously, if it hadn't been that I was out of fuel, I would have ordered the stupid pizza. Now, I know that the likelihood that I would run out of gas the next morning was pretty slim, but it was enough to get me to pause and reconsider, which lead me to make the soup. But because I can't leave well enough alone and have to pick at my own brain to see what the devil is going on in there, I started wondering about this little incident. I had all the ingredients, it was easy to make, so why didn't I want to make the soup? And what's more, why didn't I want to make the soup before? Was it the name? I mean "Pasta and Chickpea Soup" does not exactly inspire drool (unlike a Gorgonzola, bacon and green olive pizza) but again, I had picked the recipe out. I only do that with things I want to make and it was out of a cookbook I love. I knew it was likely to be tasty, I mean I wasn't forcing myself to eat cold gruel here.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Not just with food, but with houses, lovers, cars, jobs... everything. We see the sensible solution, but we are drawn to do something else. I am all for treating yourself now and again, but this wasn't a treat, this was me rebelling against myself. Is that what it is? My own personal inner James Dean stepping in? What is it in us that makes being frugal and practical such a struggle? Why do I sometimes choose something that isn't good for me, when I know better?

I think about this with money a lot. I mean in this case it was only $12, but that is a lot to throw away on something I didn't need. How often have we all done things like this, usually for a lot more money? It feels good for a few moments, but the funny thing is, that feeling doesn't last. Once the last pizza slice is gone, I'll start feeling guilty. It's where buyers remorse gets its start. It's hard to return a pizza though. I wonder if this is where the image of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other comes from, though in my case it was my frugal conscious verses my belly. And afterward? After I made the soup?

HB: Hey up there! I ate the soup.

FC: Yes?

HB: It was delicious!! And it was so easy. It was vegetarian and super healthy. I'd eat that again!

FC: You're welcome.

Photo by: Adam Kuban.


DH @ The Money Blog Revisited said...

I've stumbled accross your blog a couple of times. And I've added you to my blogroll today. Looking forward to seeing you make those $900 every month! :) Wishing you the best of luck! :)

getting stuff done said...

that's so funny. just last night i ate the pea and ham soup I had made ages ago and stuck in the freezer. Actually made with the water left over from boiling a ham, and made with onions and fat green lentils. it just sat there in the freezer being unappealing. last night I worked so late I was really hungry and this was the fastet thing to defrost in the microwave and just eat. it was DELICIOUS!

Catie said...

Yep, we've all been there!!!

But can I have the recipe for the soup...?

Dawn said...

DH - Hi there and welcome! Thanks so much for adding me.

Getting Stuff Done - Ha! Exactly!! Maybe it is just bean soups that are unappealing??? :) (And yet SO delicious!)

Catie - You bet!!