Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sometimes Frugaller is Healthier

I was at a local food event recently. There was an ice cream vendor selling cones and cups from a truck. Since I'd gotten in to the event (which included a meal) for free by volunteering to do a little work, I decided to splurge just a little for a cool treat on a hot day. I duly queued up to await my chance at commerce.

There was a list of flavors on the window, along with three prices: child for $1.50, single for $2.50, or double for $3.50. One older gentleman in front of me got a lovely looking cone of mint chocolate chip. I noticed that he had only asked for the "child" size. He started eating it as he ambled away, so it wasn't for a young person he was with. It looked like plenty of ice cream to me. I admired his restraint and his frugality, and I thought he set a fine example. So I asked for a child sized cone of black raspberry when it was my turn, and paid just $1.50. Even the "child" size was two scoops of ice cream.

The ice cream was indeed good. And after a rather generous meal, that portion was all I really could have or should have eaten. And yet I saw actual children wandering around with towering cones of three scoops or more. (This after eating the same meal I had - everyone who attended got a freshly grilled 6 oz. hamburger.) I know this shouldn't surprise me, but it still does. Well over half the kids there were overweight. I doubt many of them were earning their own pocket money, so they weren't paying for those cones themselves. There was a perfectly sufficient portion size specifically designated for children. And yet their parents apparently thought that wasn't the right size for these kids. Did they give in because the kids whined? Did the kids not even need to whine because the parents have relinquished all control over such decisions? Or is this just the American stigma against anything small?

I enjoyed the ice cream. Sure, the most frugal thing would have been to just eat the meal I earned by volunteering and to enjoy the atmosphere of the event. But I don't feel any guilt about a $1.50 splurge. It's the only money I've spent to have food served to me in more than twelve weeks. It did occurred to me though that my frugality was a stronger motivator than any desire to curb my eating habits. I'm not overweight, and I think that's because I eat well and am reasonably active. But on reflection, a lot of my eating well is closely tied to my frugality. For instance, I garden, so we eat a lot of fresh and unprocessed vegetables. I cook almost every meal from scratch, so we don't eat much junk food. These practices are good for my body and good for my budget.

Anyway, that little incident just made me wonder about the connection between frugality and diet. For an extra $2, I probably would have gotten another 600 calories or so. That would have been 600 calories I didn't need. I was too cheap to do it, and that's good for me all the way around.

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