Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Psychology of Over-Consumption

Have you noticed? There's been a recent change in the size of super market shopping carts. From big enough to hold a small child into a MASSIVE S.U.V. sized consumer assault vehicle. 

What the heck is going on? I think what we are witnessing is a perception trick designed to encourage us to fill up every possible empty space with a few (hundred) more items. Think about it: if you had a small cart and that cart was full, wouldn't that signal to you that you've got enough and it's time to head toward check-out? 

It's like binge eating when large amounts of food are shoveled in as quickly as possible and, by the time the episode is over, the stomach is uncomfortably distended. The normal pattern of eating is to slowly savor each bite until the brain signals satiety and the eater sits back from the table, less likely to grab another plateful. (Unless there's chocolate cake and then I just unbutton my belt and hop on board the glutton train). 

The normal pattern of weekly shopping can be like this: you don't realize how far you've gone until you watch the piles hit the conveyor belt. Consumption in this country has never been so high. We are the most affluent civilization ever to inhabit the planet. We are also the biggest consumers ever to walk the planet. Except, we don't walk..... unless we have to.

Nearly every item you use comes in some sort of packaging. These packages are puffed up on marketing steroids to make them stand out on the store shelves. You have been trained to reach for these packages because you have been brainwashed since childhood to accept the superiority of the brands. Every aspect of presentation is designed to lure you into spending your money.  These messages are tantalizing life style statements that are very difficult to shake off. I encourage you to be suspicious. I encourage you to be paranoid about the conspiracy of the grocers and producers to grab as much of your money as they can.

When you modify your spending habits, and avoid the over consumption that the grocery-store-industrial-complex is promoting, your wallet will feel better and your trash production will plummet.

Look at these budgeting examples that have an enviormental bonus: 

Instead of buying box after box of cereal, you buy a large bag of your favorite type and transfer it into reusable plastic canisters. One cellophane bag versus 3 boxes LINED with plastic.

Or instead of a 1 pound packages of chicken thighs with a thick styrene dish, a disgusting little plastic sponge and plastic wrap to cover, you instead buy a 5 pound bag of frozen chicken, boneless and skin less, recipe ready.

Instead of buying 6 or 7 metal cans of soup, you use bones from an earlier meal, dry beans and extra veggies (the kind that tend to end up in the trash); thirty minutes later, a fresh meal... and one that is most likely lower in sodium and strange preservatives. No cans. A significant reduction in trash.

At this rate, I only take my waste to the curb every other week. Even my recycling container is lighter.  If I have left overs, I freeze them and wait for the next time I'm in the mood for left-over split pea soup or spaghetti sauce. Making large quantities of specific meals also cuts down on electric energy. 

Practicing a logical use of limited assets is an austerity measure that is healthy for our personal economy and healthy for our planet.  

Frugal Sister

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