Thursday, June 2, 2011
What's for Dinner?
The one question on everyone’s mind by the time 4:30 rolls around: What’s for dinner? In the early stages of this big decision, we are very ambitious (the world is your oyster). We are determined to eat healthy (after reading the constant stream of news articles on food, like “this dinner idea really is healthy, delicious, fast, and easy”, “the dinner Halle Berry swears by”, and of course, “eating more pizza and chips will kill you”). By 6:00 our appetite is beginning to make itself known and chicken with raw vegetables is sounding less appealing (more like torture). We feel duped for falling for (what we tell ourselves is) “the media guilt trip” – what makes these people the experts anyway. On our way home we pass a Pizza Hut, or worse, a city hot dog vendor. We think about how we just worked for 8 hours and deserve something better than Lean Cuisine. By 8:00 we still haven’t had dinner, and at this point our hunger is so overwhelming our natural instincts kick in. We just want food. And lots of it. And preferably with taste (salty, perhaps). We scour though our fridge (nope), our cabinets (better luck next time), and finally “make the call” to Papa Johns. But at the last moment we have a distant memory of 4:30 – we tell the pizza maker to go ahead and put peppers and onions on that. Vegetables make it okay, right?
Long gone are the days where we were able to “shop around” friends’ houses for dinner, as in those Stove Top commercials. Our choices back then were much more limited, making the decision less of a life altering situation (as in “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner”). As if our voices were heard, today the Department of Agriculture and the First Lady may have just made our lives a little easier. They unveiled the new “food pyramid” which is now a “food plate”. We know our way around a plate! The message is clear: simply follow the formula set out on the plate and we will be on our way to better, healthier, more fulfilling lives.
This could be an opportunity for our fellow plate manufacturers to make a whole new product. And the timing is great: Data released today indicates plate manufacturers could use a good opportunity. New factory orders for “durable” goods (includes non-disposable plates) fell by 3.6% in April over March, worth $7.1 billion, following a 4.6% increase in March over February. More specifically, new orders for furniture and related products, where non-disposable plates fall in, decreased by 3.3% in April (equivalent to almost $200 million) after increasing by 7.5% in March and 0.7% in February. A new source of business is welcome.
The market for a new plate is there – in 2009 (in the height of recession) we spent $47 billion on “glassware, tableware, and utensils.” That is no small chunk of change. Manufacturers could market it as the “eat great, lose weight food plate, USDA approved” and we could be convinced to buy the plate as an investment. If we spend $10 on this plate, not only would we be encouraged to eat better (and make our dinner decision that much easier), but being healthier could help us save money otherwise spent on healthcare in the long-run (healthcare costs/spending = big mess). If we all did this, imagine how much we could save for other items we actually want and help the economy by reducing government healthcare-related debt (of which there is a lot). This could really go somewhere.
The plate itself has four compartments with an extension. We’ve seen lots of compartmentalized plates, but this is different – this is special. Pyramid plates were doomed for failure. But before we can run out to buy these special plates there is one item that must first be fixed (I mean, corrected): the (very noticeably missing) extension. The creators must have been so focused on the plate itself they forgot the other Mickey Mouse ear that certainly was intended for the “dessert” portion of our well-balanced diet. Plus we like symmetry (and Mickey Mouse). Who knew a compartmentalized Mickey Mouse plate would be so fun for everyone?
(Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis)