Uncommon Economic Indicators at the Dinner Table

Flickr photo by Presta

Flickr photo by Presta

Starting somewhere around Thanksgiving, here in the U.S. we enter a season of reflection and celebration. We get together with friends or family and allow ourselves some well-earned downtime to observe traditions.

Many WNYC listeners have sent in stories to Your Uncommon Economic Indicators that focus on gathering at the table. We have noticed over the past year that food--whether we talk about lunch, groceries or going out--is on everyone's mind during tough financial times. As you pause during your holiday, think of these dinner stories below from other WNYC listeners.

Mary Goddard
tells us

A small, family-owned/operated restaurant in upstate NY (Olmsteadville) has created 'Recession Buster Sundays.' Scott, the chef, and Theresa, the server, offer their Sunday meals as a 'pay as you want'. They serve what my husband and I consider to be gourmet meals.

...and in Queens, Michael noticed another restaurant offer:

A new restaurant in Forest Hills is offering 'bring a friend for free' on one day a week, and on another day, 'Pay what you think is fair.'

Furyk Clark decided to help his food budget along:

In past years i had planted flowers and maybe some herbs to help spice up my cooking when i did my deck-gardening. This year it's potatoes, cabbages, peas, carrots, etc.

In Brooklyn, Alex V. and his wife found the bright side to saving money on groceries: they turn it into a date!

We live by Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope. One of our favorite pastimes is shopping at Fairway in Red Hook. With the economy in the tank, there is now more reason to stock up on food and cook at home. Sometimes we don't have time to cook, so we stock up on amazing prepared foods. Their roast chicken with two sides is just $8.00! Of course, when we shop there, we time it so we have to indulge in breakfast or lunch at their counter service and hang out by the NY Harbor. All this pigging out and we are still saving more money than if we had take out or ate out!

Last January we received this note from Sandy in northern Manhattan:

I have a pretty secure job, but it doesn't pay much, so I add to my income by tutoring at home. I've stopped taking taxis, even if it means I'm late. I can't remember the last time I spent more than $10 in a restaurant; I'm embarrassed to say I occasionally eat in McDonald's, which is awfully full of equally embarrassed, well-dressed people. My grocery bill is lower; I’m buying fewer packaged foods and less meat. I'm still making my bills, but there's no extra for fun, and nothing left over at the end of the month. I know many people have lost their jobs, and I'm lucky to have one, but I always feel anxious. Hold on, and hope for change.

Last year a worker from a local charity wrote:

We have a 26 year old soup kitchen in east village and our guests call us Meatloaf (we serve over 350 meatloaf meals every Saturday). Starting late last year, we've seen longer and longer line for both breakfast and lunch. Guests want to take a second or third meal home to feed other family members or themselves on other days. A longer line creates more tension in the line as well. We’ve made a decision to increase our meat order even though other costs are increasing while revenue remains flat. Another interesting point is that I'm seeing many guests who I have not seen for many years. They have come back with sad stories of losing their jobs (delivery, dish washing, giving out flyers etc.). It’s been a difficult winter for us.

Justine Poldino on Long Island is witnessing an increase in cafe customers seeking community

Since the first day we opened six years ago my partner and I have struggled to keep our cafe alive by giving up all the extras in life including our dwellings. The cafe has always had great reviews and a cult following, but all that is not enough to pay the bills. Yet it seems since last August the economic turns of the US have helped to keep the cafe alive. It has more business than ever. People are eating on a budget, wanting home cooked food and need to be part of a community. What took them so long!

Let us know how you are faring during the holidays. Send us a message [blprojects@wnyc.org] or post your own story in our YUEI form.

Wishing you the best this Thanksgiving,

Brian, Megan, Lisa, Jody, Paige and Annie