Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday Throwback: 11 Things Dwight K. Schrute Taught Me About Food and Frugality

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG vault. Today, we salute the end of the 2010 television season with this feature from October 2007. Beets. Bears. Battlestar Galactica.

Hardworking. Alpha Male. Jackhammer.

A renowned beet farmer, volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy, and Assistant to the Regional Manager at the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company Scranton branch, Dwight K. Schrute embodies all these enviable qualities, and then some. (He’s also merciless and insatiable.) Yet, the goose-bating, martial arts-trained Schrute makes cultural contributions that go far beyond his multiple jobs.

Of course, I refer to his insights.

Our lives can only benefit from Schrute's somewhat obtuse, yet priceless aphorisms. Especially the ones about food. And cooking. And saving money.

So read on, dear … uh, readers. Learn from our fair farmer, and one day you, too, may join the DWIGHT ARMY OF CHAMPIONS.

DWIGHT SAYS: “Michael always says ‘K-I-S-S. Keep it simple, stupid.’ Great advice. Hurts my feelings every time.”
DWIGHT MEANS: Fresh, simple ingredients are the best way to a cheap, healthy meal.
In other words, eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, dabs of dairy, healthy fats and lean meats are the building blocks of delicious dinners and happy digestive systems. In the long run, they cost less and taste better than pre-packaged stuff, too.

DWIGHT SAYS: “My grandfather left me a 60-acre working beet farm. I run it with my cousin Mose. We sell beets to the local stores and restaurants. It’s a nice little farm ... sometimes teenagers use it for sex.”
DWIGHT MEANS: Buy local.
Not only does it support neighborhood farmers (who need security to keep randy kids away), but food that’s shipped from nearby tastes better, is better for you, and is easier on the environment. See here for more.

DWIGHT SAYS: "First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive beets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go, 'Wow, I need this beet right now.' Those are the money beets."
DWIGHT MEANS: Knowing how food is marketed is vital to saving cash.
There’s a reason grocery stores put expensive, good-looking food at eye level. It’s the same mentality behind placing pricey victuals in gigantic, showy displays. When you go food shopping, don’t forget to look at the top and bottom shelves - beyond what’s immediately apparent. You’ll spend less. (Also: Stick to the perimeter of supermarkets, shop from the circular, only use coupons for stuff you’d buy anyway, keep a price book, etc.)

DWIGHT SAYS: “Studies show that more information is passed through watercooler gossip than through official memos, which puts me at a disadvantage because I bring my own water to work.”
DWIGHT MEANS: Bottled water is a big, wet cheat.
Packing a thermos from home, using the cooler at the office, or simply gathering H2O from the tap can conserve up to $600 per year, depending on how often you buy bottled. (See here, here, and here for more.)

DWIGHT SAYS: “Yes, I have decided to shun Andy Bernard for the next three years, which I'm looking forward to. It's an Amish technique; it's like slapping someone with silence. I was shunned from the age of 4 until my 6th birthday, for not saving the excess oil from a can of tuna.”
DWIGHT MEANS: Save leftovers, or suffer the terrible consequences.
Whether it’s excess mashed potatoes or those last two slices of pizza, try to pack your extras away. It’ll keep your portion size down, make a delicious office meal the next day, and put your lunch money back where it belongs – in your pocket.

DWIGHT SAYS: "Oh you know that line on the top of the shrimp? That's feces."
DWIGHT MEANS: Don’t play around with food safety.
Yeah, I think this one's pretty self-explanatory.

DWIGHT SAYS: “In the wild, there is no health care. In the wild, health care is, ‘Ow, I hurt my leg. I can't run. A lion eats me and I'm dead.’ Well, I'm not dead. I'm the lion, you're dead.”
DWIGHT MEANS: Eating smart and modestly will save your money and your life.
Obesity contributes to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – all difficult and expensive illnesses to treat. (See Get Rich Slowly’s The High Cost of Being Fat.) Plus, it makes it very difficult to run away from lions.

DWIGHT SAYS: “Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, ‘Would an idiot do that?’ And if they would, I do not do that thing.”
DWIGHT MEANS: Find a food anti-idol.
Imagine your most extravagant friend. You know, the high roller - the one that doesn’t think twice about his finances. For what does he dole out the most dough? If he’s anything like my big-spender buds, it’s food. Learn from his bad example and try to use good judgment when buying groceries, ordering out, or settling down for a restaurant meal.

DWIGHT SAYS: [to Toby's daughter] “Hello, tiny one. YOU ARE THE FUTURE!”
DWIGHT MEANS: Teach your children well.
When it comes to eating and budgeting, kids learn largely from the examples set by their parents. Whether it’s having dinner together or serving more vegetables, changing a bad habit or starting a few good ones will benefit them for life.

DWIGHT SAYS: “When you are ready to see the sales office, the sales office will present itself to you.”
DWIGHT MEANS: Honest change can not come until one is truly ready.
If you’re looking to cut costs or make a switch to simpler foods, you must first commit yourself to the idea, and then be ready to follow through on the behaviors. Think of it like smoking: every single person on Earth can warn you to stop, but until you want to, there’s no chance.

DWIGHT SAYS: “I do not fear the unknown. I will meet my new challenges head-on, and I will succeed, and I will laugh in the faces of those who doubt me.”
DWIGHT MEANS: You don’t know unless you try.
So you’d like to make more money, cook more wholesome meals, lose a few pounds. What’s stopping you? Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from reaching your dreams - gastronomic, economic, and otherwise.

(Catch more of Dwight on The Office every Thursday on NBC.) Photos from Flickr and Buddy TV.

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