Stories | November 26, 2009

Trimming the turkey - and managing consumption

Tips to cut festive bingeing at the dinner table and at the shops: a behavioural economist explains how to eat less and, as a result, cut costs.

When the festive season kicks off, tips from behavioural economist Dan Ariely may be handy for Europeans and Americans alike. The We are the Savers blog from ING Direct in the United States also issued a series about avoiding binges - but addressed over-consumption at shops rather than at the dinner table.

Use chopsticks and wear a tight shirt 
In the Washington Post, Ariely advocated using chopsticks for Thanksgiving dinner to make bites smaller and harder to take. After all, it's hard to stuff your face when you are trying to balance food on slender sticks. If chopsticks are too extreme, he suggested smaller plates. "Study after study shows that people eat more when they have more in front of them. It's one of our predictable irrationalities: we often judge portions by how much is left rather than how full we feel. Smaller portions lead us to eat less, even if we can refill the plate," the story said.

Other suggestions included:

  • serving from the kitchen rather than the table
  • limiting variety (how much would you eat of the same dish?)
  • wearing tight clothing

Ariely also appeared in a New York Times video this week, offering ways to become a more conscientious penny-pincher.

Avoid binge buying too
The day after Thanksgiving can see many people hitting the sales at shops on "Black Friday" -  but it could be a better idea to spend the day eating leftover turkey sandwiches. For those wanting to bargain hunt for gifts, why not exert a little self-restraint. Think ahead about who's on your list: what do they want, and what can you afford? Don't "binge buy".

What's binge-buying? It's grabbing random items off the shelf because they're marked "down" 50%. (What was the preceding mark "up", we wonder?) Or it might be buying in twos, threes, or baker’s dozens.

eZonomics team
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