I saw an article on The Atlantic talking about why millennials are spending more money eating out more than on groceries.1 Of course, as you’d expect, the comments were the typical shit-show of millennial stereotypes: We’re… (shit with money, lazy, can’t cook, lazy, entitled, lazy,…).
So, because I never have anything to say about dumb shit like this, here’s a take: The western world is generally as good or better than it’s ever been for as many or more people than it’s ever been good for. That said, shit is definitely a-changin’, and we need to stop acting like it’s the end of the world. Specifically in regard to the “OMGZ what’s going to happen to the poor grocery stores?!?” issue, think about the following:
A big chunk of it is that, for tons of us, we’ve spent an extended time basically in stasis. The economy has largely been pretty garbage for the bulk of our adult lives, between the dotcom bust, 9/11 fallout, and the hosuing market crash. We have been struggling to exist. If you weren’t from an actually wealthy family, even the decently middle class came out with loads of student debt.2
We’re doing basically everything later. Having sex, forming relationships, getting married, buying cars and homes… when we were renting and whatnot for the first 20 years since moving out,3 we weren’t ‘building a home’ or really, building anything. If you owe $50,000, saving $20,000 for a down payment seems like an idea from another universe4
We were working shit jobs and shit hours that made cooking in the traditional sense seem stupid because we were never eating meals together. What sounds better: Getting home after a shift on the floor at Chardon Rubber, shopping for dinner, making dinner, washing dishes, drying dishes, putting dishes away -OR- stopping at Little Caesar’s for a $5 Hot-n-Ready?
We also don’t have stay-at-home anythings, so if someone was cooking, it was always after 10 hours of work, not in place of it. We also weren’t getting into relationships at the same pace or time period, so everything about the idea of ‘settling down’ is taking place a decade or more later.
There’s tons of things going on here. Most of them point to increased volatility in terms of home life. If I buy groceries for a week, then…
– Day 1) Get home way late from work, have to clean up a dog mess because I’m late, decide to not cook.
– Day 2) Get home semi-late, but am feeling kinda sick,
– Day 3) Get home late, but someone else cooked and didn’t put the kitchen back together because they fell asleep…
Now, several of the items we bought are close to or have already gone bad. Now, we’re throwing food out AND getting take-out.
And hey, that $20K for a down payment? When shit seems that ludicrous, there is just no way it happens. When we get half-way there, a market somewhere is going to crash and one of us is going to be unemployed for 7 months.5
So, sure, we could save that $6 we’d save shopping at a grocery store, cooking at home, cleaning up the dishes and kitchen, etc versus getting Chipotle, but you know what? We’re already getting paid half what we’re worth at work, so why the fuck am I going to pay myself $6 an hour to be a cook and a waiter and a dishwasher?