Use It or Lose It — Local Restaurant Edition

With the economy continuing to tank, and many of us worried about the stability of our jobs — or worse yet, recently laid off — we're all cutting back on spending. No more facials. Buying less expensive groceries. Not splurging on a new pair of shoes or a handbag that catches our eye.

And all of that is incredibly prudent. What I have been disappointed to see, however, is how many folks are substituting dining at their neighborhood restaurants — owned and operated by your neighbors — in favor of eating at cheap (quality and cost) chains. And don't even get me started on the folks who are not eating out at all and buying everything at WalMart. Go read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and get back to me on that, k?

Personally, I am making more of an effort to eat out at moderately priced neighborhood places when I get the yen to go out. Without the ongoing support of diners, these small business owners are not able to pay their rent and their employees. And eventually, without revenue, you can see favorite places shuttered (Eater SF listed 25 places that closed this January.)

Likewise, I know many folks who have cut back on organic produce or stopped going to their local farmers markets, citing cost savings. I think you can, however, be selective about what you buy and still find some good deals while supporting your local small farmers. Diverting your grocery budget to less healthy mass-marketed prepared foods is not going to save you money in the long run, in addition to not supporting your local community.

We are all being more cautious about our spending, but is local food/restaurants the best place for folks to cut back? I don't think so. Scale back your Netflix by one DvD per month, ratchet down the cable subscription, or drink one fewer corporate owned coffee house latte per week instead! Your neighbors will thank you.

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