Suze Orman, the popular, media-savvy financial consultant, is hard to miss these days.  Her books, TV shows, her guest appearances with Oprah and sales pitches at QVC have made her part of the American landscape.  And with good reason!  She’s passionate on teaching that we must personally assess our habits, purchases, financial decisions and opportunities of the past to determine what we must do to progress and prepare for the future.  

My husband, Bob, and I (married now for 26 wonderful years) credit one of her books for helping us create a financial accountability system that really works for our family.  Over the past 7 or 8 years, our weekly “money meetings” have slowly but surely evolved into a smooth and delightful experience.  We start with prayer and a stick of our favorite gum as a little treat to enjoy as go through the week’s purchases and review our obligations.  It takes about an hour. It’s a very pleasant time that we both look forward as we have truly become a team.  We are personally grateful to her.  It’s our new norm.

Though many of us may be overweight physically, these are lean times financially for nearly everyone.  Over the past three or four years, the financial cushion many enjoyed is now a hard seat to be reckoned with.  You will repeatedly hear Suze say: “There is a new reality out there–a new normal. What was once certain–that you would be able to retire comfortably; that you would pay for your kids’ education; that your home would appreciate in value–is no longer a sure thing. So much has changed on the financial landscape that it’s hard to know which moves are the right ones to make.”

Food and The Economy

How has the economy affected eating out?  For our family it’s not more than once or perhaps twice a month.  And we’re not alone.  

With the recession, business reports indicate that restaurant sales are down as people have less money.  Several months ago Burger King conducted a survey and discovered that with purse strings tightened, many of their regular customers are changing their eating habits and cooking at home to save money and improve their health.  

An article at in February 2010 states: “As Burger King prepares to report earnings this week after two straight quarters of same-store sales declines, the question is whether the chain has relied too heavily on customers that may be permanently changing habits.

Former super Burger Fan fan Noah Rubin says he has. The 28-year-old Seattle man used to wolf down bacon cheeseburgers three or four nights a week at Burger King, Jack in the Box and local bars. But he and his fiancee started cutting back last year after both were laid off, then found jobs at lower pay.

Now they cook at home using organic vegetables and dine out only on weekends. Mr. Rubin figures he is saving more than $100 a week by eating fewer burgers. “I don’t think we’ll go back to eating out as often as we used to,” he says. “We always used to talk about eating at home more, and now that it’s happened, we’ve found that we really enjoy it.”

Beyond Finances

For some these changes are optional, dictated by finances and preferences.  For others, changing their eating habits is a matter of life or extreme illness.

A headline article in the Mormon Times states that there are many as 45,000 members of the Church who have celiac disease, a gluten intolerance that makes it impossible to eat pasta or bread — even  sacrament bread.  (You can read the two articles at

For those with celiac disease and other health conditions requiring a major detour from the regular bill of fare of foods offered, there are difficulties, especially for youth and children, at ward and social events.

“We aren’t going to a church activity to get a brownie,”  says Julie Cosgrove, the mother of ten. She and all 10 of her children have celiac disease

Refreshments: A Reason To Linger

Of course we know that we are not attending these events to get a brownie, or a cookie, yet … it’s a treat and something delicious to eat that turns a meeting into a social event for young and old.  No one wants to be left out.

I didn’t really understand this principle or its importance until I attended the Boston Temple dedication 10 years ago.

I attended with two non-member friends and experience it through their eyes.  After donning white footies and seeing the exquisite interior, we were escorted to a very nice tented area where beautiful bakery cookies and ice water were served.  The missionaries and volunteer members trained in how converse about the temple were there to answer guest’s questions.  The refreshments and the time spent eating them gave everyone an opportunity to talk, cement their temple experience and greatly enhance their association with the Church.  It wasn’t the cookies, it was the sweet chance to extend the experience.

My sister’s friend served on the hospitality committee for the Boston Temple dedication.  Over 800,000 guests were anticipated.  Though the memorable cookies were not part of the original plan or budget, through prayer she was able to persuasively insist that having a “reason to linger” would cause many of the guests to reflect on the temple and to stay and visit with the missionaries and member volunteers.  As we ourselves witnessed, that was very true!  (As a fun aside, the decision to serve cookies to the approximately 826,000 visitors turned into a financial coup for the bakery hired to do the job.)

On a smaller scale, what’s a fireside without refreshments?  Or home evening without something fun to eat?  It’s the socializing together afterwards that creates significant social, emotional and even spiritual ties to these important events.  Though it’s definitely possible to socialize without eating (carrying a drink or even a water bottle  in your hand is the easiest way), it’s not just children and teenagers that want a treat!  We all do!

Be The One

The  golden rule burn brightest when we are not only doing what’s personally right for us, but  passing  it along to help each other with their health.

Here are several examples. Though the first does not apply to entertaining, you’ll understand why her example is important

1)  Susan Bell of Rexburg Idaho and two of her six children have celiac disease, as do several members of her ward.  She has a gluten-free bread recipe that she makes for sacrament meeting.  Each Sunday, she takes several slices of the special bread and takes it to the deacons when she gets to Sacrament meeting. A designated priest breaks it and serves it to a “celiac zone” for all to partake.  The effort for her family blesses beyond that immediate circle.

2) Years ago as a Weight Watchers leader, it was exciting to see how members creatively found ways to follow the program while continuing to entertain and socialize – and eat! One member belonged to a circle that enjoyed monthly pot-lucks at each other’s home.  When her turn came, she simply said “Since everyone is eating healthier these days, please bring your favorite low-cal dish this time or fresh fruit.”  It was a raving success!  Everybody loved and the next month they did the same.

3) Last night, it was my turn to host the Relief Society book club for our ward (Our book, by the way, was “Follow the River by James Thom – wonderful).  Though, of course, cookies, brownies, or chips and dip are the norm for this, I served a vegetable platter with fresh tomatoes from the garden (sliced with a little gourmet lemon pepper seasoning –YUM!) baby carrots, green pepper and celery.  I had a candy basket with Tootsie Pops and Baskin Robbins hard candies (You can eat three for about 40-50 calories, about the same for a Tootsie Pop.  These treats are delicious and last a whole lot longer than a real ice cream cone!  I get them at the Dollar Store.)  I also had some low-cal ice cream bars for those who wanted something more.  Though of course, the candy is sugar, it’s a much, much smaller amount than typical treats and no fat.

To my delight, the tomatoes and the hard candies were the hit of the evening!  A cookie or a piece of cake is gone in a matter of a few minutes – but those little candies and a Tootsie Pop truly “last a long time” … what fun!

Our New Norm For Refreshments and Entertaining

Get the picture?  How easy it is to create a new personal norm for socializing that will benefit all   Here’s how:

1) When contributing to the party table, make sure YOU bring healthy things and fruit, the less processed or cooked or “fiddled with” the better!  

2) When you’re in charge of refreshments, request that others do the same.

These offerings will save time and money too!  

3) When rich treats are served, cut them in half or thirds.  No one needs a full-sized Costco cookie or muffin!  

4) Make a veggie or fruit platter the star of the show.  Offer fun spices and seasonings to make fresh veggies even more special.

5) Put a fun basket of tiny, but delicious, hard candies or suckers on the table too.

Two Great Quotes To Hitch Our Wagon to a Star

Whether anyone takes us up on our “new norm” we know what’s best for us and two of my favorite quotes can be our mantras to make our new norm a reality:

 “My  best helping hand is at the end of my own arm.”

“Start with the necessary, move on to the possible and soon I’m doing the impossible!”