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zen habits: Bagels & cream cheese - A Conspiracy Theory

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Bagels & cream cheese - A Conspiracy Theory

I was struck by a thundering realization this morning (more of the rumbling kind of thunder than the really loud booming kind) as I spread my Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese on my whole-grain bagels. I discovered a conspiracy, and I'd like to share it with the world, and expose this scam.

What's the main reason you buy cream cheese (Yiddish: schmear)? It has many uses, but for me, and for many others I suspect, the main reason is to put it on bagels. For years I've noticed that if you buy a pack of bagels (usually has six bagels) and one regular-sized container of cream cheese, the bagels run out before the cream cheese does. You're left with about a third to a fourth of a container of cream cheese (depending on the liberalness of your spreading) and no bagels.

What's up? And for years, I wrote that fact off as the same kind of lack of inter-industry coordination in the hot dogs and buns industries.

No more.

Think about it for a moment: what happens to that 1/4 container of cream cheese? It either goes bad if you don't buy new bagels on time, or you are forced to buy more bagels to use the remaining cream cheese. But here's the catch: if you buy a new pack of bagels, you will finish the cream cheese before you finish the bagels. Then you have to buy more cream cheese. But those bagels will run out before you finish the new cream cheese. You begin to see the pattern.

So you are stuck with two options:

  1. You get stuck in an endless cycle of buying cream cheese and bagels, desperately trying to portion your cream cheese per bagel ratio so that they run out at the same time and there's no leftover to waste; or
  2. You don't buy new bagels on time (and who has the time and energy to continuously keep running to the store to buy more packs of bagels or cream cheese?) and your 1/4 container of cream cheese runs out, and thus you wasted about 25% of the money you spent on that container.
Either way, the cream cheese and bagel industries win. We consumers are the losers. And I believe this is all done on purpose. Think about it.

When I told this theory to my wife this morning, she asked me why I don't simply use the remaining cream cheese on toasted bread?

I suspect her of trying to cover up the conspiracy.


Anonymous said...

That reminds me of a scene in a movie with Steve Martin about hot dogs coming in different numbers than hot dog rolls. Or something like that.

Anonymous said...


This is off topic, but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. The post "My Story" especially was terrifically inspiring to me. I'm also a GTD-head, fledging runner, and father who is trying to become more frugal, improve his health and so on. That post is precisely the one I want to be able to write one year from now.

Thanks for the motivation. I'll be back.

Leo said...

@David: I don't remember the movie with Steve Martin but I have heard similar rants about the hot dog buns and hot dogs ... but I think that's mostly a lack of poor planning (and stems from the way those two industries have evolved over time). The bagels and cream cheese thing is a conspiracy.

@dave: thanks for the comment! I'm really no one special, and I think that just by starting to run, to improve your health, and to become more frugal, you've already done more than many people ... just keep up your momentum. There will be times when your motivation will lag, and life will get in the way of your goals ... but don't let those times stop you. Just get back on track if you get sidetracked.

Thanks for the compliments. Are you the Dave from Daddy Daze? Love that blog.

Anonymous said...

Yup, Daddy Daze. That's me.

Mel said...

I used to have the same dilemma but now I just wait until my wife isn't looking and I scoop the remaining better than cream cheese out with my fingers and eat it until it's all gone. Now I don't have to make a special trip to the store for one item, I need two.

I don't mind the fact it's a conspiracy because:

1. I know it's a conspiracy so I'm not being duped.
2. The dairy industry isn't seeing one red cent of my money.

Great blog.

Leo said...

Mel ... lol. Great solution to this dilemma. I hope your wife doesn't read your comment.

Anonymous said...

The solution to your problem can be said with just one word: Crackers!

Leo said...

Crackers? You sound just like my wife! I suspect you of trying to cover up the conspiracy as well. :)