Good Enough Can Be Perfect

good enough can be perfect chips junk food

Today, let’s talk about chips. Yes, crunchy, salty, beautiful, addicting chips. Who doesn’t love chips? Chips aren’t healthy, but sometimes you need a crunchy hit. The best policy is to avoid buying chips altogether. I try to do that. However, those chips often sneak their way into our grocery cart. My fault, I’m addicted. Chips just seem to keep showing up in our pantry. These days, I try to buy them every other week. You have to start somewhere, right? Also, I’m trying to find the right junk food that can satiate me and also minimize the unhealthiness. Let’s see where my quest for the right junk food took me. (I promise I’ll tie it back to personal finance somehow.)

Chips are bad

Everyone knows chips are bad for you, right? Here is a quick recap.

  1. Sodium – Too much sodium can raise blood pressure. My blood pressure is a bit high and the doctor just prescribed another medication to control it. Extra sodium isn’t going to help.
  2. Fat – Most chips are fried in oil, making them high in fat. A typical serving of chips contains10 to 15% of the recommended daily fat intake. We don’t need that.
  3. Empty calories – A serving of chips usually contains about 150 calories and those calories are worthless. An apple is way healthier. At least, you can get some vitamins and fiber from an apple.
  4. Overindulgence – Does anyone ever eat one serving of chips (7-15 chips) and stop? Most of us go back for more. One serving just isn’t enough.

Why would anyone eat this junk food? …Because it tastes so good! Unfortunately, eating junk food is not very helpful when you’re trying to be healthy.

The right chips

Our biggest problem is overindulgence. A bag of chips rarely lasts long in our household. We’d take a serving, eat it up, and come back for more. It’s too good to stop with just one serving. We need to solve this problem first.

My answer – avoid the best tasting chips. Instead, go for “good enough”.

When the chips taste great, I can’t stop myself from going back for a second serving or third… But if it’s just good enough, I can control myself better.

Here is my holy grail of chips – Trader Joe’s Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips. Jeez, what a mouthful. Hahaha…

Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips

First of all, adding healthy ingredients to chips doesn’t make them healthy. This is the “halo effect”. It makes people choose this item over something that doesn’t have these extra ingredients. Also, they can charge more for the product. This product certainly sounds healthier than regular chips.

Flaxseed – They are healthy and have omega-3 acid. You have to chew very well, though.

Veggies” – tomato, beet, carrot, and spinach powder. I don’t think the powder helps much. It’s probably mostly for color. I can taste the veggie a little bit so I guess that’s good.

Fortunately, these additions improve the taste of the chip too. The flaxseed and the “veggies” give the chips more complexity. IMO, these chips taste a little better than regular corn tortilla chips. The best thing about these chips is that I’m okay with one serving. They satisfy my need for crunch and they taste good enough.

Let’s look at the label real quick.

Label

  1. Sodium – 2%! That’s really good. Most chips have more sodium per serving and I eat more than one serving.
  2. Fat – 9% is on the low end for chips. Still not great.
  3. Calories – 130 empty calories, not good.
  4. Over indulgence – Yay! I can stop with just one serving.

I guess 2 out of 4 aren’t great, but it beats the alternatives.

Other chips we love

I found a cool website that shows the label of many food products – My Food Diary. They have a big database of food to help you count calories. There is a monthly charge, though. I don’t need to track calories right now so I just visit to check the food labels.

Anyway, let’s check RB40Jr’s favorite chip.

Lay’s Sour Cream & Onion Potato Chips

I’ll just go over the 4 things I’m worried about.

  1. Sodium – 7%. Yikes, that’s high.
  2. Fat – 15%. High.
  3. Calories – 160 calories. That’s comparable.
  4. Over indulgence – It’s hard to stop with one serving. These potato chips are so light weight.

Healthiest of the bunch

I checked a few more of our favorite chips and they are all pretty similar to Lay’s. It looks like the Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips are the healthiest of the bunch. So that’s what I’m buying these days. It tastes pretty good and it’s healthier than the alternatives. Good enough is perfect for me.

Personal Finance

Since this is a personal finance site, let’s connect it back to the main topic. You don’t need the best of everything in life. Most of the time, good enough will do just fine. This philosophy works very well for our family. We usually choose good enough. This enables us to invest more and build wealth. Let’s look at our Big 3 expenses.

Housing – We live in a 1,000 square feet unit in a duplex. Bigger would be better, but this is good enough for now. Our tenant pays our mortgage so that’s nice.

Transportation – We share one car and drive about 6,000 miles per year. Our 2010 Mazda 5 minivan is still going strong. A nicer vehicle would be cool, but we just don’t spend a lot of time in the car. Besides, we don’t have a garage and have to park in the street. A nice car would be full of dings and dents within a couple of years.

Food – We mostly cook and eat at home. We love to eat out too, but we limit it to once per week at the most. Restaurant food tastes great, but they are expensive and less healthy. Restaurants add a lot of salt and butter to everything.

Alright, that’s the “good enough” life. We can save and invest more by living a modest lifestyle. Sure, a bigger house, a nicer car, and eating out more would be nice. But we’re happy with good enough for now. Maybe later we’ll spend more and upgrade. Putting off spending is a great way to achieve financial independence faster.

What about you? Do you tend to choose the best or go for something good enough? What kind of chips do you like?

*Coincidently, Dave (my blogger buddy) at Accidental FIRE just wrote about a similar topic – Are you a maximize or a satisficer? Check it out!

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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21 thoughts on “Good Enough Can Be Perfect”

  1. Finally a topic that I have serious experience. I absolutely LOVE chips. They are my achilles heel. My favorite is Lay’s BBQ and second will be any kind of BBQ chip. I seem to have made my covid goal to eat all of the chips in the north texas area. The only good news is that I have been able to maintain my weight as I eat my way through the Lay’s warehouse. I wonder how much I would weigh if I gave them up?

    Reply
  2. As I’m sure you’re aware those chips were carefully made using the latest “food science” to purposely be addictive and to hit all of the pleasure centers. I get it, I’m just as vulnerable. I’ve just cultivated the discipline to not buy them. When they’re not in my house I can’t eat them. I’m not saying this is easy, but keep trying. You are disciplined 🙂

    Reply
  3. i have to beg mrs. smidlap to not bring home bags of chips. i cannot resist them. instead we often slice up some baguette and toast those for bread chips with something half decent like humus.

    i’m a big fan of good enough in most cases, especially the big categories you mention. wine is one of the few where i don’t cheap out.

    Reply
  4. Haha, you got me craving some potato chips now, Joe! ?

    This is a nice analogy – I think the key is moderation in anything. We live in a society that always pushes more, more, more. Being able to take a step back and recognize this can put a person worlds ahead. Whether it’s food, finance, social behaviors, etc., balance is important. Good enough can be close to perfect.

    Now, I’m off to go eat some chips… mmmm!!

    Reply
    • PS Check out the Fooducate app on Android (not sure if it exists for iPhone). It lets you scan barcodes on items and shows you a grade on its health score… super helpful! It doesn’t know the codes here in Panama so I’m looking forward to installing it again once we move back to the U.S. next spring.

      Reply
    • I assume they have different options in Panama. I don’t even eat chips when I go to Thailand because there are so many other things to eat. Not sure if they are healthier, but they’re more delicious. 😀

      Reply
  5. I agree on the chips. Have you ever tried the veggie straws? I sometimes get these for all the same reasons you outlined. I don’t like them as well as my favorite chips, but they do satisfy that crunch craving. Same as chips as far as sodium, fat, and calories BUT you get to eat 38 straws instead of 12 so really helps with the overindulgence.

    Reply
  6. I’ve started buying chips again and have zero regrets. We eat pretty healthy most of the time, my height/weight are right where I want them to be, and I’m running ten or fifteen miles a week; as long as I’m getting enough water, the extra sodium and fat are good things. I’m not about to eat my daily lunch sandwich without some salty crunch on the side.

    That said, I haven’t seen a primary care physician in four years. Maybe I should make an appointment…

    Reply
  7. What a great post! I love tortilla chips! I am limited to the snacks I can eat since I am on a low sodium and low oxalate diet (due to kidney stones).

    The tortilla chips that I have found that are low in sodium are: Garden of Eatin Blue Chips No Salt Added (0mg of sodium!), Ole Tortilla Chips Restaurant Style (75mg of sodium and frequently on sale at Shop Rite for $1.19 for a 12oz bag!), and Calidad Corn Tortilla Chips (90mg of sodium for 12 chips and frequently on sale at Shop Rite for $1.66 for a 12oz bag!)

    I usually dip these chips in my homemade tzatziki sauce (no salt added), homemade guacamole, or low sodium salsa.

    I love Doritos and Tostitos but only have them a couple of times a year, unfortunately, due to their nutrition.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your input. I’ll check out those tortilla chips. The blue chips sound good. I had some great blue chips before, but could never find one that tasted really good. You should try the flaxseed chips. They’re pretty good.

      Reply
  8. The human body has the amazing ability to handle anything edible if eaten in moderation. A few chips are not going to do you any damage. And any source of calories is fine if you are calorie deficient. I used to consume several packs of sports gel when I ran marathons, and still do when I play hours of tennis on 100 degree days. That’s mostly processed sugar, caffeine and salts. And it is exactly the best food in the world when you are pushing your body to your maximum output because it is a simple and fast source of calories when calories are what you need. But for most of us, most of the time, we don’t need more calories and we don’t need several servings of chips. Lazy man is right about the tiny bags of Wal-Mart store brand chips. They are definitely small servings!

    Reply
  9. At the risk of blowing up your metaphor, can I recommend the single serve bags of chips. You can usually get a box of 40 bags (about 1 oz. each) for $10 at Wal-Mart or on Amazon. You probably can’t get the Trader Joe’s specialty chips, but it mostly solves the portion-control problem for the typical Lay’s sour cream and onion chips.

    I buy veggie straws for the kids due to the halo effect of it feeling like it’s healthy for school. They may be slightly better, but probably not too much.

    Reply

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