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Hard times are back.  But that’s no reason to stop buying.  There are plenty of bargains out there for the savvy consumer, so trim your sails, tighten your belt (Sail Trimmer Now Only $24.99;  Belt Tightener Marked Down to $9.99), and get out there and spend your pennies.

DINING OUT:  Chains are lowering prices and expectations.  At McDonalds, instead of the usual, try a “Satisfied Meal.”  Rather than a “Nathan’s Famous,” consider the “Moderately Well-Known.”   Good Humor’s name-change to “Not Exactly Grumpy” and Friendly’s to “Approachable’s” says it all.  You may have to wait a little longer — lower-paid, less-qualified staff have changed the “fast” in “fast food” to “deliberate.”

GROCERIES:  Here, too, look for back-to-basics — “Proto-Yogurt” aka “Milk”;  Pre-Peanut Butter (“Peanuts”); in the candy section, an eye-catching granular product called “Sugar” (also known as “Sugar Substitute Substitute”).  The olive oil section has added a couple lines slightly below the top “Virgin” designation — a slightly more piquant “Worldly” and a smokier “Slutty.”

MOVIES:  An occasional movie is still possible, with scaled-down versions of some of the great classics at prices previously available only to the over-65 set:

“Lawrence of Fredonia,” “It’s a Reasonable Life,” “Some Like It Warm,” “Side Window,” “Helping Private Ryan,” “Most of the President’s Men,” “The Mild Bunch,” “Disturbance on the Bounty,” and my favorite, “The Sound of Mucus.”

THEATER:  Or take in a play.  Sure, it’s a little more expensive than a movie but who can resist the direct, if somewhat muted, experience of:

“Felonious Assault With Grievous Bodily Harm in the Cathedral,” “Indisposition of a Salesman,” “All’s Well That Ends Quickly,” “Look Back in Displeasure,” “Some Ado About Nothing,” and “Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Not At All Well.”

TV:  Your only real savings will come from getting rid of cable entirely and going back to your rabbit-ears.  Still, the networks are helping with scaled-down versions of TV classics:

“I Tolerate Lucy,” “The Adventures of Reallyquiteimpressiveman,” “All Creatures Small and Smaller,” “The Altos,” and “Naked City” (the producers have kept the original name, figuring, how much more stripped-down can you get?).

BOOKS:  Savvy publishers have taken a different tack, arguing the need for upbeat versions of some of the more somber classics:

“The Spy Who Came in From a High of 73, Mostly Sunny,” “Crime and a Nice Walk in the Park,” “The Grapes of Bliss,” “Pride and a Disinclination Toward Making Hasty Judgments,” and “A Bar Mitzvah in the Rue Morgue.”

Have A (you fill in the blank) Day (: ^ I)