Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal comparison shops for a pair of new running shoes. - 

Here at Marketplace, we tend to focus on the nitty-gritty news of the day -- the stock prices, the bankruptcies, the buyouts... you know, the numbers.

Every once in a while we like to take a step back and look at the big picture. This week, the Sustainability desk did just that with their special series "Consumed."

So much of the economy today depends on consumer spending in one form or another. Conventional economic wisdom says we need to buy stuff, and pay for services, to keep the engine going.

But five years (give or take) out from the recession -- caused, in large part, by people spending on things they couldn't really afford -- do we really want to be getting back to our normal, consuming selves?

Throughout the week, we've taken a look back at all aspects of the consumer economy -- from the family unit, to insecure workers, to businesses big and small. And we've tried to answer the simple (and yet oh so complicated) question: Can we really afford all this?

Take a listen to the series, and tell us what you think!

Follow Mary Dooe at @@Dooezer