Since we tackled the problem of time spent preparing healthier foods in Baby Step # 7, we Sis sisters thought we should address the cost of eating healthier food.
Food is available in many places, almost every place these days, and prices do vary. I’m sure you’ve noticed. It always hurts me to pay twice or three times as much for a granola bar in a convenience store than it would have had I bought a box (or made something and packed it in a little Tupperware cup).
And it also hurts to pay for food at work that costs much more than it would have cost me to pack leftovers because I ran out of time, or left my lunch at home. We all do it, but we can’t honestly assess what we are spending on food each week or each month if we don’t include our expenditures outside of the grocery store. I confess that my grocery bills are higher since we have begun eating more real food (un-prepared, un-processed fresh and some frozen foods). However, I also spend less in restaurants, convenience stores, at work or on outings than previous to the change in diet.
While Little Sis and I have created some cheap healthy recipes (try the Cheap Eats category on the sidebar for a starting place), and can make many things ourselves more cheaply than we can buy them (almond milk, almond butter, high quality baked goods, macaroni & cheese, salad dressing, etc.), there is no denying that fresh fruits and vegetables, especially organic ones, cost more than a cart full of hamburger helper and canned green beans. However, and again, the comparison is not fair unless you consider the entire picture of food costs.
Ways to compare the Cost of healthy food / real food versus processed / unhealthy food.
A) Cost per nutrients
B) Cost per week or month
C) Cost considering cost of healthcare
A) When you pay $1 for a box of cheap macaroni & cheese what are you getting? Calories but not a lot of nutrition. Some would argue that people eat more when they eat poorly (from a nutritional standpoint) because their bodies are seeking out the missing nutrients.
A USDA report (2012), found that healthy foods are actually cheaper than processed foods when viewed from a nutritional rather than a caloric standpoint. You just might find that you feel more full after eating real food…. and less tempted to have seconds, or dessert, or a large serving of chips later in the evening.
This entry on The Mayo Clinic’s website discusses a study that showed that children who eat ‘slow food’ (versus fast food) have more cognitive gains and growth. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cost-of-healthy-food/MY02252
Baby Step Action: Pay attention to what foods you buy – not just from a cost perspective, but from a nutritional standpoint as well. Consider the nutritive value when you purchase a packet of whole grain pasta versus white pasta or a box of hamburger helper versus some fresh veggies and whole grain pasta to mix into your hamburger meat. Little Sis compares whole grain vs. white pasta here. When you’re spending that money, how much food is in your food?
B) Before you decide you can’t afford healthier food, understand where you are spending your food dollars.
Baby Step Action: Write down all the money you spend on food and beverages in a week and where you spend it. This includes coffee shops, vending machines, snacks for kids at ball games or other gatherings. This is not to make you feel bad or to say that you should never buy anything at the ball park again, but when you are unaware of where you are spending your money on food then you are not in charge of HOW you spend your money on food, and you are not in the driver’s seat for making actual choices about what you can and can’t afford, and what you want to eat.
Cutting out those extra expenditures will make the healthier food grocery bill lower than you think! (Also remember that brown rice, dried beans and frozen vegetables are a great place to start with cheap, healthy food.)
C) Type II Diabetes and heart disease are very expensive diseases and are almost always preventable by changes in lifestyle, i.e. diet and exercise.
Baby-Step Action: Think about the true cost of poor health. This would include visits to the doctor, loss of productivity, fatigue, depression and early death. Choose to stop purchasing over-priced food from at least one of the places from your list in part B for 2 weeks. Plan ahead to fill that void so it is possible to make the change.
Dr. Mark Hyman is a physician who himself lost a lot of weight by changing what he eats and has lots of information and resources for improving diet. He has a great article about the true costs of cheap, processed food at this link. He includes some tips for learning to eat healthier without breaking the bank.
I also found a site with some interesting comparisons of $20 worth of fast food vs. $20 worth of healthy food.
You and your family are worth every extra penny for healthy food, but it might not be as expensive as you think! Try these Baby Steps…. review old Baby Steps, and let us know how you are doing and what information or help you might need.