Healthy Food Really Isn’t More Expensive Than Junk Food
The other day I was whipping up a quick dinner for my family. We were having stir-fried tofu and veggies over rice, and I happened to notice the price sticker on the bag of green bags I was preparing. It was $1.34. $1.34 for a bag of fresh green beans that could easily serve as a side for a family of four for two dinners. And yet, one of the most common refrains we hear when it comes to reasons that Americans eat so poorly is that healthy food costs more.
Honestly, I’ve never understood why people claim that excuse. I’ll disclaim my opinion by stating that I know that I’m fortunate enough to live in a place with multiple supermarkets, produce markets and farmers markets within a 10-minute drive of my home. I know that affordability can be very different for people who live in food desserts or in places where the fresh food market isn’t competitive.
But, I think the issue is more that healthy packaged, processed, commercial foods are more expensive than their less healthy counterparts. Yes, organic and/or minimally processed crackers, bread, cereals, snacks, boxed mac and cheese, etc. are more expensive than the traditional versions, but those foods aren’t even necessarily healthy.
Real healthy food — whole foods like fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, eggs, whole grains, beans and legumes, etc. — are honestly dirt cheap. The thing is, people have to be willing to prepare food from scratch. If you want to prioritize eating healthfully without breaking the bank, you have to cook!
Unless I’m splurging or preparing food for a holiday or party, our dinners cost less than $10 total for a family of four and our breakfasts and lunches are just a fraction of that. Our weekly grocery budget on average is around $120 and 30 to 40 percent of what I purchase is organic and 70 to 80 percent is whole foods.h
The only way I keep cost so low is by avoiding most convenience foods — though I do buy some packaged snacks for on-the-go and sending to school with my first grader.
The idea that it’s expensive to eat healthy food is frustrating to me, because I think a lot of people hear that and think that they’ll never be able to change their diets. Healthy food isn’t expensive, convenience foods are expensive!
You don’t need to buy all-organic or prepare complicated meals in order to eat healthfully, you just need to commit to preparing whole foods from scratch as often as possible.
Learn how to make simple steamed, roasted or sauteed veggies, develop the habit of snacking on raw fruit and vegetables, learn basic cooking methods for lean proteins and whole grains and keep your pantry stocked with tasty seasonings.
Even more importantly, buy local and in season whenever possible and you will get the best deals. Don’t worry about buying or eating what’s trendy. Eat the fresh, whole foods you can afford. Even if that means that you eat the same three veggies and two fruits for a week, you will save money and your body will love you.
Photo by Sarah Dubler on Unsplash