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Home > I Can't Afford to Be Skinny

I Can't Afford to Be Skinny

December 13th, 2007 at 10:41 am

Why is it that food that isn't bad for you always much more expensive than food that is? It makes losing weight somewhat more expensive than being fat and dying from some heart disease.

Maybe it's just basic economics. I'm sure the demand for a McDonald's double cheeseburger is much higher than a head of broccoli, therefore driving up competition and is why I can't get broccoli for $1. I'm not even going to add in costs for cooking and such. Asparagus is even worse - and I like asparagus. It's almost become a treat for me to eat vegetables.

Working off this realization, I began to wonder...when vegetables become a "treat" and I have no qualms paying $1 for a cheeseburger or 2 pieces of fried chicken, it almost seems that the two most sought after goals on these blogs - saving money and losing weight - have become enemies to one another.

Ramen noodles, widely regarded as perhaps the cheapest "meal" (at $0.10) out there, may also be one of the most unhealthiest. However, if you wanted a pomegranate, full of antioxidants and other healthy stuff that I know nothing about, it'll run you $3. It's somewhat of a stretch, but in this example, it seems like eating healthy costs 30x more than not. Not a great example, but I guess it's just something to get the point across.

To me, it seems not impossible but rather difficult to maintain a balance of healthy diet and frugality. So this goes out to all the readers: what do you do to keep costs low and food healthy?

20 Responses to “I Can't Afford to Be Skinny”

  1. kimiko Says:

    Not all veggie are that expensive, just buy some other alternatives or visit Asian grocery stores. My rule is that my food should be very, very colorful, regardless of the type of veggie. That alone is enough to cover most the nutritional requirement. A cup of green tea a day is all I needed for antioxidants.

    It helps to have rice as the main staple too Smile

  2. Broken Arrow Says:

    I'm not expert in this field (and many on here are), but yeah, the bottom line is that it does indeed cost more to eat healthier.

    From my perspective though, it's an investment on your long-term health, and as such, it could actually cost you less in the end. You may end up having to go to the doctor and the hospital less often, and take less medications.

    For me anyway, it turned out to be a saving! That is, trying to cook at home is cheaper when compared to eating out. But maybe that's just me.

  3. clubneary Says:

    Isn't that the truth!
    For my family I try to cook at home as much as possible since foods you prepare yourself are typically healtier than fast food. Eating in moderation is key too. Keeps money in your pocket and inches off your waist if you don't eat alot. Also load up on water and high fiber foods so you feel fuller longer.
    I am guilty of grabbing stuff on the go because it is convenient. Not doing this will be one of my goals for the new year.

  4. fern Says:

    Well, one thing i do is never buy fruits our veggies out of season, when they're the most expensive. Buying produce in season, i find the prices much more reasonable.

    I also religiously shop the sale items each week. If you shop at Stop & Shop, for example, you can sign up online to receive their weekly online salese circular, so you can plan what sale items you'll be getting in advance. I'm guessing all the other major supermarkets have similar programs.

  5. Carolina Bound Says:

    I agree, it's very hard to save money and lose weight at the same time. It's a battle I've fought all my life.

  6. disneysteve Says:

    I agree with the others. It can be more costly to buy the healthy stuff, but you need to look at the big picture. If eating those $1.00 cheeseburgers means you will be spending $100/month for your cholesterol-lowering drug, have you really saved any money.

    And fern is absolutely right. Even today with our global economy, fruits and veggies still have a natural season. Certain times of year, grapes are about $1.00/lb around here. The other day, at the same store, they were $4.00/lb. Guess what. We didn't buy any grapes. However, Clementine oranges from Spain are now in season. These can be $6.99/case out of season, but I got a case on sale the other day for $2.98.

    The Asian markets are worth checking out, but you really need to know your prices. Sometimes, their produce prices are fantastic. Othertimes, they are more costly than the regular stores. Places like Produce Junction are also good, but we find their quality usually sub-par. That can be fine for veggies that we'll be chopping up and cooking, like to make soup, but not so good for dishes where appearance is more of an issue.

    Finally, you should keep in mind that the healthy stuff is more filling. Eat that $1.00 cheeseburger and you'll be hungry in an hour. Eat a dish of grilled veggies over brown rice and you'll be stuffed for the night.

  7. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Maybe there are less expensive places to buy your produce. Yesterday we paid $0.32/lb for carrots, and $1/lb for zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash. There were other vegs at same price, but I could not buy so much all at once.

  8. monkeymama Says:

    I think it depends. We're not really into the organic hype. We home cook almost all our meals (in bulk for a family of 4). We used to spend much more on food, but when we went down to one income we committed to home cooking. When you don't buy the junk food, don't eat out, and home cook, it can really be a considerable savings. We eat just fine. Lots of fruits and veggies. (in season, farmers' market, grow your own). Though we live in a HCOLA in general I do wonder if our grocery costs are lower because we are surrounded by so much farmland. Could be. We do eat plenty of red meat and all that. Just everything in moderation. Not like the token "healthy diet" but we have lost weight since shifting to cooking at home.

    I do the $1 fast food meals, but those don't have to be bad for you. I get a taco at Taco Bell and bring a salad from home, or carrots or yogurt. Water is a lot cheaper than soda too. Wink

  9. scfr Says:

    Due to the increased prices of produce, we've been buying more frozen veggies lately (and less fresh). Frozen veggies are picked and processed very quickly, and at the peak of the harvest, so they can taste quite good and retain much of the nutrients, and there is none of the waste that you sometimes have with fresh. Also, you can buy them when they are on sale and hold them in the freezer; with fresh, you have to eat it up right away. It is true that fresh might taste a bit better or be a bit more nutritious than frozen, but veggies anyway you take them are still better than ordering off of the fast-food $1 menu.

  10. baselle Says:

    Several tricks that others have already discussed.

    Price book, price book, price book.

    Buy produce in season. By definition, it should be the cheapest.

    Check out the loss leaders from grocery store flyers. You probably won't get that great a deal this time of year, but it doesn't hurt to get into the habit.

    Buy frozen, but compare to fresh. For example, I stocked up on 16 oz bags of green beans at .99/ bag, which works out to .99/lb. Compare it to about 2$/lbs for fresh green beans (Seattle prices). And weirdly enough, sometimes even canned items would work also. For example, there's more lycopene (an antioxidant) in canned tomatoes than fresh.

    Watch where you shop. I've found that the best produce deals can be gotten at little produce stands and ethnic stores. Even ethnic grocery stores can be better than the regular chains. You will have to learn to pick produce though - don't just grab off the top!

    Be willing to eat weird - asian squash, yuca, opo. The huh? factor often knocks a lot of the price. Check online for recipes.

    When you buy, eat it all and use it up. If you have to toss, you've wasted money.

  11. reginaastralis Says:

    Being that it's just my daughter and I ... I have learned the hard way to buy most of my veggies frozen. If I buy a lot of things when they are in season, I spend a day par boiling and freezing them as well. This has saved me a TON of money.

    This coming year, I am going to get religious about my price book. I hate going to a store and wondering if it's cheaper somewhere else. I also don't understand buying say, bananas at the grocery store for 2lbs $1 when I can buy them at the fruit stand for 6lbs for $1. We have a lot of local fruit stands that aren't labled organic b/c of the strict codes they would have to pass, but I have talked to the farmers myself and they don't use peticides. That's been the best money saving trick for me.

  12. george Says:

    I completely agree, frozen foods are a lifesaver. Especially when cooking for one, you don't run the risk of your vegetables going bad when you don't use all of it all at once.

    These are great ideas, everyone!

  13. luxliving Says:

    I agree w/a lot of what's been said here, I came to the same conclusion a few years back. You got some great responses George.

    I did read somewhere that prices are often times even HIGHER in low income areas. Good grief!! Nothing like kicking the downtrodden when they're down already.

    I like the idea of the frozen veggies. Here we can often find the stir fry veggies on sale for 88 cents a bag. Cheap enough. Throw it in a skillet w/a dash of olive oil & just a few ounces of chicken or beef and add some rice and nicely done & quite filling for little dollars.

    Don't forget you can get some great nutrients from a store brand of tomato juice as well. Beans are also cheap and a good source of protein.

    Check out your local home economist at your local county extension office, call or see their websites. Good resource on how to do a lot with a little.

  14. luxliving Says:

  15. luxliving Says:

    Hey George, sorry about the double post above.

    You might want to explore cheap veggie meals here:

  16. ceejay74 Says:

    I'm not sure if I agree...Sure one fast-food sandwich or 2 pieces of chicken are cheaper than the ingredients for a healthy meal, but does anyone at a fast-food restaurant stop there? I eat fast food very occasionally, and I've never seen anyone do that...usually they at least get the value meal, which could be anywhere from $3 to $6.

    So if you think of it that way, and you buy broccoli which you pair with some whole wheat pasta and garlic and olive oil, that whole meal would cost you about $5--and you might have leftovers! $2.50 a piece then. Or buy dried beans and pair with brown rice or quinoa from the bulk section, some cheap veg like carrots, onions and canned tomatoes and some spices--that's good eatin' that may cost a bit but will make like 10 lunches, which you can freeze so you don't have to eat them all in a row.

    Those are just a couple examples, but I will say that my family of three eats quite healthy on a budget of $900 per month--that's just over $3 per person per meal. It's actually less because we lump all household purchases together--so that $900 also includes cleaning supplies, paper products (recycled--the expensive kind), the occasional bottle of wine, etc. Overall we're at less than $3 per person per meal. The key is to be organized: plan your menu, cook every meal at home, and cook extra and freeze your leftovers.

    Just some ideas! Good luck,

  17. mbkonef Says:

    You should definitely check into options for cheaper produce. Most areas have some sort of farmers market, produce outlet, flea market with produce vendors etc. Prices can be significantly cheaper. I can buy 2 heads of romaine lettuce at my local produce outlet for $1.50 to $2.00 depending on the week. The same at my local grocery store is usually $1.99 lb which would cost me $4 - $5 for the same two heads. Multiply this by several different types of produce and the savings can really add up over the course of a year.

  18. Mulyanto Says:

    The belief that healthy food costs more is generally a myth. The problems is also that often "Organic" is confused with "Healthy". They are not related. "Organic" is usually more expensive, but it does not imply "healthy". Also, "Low Fat", "Low Sugar" etc. do not imply healthy.

    But in general it's not only what you eat, but how much you eat. Fat is not necessarily bad, but too much is. The same is true for a lot of things. A common wisdom says: eat with variety and in moderation.

  19. terri77 Says:

    It is more expensive to eat healthy than not, but there are ways to make eating less expensive. As already mentioned, buy in season. Chicken is pretty expensive. You can remove the skin yourself. Ground turkey has less fat than beef and is also less expensive. Buy your produce at the produce market rather than the grocery store. Grow vegetables and fruit yourself.

  20. zetta Says:

    I haven't seen a detailed analysis that proves this, but my impression is that there is a direct link between the farm subsidies to big agriculture and cheap junk food. Government aid is targeted toward wheat, corn, and soybeans more than toward fresh fruit and vegetables. Corn is often processed into high fructose corn syrup, which seems to be a large ingredient in most processed food. As a result, soda is cheaper than fruit juice, and crackers are cheaper than veggies.

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