Thursday, September 10, 2009

How Do You Eat Healthy For Cheap?

Yesterday, Jason sent me a link to a blog post with the subject line: "this is amazing". The blog is one of his favorite economic bloggers and he happened to be talking about a woman who spends less than $10 a week to feed her family of 6. The section about the "Queen of Coupons" includes some of the receipts and a picture of all of the food she bought.

Only, here's the thing. It's all crap. Well, except for the milk. I don't think she had a coupon for the milk, though.

Here's what I wrote back to Jason:

"What would really impress me is someone who feeds her family for super-cheap without having to buy only processed food. There are never coupons for fresh produce or meat, and very rarely for beans. If you look at those receipts they include fruit juices (which are less healthy than fresh fruit because you get all the sugar with none of the fiber), sugary cereals, sugary jelly, salad dressing, noodles, peanut butter that includes sugar and preservatives, Aunt Jemima ready-made pancakes, etc.

This is why it's hard to eat healthy when you don't have any money."

I had the same reaction when I went to a local store that several people I know had praised to the skies for their cheap prices. I will grant that they have a fair produce section (no organics, of course) and great cheese and meat choices if you want to cook Latin American or Portuguese cuisine. However, most everything else was the boxed processed stuff you find in the middle aisles of your average grocery store. They did have one Kashi cereal and some plain shredded wheat, but all the other stuff was the opposite of healthy. But it was SOOOO cheap. So there were all these moms with their kids hanging off the carts, piling the carts full of processed, sugary crap because that's what they could afford to feed their families.

I'm sure they like the processed food. Heck, I like processed food. However, overall I like it less now that I know how bad it is for me. I have these discussions with my friend Rachel about where the problem lies in all of this. Farm subsidies. Lack of education. Powerful, powerful food lobbies. There are so many pieces at play, but it all adds up to, it's hard to eat healthy on a budget.


Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

I agree with you. Eating healthy on a budget is hard. I saw a T.V. segment about eating on a budget the other day where they had "two experts" shop for $25, and I thought the same thing. Almost everything in the cart is crap!

I make a very conscious decision to buy the best quality food that I can. I buy mostly organic fruits and veggies and only organic, hormone free beef and chicken. All the produce I buy is in season, and I take advantage of specials (showing up to the Farmers' Market late for example to take advantage of seriously reduced prices).

As far as meat & chicken go, I spend about the same I used to spend when I bought "conventional" beef & chicken, but I buy a lot less. For me, this is totally worth it. To "bulk up" our meals I make a big salad with dark leafy veggies, and that's what we eat before every dinner.

We also hardly ever eat out and never eat fast food anymore. All the fast food we used to eat really added up... Sure, we may have spent less at the grocery store, but overall, we still spent quite a bit on food. I also never buy coffee, etc.

I sometimes feel bad about how much I spend on groceries (especially when I read how little others spend!), but it's really important to me to do what's right for my family's health and the environment. And I'm willing to let go of other things such as meals out, cable t.v., clothes, etc.

Hallie said...

This is where I click the Like button on Facebook. Everything you say is a major issue for me.

Bobbie's Babbles said...

My husband and I always talk about how hard it is to be poor and eat healthy when fruit and veggies cost so g-d much. It's not fair.