Fast-food Cheaper Than Healthy Food? Hogwash
Natural Mom Holly Wall compares processes, pre-packaged and fast-food to nutritious fresh food.
I‘m often irritated by the assertion that eating healthy is cost-prohibitive. I responded to a comment on a friend’s Facebook status update recently where someone insinuated that the rampant obesity epidemic is a result of the rising cost of produce.
To that, I say: “Harumph.” (Actually, I was more eloquent on Facebook, but this word better communicates my true feelings on the subject.)
Yes, it’s true that the price of a cheeseburger at McDonald’s equals that of a single zucchini squash. And that for what you’d pay for an avocado you could just as easily buy a taco at Taco Bell.
But, if you look at the bigger picture – what it costs to feed an entire family healthy food versus the cost of feeding them crap – I think you’ll find packaged, processed foods are just as expensive as the healthy stuff. Personally, I find that I spend the same amount on groceries when I buy packaged, processed foods as I do when I buy fresh produce and meats (organics not included). So I choose to buy the latter.
Food prices are on the upswing all over the world, the U.S. included. And that means everything’s more expensive, not just veggies, milk and eggs. Food manufacturers pass on whatever costs they incur to consumers, so if they’re paying more for the electricity that keeps their lights on or the gas that gets their food trucks from one station to another, then we’ll be paying more for the groceries we buy.
And some of the most lethal foodstuffs are the most expensive. Chips, for example, cost at least $3 a bag. That price is usually closer to $4, and you’ll be lucky to find them on sale for $2.50. A 1-pound bag of carrots costs 89 cents. Two pounds are $1.79. If you’re hellbent on buying chips, you can get some veggie crisps for the same price as a bag of greasy Lays. At Whole Foods, you can find a variety of veggie, rice, soy and even lentil (those are our favorite) for less than a conventional bag of chips.
Pop runs $1.69 for a 2-liter bottle ($1 if it’s on sale), $4.49 for 12 cans or $6.99 for 20. Guess what? Water is free.
Cereal costs at least $3 or $4 a box and it’s loaded with sugar. You can feed your kids eggs and toast for a week for as much as that costs. Or buy granola or plain oatmeal (not the sugary, instant stuff) for the same price.
A Stouffers frozen lasagna that claims to feed 11 costs $12.99. Let’s be serious. Four people could eat that and feel full afterward, and if you adjust the nutrition information accordingly, that amounts to 715 calories, 22 grams of fat 1,870 mg of sodium per person.
For $13, you can buy everything you need to make a homemade veggie lasagna with half the fat and calories, a fraction of the sodium, and enough food for next-day leftovers.
Let’s say you have a family of four. If you take them to a fast-food joint you’re probably going to spend $6 each on value meals for the adults and $4 for the kids. That’s $20 for one meal. If you were to take that cash to the grocery store, you could just as easily fill up on fresh, healthy food.
But, if you try to do both – buy the healthy food and buy the crap – then, yeah, you’re going to spend $300 every time you go to the grocery store.
I think, by and large, the obesity issue is a result of Americans’ preference for the taste of fat (it’s ingrained in us at childhood) and our laziness. It’s much easier to open a box or a can than it is to peel, cut and prepare fresh vegetables. But the latter is so much more rewarding. It takes work to change your eating habits, but it doesn’t take a ton of cash.