This is a guest post written by Laura Dubroca of Fast French Food.
We are always surrounded by junk food. Not only is it readily available to grab everywhere we go, but it’s also incredibly cheap.
It may be hard to visualize how expensive an unhealthy lifestyle is in the long-term (hello, medical bills), but it’s important to consider when making daily food purchases. It may seem more economical to snack on an over-processed granola bar with very little nutrition and 30 grams of sugar, but paying a little more for organic vegetables and hummus is a much better choice.
Is it really all that expensive to eat healthy foods?
EATING HEALTHY WHEN DINING OUT
There is a common misconception that choosing the healthy option at a restaurant is synonymous with spending more money. Recently, I dined at a standard American restaurant. The menu included choices such as burgers, french fries, pizza, salads, etc. I noticed that I would have had to pay $2 extra to substitute a side salad in place of fries, and I was shocked!
No wonder we are lead to believe that health is expensive. We’re hardly encouraged to choose the more nutritious option.
Restaurants are businesses. Therefore, they need to make a certain percentage of money off each plate of food they sell. Often this means a compromise in quality (usually not organic), and an increase of quantity to make it seem like you’re still getting ‘your money’s worth. Both of these circumstances work against us, as we are spending more money on lower quality of food than we would be cooking at home, and eating a lot more of it.
Dining out can be both enjoyable and economical as long as it’s done mindfully. Consider choosing to eat at restaurants that change their menu with seasonal produce, and curate what they serve to be of the highest quality. Yes, it may be more expensive than another restaurant, but consider it a treat! I cook most of my healthy meals at home to save money, and at the same time choose the quality and quantity of each ingredient.
EATING AT HOME ON A BUDGET
Planning ahead is the best way to not only eat health at home but to do so on a budget. Meal planning is directly correlated to budgeting, as it helps you purchase only what you need for your meals throughout the week.
Often when we decide to just ‘wing it’ we end up buying too much food (that ends up going bad), or we run out of options and end up ordering take-out as a last resort.
How to grocery shop without overspending:
- Know your recipes. Understand which recipes you’re making ahead of time, and use them to make your shopping list. Group each ingredient for each section of the store (produce at the top, then meats, dairy, etc.)
- Stick to your list! Always, always stick to your list, and cross off each item after you have it in your cart. Impulse purchases add up very quickly. If you grab just another block of cheese ($3), sandwich meat ($5), an orange juice ($1), and a pack of gum ($1) – that’s $10 extra that you didn’t plan on spending.
- Never grocery shop on an empty stomach. Always have something to eat, even just a small snack, before you get to the store. If you’re hungry, you’re more likely to grab additional items. This will really help you stick to your list.
- Remember: packaged foods cost more. Basically, anything that can go bad will generally be less expensive. Keep your attention to the outer aisles of the store (rather than the middle aisles) for fresh foods, and remember that just because it may take a little more work to prepare, your body will be thankful for the nutrition!
- If possible, leave the kids at home. I learned this one the hard way! If it is possible, plan your shopping trips without the kids to avoid any begging for extra treats outside of your list. This will also help your experience to be much less stressful.
You may need to grocery shop a little more often to purchase fresh ingredients at the store, but you’ll buy smaller amounts and eat more nutritious meals. Food that can sit on your shelf for a long time lacks essential vitamins and nutrients and contains a lot of preservatives. The closer you can cook meals from scratch, the better – for both your health and your wallet.
COOKING AND SHOPPING ORGANIC: A PERSONAL EXPERIMENT
Just the other night, I decided to buy groceries and cook dinner for two. One of my favorite meal creations on Fast French Food (that takes just 30 minutes) is Poached Cod Fish with Leeks. I only use fresh, organic ingredients, and this was the total breakdown in cost:
- 2 codfish fillets (1 lb): $6.49
- 1 organic lemon: $1.69
- 2 large organic leeks: $4.99
- Organic fresh herbs: $1.99
Total = $15.16 ($7.58 per person)
Considering that at a restaurant this meal wouldn’t be organic and cost around double (not including tip), that’s a pretty reasonable price for a healthy meal!
A combo meal with a burger, fries, and a sugary soda would cost around $4-5 per person, but just an extra couple of dollars would provide a nutritious meal that would keep you full for much longer.
Being aware of these types of choices will make a big difference in weight, long-term health, and disease prevention. Deciding only to purchase organic foods can cost a little more, yes. But I choose to buy organic for the sake of my health – and that’s priceless!
This article goes into detail about a family who switched to organic foods for just two weeks. The results are shocking and continue to solidify my belief that the price of organic is worth it.
When in doubt, consult this list on the Clean Thirteen and Dirty Dozen regarding pesticides in produce and make an educated decision that works within your budget.
The Bottom Line
Yes, eating healthy can cost slightly more in the short-term. However, it’s important to remember a few key points:
- When we choose organic, healthy foods, we’re voting with our dollars.
Because of the current health-conscious culture shift, many companies have begun to change their ways by offering new and improved alternatives to avoid losing business. Your choices matter, and every dollar you spend counts in making the future better – and healthy foods cheaper.
- Cooking at home is always less expensive.
You can choose the highest quality ingredients, and your meals will still cost less than junk food ordered at a restaurant.
- Consider it an investment in you (and your children’s) future.
A few extra dollars each week will pave the way for healthy eating habits in the long-term. This means less likelihood of debilitating preventable illnesses and disease, and the ability to live life fully.
Ultimately, you make a choice about what you put at the end of your fork. So shop smart, and take your power (and health) back!
Laura Dubroca, a certified transformational nutrition coach and a French woman living in the US, is passionate about transforming people’s bodies from the inside out. Inspired by her own struggle with diet after the birth of her first son, she found meal planning as a way to change her eating habits and reach her own health goals. She now applies her education in nutrition to create French-inspired meal plans that are as delicious as they are healthy. Fast French Food is her meal planning service to help others feel their absolute best, and truly enjoy healthy eating!