There are some views held by well-meaning reporters and food bloggers that are so specious that it makes me want to hammer a nine-inch nail into my head.
The worst of these shibboleths is that it's too expensive to eat healthy food.
I've seen studies that attempt to prove Doritos cost less than lettuce by measuring foods on a cost-per-calorie basis (by this logic, tap water and zero-calorie diet soda have a cost of infinity). I've seen people compare the high cost of out-of-season organic produce with the low cost of dollar meals at McDonald's and consider it proof that healthy food always costs more than junk food. I've seen professional journalists make profoundly ignorant statements like "The solution that people live on lentils which are healthful and affordable is just ridiculous to me. Nobody wants to live like that."
That last statement is so negative, and so deeply arrogant, that I don't even know where to begin.
Look, if you want to eat both cheaply and healthily, you can't suffer from intellectual arrogance. You can't be close-minded. And you can't be in the profoundly negative habit of making blanket statements like "healthy food is too expensive." It is simply pointless to have a defeatist, all-or-nothing mindset like this.
Of course there are instances where unhealthy foods are cheaper than healthy foods. A simple example: 80/20 ground beef is 30-50c cheaper per pound than 90/10 ground beef, isn't it? And yet 80/20 beef has double the fat content of 90/10 beef. Therefore, 90/10 is "healthier" and--no coincidence--it costs more.
If you really think this is evidence that healthy food costs more than unhealthy food, then you haven't opened your mind enough to consider all your options. Why not entertain a creative and more open-minded third solution? Eat half your normal serving of meat (you can use either type of beef and the cost will be, well, half), and then make up the difference with a side dish of inexpensive greens sauteed with a few cloves of garlic. That solution is tastier, costs the least, and yet it's by far the healthiest of all.
Long time readers of Casual Kitchen know how to think about stacked costs and second order foods. They know that, all else equal, if a food has been processed, transported, advertised, or packaged, it will contain extra costs which are almost always borne by the consumer.
This is why if you want to save money and eat healthy, you'll want to focus your diet on whole, unprocessed foods, bulk grains and legumes, and simple, in-season and reasonably priced produce. You'll want to avoid buying branded foods, especially heavily-advertised branded foods, because those advertising costs are passed on to you in the form of higher prices. You'll want to avoid being the type of consumer who thinks food can't be truly "healthy" unless it has a magic organic sticker on it. And you'll want to read food blogs like this one offering a steady diet of laughably cheap, delicious and easy-to-make recipes. [See Casual Kitchen's 25 best "Laughably Cheap" recipes.]
And there will always be pricing idiosyncrasies in your grocery store. There are regular times each year when some healthy fruits and veggies go out of season and their prices skyrocket (and, thank heavens, every so often Doritos go on sale too). But, remember, pricing idiosyncrasies are opportunities, and you can take advantage of them if you stay open-minded and flexible. Don't go into a grocery store demanding grapefruit in October and blueberries in January. But when you see grapefruit at half the normal price in February and local blueberries on sale in July, stock up!
Casual Kitchen was founded on the idea that healthy food can be fun, easy to prepare and inexpensive. In fact, there are lots of foods and recipes out there that are be so inexpensive that it simply makes you laugh out loud--which is why I created the tag "laughably cheap" to categorize all of the best low-cost recipes here.
And no one says you have to live on lentils. That's just ridiculous to me. Nobody wants to live like that.
Guess What? We Spend Less Than Ever on Food
If It's So Cheap to Cook at Home, Then Why is My Grocery Bill So Huge?
The Casual Kitchen Food Spending Poll: Results and Conclusions
Make Your Diet Into a Flexible Tool
When High-Fat Food ... Can Actually Be Healthy For You
The Pros and Cons of a High-Carb/Low-Fat Diet
Does Healthy Eating Really Cost Too Much? A Blogger Roundtable Discussion
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