Uninstalling Limiting Beliefs With Healthy Food

Sarah writes in (edited slightly for length):

As someone who is at this time below the poverty line AND eats healthy, I can assure you all, it is with sacrifice to the wallet. Take into account that my partner and I can't go through food as fast as a family of four could- So for example I bought bananas the other day- they were green, and today they already started to go bruised looking. Had I bought granola bars instead- I'd have a pack of them for a very long time-they won't go bad. Each town and city is different with costs and each family thinks about more then the initial cost.

You can eat healthy! But it does cost.

First, Sarah, let me encourage you to keep reading Casual Kitchen. You'll find a ton of resources here to help disabuse you of the belief that healthy food has to be expensive.

And let me say it one more time: Just because there are instances where healthy food costs more doesn't mean all healthy food costs more. This is a costly logic error, and it needlessly separates people from their money.

Consider the comparison of bananas to granola bars. Is that really proof that healthy food is expensive? Or is it merely proof that processed granola bars are expensive--and therefore not worth your hard-earned money? (PS: Here's a healthy alternative to store-bought processed granola bars.)

Beliefs are funny things. We tend to "find" evidence that supports the beliefs we hold--and we tend not to find evidence that doesn't. Thus if you believe healthy food must be more expensive, and you don't have the instinct to look for evidence contradicting that belief, well, you've already put yourself behind the economic eightball.

Thus "healthy food will cost you" is a textbook example of a limiting belief. And this particular limiting belief causes consumers to overpay for foods they think are healthier. Even worse, it enables skillful food marketers to persuade consumers that high prices equals high health value. I feel good about myself paying double for organic onions.

By far the worst part, however, is how it causes consumers to throw up their hands and give away their power. Yep, I tried eating healthy and it just cost too much. Big Food's got me stuck eating processed junk.

Here's another option: Consider "uninstalling" this limiting belief. Or actively seek out evidence contradicting it. Not only will you find plenty of examples, you'll save plenty of dough too.

Better still: spend a half hour perusing the tag Laughably Cheap here at Casual Kitchen, and start cooking your way through CK's 25 Best Laughably Cheap Recipes. You'll find a mountain of evidence that healthy food won't cost you.

Readers, what would you suggest to help out Sarah?

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Anonymous said...

Beans, lentils, rice, and carrots are inexpensive and filling options.

chacha1 said...

First and foremost, if food waste is a perceived reason that healthier foods cost more, don't buy so much at once. If Persons A & B can only go through four bananas in a week, only buy four bananas.

Also, yellow (even yellow with brown spots) does not equal spoiled or bad. A fully-brown banana is still perfectly palatable when converted to banana bread or smoothies. Bananas were a weak example for this plaint.

Eating healthy is like anything else - a tradeoff of time & money. Pay less by giving up some time for food preparation or more-frequent shopping.

I don't think anyone has yet established an algorithm by which you reliably get healthy, fast AND cheap.

Anonymous said...

It's tough to change preconceptions. Especially when money is involved. MIL is convinced everything is always cheaper at Costco. Not really, but there are some great deals, and sometimes I will pay for convince. Love the new organic washed bagged baby kales!

Anyways. . . I think Kris over at Cheap Healthy Good (missing her blog now!) summed it up best with the triangle. You can have 2 out of three, from choices fast, healthy, cheap and still have it taste good. YOu have to pick which 2 matter the most.

Daniel said...

I actually think the "fast, healthy, cheap: choose two" heuristic is just another form of limiting belief. And it's a logic error to assume that just because it's sometimes true that it's therefore *always* true.

A quick read of my 25 Best Laughably Cheap Recipes at Casual Kitchen post can give you, well, 25 contra-examples.


Joanne said...

Um okay, first of all. bananas? If I can get them here in NYC for 25 cents a banana, then I'm pretty sure the same is true for anywhere else in the country...meaning that they are FAR less expensive than granola bars.

I really think that as long as you buy vegetables in season, they really are nowhere near as expensive as processed foods. Cabbage, beans, lentils, winter squash, potatoes all give you a ton of bang for your buck!

Jenna said...

First big suggestion I would make would involve a total retuning of how food itself is viewed. Anything above and beyond the fuel needed to keep yourself moving and healthy goes straight into "Hobby" food. It's not a right, it's not something you are owed, it isn't something someone is 'denying' you. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, I putter in the kitchen, I'm even a big enough food dork that my husband and I plan weekend around farmer's markets and oddball specialty stores to check out. But, well. It's a hobby we both feel passionate about. But just like I won't buy yarn or books or movie tickets when the budget is stressed... the 'extras' in a persons diet - from storebought snackbars, to processed lunchmeats, and sodas - those are hobby foods. Heck, juice, spices, and MEAT itself go into a "after the building blocks are there, and only if there is the budget for it" category! To survive and be healthy you need protein & carbs (beans & rice have kept billions alive and strong) some fresh fruit & veg (mixed bags of apples, some broccoli from the quicksale bin, and maybe the salad greens you grow on your stoop) and some fats. That's it. Granola bars aren't on the list. If bananas cost more than the apples? Then bananas aren't on the list. You start with the absolute musts and, as you can, you can track down hobby foods that will allow you to enjoy your meals all the more.

I can't help but think a lot of the problems people have with wrestling with the food budget comes down to the unshakable belief that they somehow 'deserve' to be able to eat whatever they want, whenever they want it, however they want it. You buy what you personally can afford that will fuel the machine - the spiffs come as they can be afforded. But you aren't getting any prizes for being a martyr. If THAT mindset can be changed, the world opens up.

Carol Cripps said...

I don't particularly like bananas, but will eat them from time two time. When they get a little too brown for my taste, I quarter them and freeze them. Then when I want a smoothie, I have pieces of frozen banana to add flavour, texture and nutrients. Nothing is wasted. Or I let the bananas go a little browner, and make banana bread or muffins, good breakfast foods both. I, too, live well below the poverty line, on a disability pension, but eat well. Not steak, by any means, but fruit marked down for quick sale goes into my buggy, as does meat discounted for quick sale, so long as I can use it that night, or there's room for it in the freezer. When I get meat home, whether discounted or not, it gets portioned, wrapped and frozen. And those portions are smaller than many people would consider a "serving" Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (when affordable) are cut in half again, before freezing. One portion is one meal. The so-so produce: "sad" celery, carrots or peppers get diced and frozen on cookie sheets before being tossed into a freezer bags for cooking. That makes meal prep so much easier in the end, too - I just take out what I need, and it's already done. Anything good enough gets eaten fresh. Doubtful fruit gets cut up and frozen for desserts or breakfast - oatmeal muffin with peaches are particularly nice, but apples or bananas work, too. Oh, that's something else to do with those "bruised looking" bananas!

Sherri said...

"Healthy food" might benefit from a bit of definition, which will help with carrying out that uninstalling process. Healthy doesn't necessarily mean high-priced organic, and it seldom means food industry selections that are labeled "heart smart", "low fat", "low sodium", "fat free", "super food", and a number of other catchy phrases designed to pull the wool over your eyes in order to make a sale.

Healthy food is food that is free of chemical additives, minimally processed, fresh or frozen as opposed to canned, and compatible with your unique bodily requirements.

This is a wonderful post, questioning not only whether healthy foods really are too expensive, but also inviting us to take a hard look at what we understand "healthy" to be.

edj3 said...

Here's another thought (not original to me at all)--another limiting belief is the one that says I eat this food regularly. Why do you eat it? Because you like it or because that's what you've always done?

Using the banana example (which I know I'm alone in this but I hate em), if they are on sale and if I know I can use them before they go bad then sure, I might stock up or use one of the suggestions here for freezing the nasty things. But to keep my food costs in line, I'd rather find the produce I do like and that's on sale and get that--in the quantities that make sense for me and my husband.

For us, that's usually apples. We both like them, they last for ages in the fridge and I can almost always find an acceptable kind on sale. When it's strawberry season, we gorge (literally) on those. They don't have the longevity of apples but that's OK, I know it going in and plan accordingly. Another option for me is grapefruit--husband doesn't like them but I do and again they last a long, long time.

So maybe the rut is in how the reader approaches what she buys and why?