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Is it Really More Expensive to Eat Healthy?

May 10, 2012

I have been told by one woman I know that I am presenting information in a way that makes people uncomfortable; that I think their choice to eat junky food is stupid. GOOD!

Even before I understood recently how much local food is available, I still was trying to avoid packaged foods with lots of chemicals. But in the interest of showing her and others like her that my opinion is not the only one out there, I will be posting some reblogged posts. The world of healthy eating is being espoused by many many people! What you eat is YOUR choice…and it WILL affect your health, if not today, then down the road. And if not for you, how about your children? And if those questions make you uncomfortable, shutting your ears to this information will not change the fact of it. Do what YOU can to feel better about what you eat!


Is it Really More Expensive to Eat Healthy?


How often have you heard people say they choose fast food because it is less expensive than healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables? While it sounds as if that could be the case, how much data is there to support that claim? The answer – not much!

A 2011 study by the USDA Economic Research Service estimated the costs of 153 commonly eaten fruits and vegetables, including fresh, canned, and frozen. They found that average prices ranged from less than 20 cents a cup to over $2 per cup, depending on the fruit or vegetable. On average, they estimated the cost at about 50 cents per cup.

The Produce Marketing Association found very similar results in 2010 assessing the cost per serving of produce from 13,000 stores. Their data indicated that, nationally, the average retail price was just under 50 cents per cup.
An analysis in a recent New York Times article found the cost of a typical order for a family of four at one popular fast food restaurant was about $28. The order included burgers, fried chicken, French fries (not a vegetable!) and soda. Reading that had me wondering what I could buy for $28, so I decided to take on the challenge. At my local supermarket, I paid $2.59 for grapes (on sale), $2.99 for honeydew (on sale), $1.99 for fresh asparagus (on sale), $2.50 for Brussels sprouts (on sale) and $3.47 for sweet potatoes. That left nearly $15 for either fish or chicken. My meal was far healthier, more filling, had more fiber, less saturated fat and included fruit for dessert (with some left over)!
It is possible to eat healthy foods without adding on extra costs. If you are trying to cut costs, there are some practical ways to keep food costs down, including:

  • Buy produce in season as it is usually less expensive or buy items on sale, as I did.
  • Some items are consistently less expensive – such as beans or whole grains. In the USDA study, for example, pinto beans were only 13 cents per cup, and packed with nutrition and fiber.
  • Check out canned or frozen foods – they may be cheaper depending on the item.
  • Try some meatless meals – meat is more expensive than fruits and vegetables and grains.

One last thought – being unhealthy can be expensive (more medical bills, more medications, etc.). Look at healthy eating with plenty of fruits and vegetables as a good long-term strategy for saving money. That might be a provocative thought but it makes sense to me. What about you?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2012 8:10 am

    Some of my friends and family make fun of me for my penchant to use my own food. Someone even suggested I was bragging when I let folks know the ingredients in sauces, etc. came from our garden. I was astounded. I replied, “I thought you’d find it interesting to know.” A relative once exclaimed about how fresh all my meals tasted and wondered how she could bring her meals alive. Well, since you asked. . .

    • May 10, 2012 9:33 am

      We like to say the same thing when we use our very small urban garden’s offerings. And people love to eat at our house. Yes, we are good cooks but everything we make is achievable for anyone who can stir a pot.

  2. Roy Ramey permalink
    May 10, 2012 10:01 am

    The last part of this message is really down played. I am talking about the cost of health care. This is real and expensive. You have the direct cost of insurance premiums which vary but are all high. While a portion goes toward emergency and accident care, a lot goes toward health problems and disorders such as diabetes, reflux, heart disease, gastro disorders and a host of cancers. Many problems are caused by minor problems such as indigestion or bowel problems that require OTC remedies; more money most don’t account for. Then there are the medical costs that your insurance doesn’t cover. How about the lost days from work? You may have sick days but what if we didn’t get sick to need that many sick days off? What about the lost production from being away from work? Have you ever lost that important client or big sale because you or an employee wasn’t there at the right time? Maybe a job didn’t get completed on time and a customer was upset, possibly taking their business somewhere else.

    How about missed events such as weddings, graduations, vacations? What is the cost for missing you loved one’s wedding because you were ill, even if it was from bowel trouble from that fast food breakfast?

    Another cost comes from lost time as a family. My wife and daughter often work together to prepare meals. That is an opportunity for my daughter to learn about cooking just as learned from my mother. If we went out for our meals, she would not develop that skill as well as loose out on that bonding time with her mother.

    There is also an industrial and environmental cost as well. The environment is assaulted by the commercial farming practices such as from chemical use and tillage practice. The industrial footprint is huge and produces tons of waste; I couldn’t even cover that topic in this message.

    So you see, there are more costs than just what you pay at the counter for that burger and fries. Think about the other layers of the onion when you peel back the layers.

    • May 10, 2012 10:05 am

      It is very involved and more than most people think about. I think many people think only of the moment and want things when they want them.

  3. May 11, 2012 3:29 am

    I love organically grown fruits and vegetables but they are quite more expensive here in Holland than the usual ones. Even with meat, the organic ones tastes much better. 😉

    • May 11, 2012 6:18 am

      Generally they are more expensive here also but I am finding out that the farmers barely cover their costs. To grow produce as well as raising livestock in a way without chemicals leaves you more prone to loss, a possibly longer growing cycle and just more hands on.

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