Myth: Healthy food is too expensive

By bettymachete Latest Reply 2012-03-30 15:38:18 -0500
Started 2010-08-27 09:15:16 -0500

I watched a lady with 3 little ones, at the grocery store, she filled her basket with ramen cases, mac&cheese, dogs. The kids asked for broccoli and she told them "no, we can't afford it". It made me feel so bad for her and those kids. I know it's tough out there, but people believe they can't afford healthy, tasty food with little money when in reality, you can. I believe this is part of the reason we are going to see more and more diabetics in the U.S. When we crush this myth that heavily processed foods are actually more expensive, maybe we can get a foot hold on this growing problem. Clearly there's much more to healthy eating than being disciplined about what goes in your mouth. You also have to learn to plan, budget and shop smart too. Then there's healthy cooking skills and maybe even gardening skills to be practised. But… how do we start educating others? How do we combat the problem with things like Dollar Menunaires and articles like this I feel so small …

26 replies

GabbyPA 2010-11-27 18:45:58 -0600 Report

Eating healthy has more benefits in the long term as well, and that must be considered. I know when money gets extra tight, I tend to want to fill the cart with convenient cheap foods. It is that way on purpose. There are tons of companies making millions of dollars while killing us slowly with the crummy foods they make for us. The more we talk with our dollars, the more they will listen. I have been finding many brands of foods showing up with organic options now and I am thrilled. The prices are not as bad as they used to be and I know that shopping just the perimeter of the store has helped me a LOT. It keeps junk out of my cart and money in my pocket.

Our view of food has been skewed. We are trained to live to eat and subsidies on so much of our foods is what makes them "appear" cheap. We are not given the right perspective in that healthy foods are affordable because they actually feed our bodies while the processed foods just fill our stomachs with a lot of empty calories and food additives that are engineered. We have to see things differently, and then the choice is very clear.

cnc99 2010-11-27 15:16:30 -0600 Report

I have to also disagree, as a person trying to live off of unemployment and care for two others I know this feeling. I long to eat right and wish I could but the fact of the matter is what we can afford are those fatty nasty foods that are cheap like hot dogs and bologna. I budget very well and I still am unable to purchase healthy foods that will last us through the month.

Armourer 2010-08-31 00:26:37 -0500 Report

I totally disagree, it takes money to eat right, period! Diabetic foods made for us cost more then other food. Junk food can be bought in bulk at less then good food. For me the market always has low-fat cottage cheese out of date or near out of date. The Quinoa I eat now to survive I've been able to find in bulk at one bulk store for ten bucks for 4 lbs (last two weeks), same stuff at market is 5 bucks for 2 cups. I get $40 a month for my budget of food. The other four in the family get $75 each. My kids still gripe cause there's nothing to eat. Well there is, just have to cook it, if it can't be microwaved in two minutes, they don't want to eat it. And they won't accept my warnings that if they don't changed they will be like me. But then I don't blame them for not wanting to eat trees (broccoli) and bushes (cauliflower), I won't eat them either! Yes one should eat right, but poor folks can't afford it. Eat right with half empty belly, or eat junk and feel full? Sadly, most will choose the latter.

BIRDY 2010-11-27 17:31:59 -0600 Report

Armourer , you can make your cottage cheese at home , it's fresh and home-made.
I heat 1 liter milk ( 33 ounces) until 80 degree celcius ( F 176). Milk will not boil but you will see the strong steams from the pot.Then switch off the burner and add 5 table spoon of vinegar and stir.Let it stay until get cold.Then pour the milk onto a cheesecloth , tie it with a rope and hang somewhere to drain.Next morning your cottage cheese is ready.I also keep the green liquid which is called as Whey and use it for baking bread , cake , etc.
I use semi-skimmed milk but the cheese is still very creamy .

bettymachete 2010-08-31 01:01:07 -0500 Report

I never buy "diabetic foods", simply because they jack up the prices on stuff that really isn't all that good for you to begin with. They label it "diabetic" because they know there is a market of misinformed, or uninformed shoppers out there. Employing good shopping sense is imperative. I have a family of 6 only one of us is working right now, we have a very limited budget, I know lentils, broccoli, cabbage isn't pizza and spaghetti-O's to kids but it's a heck of a lot better for you…and cheaper. Eating to live is what we need to be teaching, not living to eat. As the parent, it is my duty to instill good eating habits by not only advice but my own action.

Armourer 2010-09-01 00:42:40 -0500 Report

Best to you having one limited income! And I salute you for doing what is right in feeding your family.

Gemm 2010-08-29 13:24:47 -0500 Report

Since my husband has finally relented and allowed me to buy and prepare the more healthy alternatives I've been bugging him about for a couple years (whole wheat breads, pastas etc and few pre-packaged items) I find we are actually spending less now than we were before. Sure, it's a bit more work for me but it really isn't that much more. I have always made jams, jellies and preserves just now they are all sugar-free. I have always done some canning and freezing of excess but now I just do a bit more, and I've always done most of my cooking from scratch so now it's just a bit more as I have almost totally cut out the pre-packaged meals. Instead I try to make sure I have a few meals in the freezer to just take out and heat up if I'm not feeling well or we've been out all day and I'm just too tired to cook. It isn't any more trouble to cook 4 or 5 servings of anything than it is to just cook 2 or 3 then freeze the extra (which I'm used to anyway so he can take better meals to work with him - they have a microwave handy) In my baking, all I've done is replaced 60 - 90% of the white flour with whole wheat flour (some things just don't come out right with all whole wheat) even to making 75% whole wheat biscuits (they are 1 that I'm still working on to make totally whole wheat - just don't quite have it right yet lol).

I guess a lot of why I don't see eating healthier as much trouble is because I was raised on a farm and learned to do all those things growing up. I know a lot of women my age who think all the canning, freezing, etc is just way beyond them. I also taught my kids to do these things (yes even the boys). I found looking back that our habit of eating non-healthy was more that - a habit from laziness really (at least for me) than anything else. We pay for convenience (those prepackaged meals) one way or another - money and/or health. I don't think it's so much our government that needs to do things as we ourselves - teach our children and maybe talk to our schools about teaching better nutrition in the health classes and home economics classes. That's where is needs to start IMHO, not with government.

Ok enough of the soapbox today lol

monkeymama 2010-08-27 22:51:43 -0500 Report

Believe me when I say, it is possible to eat healthy on a very limited income. I am testament it can be done. Before each new month, I plan out a tentative menu, I search for deals and coupons, and I shop once a week now. I can make $500.00 last a whole month for a family of 5 like mine and STILL get a control on what I am eating (and my family) and get my BG under control. I wished they would create a program for low income households and individuals to make the value of the dollar stretch and still eat in a healthy manner. With the budget, I am still buying fresh and frozen veggies (no more canned), meat alternatives, and other healthy choices; including my Luna bars. There is always hope…there just needs to be someone to make that happen…change is a possible thing if we allow it.

bettymachete 2010-08-28 12:12:05 -0500 Report

I agree with you I too wish there were educational programs open to the public that taught these things. Like you I have a large family and have to stretch things out. I'll admit, I could do better in couponing though. I really need to begin doing that again. I remember the tale of The ant and the grasshopper so I have been learning canning and jarring so I can have more control over our families food supply.

RAYT721 2010-08-27 21:02:47 -0500 Report

I don't think our grocery bill is that much higher since my wife and I are watching what we eat. I suppose in the past the bill had the good stuff and the bad stuff while we are more conscious to just buy the good (or better) stuff, reading the labels far closer than we used to. Perhaps tonight isn't the best time to reply to this thread because we just got home from a $180 shopping trip (food and misc stuff) but our normal groceries run $75-100 a week for our regular menu. We find decent pricing on chicken, seafood/fish on sale, fruits and veggies on sale, coupons when applicable and shopping around for various items (especially the loss leader items). We try to refrain from overly processed foods in favor of better alternatives. Money isn't the most important thing to us… either we pay now for food or pay later for medical bills. We rarely shop the frozen food aisles like we used to. We make more from scratch than we used to. I believe that there should be a government supported cookbook for low income families to teach about nutrition on a budget offering tips on canning, freezing, portion controlling, etc. When a person buys and nose dives into their Cheetos, Fritos and Dortios it is unlikely they are measuring one ounce servings so quickly their budget is blown on the $3.00 bag of snack foods every night, the multiple cans of soda/pop, and the candy bars, ice cream, etc. Trust me I was one of those eaters. Therefore I think I spend less by planning out menus on a weekly basis, teaming up double coupons, using store sales, freezing leftovers, etc. You can eat healthy on a budget but planning is the key. I was so excited with my trip to Walmart that I bought two packs of the Jello Cinnamon (sugar free) pudding that I have been craving. Our options most definitely gave us more for our money than the usual grocery store trips. So $180 of Walmart food would have cost over $200 in another place. Now, if you'll excuse me I am heading to the fridge. So, what's cooking on your end of the modem??? :)

bettymachete 2010-08-28 12:04:25 -0500 Report

Long term food storage has become a thing of the past that we really should revisit as a nation. I am currently learning canning and jarring. It was something my grandparents were very skilled at, my mother however was not. My mother shopped with coupons for a long time and made weekly trips to the store with our glass coke bottles but then eventually stopped clipping in the late 80's. I occasionally shop with limited coupons but nothing like I remember her doing. It's a skill that wasn't really taught to my generation, so you see far less couponers in stores now.

RAYT721 2010-08-28 15:59:01 -0500 Report

Ironically my wife found great sales on green peppers and green beans today at the store and I said, "we should stock up and can them or freeze them" … Yup, that's what we are gonna do.

JSJB 2012-03-30 03:44:27 -0500 Report

I'm with you Ray so is my wife. She just informed me not to give any veggies away that we grow. She is going to learn how to preserve them. We already have a hefty supply of pickles and tomatos. It is alot of work but what else does a 70 year old have to do. I planted a peach and cherry tree last year. I don't know about the cherries but the peaches can be jarred next is a bartlett pear tree. We also buy items that are on sale in quantity and store them. You can survive on a limited income but you have to work at it. Have a nice day and healthy eating.

GabbyPA 2012-03-30 13:42:47 -0500 Report

This year I am hoping to put up some of our garden fare as well. I tend to give it away, but I have some pickle recipes and I have to learn how to can some tomatoes. We are going berry picking at the end of April and I will be putting those up too. I want to do something different than jam this year, so I think I will do whole fruits so that later we can put them in a variety of things.

JSJB 2012-03-30 15:38:18 -0500 Report

Most likely I will give some away. I googled preserving, canning peppers and we will try that this year. There are some good recepies for preserving.

jason123 2010-08-27 11:01:53 -0500 Report

Healthy foods are not really expensive, Broccoli in my supermarket is selling for $0.78/lb. now, is that cheap compare to your supermarket? Price a month ago was $0.99/lb! I thought it is very cheap, will load up on it later today!

Food in healthy food stores are expensive however. One of my favorite such is Whole Foods. They have great food, excellent customer service…I can live there…but my wallet says, No, you will go there no more than twice a month..

bettymachete 2010-08-27 12:05:29 -0500 Report

Hi Jason! I agree Marketed "Health Food" stores are going to inflate prices on everything they sell. Organics will also cost more because the consumer demand isn't as high. Like you, I go there on a strict budget!

That being said…

Broccoli and cauliflower here is 2/lb bunches for a $1. I can get two heads of Romaine lettuce for $1. at my local Publix grocery chain (the same place I saw this lady) Plums and Peaches are selling at .10 a piece. the list goes on. Bananas .32 /lb High fiber legumes lentils, kidney beans, pinto..offer protein and are low fat can be bought for pennies on the pound. Glory Foods has big 32 oz. bags of greens, kale, mustard, collard are about $1.50 a bag and they are already chopped and cleaned so I know there is a cheaper way to purchase them (these greens last a very long time in the fridge) . I can buy in season veggies and fruit at rock bottom prices at Farmers markets and most of the time, the farmers will throw in extra stuff in my bags, which is always welcome! :) Lean meats can be purchased in bulk but even if you can't afford to purchase a large portion of meat at once, most meat department employees can fix smaller packages of meats if asked. Seeing meat as a compliment to the meal as a whole rather than the main part of the meal is concept many don't see.

The whole idea that healthy food is too expensive is a cultural brainwash.

People have to ask themselves what's really cheaper…that $.15 cent bag of ramen noodle soup , that will leave you hungry for more in a half hour or a .75 cent bag of beans that one can eat a week on.

jason123 2010-08-27 15:44:13 -0500 Report

One more thing I like to add is, our government can do more to change that myth.

You walk up to a soda machine, a bottle of Coke $1.25, a bottle of water $1.25. I would like to see coke $2.00, water $.50. Why shouldn't a unhealthy, sugary drink like Coke subsidize a healthy bottle of water, for us, for our kids? The government should strongly encourage (or even reward) us to the right thing.

Broccoli $1.00/lb, potato $1.00/lb, if broccoli is $.30/lb and potato $3.00/lb, would that mother say she can't afford healthy food?

You go buy a loaf of bread, white bread $.99/loaf, whole wheat bread $3.00. I once asked my nutrition class teacher, if the whole wheat bread is so much better, and white bread is 'more refined' (does that mean more work to make it?), why don't supermarkets just ditch white bread, or make white bread more expensive and whole wheat cheaper, so everyone can default to the healthy choice? She laughed and said 'I don't know'. Government can tax the white bread and give that money to whole wheat, IMHO.

jason123 2010-08-27 21:36:16 -0500 Report

Thanks for the link. How did you find those things! lol I find one of them right in my neighborhood already, and it is on route of my morning jog! I will definately check it out on Sunday. Maybe one day you can start another discussion on how industry (and FDA?) control our food, it will be a very interesting topic.

bettymachete 2010-08-28 11:16:31 -0500 Report

Thats great! I hoped it was a good link:) What's nice about my farmers market is, I get up close and personal with the guy who raises my chicken and the man that butchers and packs my pork many invite you to come out to the farms themselves. I noticed some of those farmers markets up there have farm raised fish!! I am a "locavore" and a large portion of my family are farmers, (some big industry crops while some have dropped from big industry and are now organic growers). I seen the hardships my kin have endured, due to big industry. The loss of long time family owned farms.

And the FDA…ugh! Kissinger said it best.. He who controls the food, controls the people.

jason123 2010-08-27 15:08:53 -0500 Report

Hey Betty, it is interesting to see what things cost in a different place, banana here is $.69/lb, Lettuce about the same, peaches are more like $.50/each, they just raised price on my Fuji apple to $.60 each from $.50…You are lucky you got all those farmer's market, and nice farmers give you free staff! I don't think we have any here in nyc, but we do have 5,6 Wholefoods. lol

I agree with you that healthy food must be more expensive is a myth. If one really wants to eat healthy, he/she can easily do so on almost the same budget. I think that statement is more like the excuses a 'slob' would use because he/she doesn't want to eat healthy. They are feeding their children what their parents fed them, because change is hard…

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