I often hear 'eating healthfully is so expensive' so I went on a mission to see if this was truly the case. We absolutely prioritize great quality whole food in our household so although I often compare the prices of organics vs non organic produce I don't typically consider the cost of processed food vs whole foods. I really didn't know how this would turn out!
I set out to compare a days worth of macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) balanced whole foods meals vs some typical processed food meals. I compared the same volumes; i.e. 1 lb of deli meat vs 1 lb of ground turkey etc to the best of my ability.
You can pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later
In case you don't want to scroll through the numbers, the moral of this story is that it is NOT more expensive to eat healthier, more nutrient dense whole foods. In fact, I showed a savings of $9.32 for one days worth of meals for a family of 4.
It will take some extra time to prepare healthier meals which I feel like we truly need to take in order to get away from 'convenience' type foods which are not doing us any favors. The energy that it takes to grocery shop, prepare, and to cook helps to keep us fit and engaged in our health. Getting our families involved in the process allows us to instill healthy values around food to our children.
Some other ways in which we can lower our healthy food costs are:
Think quality over quantity - the majority do not need MORE food and processed, quick digesting carbs and sugar will leave you hungry and eating more of the same. Balanced nutrition will help to keep you energized, satiated, and fit!
Use frozen veggies and fruits - there are some great organic brands which offer frozen vegetables and fruit (berries!) at a lower cost than fresh and the bonus is that they won't go off!
Choose what is local and/or in season - local produce doesn't have to travel so is lower cost. Know your farmer and be informed as to whether or not they use toxic pesticides. Produce that is in season is typically a lower price because it is more abundant and therefore fresh and full of nutrients!
Here is how the calculations worked out...
*Please note that we live on the beautiful island of Bermuda where a lot of our food is shipped in so it may all be more costly than what you are used to. The price of living in paradise!
Processed, higher sugar, higher carb breakfast
Box of cereal (average cost of a few most common) - $6.50
Milk (1/4 gallon) - $2.63
Orange juice (1/4 gallon - average of a few most common) - $3.00
Pros - easy to prepare
Cons - high sugar, high carb, lacking protein, and healthy fats. Will cause a blood sugar spike and dip leaving you feeling hungry and craving more in no time.
Whole food, high protein balanced breakfast
Eggs (1 carton - 2 each leaving 4 to boil for snacks!) - $5.50
Avocado (1/2 - a few slices each to top eggs) - $1.50
Grapefruit (2 - or 4 halves) - $4.58 *apples or oranges were even less
Savings of $.55
Pros - slow digesting protein and healthy fat, satiating to take you through the morning without being hungry, full of nutrients, will keep blood sugars stable
Cons - will take a few extra minutes to prepare.
Processed sandwich & chips
White bread (1/2 loaf) - $2.60
Cheese (1 package slices) - $5.00
1 lb deli meat (avg of turkey or ham) - $7.00
Chips (4 small bags) - $7.56
*didn't include condiments like mustard, butter, mayo etc (note that mayo and margarine/some processed butters would add saturated or even trans fats that we don't want)
Pros - fast to throw together
Cons - high carb, no vegetables or fruit (nutrient void!), no healthy fats, factory farmed deli meats (high in sodium & preservatives, possibly growth hormone/antibiotic fed non humanely raised meats). This lunch will leave you hungry for more and lacking in energy due to lack of nutrients.
Whole food salad with grilled chicken for lunch
1 package organic greens - $6.99
Avocado (1/2 - a few slices in each) - $1.50
Tomatoes (1 pint organic ) - $6
Cabbage (1/2 organic) - $3.35
Chicken breasts (1/2 Package Bell & Evans hormone & antibiotic free ~ 1lb) - $8
*didn't include dressing however would choose a little extra virgin olive oil with apple cider or balsamic vinegar
Premium of $3.68
Pros - slow digesting protein and healthy fat, satiating to take you through the afternoon without being hungry, full of nutrients, will keep blood sugars stable
Cons - will take a few extra minutes to prepare
Processed, packaged lasagna, garlic bread, and caesar salad
1 frozen lasagna - $23
1 frozen garlic bread - $6.03
Packaged caesar salad - $5.99
Pros - easy to just stick in the oven
Cons - high carb, minimal vegetables (the caesar salad is literally romaine or iceberg lettuce and croutons - no deep greens), no healthy fats, likely factory farmed meat (high in sodium & preservatives, possibly growth hormone/antibiotic fed non humanely raised meat). Lots of cheese and high in saturated fat (the lasagna & salad dressing). This dinner will leave you hungry for more, way over your calorie budget and lacking in energy & health due to lack of nutrients.
Spaghetti squash with ground turkey meat sauce & steamed broccoli
2 small spaghetti squash - $5.99
Ground turkey (Bell & Evans - hormone & antibiotic free) - $7.50
Broccoli (1 lb) - $4.19
Muir Glen Organic Pasta Sauce (1 jar) - $4.89
*would also add a little olive oil on the broccoli to help the fat soluble vitamins to be absorbed
Savings of $12.45
Pros - slow digesting protein and healthy fat, satiating (fiber!) to take you through the evening without being hungry, nutrient dense, will keep blood sugars stable
Cons - will take a little more time to prepare
Overall savings of $9.32!!
I love that this turned out as a cost savings. Don't you agree that even if it would have been a cost premium that your health is worth the investment? I sure do! The fact that we can save money while building our health and happiness while protecting the planet is a win win in my mind. I'd love to hear your healthy eating cost savings tips in the comments below!