Recently a fan posted a great question on our Appetite for Health Facebook page: Why is healthy food so expensive? If you search around the web, you’ll see many articles that say eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more.
Still, there’s good research showing that healthy foods really are more expensive than junk food Some of the most compelling research comes from Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington. In a 2007 study, he reported that calorie for calorie, junk foods not only cost less than fruits and vegetables, but junk food prices also are less likely to rise as a result of inflation.
In a survey of 372 supermarket items, energy-dense (read: crappy) foods including includes pastries, butter, candy, and other high calorie snacks, cost on average $1.76 per 1,000 calories compared to $18.16 per 1,000 calories for low-energy but nutritious foods like fruits and veggies.
Based on Drewnowski’s findings, a 2,000-calorie diet would cost just $3.52 a day if it consisted of junk food, compared with $36.32 a day for a diet of low-energy dense foods.
Just this evening, I felt the real-life impact of this data. I had a craving for something sweet, so I went to my local grocery store. My first instinct (not my RD brain!) was to buy the Lindt Classic Recipe Milk Chocolate Bar (4.4 oz). Instead, I opted for one of my best sweet-craving-busting snacks – cottage cheese and pineapple.
The chocolate bar was on sale for $1.79…a good price for the size! The pint of organic low fat cottage cheese plus a cored pineapple came in at… brace yourself… $13.45!
The strawberries and apple for tomorrow (also shown in photo) were an extra $5.39 and 99 cents, respectively. The total tab for those four items: $21.29! That chocolate bar started to make more and mose $ens$e.
Of course that was a totally unscientific survey… and I could have purchased a whole pineapple and cut it myself and saved some money. But healthy eating, especially healthy eating on a budget, requires knowledge and time.
So why are healthy foods more expensive? There are many reasons, but it has to do mostly with the fact that sugars like high fructose corn syrup and soybean and other vegetable oils are cheap and therefore, are stuffed into just about anything food manufacturers can put them in.
Despite the bad news that healthy food really is more expensive than junk food, there is some good news. With knowledge, planning, and a little bit of time, it IS possible to make healthy choices without going broke.
Healthy Eating That’s Wallet-Friendly
Buy in bulk
Buying bulk can save a lot of money. You can purchase grains, pastas, dried fruits, nuts and flours in the bulk aisles of your grocery or natural foods store. You can choose the amount that works for your family and bulk food has a lower price per quantity ratio. As an added bonus, you also save on packaging!
Buy local and in-season
Be sure to hit your local farmer’s market as soon as it begins in the spring. Seasonal foods not only taste better, they often cost less as well. Think ahead and stock up on fruits and vegetables in their natural season in order to can or freeze them for the off-season.
Join a Community Supported Agriculture program
There are great community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs in many parts of the US.
Grow your own
You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to work on a vegetable or a fruit garden. You don’t even need a lot of space to grow produce on your yard. Plants like tomatoes, eggplants, okra and many others can be grown on small plots or even in pots; moreover, growing them cost almost next to nothing.
Yes, it really does add up and you can save a lot if you’re diligent about clipping.
Do you have some good tips for healthy eating on a budget? Please share in the comments below!