Monday, September 19, 2011

Does it Really Cost More to Eat Healthier?

When faced with information showing that people in lower income brackets tend to have more health problems than people in higher income brackets, the comment is often made that this is because the poor can't afford healthy food. That they must resort to cheap, processed "filler" food to feed their families because "Healthy Food is Expensive".

I realize that there are areas in the United States where there are no grocery stores available, and without the means to drive out of their neighborhood, the people living in these areas are forced to eat from convenience stores/gas stations and fast food joints. This is what has been termed as a Food Desert.  The available "food", while it fills the belly, is not good for the body and everyday consumption is not promoting good health.  The problem here is Availability, and not Cost (because we all know convenience store food is not cheap!).

Another slant that is not altogether included in the topic of this post is the specific issue of food allergy/intolerances/sensitivities.  I know from personal experience that food allergies and avoiding food allergens (particularly ubiquitous soy and corn) wreak havoc on the food budget. This post does not necessarily include those avoiding corn and soy (and whatever else), but still, some points may be taken from this and later posts to help cut the food budget.  After all, it's partially those allergies that were a driving force to get me to where I am today.

I would like to present the idea that, given a handful of grocery store/food retail options, it doesn't have to cost more to eat a healthier diet of Real Food.

But, people will have to change their food choices, curb their old buying habits, not buy in to "deals" that aren't truly deals.  One can't expect a change in their food bill if they don't make changes in their buying habits. :)

My goal each month is to spend about $450/month on food for our family of 5, which works out to about $100/week. According to the most recent Official USDA Food Plan of July 2011,  my goal/reality is well under the $172/week that the USDA says the average family of my size/ages would(should?) be spending when adhering to their cheapest "Thrifty Plan".  (Frankly, I am boggled by how much the USDA says we should be spending, and don't know what else we would be buying....maybe eating out a LOT more? Not sure. In any case, spending more is not an option in this household.)
As an aside, here is the link to the USDA's Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals. (though I don't necessarily recommend all of the recipes and guidelines, it can be a help)

Anyway, so far this month, I am on track. I will be honest and say that some months I do go over my goal. Still, I don't usually come very close to the Thrifty Plan spending, so I think we are still doing well.

I would like to share my methods of trying to stick to my goal in future blog posts.

Coming in later to add: I came across an article on WiseGeek today by an author that explains how her family does much the same thing! Thought I would share!

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