Is It Really That Expensive To Eat Healthy?


By Nancy Smorch

You know that I recently watched Food, Inc., and in that movie there is a conversation with a family of four who eat fast food for dinner, and say that they don’t have time or money for healthy food.  They comment on how they can get a fast food meal for the family much cheaper than they could buy food for at the grocery store and the burger fills their kids up more than the fresh produce would.  Then they go on to say that the father (who looks to be in his 40's) has diabetes and one medication he has to take is $100 a month and another is $150 per month.  So now, they definitely cannot afford to eat healthy. 

I’ve seen people comment on how expensive it is to eat good quality food, yet they spend money on “empty” calories with chips, pop, processed cereal and so on. 

Well, let me tell you what I bought today from a local farm, Sugartree Farm... all for $59.20:

1 head purple cauliflower

3 heads of lettuce

3 tomatoes

5 pints of strawberries

2 large green zuchini

4 yellow squash

2 eggplant

Green beans

3 lemons

2 grapefruit

1 orange

6 potatoes

16 small cucumbers

1 bunch of broccoli

2 peppers

I think that’s pretty darn reasonable, especially considering the produce is organically grown!  Most people at this point would say, "yeah, but what are you going to make with that?"  

Here is what I plan on doing with all of this:

Veggie Fried Rice: Stir fry some eggplant, zuchini, squash, peppers and green beans, along with some eggs “scrambled” in olive oil, mixed with rice that is cooked and then “fried” in oil to make a little crunch.  Add some soy sauce for more of an Asian flavor.

Egg and Veggie Scramble:  Scramble some eggs and in a separate pan, saute some potatoes, peppers, zuchini, and broccoli.  Mix with the eggs and shred a little cheese on top and serve with a corn tortilla “fried” in olive oil

Pasta with Sauted Veggies:  Cook some pasta (spaghetti or penne work great), drain, then add back into a frying pan to saute in some olive oil and fresh garlic.  Meanwhile in another pan saute some cauliflower, brocolli, zuchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and green beans.  Mix the veggies in with the pasta and sprinkle with shredded cheese (parmesan works best) and some more olive oil, salt and pepper.

Salad with Roasted Veggies:  Again, saute some vegetables in olive oil - potatoes, green beans, and brocolli.  Mix in with the lettuce along with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.  Splurge on a nice loaf of artisinal bread cooked as you would a grilled cheese - a little olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides of the bread and then cook in a frying pan until slightly browned and crisp.

There you have it - 4 ideas for dinners with all of the food listed above, none of which takes much time to make, and only with a few additional ingredients - some of which you probably already have stocked in your refrigerator or pantry (olive oil and rice).  And some which you may have to spend a little more to buy (pasta, corn tortillas, garlic, cheese, and a nice loaf of bread - all of which you could get for under $14. 

Oh, and I bought 2 dozen eggs from a local farmer for $3 a dozen. 

And here’s a bonus idea:  make a Fruit Salad with the strawberries, oranges, and grapefruit.

So, when all is said and done, you can make 4 meals for a family of 4 for around $20 each, which is comparable to a meal for 4 at McDonald’s (consisting of 4 Big Macs, 4 small fries, 4 small pops for $19).  And, you can’t tell me that the dinners above won’t fill up everyone like fast food will - maybe initially they won’t be “stuffed” like they might be if they ate the Big Mac, fry and pop - but they shouldn’t be “stuffed” anyway.  And, the nutrients in the home cooked meals listed above will satisfy the body and won’t leave it craving more food in search of nutrients.

Play around with some ideas of your own and actually compare prices for yourself.  The advantage I have right now is that there is a lot of fresh produce growing here in Florida that I have access to.  And, I’ve also established some relationships with local farmers.  But you can do the same, and it will have multiple benefits - not only will you be feeding yourself and your family with fresh food full of nutrients, but you will also know where that food is coming from.  It will be fresh - not having traveled across the country or world over a period of days or weeks.  And, you will be supporting local farmers, who care enough to grow their food properly so we can benefit - and that allows them to create a living out of this wonderful service.

Bottom line, before you make excuses on why you can’t eat healthy, do your research and get creative, and by all means, DO NOT SETTLE!!  You and your family are worth it!!