Published on February 28th, 2020

Unpopular opinion: Healthy IS in fact cheap.

I don’t know exactly why but somewhere along the way, collectively our society began to regurgitate the biggest contributing myth to our rising health crisis:

Eating healthy is too expensive.

Well, I’m calling bullshit. I actually have called bullshit on this, time and time again. Yet for some reason my friends, family, and neighbors still tell me that I’m wrong. It doesn’t matter that I am able to feed my family of three on a $70 budget every week. It doesn’t matter that I have the receipts to prove it. I’m wrong and they’re right, and that’s all there is to it—according to their justifications anyway. See, I’ve finally landed on the idea that most people who deny the very real evidence that suggests that they can eat healthy unprocessed foods on the cheap, are actually trying to protect themselves from having to change their lifestyle addiction—a story for another time.

The truth though…

You can eat healthy.

You can be healthy.

And, it’s also much MUCH cheaper to do so.

Different people define “healthy” differently. But for the sake of sanity in this post I’m not talking about organic vs. non organic or non-gmo vs. gmo. Today I’m keeping it simple. Today it’s salads vs. burgers and frieshighly processed foods vs. minimally processed foods.

Conventional wisdom tells us that those dollar menu items at your favorite fast food restaurant are “cheap”. Sure, that may be true in comparison to the numbered meals on the same menu or even menus of rival restaurants, but in reality those meals are expensive. Somewhere along the way our generation forgot that convenience comes with a price. EVERY meal that is prepared by an employee and sold to you directly for immediate consumption is costs more than it would if you were to make it yourself. You’re paying for labor, you’re paying for marketing, ads, and TV commercials, you’re paying the salary and bonuses of top CEOs and board members. Bear with me—I know that a lot to put on a $1.29 chicken sandwich, but it’s the truth.

More of the truth? It’s still cheaper to buy fresh foods at a grocery store and prepare them yourself. On our journey to frugality, my husband and I had to change how we viewed our money and how we budgeted for our basic needs. Part of that was looking at the bigger picture. We’re talking looking at our annual spending not just our weekly or daily spending, and our price per meal not just the price of each item we purchase. When you start changing the way you look at your budget and spending you start to notice that things that seem very small on a weekly basis add up to BIG changes in your annual budget.

For example, before we cracked down on our spending we felt like we would never catch up on our bills. So, knowing that my husband drove to the Jack in the Box every morning and spent just under $8 a day on a breakfast burrito meal, I asked him to stop.

8 x 5 = 40 Dollars per week
40 x 52 = 2080 Dollars per year

Yes, based on a 52 week year, my husband was spending over $2000 a year on his workday breakfasts alone. I know those aren’t the numbers for a $1.29 sandwich, but this was a real example from our life. Want another?

My husband and I used to eat out about 4 times a week for dinner. The average spend? $30.

30 x 4 = 120 Dollars per week
120 x 52 = 6240 Dollars per year

My husband and I were spending over $6000 per year on dinners out. A number like that? That was the down payment for our first house. Would you forgo a few dinners to save for your own home? I would. I am.

Still curious about those smaller numbers?

1.29 x 3 = 3.87 (cost of sandwich x 3 meals per day = daily cost)
3.87 x 7 = 27.09 (daily cost x 7 days = weekly cost)
27.09 x 52 = 1408.68 (weekly cost x 52 weeks = annual cost)
.50 x 3 = 1.50  (cost per unprocessed meal at home x 3 meals per day = daily cost) 
1.50 x 7 = 10.5  (daily cost x 7 days = weekly cost) 
10.5 x 52 = 546  (weekly cost x 52 weeks = annual cost) 

As you can see, the potential to eat at home can save you A LOT. I know some of you reading this will not believe me that a .50 meal is possible to cook at home, but it is and i’m not talking about a ramen cup either. In fact, depending on what you’re eating, I’d bet you’d be able to get a low as .30 if you were determined enough. If done right, fresh fruits and vegetables—which should make up most of your diet anyway— are cheaper than dry pasta or boxed dinners, or any other food you grew up being taught was “cheap”, with few exceptions.

I’m not saying never eat spaghetti, but I am saying gravitate towards fresh and you will almost certainly see a drop in spending. Taper back on your meat consumption, keep it within guidelines—even use that old size of your palm trick if you must—and you will almost certainly see a drop in spending. Maybe even a drop in your waistline. I dare you to try it. I did and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

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