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The Cost of Food

This post is the first in the series Budgeting for Real Food.  Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss future posts full of practical advice on how to incorporate real food into your budget.


Something I hear often is how expensive healthy food is.  So much so that many people claim cost as their main obstacle to eating healthier.


Yes it is true, healthier food is more expensive than conventional food. You do truly get what you pay for in quality when it comes to food. Eating a diet rich in nutrition and low on junk impacts the pocketbook in a way that most of us don’t like.


Grass fed and pasture raised meats are way more expensive than conventional factory farmed meat you can get at your local grocery. And organic produce…you might pay a pretty penny for it if you don’t have access to a produce co-op or a local farmers market that carries organics.  Oh and farm fresh raw dairy, forget it!  Prices for raw milk, yogurt, cheese, butter can be 2 to 3 times higher than conventional gorcery store fare.


But I’m wondering how many people consider the costs of eating poorly?  The food we take in impacts our health either positively or negatively. There is no neutral.  Either something is health-giving or it’s health-stealing.  If we fill ourselves with health-stealing foods it is going to impact our current and future health in some way.


This is difficult to grasp when you’re looking at your budget on paper. You can’t “see” the costs of a poor diet written out like you see the increased food spending.  At least not now…you can “see” those costs later in the form of failing health, chronic disease, obesity, increase healthcare spending, etc.


I started couponing a while back when my husband made a career change that came with a significant decrease in income.  I did very well with couponing, usually saving 50% to 80% on my shopping trips.  Our food budget went down dramatically and I was so thrilled to be saving so much money on groceries.


But somehow, in my couponing craze, I started making compromises. Though we had been eating a very healthy, whole foods, mostly traditional diet for several years…in the name of saving money I started lowering my standards (come on, it’s hard to pass up 50 cent boxes of cereal).  It didn’t happen overnight, it was gradual, but one day I realized that my pantry was stocked full of junk and my family was sicker than we had ever been.


Getting back on track has been a challenge.  Having gotten used to spending so little on food, accepting an increase in our food spending has been hard.  We have to keep reminding ourselves that what we don’t pay for now, we will definitely pay for later.  Not only that, but we are currently paying for poor eating habits of the past that have caught up with us.


We don’t have excess money to spend.  Between my husband’s career change a few years ago and our choice to have me leave my job to be home full time with our children, our income is lower and our budget is tighter than it has ever been.  We have trimmed and cut in every area so that we can afford to buy real, health-giving, nourishing food.  It is important, so we have made it a priority.


The choices we make in feeding our families are important.  Very important.  We can’t mindlessly fill our grocery carts with whatever is on the store shelves and expect everything to turn out okay.


So, what is a family on a tight budget to do?  


The easiest thing to do is to stop buying the junk!! Seriously, even though it’s cheap it does not benefit you in any way.  Just take a look at the ingredient list.  Do you know what those things are??  And don’t let the labels fool you.  If it boasts 100% vitamin C, but it is made with high fructose corn syrup and red #40, it is junk.  If you’re serving fresh fruits and vegetables, you’ll have more than enough vitamin C anyway.


Is it really necessary to eat foods with things like partially hydrogenated oils, artificial food dyes and flavorings, high fructose corn syrup and petroleum derived preservatives just because you have a limited amount of money to spend each week?  Absolutely not!


Here are just a few simple ideas to increase the health-giving foods in your diet that will not break the bank:

  • Instead of cold cereal (even the “healthy” varieties are not good), make soaked oatmeal for breakfast from whole grain oats.  You can get a huge canister of rolled oats for less than a box of cereal, and you easily get more than twice the number of servings.
  • Instead of packaged cookies and crackers for snacks, which give us no useful nourishment but do give our blood sugar a rollercoaster ride with the refined carbs and sugars, get into the habit of serving a protein snack like cheese slices, hardboiled eggs, or nuts mixed with dried fruit.  See some simple and nourishing snack ideas here.
  • Keep fresh fruit in the house for snacking.  It’s sweet, refreshing and brings needed nutrients into your body and requires little to no preparation.
  • Learn to make homemade bone broth (recipe coming soon) and use it to make soup…the ultimate economical meal.


These are just some small steps that can be taken to get a start on eating healthier.  I believe in taking it slow, changing one or two things at a time in order to avoid getting overwhelmed or burned out.  Adjusting a lifetime of habits takes time.


You can eat healthy on a budget if you learn to make your money mean something by not spending it on useless, health-stealing “food” but instead on things that bring nourishment to your body.


Keep watch for more on Budgeting for Real Food.

This post is linked up at Real Food Wednesday over at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.  Head on over to check out lots of great ideas for bringing more Real Food into your life.


What are some small steps you have taken to bring healthier foods into your home without changing your food budget?  




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4 Responses to The Cost of Food

  1. So true! Yes, our food is expensive (although, the current statistics have us as “thrify” food spenders!) none of us are on any kind of medication. We use herbs when we get sick (many of which we grow ourselves!) and we don’t go to the doctor unless there’s an emergency… not a common occurrence. In the end, we’re not only saving money, we’re saving our health, which is so much more important! :-)
    I’m loving this series!

    • Yes, we have no meds and no doctor visits either(other than emergencies…which seem to happen more with my hubby than any of the kids =-P). We actually have had to go without health insurance for the last year and a half, so eating well is extra important to us.

      Oh, how I would love to grow my own herbs! I tend to start them off well and then end up killing them off somehow. If you saw my “about” section, you’ll see I’m a wannabe gardener in a plant killer’s body. Ha! My fall garden (we’re in Florida) is doing well right now…I’m praying for it to continue.

  2. Ack! This is me! We have recently “seen the light” and are slowly making the switch. It IS scary to figure out how to afford Real Food. Thanks for your ideas!

    • Small steps Jenn! It’s way too overwhelming to try to change a lifetime of habits in a short period of time. Pick one or two areas to focus on first (cooking from scratch, healthy dairy, healthy meats, healthy fats, organics, fermented foods, etc.)and get used to them before you add other things in.
      Remember, we’re all growing and learning and changing all the time….it’s all a process.

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