I had a (decorous) difference of opinion with some bloggers a while back on the subject of the cost of healthy eating. I switched to healthy eating habits without increasing my food budget, my food budget is appreciably lower than the average, so I know it doesn’t cost more to eat right. There. See? I’m right.
However, a recent experience has shown me where this idea comes from.
With my husband’s layoff, we got to where our cupboard was just bare. We had nothing but condiments. I realize that this is a common occurence in young people’s kitchens, but I don’t do this. I keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer, and my shopping trips are to replenish supplies and buy perishable foods.
But here we were with no food in the house. My serenity was only slightly compromised because we received a check that day for $30. I headed off to the grocery with it — and had an eye-opening experience.
In a well-managed household, you can — for example — buy a roast, knowing that you can make pot roast, enchiladas, shepherd’s pie, and stir-fry. Your cost-per-meal for meat is less than if you bought hot dogs. This assumes that you have potatoes, onions, rice, perhaps some frozen vegetables, and other basic things on hand. You replenish your supplies when the price is good, and take advantage of good deals on bulk buying. That’s how I usually shop, and I think most moms do it that way, no matter what kind of food they buy.
But if you have no food in the house, and you spend $8 on a roast, and then buy the vegetables for the pot roast and yeast and flour and milk to make some bread to go with it, you will have spent half that $30 and only covered one meal. The potatoes will go on with the meat to make shepherd’s pie, but you are still not going to eat for a week.
So I bought a chicken instead — a small, boney, cheap one — and some poorer-quality ground beef. In the produce aisle, I went with the triumverate of cheap fruit and veg: carrots, apples, and potatoes. By the time I picked up pet food and got to the baking supplies, I could only manage a $1 bag of white flour.
It was as though every time you wanted to knit a hat, you had to go buy yarn, needles, and a pattern book. You would totally have to rely on Red Heart and Woman’s Day knitting magazines.
So, while no one went hungry this week, we definitely were short on whole grains and fresh produce.
I guess the twin lessons here are first, keeping a well-managed kitchen is cheaper than shopping in desperation, and second, if you do shop in desperation, then healthy food costs more.
Let me add a quite unscientific observation that I have been less energetic this week, and more inclined to be cross.
My boys had been warned not to complain. However, #2 son did remark, in a general way, that processed foods don’t taste as good to him any more. Even at other people’s houses.
I opined that this was a good thing, but he sighed, “You’ve taken away part of our childhood.”
I have finished the first pattern band on Erin — well, no, not really. I am only halfway through the last row on the pattern band. This would have been a much better picture if I had finished the row first and laid it out flat.
However, the sun has come up, and my dear husband got a paycheck yesterday at last, so I am off to the grocery. Fresh produce and whole grains, calloo, callay!
Later: Pokey, you will be proud to hear that I bought everything on the list. And I wasn’t the only one in there talking to myself, either.