I am constantly seeing chefs and health/nutrition experts on TV claiming it’s a myth that it costs a lot to eat a healthy diet. They go through all of these examples to disprove this “fallacy,” which usually involve some really unbelievably low prices for the healthy options. Well, sorry—I’m just not buying it.
Granted, maybe they live/shop in an area with more grocery shopping options, or in a region where the warmer climate makes fresh produce easier to get (and therefore more affordable). But that’s not the case in my area.
The food shopping options within a 25-mile radius of my home consist of a Walmart and two mid-sized grocery stores that are part of a regional chain. Despite the fact that I’m a pretty savvy shopper, I’ve been unable to buy nutritious grocery items without spending a fortune.
Since I just returned from a (financially painful) grocery shopping trip, I’ll share a few examples. A relatively small bag of grapes—basically, what most members of my household would finish off as a snack while waiting for the actual meal—cost $6. A bag of nectarines: $5.50. Cucumbers were a buck each. And don’t even get me started on watermelon and oranges. Vegetables were equally costly. And these costs were after the discount for using my preferred customer card, and also after I had price-matched all of the items to the cheapest price in town.
By contrast, I could buy a box of cupcakes for $1.50. Plus, it’s very rare to find coupons on produce or other healthy foods, whereas coupons on cookies, cupcakes and other junk food are plentiful.
I guess I’m lucky that I could afford to buy these pricey healthier items. For families who have very limited funds and are struggling to put food—any type of food—on the table, it’s not hard to see which would be the more likely choice.
To make things worse, I live in a region where peak produce season is maybe three months a year. As soon as the weather starts getting cold, the produce section gets thinner and thinner (as the prices rise).
Perhaps for a single person with a modest appetite, the cost difference between healthy and unhealthy wouldn’t be as great. I have a household of five, four of whom are male—and three of those are in their teens or early 20s. As anyone who has ever tried to feed teenaged boys knows, they generally don’t eat like birds. Instead, the food seems to just vanish immediately after you buy it.
I would love to have one of those experts come to my town and show my exactly how they propose that I can buy healthy items without going broke. Until then, I remain unconvinced.
Photo credit: Andre Faria Gomes