Is Healthy Food More Expensive?
Of all of the excuses I have heard against healthy eating, the one that irritates me the most is that ‘healthy’ food is too expensive. But, in the interests of fairness, I wanted to answer the question is healthy food more expensive in a fair manner, so checked it out in the supermarket.
Ignoring the possibility that most of the people who use the price excuse have probably never even put it to the test, it highlights a total lack of awareness that some people show when they do their food shopping. Given food is a daily feature in our lives, you would think that we would pay attention to what we buy, cook and eat.
I follow the Handy Plan eating principles – a dietary approach I created to help clients lose weight, lose fat and most importantly stay healthy. The diet is influenced by a paleo/primal approach but allows a few foods that paleo doesn’t. I don’t feel as though I miss out on anything and my health is better as a result. Success all round!
The Handy Plan dictates that followers should eat as seasonally as possible. Apart from the fact that food in season is healthier, tastier and more abundant, it is also cheaper to buy. Excellent – cheaper and better for us!
So to answer the question of ‘is healthy food is more expensive?’, I am showing the receipt from a shopping trip I took today. Admittedly there are things missing from here that I would also buy but didn’t need at the time, but generally the list is a ‘normal’ shopping trip for us.
*Further information…’Us’ is my little family. My partner Rachel, our son Isaac and I.
We are a hungry household – given long working hours, regular exercise and big appetites, we consume more food than most. We eat large portions and we eat them often! We certainly don’t skimp on food!
So back to the receipt – here we go…
This represents a typical weekly shop for us and has cost me just shy of £33. Without dissecting everything in detail, I will highlight why we shop the way we do, what we will cook with these ingredients and how you can do the same, saving you money and improving your health in the process!
The meat is the most expensive part of my shopping, costing £11.30 (the sausages had a multi buy discount). At just over 34% it made up the biggest chunk of the bill by a stretch!
Here I bought 2 packs of finest sausages (not the cheap junk!), some chicken fillets and casserole steak. Apart from the sausages, the meat was bought at the deli counter, that way you buy what you need rather than what the packet gives you. Almost without fail this is cheaper, plus you can buy different cuts of meat than are in the packets. The quality is better too – it doesn’t sit sweating in chemical-filled packaging.
I spent £5 on cheese – we love cheese and eat lots of it, so a discount on the stuff is always welcomed in our house. I bought 2 big blocks, and it also combats any argument that all we do in our house is eat nothing but vegetables!
Vegetables do make up the bulk of our diet, hence them making up the bulk of our shopping. We go for variety – the more variety in your diet, the better. With 11 different vegetables on this list, it’s safe to say we can safely eat our five a day without resorting to the same things daily!
We are currently in root vegetable season, so I am buying vegetables such as parsnips, squash, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower etc. These are bigger, taste better and are more nutrient dense now than at other times of the year. Aside from that, they are cheaper! Look at the prices I have paid – 90p for parsnips, 60p for broccoli, 69p for cauliflower, 49p for a leek, 75p for a whole bag of kale, £1 for a bag of spinach, 44p for three onions – you can’t even buy a single mars bar for that!
Throw in a large bag of frozen peas (generally frozen peas are better than the fresh, unless you can get SUPER fresh) for a quid and you have a load of fresh vegetables have cost me £6.63 and have given me lots of options in the kitchen.
From a more carb-heavy vegetable perspective, I have bought a couple of huge butternut squashes that have cost me £3.30 altogether and a couple of large sweet potatoes have cost me £1.15. That is a total of £4.45 for enough starchy carbs to keep two active adults and a growing baby fuelled for a week!
We eat a lot of fruit but already had some apples, grapes and blueberries at home so I topped up with some bananas – a bunch of 6 cost me 68p – about the price of 1 chocolate bar.
Finally, I bought some thyme, a garlic bulb and some stock cubes that will help flavour and season dishes in the week. They generally aren’t the sort of thing that needs to be replaced every week, so are a cost that you can remove from a weekly shop in many cases.
So, is healthy food more expensive?
Here is a picture of said fruit and vegetables – not on show is any of the meat, the cheese, broccoli or garlic which I forgot to add (but proof of purchase can be seen on the receipt image). This little lot cost me about £10 – less than a Dominoes pizza!
These ingredients will form the bases of soups, casseroles and omelettes. They will be used as side dishes, toppings, accompaniments and in some cases, a main ingredient! There are literally thousands of dishes you can put together with a selection of vegetables, meaning we can experiment in the kitchen, creating a variety of healthy and interesting meals.
So lets compare this to unhealthy foods. Without looking at the most expensive options I saw pizzas for £4, oven chips for £2, onion rings for £2, burgers for £2, bread for £1.20 per loaf, mars bars for 65p each, microwave meals for £3.50. If you were to feed a family on this it would cost you a small fortune – no wonder people are skint (and fat).
These ‘foods’ typically do one meal each, so if you were trying to feed a family on two pizzas, you would be looking at £8 for one meal, assuming you didn’t have any side dishes! Add to that a bag of oven chips and a side of onion rings and you are looking at around £12!
If you wanted to feed the same 4 people a microwave meal each you are looking at £14. Two meals per day (not including breakfast – I assume this would be toast/cereal) would cost a family of 4 around £26! Add to that breakfast and you are probably looking at around £200 per week if you include drinks, snacks etc. How can the average family afford that?
The cheaper processed foods are just awful – if you can pick up a ‘meat’ product for pennies you would seriously have to question how much meat is actually in it!
Lets compare this to a meal using mostly ingredients I have bought today, at a price I paid.
If you cooked a large casserole for the family, you could get away with…
- 400g of steak (£3.20)
- A large onion (approx 20p)
- Garlic clove (approx 10p)
- Thyme stalks (approx 10p)
- 3 carrots (approx 20p)
- A whole broccoli (approx 60p)
- 2 parsnips (approx 60p)
- 2 Stock cubes (approx 20p)
- 2 Sweet potatoes (approx £1.20)
- 1 litre of water (almost free)
I will fully admit there are things on here that I often buy but didn’t need to on this trip. Typically we will eat a joint of meat on a weekend, but I bought a shoulder of lamb for £4.50 (on offer) that we already have in the freezer. There are other things such as coffee, tea, sugar and milk that we buy, but not every time we shop.
Isaac drinks around 10 pints of whole milk per week, so that is a cost but probably not more than £5 per week. He has been weaned to solid foods for a few months now, so apart from baby yogurts he doesn’t eat anything we don’t.
My point is, if you pay attention to what you buy you can live a healthy, tasty food life for a fraction of the cost of the processed, pre-prepared crap most of the western world seems to buy. If you want to eat junk food, fine. I don’t care – just don’t blame economics as the reason you don’t eat more healthily because the evidence just doesn’t agree.
So to answer the question is healthy food more expensive? I would have to say a resounding NO!
Do you agree or disagree? Like, comment, share or re-tweet! I would be interested to hear your thoughts!