Monday, January 4, 2010

Can you really eat healthy on a budget?

Have you seen the movie Food, inc yet? Well I watched it about a month ago and it really struck a chord with me. I'm thinking of one particular segment, the segment where a low income family struggles with making healthy food choices due to cost and convenience. I really felt for that family and the millions of others who are going through the same thing. It made me wonder if it really is difficult to eat healthy meals at home and on a budget, while taking the time factor into account. This has prompted me to do my own food experiment. Here is what I will be doing.

1.) Spending one week keeping track of what I eat
2.) Keeping track of how much I spend
3.) Keeping meals simple and convenient (quick meals)
4.) Eating mostly organic foods

However I am struggling a bit on this, I am trying to figure out how to do this so it compares to a family of 4 or a family of 2. While my dinners will always be for two, lunch and dinner will be for one since my husband eats in the cafeteria at his work. Fortunately they provide healthy options at a low cost. I will probably have to estimate with some of this.

Now I am not exactly prepared to do this experiment. I don't even know yet what I will be having for dinner. I did go to the grocery store today, but not with any meal plan in mind. I didn't know I was going to be starting this experiment today, but then again, I think that makes this experiment more valid.

Today was grocery day for me, so there was very little in the house for breakfast. So I made do with what I had.

Day one

Breakfast: 2 pieces of toast with Adams All Natural Peanut Butter. I used Dave's Killer Bread.

1 loaf of Dave's Killer Bread = $4.49 (on sale)
1 jar Adam's Peanut Butter = $2.99
estimated cost of 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter = less than $0.75.
Convenient? Extremely

If I would have had some apples on hand I would have had that as well bringing the cost up to maybe $1.25?

For lunch today I had whole wheat fettucine noodles with organic broccoli, tomato, olive oil, dried basil and Parmesan cheese.

Whole wheat fettucine noodles = $3.50 used half ($1.75)
Organic broccoli = $1.99 a pound (I'd say that I used less that $1.00 worth)
The rest = estimate $1.00

estimated cost = $3.75 with leftovers. Let's make that $1.88 per meal.
Convenient = yes, this would be a good thing to make for dinner and have leftovers for lunch. Can easily be reheated or even eaten cold.

Dinner - Well I have to admit that I had a late lunch and didn't feel like eating much. So my husband had my lunch leftovers and I made sweet potato fries that we shared. I hope that doesn't mean I failed the experiment on the first day! I usually have more for dinner.

estimated cost of my husband's dinner = $1.75
plus a sweet potato = $1.00

Estimated total cost for one = $3.63
Including my husbands dinner = $5.38

Wow! That's seems really cheap! Can that be right? I'll have to admit that I did not eat as much as I should have today, so in reality most day's will probably cost more than this. But it does give me hope that you can eat better, even on a budget with a little bit of planning or just some practice. My total food cost for today cost less than a value meal at McDonald's. I used all organic ingredients and the meals were quick and easy.

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