The High Cost Of Cheap Food

The High Cost Of Cheap Food

In the car this morning, some disturbing statistics caught our ear—could we have possibly heard right that there was a new obesity intervention program starting in the schools… in second grade? The commentator went on to explain that a shocking one in three children in our country are overweight.

Thankfully, Michelle Obama and her ‘Let’s Move’ program are putting childhood obesity center stage. But aside from the White House, what can you do about food issues in your own house? For both children and adults, one thing is clear: Processed, crappy food—no matter how cheap—is not a bargain!

Spend More To Save More.

For starters, you might be surprised to hear Fab & Fru tell you that you should be spending more on your food in order to save big in costs to your health and well-being!
According to Michael Pollan in his book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food—less than the citizens of any other nation. We seem to have gotten away from that simple truth that our grandmothers used to tell us: “You Are What You Eat” after all! Pollan also shares another gem of grandmotherly wisdom: “Better to pay the grocer than the doctor!”

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

Yes, real food does usually cost more upfront than processed food. But, by spending more to purchase high quality food, you will be more satisfied, eat less and be healthier. All of which will certainly save you money in the long run! First, we need to change our concept of “getting a deal.” The American perspective on getting a great deal on groceries is really a raw deal—let’s say you can get a ‘discount’ on hormone-pumped up chicken, pesticide sprayed (though perfect looking!) apples, high fructose laden bread, cereal and soda. Sure, your grocery bill this week might be lower than had you bought organic, but at what cost to your health (and heath related bills) in the long run?

Our Disease-Prone Diet.

It’s no secret that our Western diet of processed, chemical-filled foods has led to an onslaught of distinctly Western diseases. According to Michael Pollan, “Virtually all of the obesity and type 2 diabetes, 80% of cardiovascular disease, and more than a third of all cancers” can be linked to our Western diet! Now, you may not be making the connection between purchasing a processed snack for your kids and the rising cost of health care, but you should be. (Our apologies up front for giving you yet another thing to be stressed out about in terms of parenting!)

Processed = Profitable.

According to Michael Pollan, processed food is profitable food. It can sit on the shelves forever and is inexpensively mass produced in factories. Pollan says we should think of most processed food less as real food as more like ‘edible foodlike substances.’ And many of these foodlike substances unfortunately seem to permeate our diet. One of his suggestions we particularly like is, “It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language. Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.” Now, look : We’re not saying you should never indulge in a bag of Cheetos (particularly the crunchy variety), but his point is, these treats should be only eaten from time to time—they should not be the mainstay of our diets!

Ok, so let’s say you want to start eating higher quality food—more ‘real food,’ as Julia Child used to call it. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t like to save money on your weekly grocery bill! But, you may have noticed, most of the coupons in your newspaper are for highly processed foods from major corporations—not a surprise that these are the companies that can afford the marketing dollars and are producing products cheaply enough to give enticing discounts. So, lately we have been on a quest—a quest to find coupons for organic and ‘real’ food. Can’t we have the best of both worlds?

Most organic companies don’t have the marketing budgets to put ads and coupons in major newspaper coupon circulars, but the good news is: organic coupons do exist! For instance, the other day, we spent a little time online hunting for organic coupons for staples we use, and we found coupons for the following: organic milk, organic yogurt, organic pasta, organic bread, organic tomato sauce… all items we regularly buy! It definitely takes more legwork than finding coupons for, say, a six-pack of Coke, but it is worth it!

What Would Great-Grandma Say?

Don’t get us wrong—we love a highly processed, Westernized treat from time to time as much as the next girl, but from time to time certainly does not mean from day to day! The easiest rule of thumb is Michael Pollan’s suggestion: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” We think this one sentence can help you navigate the grocery store better than any nutrition manual ever could. Unless you are having a really bad day, in which case, we agree—Twizzlers are mandatory!


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