Healthy eating is too expensive :(


This is a touchy subject I meet every day. How are we supposed to feed our family healthy food? It’s sooooo expensive to eat like that..I always wonder: how much of that is what you’ve heard, and accepted, and how much is research? Most people see the price of organics and just say “too much” and move on to the Hamburger Helper and Cola aisles. Oi Vey. Our bodies and our children deserve better.

As most of you are aware, I have children, so we feed a family of six. I own a cleaning company. Not a stock brokerage, a cleaning company. Our family doesn’t believe in debt, so we save every penny and buy only what we need and can afford in cash. I tell you all of that to tell you this: I feed this family the same way I feed myself. It’s not “mom’s on a diet, this is my food, you eat that garbage”. My passion is teaching children habits that they’ll take with them into the future. It’s about spending a little more now, if needed, to not pay huge healthcare costs. Our immune systems are better than 95% of all our peers, and our future is not going to be full of medication and dr. visits. It’ll be full of outdoor playtime. Because we make great choices now.

I went to the grocery store this weekend, just after a debate on Facebook about the so-called “high cost” of feeding a family healthy food. I walked around the store looking at all the processed crap that I literally haven’t laid eyes on in quite some time. I was expecting to have a real fight on my hands. I don’t. One pound of bananas was 54 cents (on sale, normally .69). Frosted Flakes were 3.99 per box.  Free range organic eggs were 2.69 per dozen. (Frosted flakes surges blood sugar, and leaves kids hungry in about an hour. Eggs have healthy protein, fats, and vitamins to fuel the brain, and leaves kids and adults satiated for hours.)  Sweet potatoes were $1 each for HUGE potatoes (I fed three of us on ONE tonight.)  Organic Romaine was 3.99 for a pack of 3 stalks, and Organic baby spinach was 4.19 for a giant box.   Conversely, One Digiorno Pizza and cookies in a box (enough to feed 2-3 of most of us) was $8.19 Um, gross. I got a whole Pork Tenderloin (fed 6) for 7.99. I bought 24 distilled waters for 2.99. How much was that 12 pack of coke again?  I made a crockpot full of pulled port tenderloin, sweet potatoes, and fresh picked green beans for $11.89 this evening. There are enough leftovers for David and I to have for lunch tomorrow. That’s 2 meals for $11.89. But the poor kids!!! Yeah, cuz their poor little pancreas and livers are screaming “I need a pop tart! Chicken nuggets too!” Not likely.

I made a salad today for the two of us from 1/2 organic romaine stalk, a handful of spinach, organic tomato, avocado, and olive oil with half a chicken breast. In my estimation, it cost about 5.00 for lunch for the two of us. I challenge you to take $5 to your local fast food restaurant and attempt to feed two people…then also factor in those blood pressure pills you’re going to be on after eating like that for a week. I used to feed my family the same “cheap” grocery store food. When I switched to Primal, I spent a bunch. Then I realized that I had to simply plan better. So, after making a meal plan (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) for 7 days, I set out for the grocery store. I spent exactly $11 more than the budget we’d set before, that I had been keeping with the sugar-filled, processed, gluten-laden, JUNK. While standing in line, I got up the courage to ask the lady in front of me how many people she was buying groceries for. She said 2, herself and her husband, and that her grandbaby comes over twice a week.  She had the usual: Soda, bread, hamburger, buns, Cereal, yogurt, spaghetti sauce and noodles, mac and cheese, etc.I asked if it was for the whole week, and she said yes, do you think it’s enough? (insert bitten tongue here)…Her total for 2 people + 1/2 was $89.94. WTFREAK?? My total for the week for 6 people was $129. .This is where I also decided to make a couple of sacrifices in other areas to make up for the extra $11…Because this ‘temple’ and my children are worth it. Every. time.

48 thoughts on “Healthy eating is too expensive :(

    • YOU are awsome, Mr. Caveman. Thanks for helping me get started. BTW, my kids LOVE your recipes, especially because they’re so easy and they can make them!!

  1. This is very good to hear! We are a family of 5 and spend about 145, but that is when my husband also comes home with random extra meat and usually lasts us a week and a half. If you don’t mind me asking, how old are your kids? Mine are still all toddlers, so I am worried about when they get older they are going to eat us out of the house! Haha.

    • Absolutely! And I do spend a little extra on supplies like meat for the month, or when I need to restock on oils and coconut flour, but no different from when you restock regularly. My kiddos are 12, 10, 8 and 4. :) they eat plenty, but big bags of organic celery with almond butter (homemade) or baby carrots or apples with cinnamon keep them happy :) good luck!!

  2. Saw this on facebook from a friend, good article, will copy and paste my reply to her here as well:

    I think another issue about food and the pricing aspect is time. Some meals (like pizza) are easy on time, and for most people, time is money, so time saved, is money saved, or worth the cost.

    Socially, we need to change the way we approach eating, and we need to invest the time in planning and preparing for a meal. The cost benefit and understanding gained from this will be immense, and the long term offset benefits to health institutions would also be better for any country!

  3. I like your above comment. Since my family and I have started eating more healthier our grocery bill has gone up but I look at it as at least I am doing something for the whole family. Also if you take into consideration that there is no extras like takeaways during the week I am probably saving.

    • Sharon, we gave up eating takeout or restaurants except once a month. When I went back over my spending account, this made up (and more) for any extra grocery spending. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Great article, I totally agree with you! I hear this excuse from friends all the time, their reason for not eating healthy. These are also the same people who have new material stuff all the time too! The priorities are messed up. I skimp on other things but food is important since we put it on our bodies. I’m paleo and in the beginning I was spending a too, but things have slowed down and I’ve gotten better with planning.

  5. Thank you for this post! For the past 6 months I have been attempting and been pretty successful at feeding my family of 5 the primal way. I hear all the time from my friends that I am never going to be able to continue feeding my three boys this way because it is too expensive. I currently have been spending way more than I used to at the grocery store, but I agree with you, it just takes planning, then it doesn’t have to be that way. Even though we all LOVE steak, we maybe don’t need to eat it twice a week. :) I have never in my life felt better than I do eating this way! Of course I am going to feed my children this way. I want them to feel just as great as I do!

  6. I no longer have children at home, but when I cook, I prepare enough of the entree for several meals and just freeze them. That way, all I have to do is cook the veggies and I have a quick meal when I don’t have time to cook. Great article! I “shared” it on my FB page.

  7. Perfectly said and I couldn’t agree more! I spend approx. $130.00 a week for a family of 3.5 (hubby is the half and doesn’t eat at home much) this total also includes making healthy lunches everyday for my daughter and COMPLETE breakfasts for both of my kids 7 days a week.

  8. I’m just at the beginning of a Paleo journey and have been trying to figure out how to do this inexpensively – or at least within our budget. I’m one of the people who hasn’t been able to see the “how” in changing my family’s eating habits and sticking to a tight budget. But, your post here has helped me to see what needs to be done. The only thing I’m missing is the planning.

    So, thank you for opening my eyes to the simplicity of it all. I think we make things MUCH too complicated for ourselves at times. Maybe it’s an excuse to NOT do it. Maybe it’s not. But, pointing it out certainly helped me. Thanks again. ;)

  9. I’ve transitioned myself to a paleo lifestyle, but not the rest of my family. My husband has no interest in changing the way he eats. All I can do is provide healthier choices for him and my girls. They do eat grains and dairy. And a bit of sweets too. I plan meal around what I am eating – good protein surrounded by healthy veges. And then I add a starch for them.

    Initially, my grocery bill did go up. But seeing as I am more or less skipping whole aisles at the grocery store, buying fresh produce in bulk at Costco, and overall buying less junk and eating out less, we are even steven right now!

    • Heidi, All you can do is keep being a great example for your family. Don’t nag your husband, trust me, this will not work. In fact, it may make his habits worse, just in rebellion. Your children are a matter you’ll have to deal with in a parenting fashion you’re comfortable with, but in my house, I cook the food. I buy the groceries. If its not in the house or on the table, they can complain all they want, but it’s what’s there or it’s nothing. Trust me they won’t starve. Stay tuned to my next blog for more on this.

  10. Thanks for all your comments. I am working on new material for busy people, especially people with families. You’re the best. Keep up the FOOD FIGHT!! :))

    • I’m looking forward to reading what you have on this subject!! …My younger son, who is 6, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on March 30th of this year. The foods he eats are all grains and dairy (lots of yogurt – he loves it). :( I need help with transitioning him OFF that stuff.

      • I know of a Paleo momma who’s young daugter with type 1 diabetes has been able to send the disease into remission simply by changing her daughter’s diet to Paleo. I imagine it might work with a Primal diet, too. Either way, it’s your son’s health that’s at stake. What he loves to eat is hurting him. You wouldn’t let anyone/anything else hurt him. Frame the discussion in those terms and google voraciously for ideas on what to feed him. Many other Paleo/Primal parents have created blogs purely to share ideas just like CaveMomma!

  11. I was just thinking today that I am spending an enormous amount on food since going paleo. I think I was worried about the kids, about them having enough snacks and stuff. But, you are right I need to plan better. What do you typically pack for your kids snacks/lunches?

  12. Most of the people I know do extreme couponing… they get their junk processed foods for free or very cheap… so when they compare prices, eating this way means 3,4,5, 6 X more than their current budget…. and I’m NOT kidding!

    • I know this is partly true, because my mom is an extreme couponer. However, she’s also recently turned Primal. All the money she saves on her shampoos, soaps, laundry and paper products (they usually owe her money), she applies toward eating primal, healthy foods because it is worth it to her. She also looks for coupons for produce and meat department stuff, as well as her local health food coupons. She’s really good, and she feeds herself and my dad very well. It really all comes down to choice and doing the work. Thanks for your comment! Great point!

  13. Love your post! Preach on. And for those that find it more expensive, I believe it’s worth it. You will pay now (with time or money) or you will pay later with your health. I’d much rather pay now with my time in the kitchen with my little ones beside me helping me (and thus learning) than to sacrifice their health later on. For myself, I found that I stopped snacking entirely when I switched to primal. Even if I’m eating more expensive ingredients, I’m eating less overall and I don’t get hungry 2 hours after breakfast.

  14. Another kindred spirit, fighting the good, healthy fight!

    We are on Year 6 of eating organic, and Week 3 of eating Paleo. I swear, our grocery bill this past weekend was probably the lowest in years! I grew up in Canada, the Wheat Capital, and was surrounded by grains, breads, pastas, noodles, you name it. I have to thank Robb Wolf & The Paleo Solution for opening my eyes. It is certainly possible for working families to eat healthy, grain-free, organic meals, and avoid those medical pitfalls down the road.

    Cheers!

    Faye @ GreenOrganicMama.com

  15. Pingback: CrossFit Epiphany: Fitness Elevated » Blog Archive » 6/14 CALEB

  16. Pingback: Paleo is Expensive? For Whom? | Embracing the Paleo Lifestyle

  17. Not sure if it is correct, but you are comparing junk/fast food with normal homemade food. But I think when ppl talk about eating organic is expensive, they mean normal food VS organic food. For example, the common supermarket eggs costs 15cents/egg, but if I were to go to the farmers market and purchase organic free range eggs, they are 35cents/egg.
    Eitherway, I do agree with you, homemade is always ALOT healthier than eating out or premade-preprocessed food. =

    • I’m comparing it to bringing home boxed/processed food and bread and pasta from the grocery store as well. I fed 6 people on $11.49 last night. There are leftovers for today’s lunch and we didn’t put any processed crud into our bodies. :)

  18. Just found your blog! Great-sounding recipes and advice! I do have to disagree a little, though, on Paleo being no more expensive than regular food.

    If you already eat a healthy diet of quality meat, whole grains, beans (we used to eat lots of beans!), and fresh fruits and veggies, making everything from scratch, and avoiding processed foods, then you switch to Paleo, your grocery bill DOES go up. Here is why (at least in MY experience): suddenly the kids aren’t getting any “fillers” like bread (even homemade, whole-grain bread or Ezekiel bread), and they are CONSTANTLY HUNGRY, which means I have to buy mega-loads of organic apples and baby carrots and almond butter. Let me tell you, even buying Ezekiel bread at $5 a loaf, it is STILL cheaper than buying organic apples at $2+ a pound : ( A loaf of bread will last us a week, $5 worth of apples, lasts two days.

    A typical meal for us USED to be: meat, a grain/legume (bread, potatoes, or a bean salad), a veggie, and a salad. My kids could easily go from one meal to the next without “starving.” Now a meal is a meat, a veggie, and a salad. That satisfies my kids (who are 6 and 4) for about an hour (if I’m lucky), then they’re back asking for more food.

    My grocery budget has increased by about $200 since going Paleo. I love how good I feel, so I will continue to pay the extra in hopes to avoid insane medical expenses later, BUT it is definitely not cheaper or even the same amount as my previous way of eating, which is the standard healthy diet that doctors recommend these days.

    Maybe it’s dependent on the area of the country. I live in TX. Fresh produce has to be shipped from CA, Mexico, and other places where produce will actually GROW. People are also not very health-conscious here (they want their carb-heavy Tex-Mex and deep-fried Southern food!), so good meat, eggs, and veggies cost a premium (supply and demand, you know). I pay $3.29 a dozen for organic, free-range eggs. $5 a lb for butter. $15 for a SINGLE cage-free chicken. Organic apples are $2+ a lb, each apple weighing almost a lb. A clamshell of organic salad greens is $4. Broccoli is as much as $2 a lb, and I won’t even get into how much I pay for asparagus, artichoke, brussels sprouts. All those delicious veggies, and we have to save them for special occasions. I really do think location plays a HUGE role in the cost of food. Someone who lives in CA where there is an overabundance of Farmers’ Markets will find it significantly cheaper to eat Paleo than someone who lives in the middle of the country where fresh produce isn’t grown locally. No joke: I bought a pint of green beans from a roadside stand last year… $5 for one meal’s worth of green beans! Just an example of how expensive locally-grown and/or organic food is here.

    Again, though, I’m so glad I found your blog and am looking forward to trying your recipes! I just wanted to point out that not everyone comes from a background of processed foods, and in THAT case, Paleo IS more expensive. It hasn’t stopped me from going this route, but I know other families who simply cannot afford it, and have had to go back to eating whole grains and beans because they cost less than all the fresh produce required to keep the kids satisfied.

    • Wow. I have to say this is very interesting to me, because my family of 6 did come from eating whole, what we THOUGHT to be nutritious food. Whole grain bread, whole wheat pastas, Whole grain cereals and oatmeal, etc. My experience and the experience of almost everyone I know who has switched to paleo is that we are MORE full now and can hardly believe it’s time for our next meal when it comes. Are you getting enough protein and fats? They are slower to digest than carbos, avoiding that “spike and drop” that makes people even hungrier. As far as the money issue, I used to eat the same things as now, only I save the money from $2.89 a loaf bread, $7 per large box of cereal which only lasted us a week, $4 per bottle of juice, etc. Now, I just put that money toward the organics which are about $1 more per pound than non organics. I do shop at the grocery store mostly, because I don’t usually have time to hit the farmer’s market. (we only have one locally) Also, I tend to only buy fruits that are in-season because they’re cheaper that way, and most of my veggies, too. I have a few that I don’t buy organic *gasp* because they have a tough outer skin that we dont eat and they’re hard to find organic. I guess the local prices have a bit to do with it. I LOVE that you’re still willing to pay extra for good health, but I hope you can find a way not to.

    • For me, it’s been more expensive, too. But, I haven’t been planning. I live in northern NJ and at this time of year, finding good, healthy, organic produce is easy. It’s the meats that cost me a lot more. We’re talking a difference of $7 – $15 per pound more. Last weekend I bought a beautiful sirloin steak at Whole Foods (the steak came from a NJ grass fed farm and was – OMG – delicious) that was $16.99 lb.! My 85% lean ground beef costs me around $7.99 lb., whereas, I used to buy London broil for $1.99 lb. BIG difference. But, I think finding the sales and basing planned meals around the sales will help that. …We’ll see. I will be doing this over the weekend. …I just wanted to let you know that I’m feeling your pain. ;o)

    • You are right about location determining price. I live in So.California where choice abounds and it’s hip to eat healthy. Remember, another way you will save $ is less trips to the doctor’s and on prescription meds. Your immune system gets a major boost from eating this way.
      As for being hungry quickly after a meal, you definitely need more fat in your meals. Avocados, nuts, coconut milk, and olive oil are some of your options. Anytime I make a meal too “lean”, I find myself hungry again too quickly. It also depends on how long you’ve been eating this way. During my 1st month of switching to Paleo, I ate A LOT. I’m sure that was my body adjusting to the blood sugar balancing act. Now in my 3rd month, I find myself eating less often and never experiencing that “I’m starving!” desperate feeling. The sad part for families who go back to grains and beans are paying for it in many other ways both physically and emotionally.

  19. I forgot to clarify, that’s $200 a MONTH increase for my grocery budget. I am currently spending around $700 a month feeding a family of four. I do plan my meals, and we eat three full meals and at least one snack every single day.

  20. Pingback: Daily Workout 6.16.2011 « CrossFit Delaware Valley

  21. Pingback: Eating Healthy on a $$ « FallOut CrossFit – Exercise Fitness Training

  22. Lily, I felt the same way at first- I think I was spending like $200+ a week for 4 of us. I think I just need to plan better and buy cheaper cuts of meat. I don’t always buy organic veggies, but now that our CSA share is in full swing, hopefully that will save us $$.

  23. Well lets see…what’s more expensive…buying healthy food, or having to buy monthly medication for heart disease, diabetes (test strips are $1 a piece) high blood pressure, ED, Rheumatoid Arthritis, IBS in addition to still having to eat?

    Paleo is expensive if you choose it to be. If you shop smart, it doesn’t have to be. I choose not to be sick, so in saving the 100-200 a month in diabetes supplies, I choose to buy cow and bacon! Sounds like a better trade off to me. I haven’t bought diabetes supplies in 10 months since I no longer take any meds as Paleo has gotten me to normal blood sugar levels! By doing that, I also reduce the risk of heart disease, and dropping weight means obesity is in check, and I haven’t been to the doctor in more than a year. Hmmm, where is that savings going? OH that’s right…More meat!

    Anyone who says it’s more expensive to live this way, it all depends on what you would rather spend your money on. Quality food, or crap food over and over in between doctor visits. I eat less now being Paleo. Only once or twice a day compared to the 6 times a day recommended SAD CW food way my dumb ass doctor prescribed with 60% carbohydrate intake for a diabetic!!

    PAF FOR LIFE!! (That’s Paleo As F***) for those not familiar with the term!!

    Just Eat Real Food!!

    Tim

  24. …I stumbled across this almost a year after it was first posted, and it’s been a year since we chose to change to Paleo/primal eating.

    Pre-Paleo/primal: I used to spend hours in the kitchen every week making whole grain bread from scratch, making snacks from scratch, making homemade cereals, making pasta and tortillas from scratch, taking over an hour to prepare a “from scratch” meal…all to save us money and “eat healthy.” I used to spend around $200 – $240 a month on groceries for a family of 7 — 4 adults, 2 teen boys, 1 tween girl. I also used to take a statin for high cholesterol, 20+ units of insulin, 2 different kinds of pills to treat diabetes, and a blood pressure med to help treat the kidney disease from the diabetes.

    Now: I spend maybe 30 minutes or less in the kitchen preparing meals. No more baking bread. No more making snacks (we don’t need them because we’re not hungry between meals.) No more cereal unless it’s nut-based granola or hot cereal. Cooking is so simplified now, and the family loves it! We eat a huge variety of meals. I think I spend $40 – $50 MORE each month for groceries — half the cart is taken up by fresh produce –, but I’m spending $1000+ LESS on medications every year. No more statin, insulin reduced by 1/2, totally eliminated 1 diabetes med, cut blood pressure med in 1/2. The whole family has managed to avoid the typical cold & flu season visits to the doctor, so there’s less $$ going out for office visits.

    Paleo/primal eating on a tight grocery allowance requires planning, plain and simple. It has required some searching for the best prices on necessary ingredients. It requires dedication to stick to the plan and the diet. It’s paid off, many times over.

    P.S. My husband noticed another benefit: we used to fill our trash barrel to overflowing every week. Now we have maybe 2 bags a week. Why? Because the majority of our food doesn’t come in boxes or cans!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s