The Difficulty of Eating Healthy When You’re Poor

eating healthy
22 Aug

Last Updated on August 23, 2016 by Michael Brockbank

My Dad recently began dating a nutritional expert. She had me try some gluten-free bread after toasting it. Although the slice of toast was indeed filling, it was a shock when she said it had cost her $6 per loaf. In my household, we spend less than a dollar for wheat bread at Walmart. This got me thinking, there are many difficulties to eating healthy when you’re poor. A lot of this may have to do with manufacturers and how they view success.

Does Eating Healthy Require Money?

Grocery stores are full of “health” foods that claim superior benefits. Unfortunately, most of these products are six to ten times more expensive than other processed foods. Many of them have merely slight benefits compared to cheaper products. You’d think that removing some of the bad things would make manufacturing less expensive thus making it more affordable to the average Joe. Instead, a lot of producers of these foods fall back on the excuse of, “It takes more effort to make these goods.”

There’s no doubt that there are a lot of processed foods on the shelves that are less than ideal from a health perspective. For instance, Progresso Soup could be better if it had less sodium. At least Progresso realizes this and creates a “low-sodium” and “light” versions of their product. This is done without the extra costs to live healthier. As a result, you can still enjoy great tasting soup without a lot of the bad things that come with processing for the same price as the high-sodium product.

Cheap Doesn’t Mean Nutritious

Ramen NoodlesMy household doesn’t have a lot of money. We have to feed seven people on a small grocery budget. Because of this, we have to buy food that can fill everyone’s stomach on what we have. This often means things like macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, ramen noodles and other “cheap” foods are staples. This also means that we don’t consume all of the vitamins and minerals necessary for proper health.

Did you know that a single cup of Velveeta Shells and Cheese contains 360 calories? That’s more than two cans of the Beef Barley soup I have for lunch. No wonder why more than 30% of Americans are considered obese.

When my wife and I first started our adventure, we had to live on Banquet one-dollar dinners. After surviving off of those for several months, I gained more than twenty pounds. At the time, we had to scrimp just to afford those. Needless to say, things were quite bad back then. But, this goes to show that surviving off of what’s cheap and affordable isn’t always part of eating healthy.

Settling for What You Can Get

If you live in a rural area such as I, you’re quite limited in options. We don’t have a health food store nearby, which means most of our shopping is done at Walmart…because it’s cheap. I miss shopping at Whole Foods in Denver. Anyway, settling on where to shop can have a severe impact on health. Whether it’s finances or location, the act of settling is common place in many households.

5 Ways You Can Eat Healthy When You’re on a Strict Budget

It can be difficult to afford “healthy” foods when you don’t have the money. However, it’s not impossible. For the most part, all it really takes is a great deal of determination from yourself to eat healthier.

1. Buying Food in Bulk

Never underestimate the value of a Costco or Sam’s Club. Warehouses like these can be a great way to save an incredible amount of money when you buy in bulk. Some people may turn down this option simply because you need an annual membership to these facilities. We still find these places to be ideal even after the 150-mile round trip.

The only real downside to buying in large quantities at stores such as these is the amount of money you need to shop. At one point, we were easily dropping more than $1000 every couple of months. Luckily, this saved us several hundred dollars in meats and milk alone. To top it all off, we were able to buy the more healthier items in bulk as well thus improving the quality of the food we ate.

2. Measuring Proper Portion Sizes

Pork Chop and GreensProper portion sizes is one of the biggest downfalls to western civilization. Portion control doesn’t seem to be on the minds of anyone in the restaurant industry. In some places, you’ll consume approximately four-times the food you need in one sitting. Most experts agree that three ounces of meat is a good amount for any one meal. When you drool over that 16oz T-bone, think of how that is more than five-times what you need to have.

I measure all my food out and pay close attention to portion sizes. It’s how I lost 20 pounds without really changing my eating habits. Instead of a row of Oreos, stick to two cookies. Instead of a pint of ice cream, measure out two cups. Not only will it help you consume less food and stave off the extra weight, but it will reduce your food budget overall.

Properly measuring out portions is one of the biggest ways we save money in the house. Meats, veggies and fruits all last longer when everyone in the house is limiting their intake. Even snacks like generic cupcakes can last more than a week if you limit yourself to just one a day.

3. Grow Your Own Edibles

I’m a strong proponent for growing your own foods. Now, I know it may be difficult to raise a cow in the middle of a large city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set up an indoor garden. In fact, you can grow your own fruits and vegetables year-round as long as you can emulate ideal growing conditions. It may cost a few bucks to buy everything you’ll need, but the indoor garden will pay for itself relatively quick.

Growing your own foods also reduces your intake of chemicals and pesticides when eating healthy. It’s the only true method of making sure your food is organic in nature. As long as you don’t spray your garden with the same pesticides mass farmers do, you can spend less money while eating better than you have your entire life.

4. Doing the Work Yourself

Obese ChildrenOne of the reasons why processed foods are so expensive is because of the work it saves the consumer. For instance, that package of pre-seasoned and marinated chicken strips for fajitas is far less expensive if you do the work yourself. This is true in a wide range of products. You could create your own health soups for a fraction of what processed cans will cost you. Currently, I am working on my own recipe for Tomato Rotini.

Convenience is a big problem here in the United States in contrast to eating healthy. Too many people are keen in having someone else do the work for them. As a result, people are often lazy and would rather spend the $1 at McDonald’s for a burger that contains far more calories and carbs than you should eat in such a small meal. Cooking for yourself and the family can greatly reduce your budget while improving food quality.

5. Make Sacrifices

This is perhaps one of the hardest parts of eating healthy. In some instances, you may have to make sacrifices if you want to fuel your body for the next fifty years. By reducing your spending in one product, you can increase it in another. For instance, we got rid of cable television because that was an extra $120 per month that could be used for groceries.

You may be faced with two options: a) watching the Walking Dead on television, or b) prevent from becoming the walking dead due to heart disease.

A lot of us have a hard time trying to stretch out fifty dollars when it comes to buying food. It’s not always easy to afford eating healthy. Develop your own strategies for delivering quality food to the family. You don’t need to contribute to the obesity statistic in America if you take the time to plan.

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