The Cost of Health

Richard Todd from The Morning Buzz on WTMA has been harping on the high cost of healthful eating versus the inexpensive nature of fastfood. I must disagree with him.

For argument’s sake I will define healthful foods as not necessarily organic, but as fresh as possible. Cost effective eating takes planning, some work, and preferably a little extra storage space. Two years ago we invested in a large freezer, if you don’t have the funds watch sites like Craigslist and Freecycle. Old fridges and freezers show up fairly often.

Certainly, Whole Foods is a foodie’s dream. I salivate from the moment I enter the store, but I avoid it as often as possible, the cost is just too high. The only things I buy there are in bulk. Rolled Oats are $0.88 a lb and bulk spices are much cheaper than jarred. In addition, there are dried fruits, beans, and grains which are typically cheaper than buying off the shelf in other grocers, but one would be wise to double check.

With adequate freezer space, U-Pick farms are a wonderful way to save. We picked sixteen quarts of blueberries for $19.00. If you compare that to the $3.00 per pint that I typically see, we saved around $75. I included the cost of storage bags. Not only was it cost effective, it was a learning experience for the kidlets. I take full advantage of the produce stands near my home. Bananas are often $0.10 – $0.20 cents a lb cheaper, which adds up quickly with my family of monkeys.

Buying meat in bulk helps, as well. Beef is $2.19 a lb at Burbages when you buy a side. It’s a large initial cost, but when ground beef has risen to over $3 a lb, it pays for itself. Cutting and wrapping is included.

The ethnic aisles of the local grocers and ethnic grocery stores, themselves, are often great places to find common foods sold under different labels. For instance sweetened condensed milk tastes the same to me whether it’s sold as Eagle’s Sweetened Condensed Milk or Mamacita’s. (I made up the second name, because I’m currently out), yet the latter may be $0.50 or more cheaper per can. Generic foods have also come a long way, with a few exceptions. The husband has requested that I never buy generic ketchup again. I’m fine with that.

Finally, I never buy milk at the grocery store. It is nearly $5 a gallon for Coburg or Pet. The off brand isn’t heinous, but it has been running around $3.80 or so. I make a stop at CVS where they sell milk a few cents over cost, typically around $3.20 for Coburg. The gas station sells Country Fresh for about the same price.

Unfortunately, there is a learning curve to planning a food budget, knowing where to get the best buys, and being able to plan a menu. It takes time and effort to build up a pantry. Also, assuming an average cost of $4 per person per meal, the price of fastfood will quickly outstrip the cost of planned meals.

Here are a list of sites that I use for recipes and tips:
Living on a dime (
The Dollar Stretcher
Your 24 Hour Pantry
How to Stock Your Kitchen with Staples
Teri’s Kitchen – The Well Stocked Pantry
Steph’s Country Kitchen Goodness
Organized Home


#1 Jason on 07.19.06 at 3:48 pm

Once a year, my parents buy an entire butchered cow from the Amish and they stock their deep freeze with it.

From what I understand, they end up saving a good bit over what they would pay buying piece by piece at the grocery stores.

#2 Kelly Love on 07.19.06 at 6:23 pm

I do the CVS thing for milk too! It is hard to stay on a budget when you have to eat healthy. I just finished reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan and this is such a central issue in his book – about why processed foods and those made with corn syrup are so inexpensive and why they make us fat/diabetic/unhealthy. Great book.

#3 Heather on 07.19.06 at 8:10 pm

Jason, I really it, they’ll cut the steaks to whatever thickness you ask. I like a nice thick porterhouse. Next up will be a pig.

Kelly, we try very hard to avoid HFCS in our house. I swear, it is in everything. I even found it listed on dried blueberries. There are only a few brands of bread that don’t contain it. So when I don’t feel like baking, I get Nature’s Own, which oddly enough can be found at Big Lots for $0.99 a loaf.

If you ever need new ideas, you can try There is a low carb menu option (they have a 2 portion size) which is good for diabetics. So far everything we tried has been quite good. There was one exception, but I think it was our personal tastes. I used the service to expand my “repertoire,” so we don’t fall into a food rut.

I had to laugh, the baby won’t eat jarred food. I had bought some for conveinence sake when Bad bad Ivy was in town. What a waste, he just spit it out and glared at me. I suppose I should take it as a compliment.

I do try to strike a good balance, we eat normal foods, they just don’t come out of a box. For instance we have hamburger helper TYPE meals, on occasion, but they don’t come from a box and don’t have all the preservatives.

#4 Vera on 07.19.06 at 8:19 pm

I didn’t listen to Richard Todd’s comments, but I have read articles that in many poor area in America, the grocery stores don’t have a good selection of fruits and veggies but do have more processed foods that may cost less.

#5 Heather on 07.19.06 at 8:26 pm

I have heard that argument. I will agree that in the some areas it may be harder to get fresh fruit and vegetables, but frozen and canned are better than none.

Richard Todd was going off on how cheap fast food, as in McDonald’s, compared to eating healthily. He didn’t elaborate, so I assumed he meant in general. I am sure there are specific cases, especially in inner city situations with no transportation where it could be much more difficult.

#6 Ivy, the Great and Powerful on 07.19.06 at 8:33 pm

I also like

It’s not exactly the perfect website for those of us who are more, ahem, liberal, but there is a *lot* of useful advice there.

#7 Chip on 07.19.06 at 9:55 pm

I’m impressed that you can make yourself listen to Richard Todd in the morning. Ever since that new guy, Chuck, started, he’s gone overboard attempting to show everybody that he really is a libertarian, mostly by becoming mostly liberal. I can barely stand more than 10 or 15 minutes a day, if I subject myself to that much.

I agree though, that eating healthy can get expensive, if you buy in small sizes. That’s why I mostly just eat fast food. That may also explain the spare tire I’m toting.

#8 Heather on 07.19.06 at 10:03 pm

Chip, honestly the only reason I listen in the morning is to catch the news on my way to the gym. I just happened to catch the same comment several days in a row. I can’t stand Chuck Taylor. He reminds me of the slimy guys who used to hit on me when I really just wanted to be left alone. He tries too hard, his laugh bothers me, and he skeeves me out through the radio.

As far as cooking for one, make the freezer your friend. Things like chili and soups are great to just heat and eat. Cheap, too.

#9 JanetLee on 07.20.06 at 1:28 pm

I’ve heard the argument before about fast food being cheap. And I agree with everyone’s buy in bulk, freeze a whole cow ideas. But, let’s just say that all you have is $30.00 a week to feed a family of three. It’s hard to get something when you ain’t got nothing. Ya’ll are talking about a big outlay of cash for long term savings. Most poor families don’t have that luxury. They just have to scrape by the best they can with what they have. And that means buying the cheapest they can to fill those empty bellies and nutrition falls by the wayside.

#10 Heather on 07.20.06 at 1:36 pm

Beans and rice go a long way to filling empty tummies. So does buying the bruised fruit and vegetables in a bag for a buck.
This was about fastfood, not processed. You can buy several meals of beans and rice for the cost of one happy meal.

The processed part was a tangent

#11 Chip on 07.21.06 at 3:04 am

Beans and rice go a long way towards making sure that nobody wants to be near you, too.


#12 Heather on 07.21.06 at 9:45 am


Aside from that. My point wasn’t about how the poorest of the poor survive, it was about how one can stretch their food budget.

Survival is different and in that case you do what you have to, a balanced diet moves to the sideline.

#13 Chip on 07.21.06 at 10:56 pm

You calling me a stinker?

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