30-Somethings - Expensive to eat healthy?

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05-13-2009, 06:07 PM
Do you think it is more expensive to eat healthy?

We had a little debate over on my BB about this. I was curious of your thoughts...

05-13-2009, 06:13 PM
I spend less. I do cook, though, and eat a mostly whole-foods diet, which is cheaper than eating out (and WAY cheaper than eating lower calorie, healthier convenience foods, which I think is probably the MOST expensive way to go).

Thighs Be Gone
05-13-2009, 06:14 PM
It has been cheaper for me. We eat out rarely as compared to before. When shrimp or fish go on sale, I stock up. We eat whatever produce is on sale and in season. We eat lots of eggs and tunafish and lots of beans.

05-13-2009, 06:32 PM
I spend less. I do cook, though, and eat a mostly whole-foods diet, which is cheaper than eating out (and WAY cheaper than eating lower calorie, healthier convenience foods, which I think is probably the MOST expensive way to go).


05-13-2009, 06:40 PM
I cook more (although I always did), even things that I perhaps bought before (smoked turkey, roast beef for lunches). I make my own salad dressings now as well. Although it's been a long time I seem to remember spending $5-10 at drive-thrus a couple of days a week, and then there was the Friday night junk food stock up for the weekend. Of course, those never went into the regular grocery run, so they were 'extra'.

05-13-2009, 07:11 PM
For a specific volume of food, I spend more. But in total, I spend less - primarily because I eat less. I easily spent $10-15 on snacks and vending machines each work day. Don't do that now.

I spend less on fresh fruit after dinner than I previously spent on cookies after dinner. But that's because a sleeve of cookies was my normal portion.

We spend more per pound on specific pieces of fish and meat, but, again, spend less because we eat smaller portions.

05-13-2009, 07:17 PM
I think I spend a lot more. But this year I planted a garden so hopefully I'll have some fresh veges for almost free.

05-13-2009, 07:26 PM
Well, in may case I spend more.
Before I changed my eating habits (for better) I didn’t eat out unless in special occasions.
I used to buy frozen foods, like TV dinner and hot pockets (cheap ones from Wall-Mart) and I would also snack on whatever they had on sale, cookies, cake, ice cream... you can always find something very cheap and unhealthy.
Now I buy fruits, green and vegetables which aren't cheap at all, specially during the winter time.
But I just think that worth it!!!
Will save $$$ with doctors :D

05-13-2009, 07:59 PM
i think it comes to about the same for me, but i am one to go all out and buy the organic, or better quality items for a buck or two more.
i know that when i am in the bad habit of eating out, a meal at panera or some where costs between 8-10$.
I'm sure if i really tried, i could stretch my dollars more and significantly reduce the amount i spend per meal.

but to answer your question, yes i think in dollar amount, you will spend more to eat whole, nutritious foods. If you look at the cheapest diets, you would be eating boxed dinners for a couple bucks a night and bagged pretzels and chips and such for a few bucks. mostly made of processed grains which are super cheap to produce but high in simple carbs and generally low in nutrition. which in my opinion is the cause or a contributing factor for low income families to have problems with diabetes and cardiovascular health, etc.

In the long term, if you eat a poor diet, you will spend more on pharmaceuticals and health care, either that or the tax payers will. Spending more on quality foods however is an investment in your health care that will prevent you from developing chronic conditions.
So, whereas you might save money buying the value snack packs and mac n' cheese dinners, you will eventually end up paying for it in the long run.

that's the way i see it. :)

05-13-2009, 08:12 PM
I don't know that the question is that simple. When my husband and I were both working very good-laying jobs, we spend a lot more on groceries and eating out (whether we were eating healthy/dieting or not). Then I got sicker and my husband lost his job, and we had to file bankruptcy because of the medical expenses - and long story, but suddenly we were living on 1/4 the income that we had, then my husband was injured badly which sped up the progression of a congenital spine and joint problem (at 17 he was told he'd be on disability by age 30, at least he made it to 35).

So now, we're both on disability income, and our budget is pretty tight. It is more challenging to eat a healthy, balanced diet - and even more challenging to eat for weight loss, but it's far from impossible. If you've got a super tight budget, it is very difficult not to eat a carb-heavy diet. At our tightest extreme, we spent less than $50 for both of us for the entire month - but VERY carb heavy. Not necessarily "junk" food, because the cheapest foods are pretty healthy basics (rice, dried beans, and tvp granules, if bought in bulk bags or from bulk bins), but the cheapest foods do tend to be starchy, and fruit and veggie choices are limited - the cheapest usually being celery, carrots, onions, potatoes, cabbage, iceberg lettuce (or sometimes romaine heads, at Aldi), red delicious apples and navel oranges.

I learned alot about saving money from the Tightwad Gazette and other frugal living books I checked out from the library. Eventually, I bought The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn and the cookbook Good Cheap Food by Miriam Ungerer (as with most of my books, I either get them from thrift stores, garage sales, or amazon.com if I can buy them used, cheaply enough).

If you're willing to devote the time to shopping, cooking, and prep work; you can eat healthy and low-calorie, quite cheaply. It's not even outrageously time-consuming, but you do have to plan a head. For an unorganized, impulsive people like my husband and I, that was the hardest part - planning ahead and staying organized.

I've participated in a lot of discussions here, on saving money while eating well, and have shared a lot of tips and recipes. Aldi (a discount grocery chain) is almost always mentioned, if not by me then by someone else in the course of the discussion- so if you search on Aldi, you'll find a lot of great threads on the subject.

05-13-2009, 08:13 PM
My wallet is thinner (who says thin is always better?) - I shop at Whole Foods. Organic, Quality, Boutique Foods are $$$$.

05-13-2009, 08:28 PM
I spend less. Now, I get to skip aisles in the supermarket--no chips, no soda, no ice cream. I do have a large vegetable garden, which probably helps.

05-13-2009, 08:44 PM
When it comes to just what I spend to eat just at home - something we had already started doing because of the recession - I could feed two adults in my home with crap food for about $75 a week.

Now, I'm trying to find an economical way to go organic and that is costing more. I'd say our food budget is up around $100 - $125 in a typical week.

Violin Jenn
05-13-2009, 08:51 PM
For me I spend less. Being single, when I cook I have ton's of leftover meals, so that saves money.

05-14-2009, 09:39 AM
I couldn't vote! I actually spend about the same amount. Instead of buying all the junk food I am buying healthier options. I buy less food but it costs about the same as what I was paying before. My totals are usually around $110-$150 a week depending on what I need to get.

05-14-2009, 09:56 AM
I think it depends how you were eating before you make the change. If you were buying a lot of prepared foods and eating out before, and now you're cooking more from scratch, you're probably spending less. If you were just eating cheap before, then you may be spending more on fresh food. I think that you can eat healthy and frugally though...just look around the blog world for "menu plan monday" posts.

05-14-2009, 09:59 AM
Way cheaper for me!

Someone posted on 3FC, you can have 2 of the 3: cheap, healthy, or convenient (I think it was Amanda?). To have all 3 is a challenge! I choose cheap & healthy, so that means prep work and cooking at home.

05-14-2009, 10:19 AM
Definitely more expensive - but not unreasonably so - we figure it saves us in health care costs ;-) But then we eat organics, try to buy sustainably and unfortunately don't have the time to cook - so we do buy some more prepackaged foods. To make it affordable we eat very little meat and cheese. I'd love to get more nuts in but they are just too expensive. However that said, we don't "skip" our favorites like kombucha drinks, mineral water, coconut water, spiru-tein, COFFEE (he gets regular organic fair trade and I get decaf organic)...so IF we did cook (buying bulk rice, beans and such) and removed our favies I think we'd do much better ;-) So short answer, you can do it for the same price but you have to make modifications. It's just what you're willing to adjust.

05-14-2009, 11:10 AM
I think it costs more to eat healthy (to me, it seems lower nutritional quality food costs less - for example, 93/7 ground beef costs a lot more than 75/25 ground beef) - but it's still cheaper than eating out.

05-14-2009, 01:04 PM
That was me - I stand by it. You can get any of those things for your food (Healthy, Convenient, and Cheap), but only two at a time.

I'd suggest that anyone who does pay more try investigating alternative sources for stuff they buy. I definitely do NOT do all of my shopping at a grocery store. Instead, I get my produce from a produce stand, and my basic dry staples as well...they have great prices on dried beans, brown rice and nuts (you might try an Asian market or even joining a CSA group to get produce delivered at lower than grocery store costs), my meat from a great butcher (he's an hour away, but he has 95% lean ground beef for 1.99 a lb, every day, and boneless skinless chicken breasts for around 2-3 dollars...and you can buy some of it pre-marinated so you can up that "convenience" factor). This allows me to buy the QUALITY I'm looking for (local source, organic where possible) without paying a grocery store markup for those things. Check out www.localharvest.org for more info on CSAs or other local produce options.

But then, this all goes back to my Cheap/Convenient/Healthy analogy. I buy my food at 2 different spots weekly, plus monthly stops at 2 other stores to stock up. But my grocery bill is greatly reduced, and I still get my whole/organic foods.

05-14-2009, 01:49 PM
Recently, I've been reading books on frugal living, and decided to reread my copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn, and I had forgotten that it's where I got my idea to mix ground beef with tvp (there was no recipe, just the suggestion). I've perfected my recipe over the years to get the tvp to absorb more meat flavor, and to preserve the meat texture. (textured vegetable protein, sometimes called tsp textured soy protein - it comes in several shapes and flavors, but I usually use the granules which look like grapenuts cereal, before hydrating).

Because the tvp is very low in fat, I can mix it with cheaper ground beef and by adding more tvp to cheaper higher fat ground beef, I can buy 80/20 or even 73/27, but mix it with enough tvp to bring the fat content down to the equivalent of the more expensive 95/05. Because tvp is about 1/4 the price of even the cheapest ground beef, per serving, I get the equivalent of the most expensive, leanest ground beef for less than the price of the cheapest.

My husband's response initially was "Ick, it's not going to taste the same." I converted him (a little bit) by telling him only after dinner that the tacos, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes... had tvp in with the beef. He was still a bit reluctant, and not entirely enthusiastic, but he admitted that he hadn't noticed the difference. He became a full convert though, when we had unexpected guests (hubby's friends) and I just added extra tvp to the taco meat I was making. One of the guys (also a hobby gourmet) asked for the recipe, because he said he liked how the meat was really tasty, but not greasy. When I told him my "secret," he was shocked but fascinated.

After that, my hubby was much more enthusiastic about tvp, and even reminds me when we're getting low to add it to the grocery list.

05-14-2009, 02:29 PM
Kaplods, where do you get the tvp granules? Are they frozen? Or in a bag like dry beans??

05-14-2009, 05:42 PM
Down this way, one supermarket rips us off, the other has basically nothing. So, I shop between the two of them and have one big shop at a place 1/2 hour away every other month to stock up on essentials that are cheaper.

DH and I grow our own veggies. Can't get much more organic than that! :D We supplement with frozen veg since fresh stuff is pretty expensive (and has been sitting out for a few days). It's pretty cheap too; all we need are seeds and a bag of soil occassionally. We have our own compost bin and worm farm for fertilizer, plus our own organic pest control system.

Some of the meat we have is home-kill from a friend of ours (lamb and beef straight off the farm, no corn/grain-fed meat here; it's all free range!). The chicken is supermarket chicken, but we are looking to growing our own chickens (plant the eggs in the ground and watch 'em hatch!) for the eggs and meat.

I try to get down to the farmer's market on Saturdays, but haven't been very successful in the last few months for fruit, so it's been supermarket fruit.

Overall, it's about $150-$200 a week for groceries. Bigger shops run upwards to $300, but we're stocking up on tinned foods, mixes, frozen food, cokes, that sort of thing.

05-14-2009, 05:52 PM
Costs also depend on where you live, too. Anything that has to be transported up North (just ask our Alaskan friends) is very costly.

Anyways, I absolutely think it is possible IF you spend some time sourcing your stuff and eating SEASONALLY. If you want fresh pineapple in January, it's going to cost you. If you have a coconut obsession, it's going to cost you.

BUT if you get to a good bulk store for your dry staples, and shop seasonally for fresh produce, AND check out the freezer section for frozen fruits (such as blueberries) and frozen vegetables in the off-seaon or as your budget dictates (see http://www.eatingwell.com/health/qanda/fresh_vs_frozen.html for a discussion of fresh vs frozen benefits), you can make MORE food for less than a typical cost of a fast food event for your family. You just have to shop wisely and perhaps change your expectations. That over-ripe bunch of bananas on sale for a dollar (you'll see these all the time in a discount produce area at any grocery store that I've been to) can be frozen and used in smoothies. At the meat counter, you can ALWAYS find discounted meats that are close to their "best before" dates, so if you get them and cook them up that night, you'll save alot of money. You can buy spices and herbs at bulk food stores (such as the Bulk Barn, or at Asian markets) for pennies, not the dollars that it costs you at the grocery store. The only thing that I haven't found "on sale" involves pretty much the entire dairy section -- you might find cheese costs less in bulk, so I buy the super-large blocks of mozza and shred it and freeze it. Same with cheddar. And while yogorts may go on sale, I have never found milk on sale, ever.

But perhaps the BIGGEST thing you can do to reduce your food costs is to get a grip on food wastage!!! You know, those boxes of leftovers in the fridge that become science experiments? And I think this aspect is generally overlooked. If you plan your meals and portion them out appropriately and eat ALL the leftovers before making something else, you'll save a bundle. My DH and I figured this one out when we bought a smaller fridge! We don't have space for "non-essentials", and things have to be eaten before we can put anything more in the fridge. Our food bills have gone down immensely!


05-14-2009, 06:25 PM
Kaplods, where do you get the tvp granules? Are they frozen? Or in a bag like dry beans??

You can buy frozen seasoned soy crumbles, but they are more expensive than ground beef. I've always gotten my tvp dry, from bulk bins in health food stores. Sometimes you can find it (usually in 1 lb boxes) in a regular grocery store in the health food sections, but it's one of the few things that is nearly always cheaper from the health food store. You can buy it online too, but shipping rarely makes it a deal.

In the Complete Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyzyn writes that she buys it in 25 lb bags, but I've never seen it that way. Our healthfood store does take special orders, so after we move, I may check into that (when we have space to store it).

In the dry bulk bins, it also comes in chunks that are supposed to resemble chunks of white meat chicken, and fajita strips that resemble steak strips. The fajita strips are seasoned, but I don't care for the texture. I've never tried the chunks. With all three, the standard instructions for preparation are to add a cup of hot or boiling water to one cup of the tvp product, and it's ready to use in 5 minutes or so. "Straight," it doesn't have much flavor (which can be an advantage in some recipes).

I just made a big batch today. I used 2 lbs of 80/20 ground beef that I bought at Aldi's for $1.80 per pound, and browned it with the equivalent in tvp (2 cups, about half a pound, the tvp is about $2.45 per pound which is the equivalent of about 4 lbs of beef).

Here's my recipe:

Beef/tvp mixture for recipes calling for browned ground beef
(like chili, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, tacos…)

2 lbs ground beef (80/20) optional (read “variations” part of recipe)
2 cups dry tvp (looks like grape nuts cereal, and is available in most health food stores, and some groceries)
1 (15 to 16 oz) can chicken broth (or 2 cups of hot water with 2 bouillon cubes dissolved in it)

Seasonings of your choosing (these are mine)
1 medium to large onion, diced
1 medium to large bell pepper diced (or a couple tablespoons dehydrated bell pepper)
2 medium stalks celery, diced fine (or a tablespoon dehydrated celery or celery flakes)
Garlic powder, or granulated garlic
Salt (I use chicken soup base - like powdered bouillon or “better than bouillon“ which is a paste, but regular salt is ok, also)
1-2 tsp oil (or if you’ve got a nonstick pan, you can use a spray of cooking spray or less oil)


In large Dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté vegetables (onion, bell pepper, celery) until soft. Add dry tvp and stir. You’re not wanting to toast or brown the tvp, just allow it to absorb any liquid from the vegetables, and pick up flavor from them (Recently, I accidentally overcooked the tvp and veggies a bit, the edges got a bit dark, and surprisingly I think it improved the flavor - so you can toast the tvp a bit if you want to, but be careful, it would be very easy to burn them to the point they wouldn't be tastey.)

Pour mixture into a bowl.

In same Dutch oven, that is now empty, brown ground beef. Add in tvp mixture about a ½ cup at a time, as beef starts to brown (the dry tvp, will actually help prevent the ground beef from clumping). Break up clumps, and add tvp as you go. When beef is browned.

Add broth:
Pour chicken broth or boillon into mixture and add garlic, salt (or powdered chicken soup base) and pepper and any other seasonings you like.

Allow mixture to cool before preparing for fridge or freezer

Put mixture into freezer bags or freezer containers. I use Ziploc freezer bags. Make sure there’s room in container or bag to break up mixture as it freezes. Every 20 minutes or so, shake container, make sure you hear that the meat is loose. If it’s clumping, “moosh” bag to break up pieces, or open freezer container and stir with a fork or spoon. Repeat until mixture is frozen. Pushing the extra air out of Ziploc bag will keep mixture fresher, so do this once it’s frozen, and each time you take mixture out of the bag. In freezer containers, if there’s a lot of air room, take a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil and press against the surface of the mixture, to protect it from air (and thus freezer burn). Scoop out in portions (about a slightly rounded ¼ cup).


This doesn’t have to be an exact recipe. Only the ratio of liquid to tvp has to remain the same - 1 cup of liquid to 1 cup of tvp. The quantities of the other ingredients can be just guesstimated. You can add more ground beef (or less) without having to change the recipe. It also doesn’t have to be made in such big batches, and it can be made in even bigger batches, as long as you have a big enough pot to brown the meat in.

You can omit the beef entirely. In fact, if you’d like to see if you like plain tvp, Omit the brown step and go on to Add broth step. If you like it, you have a completely meatless (except for the broth, but you can use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, or hot water and other seasonings). Taste. If you’re not happy with it, you can go back and add it to browning ground beef as in the brown step (it doesn’t really matter whether you add the veggie/tvp mixture to the beef before or after you've reconstituted the mixture. I add it dry to encourage it to soak up the moisture, and flavor of the meat).

I hope my explanation isn’t confusing, but this is a really flexible recipe, so instead of a “true recipe” I tend to think of it as general guidelines.

05-14-2009, 06:32 PM
It saves us a lot of money when we eat healthfully. We do not eat out as often, do not buy processed foods, etc.

I buy organic/naturally grown:

-vegetables (except for peppers and potatoes)

I buy conventional:

-meat (try to buy local)

This saves us a bit. I could buy all organic, but we cannot afford it.

05-14-2009, 06:50 PM
I think if you are switching from dinning out to cooking yourself, then yes it is most likely cheaper, but switching from boxed foods like mac and cheese and hamburger helper type things, then I think going healthy can cost more. Whole grain bread cost more than white bread, whole grain pasta cost more than white ect, especially because it limits what you can buy generics of.

05-14-2009, 08:05 PM
I spend a bit more. But it goes in line with what Mandalinn said: I want convenient, so I don't get cheaper.
It's hard to judge accurately in staples though, because food prices at the supermarket have been going up for the last few months. I probably spend more weekly when shopping for produce at the produce store (but that is also because now we are eating way more fruits and veggies than ever before). I think I spend a bit less at the supermarket where I only get dairy products most of the time.
However the case, it is totally worth it and I see it as an investment in my health. I would never regret eating spending a bit much eating things that are good for my health.

05-15-2009, 04:21 PM
I think looking at it from a perspective of apples to apples- that is to say grocery shopping healthy vs grocery shopping not so healthy- Staying in and buying whole foods and leaner healthier cuts of meat and fresh organic produce is more expensive- especially here in alaska.
But, Eating out healthy seems to be cheaper - but harder.

08-15-2009, 11:15 AM
I think it does cost less I'm buying more fruit and veggies and fish and shrimp and chicken and tuna. I cut out read meats and breads and snack foods.

08-15-2009, 12:06 PM
Feeding 6 people on noodles, hot dogs, chips and frozen convenience foods was definitely cheaper than finding lean cuts of meat and fresh produce. I have always cooked all of our foods at home and we definitely eat better when we have more money to spend.

I have started buying meats and produce in bulk from this place - it is national, so you may want to check it out if you have more than yourself to cook for.

eta: We consider it our "insurance policy" to buy healthier foods. We buy 15lbs of apples and a week (thats JUST apples!) but know that down the line that will save us and our children in doctors visits and health woes.

08-15-2009, 12:23 PM
Totally depends! If you compare the cost per serving between a restaurant meal and a home cooked meal, the restaurant meal costs more.
If you compare the cost of a healthy balanced home cooked meal with, say, 2 boxes of Kraft Dinner, the KD will be cheaper.
If you compare the cost of a take-out meal to the cost of a home-cooked similar meal, it will depend on what the meal is. Think of pizza -- cheese is really, really expensive, so you may not be saving as much as you think by cooking at home. And a burger and fries made at home with quality organic ground round beef and bakery buns will cost more that the number 5 special at McDo's.


If you are committed to improving your health and are prepared to change the way you eat, you CAN eat healthily for less than you think. If you can reduce the amount of pizza and mac and cheese in your life, and are prepared to eat meals like ham steaks, baked potatoes and carrots instead, you can do THIS for not a whole lot of money.

Last night's dinner -- ham steaks on the BBQ. Precooked ham was $8.40 for 2 lbs; based on an 8 oz serving (I never eat this much, but just for argument's sake!), this comes to $1.10 per serving. Carrots came from my container garden (you can grow baby carrots in a container! The seed pack was $2.00 and I have enough for the summer). Fresh corn on the cob was 6 ears for $1.99, making 2 ears at $0.66. So THIS healthy balanced meal was around $1.75 per serving. If I bought carrots, it would come in at around $2.00 per person. Based on 4 people, dinner would come in at $7.00 - $8.00.

We gotta eat, and it is going to cost money no matter how you slice it. It comes down to what you choose to fuel your body with. And if you are prepared to cook for yourself and shop and plan wisely and eat ALL your leftovers, you can definitely eat well and not spend alot of money.


08-15-2009, 12:25 PM
It definitely costs less for me to eat healthy.

08-15-2009, 10:52 PM
I find that it costs me less to eat healthy. I cook healthy meals that keep me true to plan. Every meal is planned and prepared at home versus wasting money at fast food restaurants. Pre-planning a menu allows me to use what's on hand and shop only for things I need to complete each weeks meals. There are times where shopping in bulk at Costco and/or Sam's Club pays off as well.