Face it: Eating Healthy Does Cost More

eating healthyWhat do you usually have for a snack? Do you choose something healthy like fruit or veggies? Or is it more like a bag of chips or your favorite candy bar? How about dinner? Do you make dinner from scratch, or do you heat up something that is premade?

If you are like many people, you go the prepackaged high-calorie route. Why? Well convenience is a big part of it. We all lead what seems like lives that are more hectic every day and we choose the easiest route when it comes to food. But there’s another reason, and I think it’s becoming more evident than ever and that is eating healthy not only takes more time, but calorie for calorie, it costs more.

Now on a blog about saving money, am I suggesting we should go with unhealthy foods to save bucks? No, but I think the subject deserves examination into what it takes to eat healthy and why some just give up trying.


Grow a garden and get your own produce? On many personal finance and productivity blogs and sites, this is the advice we are given. This sounds like a good idea, but there are problems. If we are looking for healthier options that don’t require any more time commitment than usual, this is a no go. It takes a lot of time to set up a garden and maintain it. Moreover, there is a learning curve for some of us without green thumbs because the rules are different depending on where you live in regard to insects, soil, etc.

In addition, depending on where you live, your access to fresh fruits and vegetables may be limited. Sunny California or Florida can supply a lot of fresh produce almost year around, and since it is locally available, its expense from farm to market is low. On the other hand, large urban areas and colder climates must have their produce delivered, driving up the cost. Also, the quality and taste are affected as the produce must be picked sooner, or the process diminishes the taste. Ever compared a fresh from the garden tomato and one from the grocery store and you know what I mean.


I don’t know about you, but when I snack, I think naughty. I’ll eat veggies, but it won’t be my first choice. I’ll also need some dip like ranch dressing or caramel for apples. And as mentioned above, during Midwest winters, tomatoes and other produce taste terrible.

Time is Money

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, many times our meal and snack choices are based on time. Are you going to make your own spaghetti sauce or open a jar? Most will do the jar. Unless you have the storage space, money for fresh ingredients, and the time, your family will hear that familiar “pop” of opening a jar of sauce when it’s spaghetti night. Eating healthy takes effort and time. No one ever said, “This is easy as a garden” or “That will be a piece of broccoli.” You get the idea.


More and more of us are taking our lunch instead of buying it, trying to be both frugal and healthier, but there are problems. That lettuce you opened for your sandwich is already looking brown by the next day. Your apples don’t last the week and those cucumbers have squishy spots. Oh, I’ll just buy my lunch today and stop by the store again on the way home. How often has this happened? The problem of storage has people buying canned fruit in syrup or skipping fruit and veggies altogether.

So Now What Do You Do

What I want you to take away from this is that eating healthy is something you should strive to do, but do it with your eyes open. If you start out thinking it will be cheap and easy, you’ll throw your hands up in frustration before the week is out. Know what you are getting into. Don’t believe the hype of eating healthy can be affordable or easy to do. I’ve heard it said that if someone would invent salad on a stick, we’d eat healthier and I tend to agree mostly with this statement. In the end, it’s hard to beat the drive-through.

Image courtesy of TheFemGeek

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8 Responses to Face it: Eating Healthy Does Cost More

  1. Carol says:

    The initial upfront cost of eating “healthy” may be more than eating convenience food or from the dollar menu, but what’s the long term cost? The health issues from eating the cheap way (high blood pressure, obesity, cholesterol, diabeties) all cost more than what you would be spending on healthy food to begin with. You could spend $30+ a month on prescriptions/medical issues or have it to spend on creating a healthier lifetyle.

    You are correct that fresh food is not available in all corners of the country; frozen and canned (they sell it without syrup) are still leaps and bounds better for you than grabbing a burger to go. And you can quickly make your own sauce for pasta by using canned tomatoes and adding garlic, herbs and spices. It takes no more time than opening a jar of commercially prepared sauce.

    I think those who say eating healthy on a budget is too expensive are really using it as an excuse to continue to eat what they want and tell everyone it’s cheaper and frugal. As someone who eats healthy and on a budget (I work 2 jobs and I cook all meals from scratch at home), the benefits of eating this way far outweigh the minimal extra cost of the food.

  2. Monkey Mama says:

    I never understand these arguments. Potato chips, frozen dinners, processed and convenience foods cost considerably more than raw, healthy foods.

    I understand it is harder when you are single, but when you cook for a family of 4, it is simply cheaper to go the healthy route.

    & Carol makes a great point.

    The people I know who spend oodles on “healthy food” are really susceptible to fads and are scared of things like canned food. Sure, we eat canned food sometimes. & yes, it is leaps and bounds over eating candy bars and fast food.

    I guess if we had a 100% organic/raw diet it could get rather expensive, but that is a little extreme. Moderation is all we really need. (We even eat fast food once in a while).

  3. Christina says:

    Sprouting seeds and nuts is cheap: greatly increased nutritional and enzyme content in soaked raw almonds, sprouted buckwheat, sunflower seeds and beans.

  4. princessperky says:

    While I will agree some healthy habits cost more, others are cheap.

    It is mainly a learning game.

    at our house we tend to overload on fruits and veggies the first three days after shopping and be normal from the freezer after that.

    we had to learn what keps and what is easy to transport.

    we still don’t eat enough veggies, but hardly a transfat crosses our plate.

  5. howie says:

    For most of us for what we like to eat it would tend to be a bit more expensive in the store. However if you find it nessary to eat healthy and are on a budget there are ways to do it on the cheap. I read this article on some tips for eating healthy on a budget and I think it can be done. http://www.craigdailypress.com/news/2008/jan/28/aging_well_eating_well_without_breaking_bank/

    Howie from http://www.thehman.com

  6. whitestripe says:

    eat what’s in season, buy locally grown vegetables, from farmers markets and the growers themselves.
    if your lettuce is going brown the day after you bought it, and your apples have ‘squishy spots’ then you’re probably not buying fresh, locally grown product, but items that have been picked ages ago and transported to your store. this adds to the cost as well as being unappetising.
    people should stop using the ‘healthy food costs more’ excuse to eat at the drive-through. not only is fast food bad for you, as we all know, it gives you less, or no, nutrition, and might satisfy your cravings, but a macdonalds cheesburger is not going to fill you up for the same amount of time as say, a pita bread or wholegrain sandwhich filled with avocado and salad.
    you could have a cheeseburger, fries and coke for $5 a meal, or you could have the above mentioned sandwhich, ever day for five days, for less. how? think about it. a loaf of wholgrain bread is approx $3. a lettuce, a couple of tomatoes, cucumber, avo, carrot will cost you about $7 or less. so that’s $10, divided by five days, is $2 a day. drink water, instead of fizzy drinks. have an apple, instead of the fries.
    tell me, how exactly does that cost more? it’s less than half the price.

  7. AB says:

    I think that it only gets really expensive when you insist on organic (whose health benefits IMO are largely unproven.) You can make a lot of progress towards healthy eating for not that much money and time. At my local supermarket, frozen veggies are regularly on sale for $1 a bag. And my husband swears tht the $1 frozen okra tastes better than what he can get fresh. Mix with a can or two of tomatoes and a can, or bag, of corn, and voila!

    And my favorite fast, dirt-cheap, healthy lunch:
    Heat up a can of black beans (42 cents) in the microwave
    Add 1/3 jar of fruit salsa (ca 50 cents)
    Top with 1 generous tablespoon sour cream (10 cents)

  8. Gail says:

    I bought two peaches this summer at $1.49# at the peak of the growing season, locally grown. This was ahuge treat for me as I love fresh peaches. Then I got them home and sliced them up but they looked odd (the flesh was brownish rather than peach colored). First piece in my mouth came back out quicker than it went in. They were horrible. The money was wasted. Frankly, this never happens with a Snickers bar, they always taste the same. My only consolation was at least I hadn’t bought a whole basket of them.

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