The Morning After: Eating Healthy

Here we are, the day after Thanksgiving. Did you eat too much? Are you still feeling full? I, like many others, often throw out restraint on our national feast day, but the day after is another story. As I munch on leftover stuffing and sweet potatoes, my conscience is beginning to intrude on my carb-induced lethargy. It’s time to climb back onto the healthy food wagon before my cravings take over my life.

At the same time, Pete and I recently restructured our budget. I’m excited that we can finally plan our spending—he hasn’t missed a paycheck for an entire year now! Still, we’re not exactly flush (I’m looking for flexible employment), and our food budget is one area where we can conserve. The average person in the U.S. spends $7 per day on food. That works out to $420 per month to feed two people. We set our budget at only $300. (This is what we already spend, so we know we can do it.)

A few months ago, our newspaper ran an article about the difficulty of eating well on food stamps. The premise was that food is expensive, the government subsidy isn’t sufficient to cover the cost, and healthy food costs a lot more than junk food.

My initial reaction was disbelief. Pete and I manage to eat plenty of healthy food (just look at my waistline) on $300 per month. According to the SNAP website, people on food assistance in Colorado (it varies by state) receive $137.05 per month per person.  Granted, we spend a bit more than that, but then we sometimes splurge and buy deli turkey, fresh fish, or sugar-free mint patties. (On the other hand, SNAP isn’t intended to pay for someone’s entire food budget—it’s a supplement.)

I also took issue with the widely held belief that eating healthy food is more expensive than eating junk food. My dietary restrictions (no sugar, only whole grains, limited carbs) prevent us from filling up on lots of pasta, white potatoes, and other cheap starches, yet our food budget is significantly below the national average.

It’s true that I cook most meals from scratch—convenience foods usually cost much more. Cooking takes time and know-how. Still, is it really cheaper to buy unhealthy food?

In researching my question I ran across an excellent article disputing this conventional wisdom. I think you’ll find “How to Eat Healthy for Under $6 a Day” quite interesting.

Thanksgiving is a time for abundance, and we should feel free to indulge a bit. But when it’s time to face the pounds we’ve gained over the holidays (not my favorite time to get on the scale!), we can’t blame the budget for our choices.

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