Yesterday, you reblogged a post that bought into the false dichotomy of convenience food vs "hipster healthy" food. "Mom&pop healthy" is as cheap/cheaper than convenience food. Get a fridge. Most fresh foods keep 2 weeks if stored properly, make a weekly grocery trip to have no waste. Healthy eating means getting the nutrition you need and not going over the calories you need. Apples and hard-boiled eggs are both convenient and healthy. Learn to cook. You can be poor and eat healthy.
Aw, howdy, puddin’!
…reasonably middle class, which is a miracle for a full-time author.
…equipped of a fridge, a pantry, a chest freezer, and a working kitchen.
…capable of cooking for myself and others.
I am also…
…the daughter of a woman who raised three daughters on welfare.
…a fat woman who has to fight not to slip back into disordered eating habits because of items #1 and #2.
…someone who goes to the grocery store multiple times a week.
…regularly furious about food waste in my own home when people refuse to eat their leftovers/help eat communal leftovers.
So let’s go.
The specific post I reblogged worked from the base premise that it is easier to eat, where “eat” is defined as “get sufficient calories to not feel hungry,” when you are not making a concerted effort to “eat healthy.” It cited things like “a package of extremely filling oatmeal cookies for a dollar,” and “behold, ramen.” Interestingly, it did not cite anything to support the “false dichotomy” you’re accusing me of supporting: for reference, here’s the link http://seananmcguire.tumblr.com/post/164447064675/heyatleastitsnotcancer-candygirl1997
(There is a cranky comment about non-GMO unicorn poop, but as hipsters don’t actually eat shit, that seems less “dichotomy,” and more “angry.”)
But hey, that seems suspiciously like people wanting other people to stop dictating their food choices and assuming they’re eating that way out of necessity, and not because they’re lazy. That can’t be right! We need someone who’s seen both sides!
And that’s why now, as someone who used to eat out of dumpsters, as someone who was lucky enough to be poor in farming country and hence have access to produce seconds (IE, bruised and ugly fruit that no one else wanted), as someone who is emotionally incapable of looking at meat before checking the discount meat bin at the grocery store, I am going to answer the question of whether it’s cheaper to eat healthy once and for all:
No, it is not.
No, it is fucking not.
I live near an independently owned fruit market. They have, regularly, red and gold potatoes for $.99 a pound. They have big Idaho bakers for $.59 a pound. These are some of the best potato prices I have ever seen. Had we lived here when I was a kid, I would have eaten potatoes until I wept. Assuming that potatoes are now the bulk of our diet, and that we’re only eating the cheap ones, that’s a pound of potatoes per person, per day, for a total of $2.40. Call it $2.50, after tax. We are now spending $75 a month on potatoes. No butter or sour cream, because potatoes are already starchy as hell, and fuck taste, but we have potatoes!
Great. Do we have a kitchen? We didn’t, always. For approximately 1/3rd of my childhood, this plan has us eating raw potatoes. But let’s say sure. We can cook our plain potatoes. Say we cook them every night, and have hot potato for dinner, and then cold potato for breakfast. Can’t eat the school lunch–pretty sure that’s not healthy enough. So I guess we’ll buy and boil eggs. You can boil eggs and potatoes in the same pot.
How many eggs do you give the starving, miserable eight-year-old to fill her up? Ballpark figure? Is it the same number you give her fourteen-year-old sister? Is it the same number you take to your back-breaking physical labor job? We’re ignoring the emotional and social impacts here, and just focusing on the cost. So say three eggs each. Maybe everyone’s hungry, but hey, it’s health food.
A dozen eggs is $2.00. We are now spending $60 a month on eggs. That’s $135 a month for a diet that is probably not making anyone happy, but hey, at least it’s all easy on the digestion, right? And if you’re eating three eggs a day, even if you’re soloing this You Should Be Punished For Poverty diet, your eggs aren’t spoiling. Assuming you have a fridge.
Hope you have a fridge.
Your children have now started going home with friends in hopes of being fed, but that’s okay, because it means you have fewer mouths to feed, and if you don’t want them to be taken away, you need to make sure they don’t get scurvy. So we’re going to add milk ($3.50 a gallon, hope no one’s lactose intolerant, if you water it down and watch them like a hawk, you can survive on two gallons a week, which adds $28 to your grocery costs, good job) and apples. Red delicious, of course, which taste like shame, but they’re cheap when the store has them…assuming you’re not in a food desert, where the only apples are coming from the 7-11 at a dollar apiece.
There are so many things we could be buying to make this feel less like a Dickens novel. There’s baloney, and peanut butter, and generic mac and cheese. But they’re not healthy.
Eating healthy is a privilege. When I made a dedicated effort to change my eating habits, my grocery bills increased by 60%. I have the receipts. Not because I was buying “brand names”: because I was buying chicken breasts instead of whole chickens, because I was buying fresh instead of frozen, because I was learning to fill up on things other than chips. That’s just the way we’ve allowed this country to structure our food.
Yes: allowed. In England–which has its own problems, please don’t take this as me going YAY ENGLAND LAND OF PERFECTION–they have laws setting the prices that can be charged for “staples,” like chicken, and potatoes, and bread, and butter, and eggs, and milk. It’s much easier to eat healthy there than it is here.
But here, it is a privilege.
And it ought to be a right.