When Eating Healthy is too Expensive

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If I had a dime for every time I heard “I can’t afford to eat good” or “Organic food is too expensive”, I wouldn’t need to type an article about saving money . But you know what? They’re right! People can’t afford to eat healthy and organic, it is too expensive.

Last summer I paid almost $3.00 for One green pepper (that’s uno). This week I went to a local store (chain) and a 6 oz bag  of dried apples were $4.99. A small container of dried banana chips were $5.29. A 5 oz bag of sweet potato chips $2.99. Whole grain waffles (healthy version of Eggo’s) $2.99 for six small waffles, and that’s on sale! Yes, I would say that eating healthy is way too expensive for the average family. Especially when you can get almost anything off the dollar menu at a fast food restaurant and it will fill your belly.

Have you ever gone to a regular grocery store, spent $40.00 and walked away with two full bags of edible ingredients? Now, have you taken that same amount ($40.00) and went to a; Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s,  Fresh Market, or other health food store and walked away with two full bags? Chances are you probable didn’t even fill one bag half way, right?

From USA Today

The cost of feeding a family of four a healthy diet can run $146 to $289 a week, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That’s based on preparing all the meals and snacks at home for a couple with two school-aged children. It doesn’t include one-dollar deals at fast-food restaurants or splurges at pricey restaurants.

The USDA uses national food intake data and grocery price information to calculate different costs for a healthy diet at home. The latest numbers for a four-member family: a thrifty food plan, $146 a week; a low-cost food plan, $191 a week; a moderate-cost plan, $239; a liberal plan, $289 a week. Some food waste is built into these costs.

Costs today are up from 10 years ago, when a thrifty-cost food plan for a family of four was $108; a low-cost food plan, $139; moderate-cost plan, $173; a liberal plan, $208 a week.

The price of a moderate-cost healthy plan went up 38% between 2003 and 2013, says Mark Lino, a USDA economist. The cost of food in general went up 32%, he says. During that time period, inflation was about 26%,

So the cost of our food went up 38% in the last ten years but what about our income, have your paychecks seen a 38% increase or higher?  According to the United States Census Bureau and the figures from the USDA, residents in South Carolina (my home) are spending over 30% of their weekly income on food alone. Those statistics are not even factoring in the few that are trying to eat organic and make healthy food choices.

What are we left to do? The rich stay healthy because they can afford to eat well. What about the middle class, poor and those living below poverty level?  How does an average Joe, like myself, afford to eat healthy on a budget? Let me show you.

Eating healthy is too expensive, but, eating junk food cost even more!

Good vs Bad, Cheap vs Expensive

Ruffels Potato Chips $3.98 9oz bag.  vs $3.99 for a 10# bag of raw potatoes. It takes roughly 4# of potatoes to make 1# of potato chips. So you can make 2 1/2 pounds of potato chips for the same amount of money you can buy 9oz at the store. And the bonus? They are better for you!

Here is a recipe to get you started Homemade Baked Potato Chips

Apple Chips were $4.99 6oz vs $1.57 lb for fresh apples.

Here is a recipe to get you started Dried Apples Recipe

Banana Chips were $3.99 lb vs fresh bananas are $.59 lb

Here is a recipe to get you started Banana Chips

Sweet Potato Chips were $2.99 5oz bag vs $.69 lb

Here is a recipe to get you started Easy Homemade Sweet Potato Chips

Frozen Waffles $2.99 for 6 waffles vs 12 servings for about $1.98 (or less). They freeze well and taste delicious!

Here is a recipe to get you started Whole Wheat Waffles

Peppers I paid $2.99 for One pepper last year (when they were in season!) vs Click here to continue reading How to Save on Produce

What do these price comparisons show you? It’s the bad processed food that is expensive and the whole, all-natural food that is cheap! When you buy processed foods (even organic) it is still processed, and it’s going to be expensive. If you can start replacing one processed item a week in your cabinet or fridge with a homemade item (we all have time to make one item a week) you will slowly start to see a change in your grocery bill and your health!

Here are some great resources for tips on eating healthy on a budget

Wellness Mama How to eat healthy on a budget

Common Sense Homesteading Getting Started With Canning

Nerd Fitness Help I’m Poor but I Want to Eat Healthy

USDA Eating Healthy on a Budget


  1. […] Fresh, local, organically farmed produce is a big part of our healthy living. What goes into our bodies to nourish us is one place we can’t afford to cut corners. But, as a frugal mom living on a budget, I often have a hard time justifying the cost of the foods I purchase. Sometimes it’s a decision between the light bill and better food choices (read When Eating Healthy is too Expensive). […]
  2. Angi @ SchneiderPeeps on March 17, 2015 at 2:14 pm
    I use that potato chip vs. potatoes comparison all the time and I love your other comparisons. I just cringe when I hear people say that it's too expensive to buy healthy food. And it is, if you are buy healthy convenience food but for just plain Jane healthy food, it's not more expensive. I think where people run into trouble is they try to eat healthier versions of their junk food instead of just cooking their own food. We have $150 a week to spend on food for our family of 7 (2 adults, 4 teeenagers and a 5 year old). With part of that money I buy seeds to grow some of our food to help stretch our budget. I'm pinning this so I can share it with others.
    • The Coastal Homestead on March 17, 2015 at 10:11 pm
      That is a great budget for so many people, especially teens (I have 2 myself). Please feel free to share any frugal or meal planning tips!

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