Food fight: Does healthy food have to be more expensive?

Last month a food fight erupted when Anthony Bourdain, chef, author, and host of the Travel Channel's “No Reservations”, was asked by TV Guide to give his opinion of a handful of celebrity chefs and cooks. Of cooking show host Paula Deen, he criticized how unhealthy her food is, saying, “If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it's okay to eat food that is killing us.”

Deen responded, saying, “…not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine…I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills…It wasn't that long ago that I was struggling to feed my family, too.”

Food for the Working Class

You can click the links to read their accusations about “unholy connections with evil corporations,” food that sucks, and lack of charity, but what interested me was what was being said about the was healthy, she countered that it was for the working class. Bourdain, for his part, was accused of “culinary elitism” in the New York Times. Columnist Frank Bruni writes:

“[Deen is a champion] of downscale cooking that's usually more affordable and easier to master” and that his own personal preferences, “…don't entitle me, Bourdain or anyone else who trots the globe and visits ambitious restaurants — the most casual of which can cost $50 a person and entail hour-long waits — to look down on food lovers without the resources, opportunity or inclination for that.”

TV Guide knew what they'd get when they asked him to weigh in on celebrity cooks from The Food Network — that's no surprise. What is surprising to me is the accusation of elitism and the notion that poor people can't afford to cook healthier food.

Full disclosure: I'm a fan of Tony Bourdain. I've never seen Paula Deen's show, though I've read some (but haven't cooked any) of her recipes.

Of the former, I have to wonder if Deen or Bruni have ever seen Bourdain's show. He rarely goes to fancy restaurants in “No Reservations”, preferring the following kinds of eateries:

  • Street vendors
  • Markets
  • Pubs
  • Diners
  • Cafes
  • Meals cooked by his local guide's grandma (As an independent traveler without a personal guide, those family meals make me green with envy.)

Of the latter, I wondered if it's really a matter of affording the ingredients. To be clear, I'm not arguing that poor people can afford organic food from Whole Foods or spend hours in the kitchen making a gourmet meal. But if you're planning to cook one of Deen's recipes, you have to purchase ingredients. Preparing them in an unhealthy way (fried, tons of sugar, unnecessary gobs of butter) doesn't save money over grilling, broiling, or steaming.

Bruni also argued that “when Deen fries a chicken, many of us balk. When the Manhattan chefs David Chang or Andrew Carmellini do, we grovel for reservations and swoon over the homey exhilaration of it all.” But Bourdain's point was that millions tune into Deen and buy her books, while most people have never heard of David Chang. She has a massive audience, and if her audience is the working poor, as she implies, who are more likely to be obese, his statement seems all the more valid.

Working With What You've Got

While everyone was weighing in on the Tony vs. Paula debate, Bourdain was on vacation with his family. Later he addressed the topic in a any of the world's mother cuisines — French, Italian, or Chinese — originated with poor, hard-pressed, hard-working farmers and laborers with no time, little money, and no refrigeration.

…French cooking, we tend to forget now, was rarely (for the majority of Frenchmen) about the best or the priciest or even the freshest ingredients. It was about taking what little you had or could afford and turning it into something delicious without interfering with the grim necessities of work and survival. The people I'm talking about here didn't have money or time to cook…the notion that hard-working, hard-pressed families with little time and slim budgets have to eat crappy, processed food or that unspeakably, proudly unhealthy ‘novelty dishes' that come from nowhere but the fevered imaginations of marketing departments are — or should be — the lot of the working poor is nonsense…”

Mac and cheese is a good dish, he says, and deep-frying it doesn't make it better or more affordable.

Kentucky Fried Chicken and the $10 Challenge

This debate reminded me of a 2008 KFC commercial about the “KFC $10 challenge”. A family goes into a grocery store to recreate a KFC meal, and when the grocery bill winds up being more than $10, the cost of the 7-piece meal from KFC, the mom announces that they're going to KFC instead.

Grist writer Kurt Michael Friese took KFC's challenge. He went to a local supermarket and bought hormone-free chicken and the ingredients for biscuits, mashed potatoes, and gravy. His results:

  • The KFC meal was $10.58, which included Iowa state taxes.
  • He made the same meal at home for $7.94.
  • When he used more organic ingredients, the home-cooked meal cost $10.62.

Friese notes that while it may take more time than a fast food drive-through, J.D.'s review of Mark Bittman's “101 minimalist meals” article.)

I want to reiterate that I'm not talking about people so poor that they can't afford a $7.94 meal. I'm more curious about why cooking at home is given the rep of being more expensive (clearly it's not) and why cooking healthier food is considered out-of-reach for the working poor. Obviously KFC has a good reason to mislead American families, but how can those in the culinary world argue that people without means are “consigned to overloads of animal fat” (as opposed to those who simply choose to eat it), as Bruni wrote?

What do you think? Is it a matter of time, convenience, know-how, or availability of good ingredients? I'd especially love to hear from those of you who manage to eat well on a strict budget.

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Hannibal
Hannibal
9 years ago

Fresh, whole foods can be very cheap compared to packaged and fast food. Even more so if you can give up meat. Yes, more effort but if you cook in bulk (e.g. with a slow cooker) you can freeze some to eat later.

Kaylen
Kaylen
9 years ago
Reply to  Hannibal

It can be affordable, if you live in the suburbs and can get to a large grocery store. If you live in the city however, you don’t usually have access to large grocery stores that sell items cheap. Poor people don’t have cars and use public transportation. Can you carry 5 bags of cheap groceries home on a bus by yourself with 5 kids? I doubt it. In the city, instead of grocery stores there are convenience stores on street corners that sell a can of soup for $4.50. That same can of soup could be $1.50 at a large… Read more »

Marcia
Marcia
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaylen

I too have experience with being below the poverty line. Ultimately it’s about choice. In the neighbourhood I lived in, there were 2 supermarkets within walking distance. With a grocery cart, a woman with 5 kids could make the walk. Many people chose not to. Our downtown core (Calgary) has two grocery stores – Co-op and Safeway.
Poorer people may have less options, but most of those I knew and know make uneconomical choices and they make them often.

Maybe we need to have a Food Network show that shows how to cook when you are below the poverty line.

shash
shash
9 years ago
Reply to  Marcia

The Food Network is on cable. I’m guessing that many people who live below the poverty line do not have cable.

Nancy
Nancy
9 years ago
Reply to  Marcia

You’d be surprised. I know a few people who consider themselves poor and yet have cable.

shash
shash
9 years ago
Reply to  Marcia

I know people who consider themselves to be poor as well– and they have a car, an apartment, a computer and time. Just because they consider themselves to be poor does not mean that they actually are poor. My point is that the idea of a show on the Food Network on how to cook if you are below the poverty line, while sounding altruistic, seems to be putting efforts towards a plan that will have little affect. To watch it requires both time and cable (and to implement requires equipment as mentioned below). Not everyone has those items and… Read more »

shash
shash
9 years ago
Reply to  Marcia

little “effect”

(sigh) missing the edit option

Stellamarina
Stellamarina
9 years ago
Reply to  Marcia

Most downtown communities will have an Asian store nearby if not a Chinatown. That is where they need to go to for fresh produce and meat as well as staple ingredients at a low cost.

Catherine
Catherine
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaylen

I agree with everything you just said. This discussion seems a little mixed up. April asks: “I’m more curious about why cooking at home is given the rep of being more expensive (clearly it’s not) and why cooking healthier food is considered out-of-reach for the working poor. …Is it a matter of time, convenience, know-how, or availability of good ingredients?” If we want to address this question, we HAVE to define working poor. Fun fact, it was a pretty well accepted definition: those who are employed but live in relative poverty. So when April says “I’m not talking about people… Read more »

Brenton
Brenton
9 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

She is speaking of the “working poor” in the developed world, and thus even the most impoverished working adult makes at least $12,000 a year($1,000 a month), meaning you should be able to afford $8 a day for food. Especially considering if you have 3 childred as a single parent making $12,000 a year you qualify for all sorts of aid programs like EBT and food stamps. Regardless, if you cannot afford an $8 home cooked meal, there is no way you should be buying a $10 KFC meal. That was sort of the point of the whole article.

Catherine
Catherine
9 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

Brenton, I can’t seem to reply to your comment. I totally get that if you can’t afford $8/meal, then you can’t afford $10/meal, and therefore we’re discussing those who CAN afford those options.

My point is just that April frames her final questions/discussion around the working poor, that is those working at least 27 week a year and living below the poverty line ($22,350 yearly income for a family of four). It’s nice that you think “even the most impoverished working adult makes at least $12,000 a year” but it’s just not true.

Carol
Carol
8 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

$7.94 for a meal for a family of our is less than $2.00 per person. That is cheaper than fast food. And if there is any leftovers for a sandwich or lunch for one perosn that will be 5 meals for less than $8.00.

Megan E.
Megan E.
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaylen

I’d like to address a few things you said. 1. There are usually grocery stores even in “big cities” – AND they are usually close to a bus line. 2. Libraries are open to anyone and they have cookbooks available to check out. Free internet is also usually there and recipes can be looked up. 3. With 5 kids and 5 bags the math is simple, give each kid a bag! (tongue in cheek here, I know usually at least one or two kids can’t carry the bag/have to be carried themselves) So yes, there are barriers but they aren’t… Read more »

Brandi Lee
Brandi Lee
9 years ago
Reply to  Megan E.

I think I agree with the time constraint. If you are working two jobs, cooking a wholesome meal is going to be burdensome. I also want to note that bus lines take TIME. I think it is taken for granted that you can drive to the grocery store in fifteen minutes when your time spent on the bus would be 40. As a city bus rider, it’s the absolute truth. I choose not to drive to places and it takes far longer to get there by bus than car. I would also like to re-iterate that food deserts do exist.… Read more »

jenk
jenk
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaylen

Also: Time & equipment. It takes time to cook. It also takes equipment. Equipment and organization can help make up for time, such as buying/cooking ahead, using a freezer, and so on. And time can make up for lack of equipment or money; for example whole chickens are often cheaper than parts if you have time to cut up a chicken.

If you have a tiny kitchen, not much equipment, no freezer, and inconvenient shopping? Right.

maggie
maggie
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaylen

Yes, what Kaylen said!

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaylen

My friend has 1 kid and gets FAR MORE than $30 a week!!!

5 kids = 10 hands to carry bags. =)

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

I liked another comment above that couldn’t be commented on…

I agree that some poor people make bad choices, which is why they are poor. They CHOOSE cable over healthy food, a cookbook, etc. They may choose unwisely due to lack of education.

And yes, the library is a great resource for recipes.

Nate
Nate
9 years ago

“The KFC meal was $10.58, which included Iowa state taxes”

“When he used more organic ingredients, the home-cooked meal cost $10.62, still less than the KFC meal.”

$10.62 is not less than $10.58

Ben
Ben
9 years ago
Reply to  Nate

@Nate
I was just going to comment on that same thing. Funny a finance blog screws up on numbers.

I certainly think that it’s a time issue. Time is money. Especially in the US. We’re the most overworked country and when you even have both spouses working 9-5 jobs, time is everything.
If you swing by the KFC on your way home and spend a few bucks more rather than buying each individual ingredient and preparing the meal, you’ll have more time to deal with other family chores and needs.

lawyerette
lawyerette
9 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Exactly. There are three options when it comes to food in America: convenient, cheap, or healthy. Pick two.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  lawyerette

Oatmeal is convenient (cooks in 5 minutes), cheap and healthy. Eggs are convenient (you can fry them quickly or boil a box and eat them through the week), cheap and healthy. Lean ground beef is convenient, cheap and healthy. Tuna in a can is convenient, cheap and healthy– especially the light tuna which has less mercury and is cheaper than albacore. Cornmeal is convenient if you cook it in advance, and it’s cheap and healthy in moderation. Rice is convenient especially if you have a rice cooker, and it’s cheap and somewhat healthy– healthier than twinkies. Same with any kind… Read more »

Tom
Tom
9 years ago
Reply to  Nate

Beat me to it!

I also wonder if he took into account the cost of the electricity or gas used to cook, the soap to clean the dishes, and the gas to drive to the store? The real kicker is if he accounted for the time difference between picking up the KFC and buying and cooking his own meal and multiplied that by the value of his own time? I doubt that.

sushi
sushi
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Tom, How about the time you wait in line for the food? or the money you spend on gas or the children asking for extras that you have to spend extra on? These questions can go on and on on both ends. I think the main benefit from cooking at home, is that we teach our children to be self reliant through our actions…

Sean
Sean
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom

If we are including time, what about the time spent at the doctors for not eating healthy or not being able to do things because of your health.

The amount of time an average person spends watching TV makes me wonder if people are just using time as an excuse. Instead of watching cooking shows they could be cooking a healthy meal.

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Sean

I think people use the excuse time when they really mean “energy”. At the end of a stressful day all they feel like doing is laying around. The ironic thin is the healthier you eat, the more energy you have!!!

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Nate

Jamie Oliver did this on his last show set in LA. He sent a dad out to get their usual fast food while he and the kids made a homemade meal. Oliver and kids had time to play football in the drive before the dad even got home. Side by side the homemade meal came out on top, too. Can’t remember if he did a cost comparison, but my bet is homemade was cheaper.

Crystal
Crystal
9 years ago
Reply to  Nate

@Nate- You missed the point- eating healthy and organic was *only 3 cents more*, as in, it is not a great leap from crud to organic

Obvious commentor is obvious

Nate
Nate
9 years ago
Reply to  Crystal

I missed no points. My comment was for April, to bring to her attention a factual error (in case she wanted to correct it, which she did).

What you read into my comment says more about you than it does about me.

Perhaps, though, you visited after the article was already corrected. In either case, however, talking down other people using trite memes is not clever, it is simply arrogant and rude.

olive oyl
olive oyl
5 years ago
Reply to  Nate

I didn’t have a problem with that one nickel discrepancy. I simply presumed the in-text link on “certainly costs less” went to something (with heart-stopping dollar-sign statistics I am well aware of) about the higher personal, societal, national & planetary health, medical, productivity, well-being, and environmental RISKS & COSTS (certainly including a helluva lot more than a personal nickel’s worth of monetary COST) or ‘price’ of eating unhealthier preparations of and types of the ‘same ingredients’ from more “expensive” outlets; ie, higher societal & personal COST & RISK pulverized- nutritional-factor leached & devoid conventionally grown white-grain-caked deep-fried chicken and trans-fat-laden… Read more »

Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn
9 years ago

April, for an education in why cooking healthy is often beyond the working poor, look up “food deserts.”

Then, of course, there is the time-cost. When you are working two jobs with hungry children, you can either spend an hour cooking, or 5 minutes at the drive through and 55 minutes resting with your kids.

Kate
Kate
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaitlyn

Totally agreed, but that’s not at issue here. Paula Deen’s audience are cooking, not going for take out due to lack of accessible options, and arguably in ways that are more resource-intensive: to use the example given, a deep fryer for the Mac and cheese.

jenk
jenk
9 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Are they? Or just watching?

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaitlyn

Butbutbut – It might take a while to cut and chop your ingredients, but once you set your soup in a crockpot or on the stove, it *cooks*. You stir it every so often and make sure it doesn’t scald, but you can do other things while it’s cooking. I sort the laundry and can put dishes away while my food is cooking. I’ve been able to cut down my grocery bill by buying more whole foods (re: raw materials, like flour, rice, frozen veggies, etc.). If you want to make Spanish rice, for instance, it’s MUCH cheaper (and probably… Read more »

jenk
jenk
9 years ago
Reply to  Megan

My husband is leery of leaving the crockpot on while we’re both at work, and you leave stuff on the stove?

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  jenk

Where’s the part where I wrote that I left the stove on unattended?

JenK
JenK
9 years ago
Reply to  jenk

Ignore me. I’m frustrated that getting off work at 6 or 7pm means little time to cook. It’s a temp gig, when it ends I can go back to cooking every day. Wait… 😉

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  jenk

We always leave the crockpot on and I believe many, many others do as well. I can understand your concern; however, unless you’re in an old home with bad wiring and you are using an ancient crockpot you should probably be OK.

Sarah B.
Sarah B.
9 years ago

My husband and I are both graduate students, so we are working on a very slim budget and not a lot of time to cook. We get a vegetable and eggs share from a local co-op that costs us $25/week, and spend about $30 a week at the grocery store, through sales-shopping and couponing. Centering meals around vegetables and grains is a major way to save money and to make meals healthier, and you can make a bunch of healthy meals in a slow cooker where you just have to dump everything in and turn it on! Also, a $8… Read more »

Belligero
Belligero
9 years ago

The NYT writer uses the phrase “culinary elitism” like it’s a bad thing. I find that people’s culinary choices reveal a lot about personality, habits and lifestyle, and I’m fine with making judgements on that basis.

It’s quite simple to eat well and be healthy, and it works on any budget: avoid sugar and processed foods. That’s it. It’s a good idea to get off the couch once in a while as well.

Jan in MN
Jan in MN
9 years ago
Reply to  Belligero

Agreed, I don’t have issues with “cultural elitism” – I am tired of elitism being a bad word, along with intellectual, academic, etc.

I think J.D’s points also brush on a deeper issue – poverty and why people are in it…how they think about their world and how barriers, real and perceived, impact their lives.

Jan in MN
Jan in MN
9 years ago
Reply to  Jan in MN

I mean April’s points, sorry 🙂

csdx
csdx
9 years ago
Reply to  Jan in MN

The issue I have with the idea of ‘elitism’ is that it (or the connotation at least) is not about the liking a better habit, but about the separation between it provides. Being elitist about something isn’t just thinking you’re way is good, but about reveling in how your choices make you better. An elitist wants to keep the gap there because that’s what distinguishes them. Much better I say to be an evangelist about something. Someone who thinks their way is good and wants to raise others up with them. It’s the difference between sitting back and making fun… Read more »

Rich
Rich
9 years ago
Reply to  csdx

Nobody likes an evangelist, though. Like my vegan friends trying to impose their idea of “healthy” food on me. I just think, yeah, you keep downing those “healthy” whole grains, soy products and margarine. I’ll stick to my animal fats and veggies. Of course, I’m sure they feel the same way about my food choices. The point being, everyone will have to just come to their own conclusions.

Tatiana
Tatiana
9 years ago

Healthy can mean expensive if you’re feeding a family and it can be inconvenient, especially depending on that persons diet.

I’m a single young woman who is also vegetarian so I feel I have it easy on both ends. I save money by not having to buy meat and making meals for one is quick and easy.

Diedra B
Diedra B
9 years ago

Cooking like people on television is not always affordable despite what they claim.

I rarely buy organic anything. But neither can I afford to double up on butter, cream, and cheese. My grocery budget can’t take it, and I just can’t afford any new clothes right now.

Jade
Jade
9 years ago

Leaving aside the issue of food deserts – not that I doubt them, they’re just outside my experience – it’s nonsense that a working family can’t cook their own meals. Slow cooking is perhaps the best invention yet created on this earth. Dump a chicken, some canned soup, and frozen veggies into it and six hours later you have a stew, put ground oats, water and a bit of cinnamon overnight and you have breakfast… you can make almost anything without frying. It’s marvellous and never takes more than ten minutes. When I was a university student (three years ago,… Read more »

sarah
sarah
9 years ago
Reply to  Jade

Eating healthy is usually more expensive than buying packaged, processed food on sale (ramen, anyone?). But I really don’t buy that it’s more expensive than cooking unhealthy food at home.

I did live in a food desert and that’s a whole different issue. When the grocery store is inaccessible, and there is a lack of food education in general, it’s not shocking to see people eating fast food for dinner every night and feeding their kids doritos and red soda for breakfast.

Meg
Meg
9 years ago
Reply to  Jade

I spend $60/wk feeding my husband and myself. I work full time, he works full time and another part time job, and we share a car, which means long commute times. I feed 2 adults on $8/day, roughly, and we eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. You can’t feed two people three meals a day on fast food for that little.

Kaytee
Kaytee
9 years ago
Reply to  Meg

Meg – what are some typical meals for you and your husband at $60/week? I’d love to hear more if you are willing to elaborate. I’d love to get down that low.

Meg
Meg
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaytee

I usually alot $240/month to groceries, so some weeks it’s more, some less. This lets me stock up on sales. That money also covers toiletries, paper products and cleaning stuff. Breakfast for my husband is always eggs and skillet potatoes. I either eat steel cut oats with an apple (cook a big pot once a week) and a bit of sugar, or Greek yogurt with frozen raspberries and rice krispies. The oats and honey are bought in bulk for cheap. Greek yogurt is made from store bought plain yogurt that is strained. Apples are cheap, but I do sub other… Read more »

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Jade

“Dump a chicken, some canned soup, and frozen veggies into it and six hours later you have a stew,”

That actually sounds gross.

Laura+Z
Laura+Z
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Every week, twice a week this is what my husband and I have for dinner: In Slow Cooker: 1 cup brown rice, 3 cups broth, 2 cans stewed tomatoes, 1 small can tomato paste, 3-4 zuchinnis chopped, 2-3 carrots chopped, 2 cups of black beans, 3 tbsp olive oil (optional), dried rosemary, thyme, oregano. Cook on high for 6+ hours. (I’ve cooked it for up to 12 hours with no ill effects.) It’s super delicious, and comes out to less than 2$ for a man sized serving. (And food is not cheap in our area.) The best part is that… Read more »

friend
friend
9 years ago
Reply to  Laura+Z

Laura, I like your black beans and rice recipe. Are you using canned black beans or dried? It would be great if the dried ones would work here without previous cooking. Thanks.

KAB
KAB
9 years ago
Reply to  Laura+Z

I make something very similar, except I use a rice cooker for the brown rice, stirfry whatever veggies I have and then add the beans to it. Makes enough for 2 suppers and a lunch. Most weeks, we have 1 supper and a lunch of fish, veggies and rice, 2 suppers and a lunch of chicken, veggies and potatoes, 2 suppers and a lunch of pasta, 2 suppers and a lunch of beans and veggies over rice. The remaining lunches are usually tuna fish with raw veggies and sliced fruit. Oatmeal for breakfast.

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Laura+Z

Sounds delish. What’s your black bean recipe?!

I cook a big pot of black beans once a month and freeze them in 1/2 cup, 1 cup and 2 cup portions to use in recipes.

BIGSeth
BIGSeth
9 years ago

I think the overall problem is we cheated the system for too long and are paying for it now. We’ve spent a long time now getting grains and other foodstuffs as cheap and easy as possible. This freed up more money and time to spend on other things, things we enjoy. Now it turns out that all of the food we created is making us fat and unhealthy. The obvious answer is to shift back to the healthy ‘real’ food we had in the past (things puchased without a label on it) and even consider cooking it ourselves. Ah, but… Read more »

Jennifer A
Jennifer A
9 years ago
Reply to  BIGSeth

Amen. I completely agree with this.

Life has gotten so much more complicated than it is – with our “needs” list growing –> cell phone, cable, TVs, ipads, ipod (and everything starting with the i). We can’t have everything and there has to be choice to prioritize healthy food.

Cathy
Cathy
9 years ago

I find these conversations about food and health so frustrating. People always bring up cost as a reason people choose fast food, but let’s face it, there are a lot of obese, or even just overweight, people who aren’t poor and could eat healthier but don’t. I think that is who Bourdain was thinking of when he made his comment. (Bourdain has been all over the world and met many poor people who eat healthier than the average Paul Dean fan.) I don’t think we can address the obesity crisis until we figure out what’s really going on.

Ru
Ru
9 years ago
Reply to  Cathy

Exactly. 1/3rd of the population of the USA are obese! Are you really all that poor or is it a case of not wanting to spend time making food instead of slouching about in front of the TV? You don’t need to eat organic to eat healthily. My family buy organic food as a lifestyle choice because we don’t agree with poisoning our countryside with pesticides and herbicides, but if you choose to buy normal vegetables you’ll still be doing yourself a world of good. As a student, last term my food budget was £20 (~$30) a week. I live… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Ru

Frozen vegetables, rice, oats and lentils help keep my food budget in check so I can afford pricier foods like salmon and dairy alternatives. (I can’t eat cow milk dairy).

I’m lucky though that I learned all my cooking, budgeting and meal planning skills at home — healthy and inexpensive cooking was the norm for me. Sadly, a lot of people don’t have that advantage.

Annemarie
Annemarie
9 years ago
Reply to  Cathy

I’m in the Pennsylvania Appalachians. Many are poor. There aren’t any fast food restaurants unless you want to drive a half hour, and who has time?

People cook at home, but many are obese even without fast food. Because food here is more than the ingredients: it’s comfort, it’s tradition, it’s the culture. This is a hardscrabble farm community (mostly we grow rocks) and calorie-dense food kept everyone going.

I told my doctor once that food was the local Prozac. Even now, the food we grew up with makes us happy. It just makes us fatter too.

Laura+Z
Laura+Z
9 years ago
Reply to  Annemarie

I agree that there is a distinction here. From personal experience, buying healthy food to cook at home is more expensive in my area than buying mac and cheese for a week. The nutrient profile is different. Carbs are cheap. Protein can be (beans) but can also be expensive (salmon is 8$/lb at my grocery store). Fixing your nutrient balance can be more expensive if you are avoiding or reducing your consumption of carbs and don’t want to eat beans all day. (I usually have beans at least once a day.) As a mathematician, here’s how I order things: Good… Read more »

alexis
alexis
9 years ago

Kaitlyn, Food deserts is a good issue to bring up. Maybe it should be covered in the next post on food. As for the rest, maybe you should look up “straw man argument.” If you’re working two jobs, you’re obviously not going to cook fried chicken or anything else that takes an hour. Fry a pork chop, microwave some frozen vegetables, put it on a plate. Ten minutes. Involve your kids so it goes faster and they learn something. A meal that takes longer, like pasta or baked chicken, is mostly waiting for water to boil or for the oven… Read more »

Danielle
Danielle
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

Whoever is interested in learning more about food deserts, I recommend this video “Bodega Down Bronx”: http://places.designobserver.com/feature/bodega-down-bronx/12257/ (scroll down the page a bit) It’s a fun, 30-minute video made by and about teenagers living in the South Bronx, a food desert with high obesity and asthma rates.

Kaitlyn142
Kaitlyn142
9 years ago
Reply to  alexis

I disagree about it being a straw man. I’m speaking from having worked a job where I was working 10-14 hr shifts, 7 days a week, for two months. That absolute level of exhaustion, without even adding kids into the mix! During those time, even that little bit of “fry chicken, microwave veggies” was utterly beyond me. I ate like crap for those 2 months because anything beyond “someone else make it” was impossible.

skp
skp
9 years ago
Reply to  alexis

The time it takes to cook could be looked at differently. I’ve seen some ookbooks differentiate between active prep time and time to the table. It only takes 5 minutes to plop a chicken in an iron skillet, surround it with cut up (you don’t even have to peel them) potatoes and sliced carrots. While the chicken is cooking you can multitask, set the table, pick up the apartment, help the kids with homework, do the laundry. Whole chicken leftovers can be used to make the next days meal. If your starved eat a yogurt while your waiting for your… Read more »

Everyday+Tips
Everyday+Tips
9 years ago

It all depends on how far you want to take it. For instance I needed some ground beef last night. I could buy the regular stuff for $2.99 a pound, or buy the hormone/antibiotic free stuff for 6.49. I went with the more expensive because I can afford it and that is what I prefer to feed my kids. However, that is different than saying that I am going to fry up some chicken and serve only starches with it versus grilling a couple chicken breasts and making a salad. I personally eat out only when I have no time… Read more »

Betsy
Betsy
9 years ago

When I was a single Mom less than ten years ago, I routinely met a challenge to provide healthy, nutritious dinners for myself and two kids for under $5 total. These would generally include meat or meat-based casserole, salad and vegetable. We’d usually have something sweet like a brownie for dessert as well. It seems to me that even with inflation this could be done for $7.50 nowadays. When the kids were involved with after-school sports and activities, we resorted to fast food and I was glad when the season ended so I could deal with the associated weight gain.… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago

Interesting topic. I would like to point out that the KFC example is flawed as the point of your article was to say whether HEALTHY food could be made on a budget. Also Bourdain might want to revise his statement a bit considering Deen is on cable which often costs $100/month in many areas. If these viewers can afford cable, my guess is they are not poor. All that aside, I can feed my family of four healthy, homemade meals for a couple bucks per person. And yes, sometimes it takes 15 or 20 minutes of prep time and time… Read more »

AJ
AJ
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Bourdain’s original comment never mentioned money. He merely called her out on cooking unhealthy meals, and her defense was that it’s all that some people can afford. It’s not Anthony’s fault money was brought into this.

Laundry Lady
Laundry Lady
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

You would think that lower income = no cable, but in our area the state subsidized housing (housing projects) include free cable hookup.

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Laundry Lady

RIDICULOUS!!! Then families are bombarded by ads for fast food or junk food. No wonder they don’t eat healthy. =) Paula’s fatty recipes (I’ve never actually seen one) are probably better than most fast food.

lisa
lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Here in USA people on welfare & I know alot of them & no I’m not on any govt. program, but they all have either cable, satellite or direct Tv & high speed internet & expensive cell phones. A family of 5 usually gets around $750 -$800 a month in food stamps.

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago

I think it is mostly a matter of convenience. When you feel stretched and lack for time, fast food and eating out occur more often. I think it is also a matter of self control. No, I’d really rather not make dinner every night and pack lunches for my kids and do all the grocery shopping that goes with it, but I discipline myself and do it because it is the best for them and ultimately the least expensive. I think we really lack self control as a nation.

Jacci
Jacci
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

Absolutely agree with you April. My mother in law NEVER cooks from scratch. Every single thing in her home is prepackaged and processed. On the other hand, I am a stay at home mom who cooks everything I can from scratch. After making bread for the past year it only takes about 15 minutes to whip up 2 loaves (rising times not included). Not everything I make is “healthy” but I know it is still ten times better than any type of fast food. Practice does make perfect when it comes to cooking.

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  Jacci

This. I just got into baking my own bread, and you’re right, the time it takes to actually make the bread (assembling and mixing ingredients, kneading, etc.) is about 15 minutes. While the bread rises, I can work on other projects. It’s no big deal now that I’ve got it down to a science. My mom is the same way as your MIL – everything is processed and is “semi-homemade.” She tells me that it saves her time, and I always say that it doesn’t really take that much more time to measure out your own ingredients to make it… Read more »

G. M. N.
G. M. N.
9 years ago
Reply to  Jacci

I didn’t read all the comments yet, but a tip to check into for working mothers and bread making. My mother-in-law gave me a recipe for refrigerated donuts. Mix it up before going to work, put in the fridge, and fix just before or after supper. She said all yeast will cause breads, etc. to rise no matter where it is put. We just put it near heat to make it rise faster. It took me 10-15 minutes before heading out to work and about 20 minutes after supper – punching down, cutting out, frying and putting a coating on… Read more »

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

Yes! This! I saw a Jaime Oliver bit all about the break down of cooking and nutrition knowledge over the generations. Basically a segment of America doesn’t know what else to do besides boxes in the freezer or greasy bags. They don’t have knowledge and recipes to pass along to their kids. This perpetuates the consumption of crap and the obesity epidemic.

The level we’ve taken processed food to is amazing. I marvel at my co-workers and their individual bags of sugary artificially flavored oatmeal. Oatmeal! Something so healthy, that we can ruin for the sake of a little convenience.

AJ
AJ
9 years ago

I know! I’m perfectly capable of ruining my own oatmeal be drowning it in cinnamon and suger until it cries all by myself, thank you very much! 🙂

Mimms
Mimms
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

I get so frustrated reading the comments on this topic: so many assumptions coming from people who seem to be saying that because they’ve had a particular experience, that’s just the way it is and anyone who doesn’t get it is just lazy, stupid, or “addicted to convenience”. I know that my family in the 70s and 80s seldom cooked anything that didn’t come from a box, bag, or can. As an adult learning to cook, I can tell you that it’s intimidating, that making a mistake is expensive, and that preparing meals isn’t just about cooking. It’s not just… Read more »

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  Mimms

But once you get past that learning curve – and it shouldn’t take most adults terribly long to figure out – it’s fairly smooth sailing. Right? It used to take me a while to make bread, as I was teaching myself how to do it. But after doing it a few times, I know what to do at each step, and I have the hang of it. If people give up on cooking after one failure, then that really is too bad. I hear you on the cost of screw-ups with food. (DH once forgot to take the plastic lining… Read more »

Vanessa
Vanessa
9 years ago
Reply to  Mimms

“There’s grocery shopping, which is a special form of hell for me.” I hate most types of shopping, but shopping for groceries is the worst. I can never avoid the crowds no matter what time I go. And I completely suck at picking out produce. I never know when I’m getting a good bargain. Is $2/bunch for broccoli a good buy? It does really matter, since it’s only going to rot in my crisper drawer because I don’t know what to do with it. The whole process is overwhelming to me, and sometimes I pick up a few convenience items… Read more »

Becky
Becky
9 years ago
Reply to  Mimms

Mimms, good for you for taking on the project of learning how to cook and shop! People who learned this growing up have no idea how many different skills “home cooking” involves or how hard they are to learn when you don’t have a teacher. I believe you’re right, that there has been a cultural breakdown in the U.S., where people have not been learning these skills. There are as many reasons for this as there are families. Placing blame does no-one any good; as a society we need to support one another in fixing the situation instead of pointing… Read more »

Frances
Frances
9 years ago
Reply to  Mimms

YES! I remember starting professional school on a ridiculously tight budget, and with minimal cooking skills and very basic equipment. How intimidating to take on learning to cook on top of all my other responsibilities! But I knew I was capable of learning, I came from a family who cooked and preserved (why did I not learn? That’s another story) and the only person turning up her nose at my failures was me. And I had a car — no groceries in walking distance or on a <2h bus route, period. To save gas money I ran a grocery car… Read more »

babysteps
babysteps
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

Yes! I am convinced that if you cook food from scratch from actual ingredients (nothing processed, or only basically processed eg salt is “processed”), it would be hard to get too obese. Time *is* an issue for many, but cooking from scratch is not impossible (crockpot & cooking in large batches/freezing portions can help). Also I remember an earlier GRS post where someone astutely noted that folks on public assistance get their money 1x/mo, so tend to buy a whole month of food at a time – and processed food is shelf-stable. Again, cooking in batches & freezing could make… Read more »

xysea1971
xysea1971
9 years ago
Reply to  babysteps

Our farmer’s market takes food stamps. There are also WIC checks to use there, too, if you’re poor.

Just because you get food stamps once a month does not mean you shop once a month. Unless you want to. You can shop weekly, and walk to the grocery for exercise. Ask a neighbor to watch your kids. The worst thing for a food budget it to take kids to the store with you.

Carla
Carla
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

I totally agree with you, April. I learned how to cook when I was 10 and until I started living on my own, I cooked meals for the household 3 nights a week and baked for ever social function there was. I still have the same cookware, books and utensils I purchased years ago. My hobby is not only to save money on food, but to eat healthy, nourishing palatable, food – more than just throwing food in a crock pot and praying that its eatable at the end of the day. I know not everyone has the skill or… Read more »

Ru
Ru
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

April, I learnt to cook as a young adolescent (around 12-13), because as soon as I went to secondary school, both parents went back into full time work. My mum has always worked, but her being full time and both my parents having a slew of “extra-curricular activities”, meant that I was alone for long stretches of time. I didn’t really get that much instruction from my mum past “oh, hey, that chicken needs using up tonight”, so I learnt through trial, improvement, and internet recipes (on dial up). When I turned 18 and moved in with an ill boyfriend,… Read more »

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

I do think self-control is an issue, but your first point is even more important. I think we as a nation tend to be overworked and underpaid. After a long day of working or in my case watching the kids, sometimes I just cannot conceive of cooking a meal, even a simple one. I also find that if I cleaned my kitchen during the day, I will often at 5 p.m. look at it and declare, “I just cannot clean this kitchen one more time today! Let’s go out.” This comes from a place of pure exhaustion. And I imagine… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I know what you mean, Jane. Baseball season does me in just about every year. I was finding that I was taking the kids to McD’s because I just didn’t have the time or inclination to feed them, but I stopped the fast food about 5 years ago because I felt it was too unhealthy and expensive for us. I began substituting very easy meals that don’t mess up the kitchen – like frozen pizza – or if I’m really beat I’ll tell the kids they need to have protein bars or peanut butter crackers. We’ll even bring them in… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

@Jane….I feel your pain at not wanting to cook a meal, I do. When my kids were toddlers and my husband was deployed for over a year, I was really grateful my kids liked beans (canned) and rice. I ate very little because after a full day, the last thing I wanted to do was cook for myself and mess up the kitchen again. I looked skeletal. Trips to McDonald’s wouldn’t have been all that bad for me, but sometimes I was too tired to even conceive getting the kids in the car and driving 20 minutes to the nearest… Read more »

Stellamarina
Stellamarina
9 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

There are many cultures where the meal in the middle of the day is the main meal. Makes sense really. If you are home with the kids….why not have the main meal in the middle of the day…then at night it is a sandwich.

Misty
Misty
9 years ago

As an avid couponer, I can tell you processed foods are definitely cheaper (and many times free). When I started to coupon, I was able to get tons of “unhealthy” foods for cheap. Every time nabisco comes out with a new coupon, there are sales and coupons… cheap cookies. New hormel processed lunch…sales and coupons…. leads to cheap meal on the go. After a year of bad eating and 10 extra pound, I decided this was not healthy for my family. Now I only buy healthy foods with minimal processing. I could go to my local store and get free… Read more »

Jude Urda
Jude Urda
9 years ago

I think cooking your own food saves so much money compared to eating out. Sure, an hour might be “wasted” when cooking our own food, but that hour probably would have been used to watch TV anyways :).

Cooking healthy rarely has an extra price tag. We can choose to either make a grilled chicken salad or fried chicken with french fries on the side. The choice is ours, and with so many recipes on the internet it is easy to find a healthy-low cost meal daily.

Celia
Celia
9 years ago

I read that article, and was astounded by the charge of “elitism” towards Bourdain. Of all people to call an elitist, the man who eats street food and in the homes of his guides is not the one I would pick. I fully comprehend and accept the idea of food deserts, but I’m not sure I fully buy into the overall lack of affordable food at regular stores. I think it’s more a matter of people either not knowing how to cook or not caring enough about healthy food to cook. I grew up in a household with zero extra… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Celia

Funny thing, pizza is. originally, poor people’s food. And it’s really cheap, especially if you make it yourself. Flour, yeast, bit of oil, a little tomato, a sprinkle of cheese? Not pricey at all! It only burns a hole in your pocket when you get delivery from some mass-produced inferno. Which is why pizza is such big business: it’s very cheap to make. Anyway, try it at home- it can make for a fun evening with a glass of boxed wine ($10 for 3 liters–that’s 4 bottles– at Trader Joes).

Celia
Celia
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Oh, totally. Before I found out I’m severely gluten-intolerant, we had pizza at least once a week. Flour? Less than $.50/large pizza. Tomato sauce? $.25/pizza. We were limited on cheese, so made do with a pizza with less cheeze. Probably $.50 for the pizza. Add canned olives or something for less than a buck. That’s pretty darn cheap if you make it yourself. (And healthier than Dominos.)

Sherry
Sherry
9 years ago
Reply to  Celia

Celia – do you ever make gluten free pizza crust?

Milly
Milly
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I cheat and use whole wheat tortillas instead of making my own pizza dough, but it’s still much cheaper and healthier than store-bought.

elorrie
elorrie
9 years ago

I think its hilarious that Paula Deen jumps straight to Prime Rib and expensive Wine as examples of healthy food that the poor can’t afford. First of all I wouldn’t consider either of those options “healthy”. Secondly there’s a whole lot of middle ground price-wise between throwing the cheapest ingredients you can find into a fryer and eating $50 prime rib (besides who actually is cooking prime rib for dinner for themselves on a regular basis?).

Becky
Becky
9 years ago
Reply to  elorrie

I know, and how is deep-frying a cheap way to cook? I make occasional forays into home-fried foods (Indian vegetarian specialties – koftas and pakoras, yum) and the cost of using all that oil more than offsets the fact that the other ingredients are inexpensive (bean flour, spices, and vegetables like cabbage and radishes). In the “good old days” (which were not that great, by the way) a meal like fried chicken was a once-a-week treat, at best. Not cheap working people’s food at all. Cheap food was organ meats, pig’s feet, and whatever you grew in your garden. Now… Read more »

Meg
Meg
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

I fry food twice a year and that is IT. Christmas and Chinese New Year. Period. I cook daily, and deep frying is by far and away the most labor intensive and unpleasant kitchen task.

elena
elena
9 years ago

I always felt that as a nation, we reached a low point in taste and nutrition back in the 80’s when ketchup as classified as a vegetable offering in school lunch. I was fan of boxed mac and cheese and the drive through through my late teens and beyond back then. It was the taste I loved and price and availability that brought me back for more. Hard habits to break even though I now know better. It is taking a concerted effort across the nation to make fresh and whole foods more readily available: vouchers for seniors at farmer’s… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  elena

Paula Deen is disgusting, and her recipes are vile.

Ah, it feels so good to keep saying that! 🙂

BD
BD
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Because personal attacks are so fun?
You can call her recipes disgusting, you don’t have to like a recipe.
But calling her vile? Why the name calling? What did she do to you? She certainly didn’t go around making personal attacks on people like that Boudain guy did. Or like you just did. :/

BD
BD
9 years ago
Reply to  BD

Meant to say “Calling her disgusting”. I miss the “edit” on these comments.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  BD

Personality-wise she appears fun and charming. A life of the party type person. But have you seen her suck her little bloated gem-covered fingers? That’s disgusting. See here: http://gemsaboutjewels.blogspot.com/2011/06/paula-deens-diamonds.html plus this: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_BkKyK3P43dc/TDdyiQW88GI/AAAAAAAAAGs/8fCG0gIqMTA/S240/Paula+Tasting+my+pie!!!+woo+hoo.jpg or here http://blog.foodienyc.com/2006/03/paula_deen_chug.html And I didn’t call her vile. I called her recipes vile. Random pick from her website. I swear it’s the first one I clicked. Appetizers appear first and this is the first appetizer: CANDIED APPLES (yup). http://www.pauladeen.com/recipes/recipe_view/donnas_candied_apples/ Ingredients 1/2 cup water 1 cup cinnamon candies (recommended: Red Hots) 6 small red apples, peeled, and cored Cream Cheese Topping, recipe follows Freshly parsley or mint leaves,… Read more »

Jason
Jason
9 years ago

For what it’s worth. It’s almost always cheaper to cook at home than it is to eat out at restaurants or fast food joints (and this discounts the fact that your long term health is the best investment you can make). Paleo is often considered an “elitist”, “too expensive” diet, but check out this recent food expenses post from Robb Wolf. http://robbwolf.com/2011/09/21/paleo-is-expensive/ No this doesn’t take into account the cost of electricity or time to make, but frankly that’s one of the dumbest arguments I’ve ever heard of. It reminds me of the comedian who picked on the people that… Read more »

Celia
Celia
9 years ago
Reply to  Jason

Yes! I saw Wolf’s article the other day. While my family is thankfully in a situation where we can afford local meat now, we still sometimes have to prioritize on the organic v. conventional thing depending on our monthly budget and/or what curveballs we’ve been thrown. I LOVED that article, partly because that’s how we eat and shop, and partly because it’s hard to argue cost when you see receipts and the actual groceries.

Sherry
Sherry
9 years ago
Reply to  Celia

HUGE fan of Rob Wolf and Mark Sisson, and have read both their books. Whole Foods CAN be expensive – depending on what you buy. However, if you work the sales there, like its a good idea to do at other groceries stores, you can get some good stuff at a reasonable price. I only shop there for certain items, like bison/buffalo meat, and a few other things I cannot find at a Walmart, Costco or Kroger’s on a regular basis. Regarding paleo/primal eating – sure it CAN be expensive…if you make it. We have 6 in our house right… Read more »

csdx
csdx
9 years ago
Reply to  Jason

Ok I admit, I nuke my poptarts (when the occasion comes up that I have them). But I swear it’s because they’re better like that. Sure toasting gets you that nice crispiness, but there’s nothing like 10 seconds in the microwave to get that jam to a delicious molten consistency.

Bella
Bella
9 years ago
Reply to  Jason

Thanks for the link to that article. I do think a big part of some problems is what I like to call ‘food fussiness’. As a new parent I am AMAZED at the ‘food’ that is marketed towards children (and their parents). I think that the move to formula (this is where the expensive processed food starts fellas) and then continual food marked at childrent that a)all tastes the same b)is relatively sweet and starchy c)lasts forever in the cupboard Is resulting in a nation that expects their food to always taste the same. Because most people’s ‘favorite’ foods are… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
9 years ago

I think it’s primarily that really quite basic cooking know-how is being increasingly lost ever since the 50’s when convenience food companies started putting out recipes calling for their convenience foods. Now it sounds like there’s often endorsements to include them in recipes. So we don’t know anymore how to make a simple white sauce or gravy off the top of our heads, instead we open up a can of Cream of Mushroom soup or a can of gravy. And when that seems like it’s too much effort we go thru drive-thru. But here’s also where a big part of… Read more »

Jen
Jen
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

April, if you enjoy My Life in France, I’d like to recommend Simone Beck’s Food and Friends as a follow-up book. She was Child’s cooking partner, and the perspective she adds through her book is just as interesting!

Bret
Bret
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

If you like My life in France I highly suggest a new book about Julia and Paul Child called A Covert Affair. A very good read.

elorrie
elorrie
9 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

Oh! Your comment just reminded me of an episode of Paula Deen’s show. She was making Symphony Brownies which involve layering Hershey’s Symphony candy bars between your brownie mix so you get this chocolaty-gooey center. She then decides to make whipped cream and add crunched up bits of the candy bar to it. While she’s serving up the brownies and whipped cream she says “And if you’re on a diet you can just leave the whipped cream off” Haha, yeah like that’s going to make a difference at this point….

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago
Reply to  elorrie

As performance art, Paula Deen is great. As a guide to how to live your (culinary) life– not so much!

Bret
Bret
9 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

If you like My Life in France I would suggest A Covert Affair. It details Paul and Julia Childs relationship and their time in the OSS. A very good read.

Norman
Norman
9 years ago

A high school friend of mine delivered chickens to KFC as a part-time job. From the stories he told…well, lets just say, he ruined my KFC dining experience for life.

Heather
Heather
9 years ago
Reply to  Norman

That’s not the only one. Work in food and you will find…you only want to cook your own food!

Kate
Kate
9 years ago

It strikes me that Paula Deen is cooking for a cultural mindset more than an actual mathematical calculation of “poor”. Paula Deen herself is not poor by any stretch of the imagination (cookbooks, TV show, appearances, etc.) but she clearly identifies herself with so-called “regular families” and in opposition to the “58$ prime ribs”. It acts as a badge of cultural pride- we’re not THOSE folks – even if her (and those she cooks for) paycheques don’t match up with the stereotype. This goes to the heart of the cultural stereotypes we carry around even within our own societies. To… Read more »

Shirley
Shirley
9 years ago

I know I am not answering the question here but I dont know why we have to compare cooking shows-EVERY one of them is different and focuses on different things. It bugs me that people have to make judgments about someone else’s EXTREMELY popular cooking show. People can make their own decisions about what they want to cook for thier families. It certainly isnt Paul Deen’s fault or anyone else’s that people decide to cook with butter. If you dont want to cook like Paula Deen then don’t cook like Paula Deen and watch someone else’s show. Where does someone… Read more »

Meika
Meika
9 years ago
Reply to  Shirley

Paula Deen is actively encouraging and teaching people to eat food that will kill them. This isn’t hyperbole; it’s reality. Obesity kills people and eating a Paula Deen-based diet WILL make a person obese. Any person. She also has a huge audience. Of course she’s not causing the obesity epidemic, but it seems to me that she was appropriately called out because she’s refusing to admit that she has any social responsibility – something that our culture as a whole seems loath to require of anyone lately, for some reason. Her “but this is for working people” comeback is a… Read more »

Jen
Jen
9 years ago

This “healthy food is more expensive” trope is one of my pet peeves. The real problem is not that healthy food is more expensive, it is that people no longer have the skills to shop and cook properly. As I sit and type this, I have a chicken carcass simmering on the stove for stock that will become soup. For the $9.45 I paid for an organic chicken, we have had two meals (roast chicken one night, leftovers in chicken pot pie another night) and I’m well on my way to making a third meal from the same fundamental ingredients.… Read more »

Mary+Kate
Mary+Kate
9 years ago

I think there is a lack of knowledge and motivation as well as a convience factor. I understand about the food desert but with the ability to plan I think much of that can be overcome. I think between the antics of marketers and entitlement and live-for-today attitudes it is a “tough nut to crack”.

ccherry
ccherry
9 years ago

Freezer! Freezer! Freezer! I spend two weekends a year cooking then package everything in single servings. I can come home and have chicken tacos, soup, casseroles, roast and mashed potatoes or a variety of other dishes hot and on the table, usually in less than fifteen minutes. I’m not a big salad eater but sometimes I want one, then I usually hit a fast food place and get a $0.99 side salad. That way I get carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers on the salad, all things that would go bad before I was interested in eating them again. Beans also freeze… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  ccherry

2 weekends a YEAR? How does the food not get freezerburned?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

Oh, I love this topic! First of all, I have the opportunity to say publicly: ***Paula Deen is disgusting and her recipes are vile *** Seriously, her crap is truly repugnant. Way too much sugar on everything. Everything gets larded up and fried. Once on TV I even saw her put mayonnaise on a pizza, like it was the greatest thing. It made me wanna puke. I mostly encounter her when searching recipes on the internet, and her stuff always has triple then sugar than everyone else’s. Paula Deen is disgusting, and her recipes are vile. Oh, it feels great… Read more »

BD
BD
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

So why is SHE disgusting? Why not just attack her recipes? Her food may be ‘gross’ to you, but what did she ever do to you as a person? Your comment makes you sound like you revel in bashing people. 🙁

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  BD

I do, a little, yes. I never claimed to be a saint or a paragon of virtue. We all have our vices. 😛 Okay, in spite of my deep moral flaws I’m not being gratuitous though. I explained *why* I find her disgusting in a long post in reply to your previous comment, but the thing is not appearing. Looks like tha abundance of internet proof I was providing got filtered for spam. Sorry. A little patience and maybe it will all be clear. And please realize: I’ve been ranting about her for years in the privacy of my home.… Read more »

Sheri
Sheri
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

She IS disgusting and her recipes ARE vile. You keep talking, bro’.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

Alright but you’ll have to protect my secret identity and I want a cut from the proceedings, ha ha.

Alternatively, I accept compensation in the form of fruit tartlets. Oh yes, you know the ones. A dozen should fit nicely in a priority flat rate box. 😀

No, seriously, ok, I’ll email later.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

I did email BTW. Search your spam folders.

adriano
adriano
9 years ago

Quick answer: NO, if you aren’t too picky. If one is used to the even quality of prepared/processed/convenience-foods one will expect that same even quality when cooking themselves, and if in a hurry or just unexperienced it will be hard to acheeve. That most essential of spices known as monosodium glutamate or more lovingly MSG is so hard to let go of. Since no recipes for real food contain it, how on earth can they be any good? If you are unsure how to eat healthily, give up buying anything that has a list of ingredients on it. Only buy… Read more »

Megan E.
Megan E.
9 years ago
Reply to  adriano

I agree that it’s really easy to make stuff with canned and whole ingredients.

That said, I wouldn’t say soup was the place to start! I still have barely ventured into soup, but I think stir fry is REALLY easy and then just add some pasta or rice to it for a one bowl healthy meal…

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  Megan E.

The beauty of soup (and stir-fry!) is that one doesn’t really need a recipe to cook. You clean out your pantry/fridge and throw things in a pot. Add broth for the soup (although you can get by with water and lots of seasoning), and let it simmer. Rice, pasta, and potatoes make the soup more of a filler for a meal.

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Megan

What seasoning do you use? I think I’d be more inclined to cook at home and all if I knew how to season things. I STINK AT IT!!! I cannot, for the life of me make my own broth. It’s always tasteless. Right now I’m in love with Wolfgang Puck vegetable broth.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
9 years ago
Reply to  Megan

@Amanda — I use some salt-free, pre-made spice mixes. (The Vegetable and Salad one from President’s Choice is my fav! Italian seasoning works well too. For soup, I find that adding baked vegetables (cook plain carrots and celery in the oven for 35 minutes) to chicken soup stock, plus onion and a bay leaf helps up the ante for flavour. (I sometimes add a few whole pepper corns as well, but it depends on your taste) Sometimes I press the liquid out of the vegetables too. You need a good 5-6 hours for chicken stock to simmer. Sometime for stir… Read more »

ellie
ellie
9 years ago
Reply to  adriano

Oh thank you thank you!! I’ve been waiting for someone to say to eat healthily instead of healthy!

Anna
Anna
9 years ago

Pertaining to grocery shopping, I don’t see why “healthy” foods should be more expensive. But what is “healthy”, exactly?

In some cases, organic has less nutrients than their gassed counterparts. Organic merely means the land has had no chemicals used in the last… 10 years, if that? Personally, I can’t tell the difference between a regular Banana and an Organic Banana. Or Organic Beef and regular Beef. I guess I’m just one of those individuals that “Organic” is wasted on.

JenK
JenK
9 years ago
Reply to  Anna

Healthy varies. Some people thrive on vegetarian food, others on Atkins. Whole-grain bread may be healthy for many folks, but not for someone with celiac disease.

Of course admitting that there’s not One True Perfect Diet is heresy in some circles. 😉

Andrea Travillian
Andrea Travillian
9 years ago

There was a time when the drive through was the only way to go for me! I really don’t like to cook. Then I decided to get healthy and try to avoid or at least post pone the diseases that my parents have. Food became more about the nutrition. While healthier eating can be more expensive it does not have to be. It has taken me a while, but I have learned how to keep the bill down and still buy healthy foods. The key? Whole foods – our meals consist of a meat, vegetable/fruit and starch. I do use… Read more »

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
9 years ago

I spend a lot of money on food. No really. A lot. Like $20 for a local chicken a lot. But getting away from corporate food, supporting local farmers, and my food economy is important to me. Its part of our prioritized spending. Honestly, that’s not something I could choose to do on a shoestring budget. I’ve tried. And its not that we eat exotic food. Lots of PB, tuna, bananas, and eggs and we are both slim people. While we are avid Farmers Market shoppers, I supplement with staples from Costco or the Grocery Outlet. We also garden and… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago

You’re right, but damn, I take that $20 price tag like a slap on the face. What irks me is not that there is a $20 chicken out there, it’s that often the cheaper alternative is to buy a greaseball chicken that melts in the oven under a shell of skin and has no muscle fibers (I’m looking at you, Tyson chicken oven roaster zombie meat crap). Really, why can’t we have affordable good chickens? The game appears rigged somehow, and it makes me furious.

Jen
Jen
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

“Affordable good chickens.” What you are seeing in the $20 chicken is what it really costs to raise and butcher meat on a small scale in an ethical manner. We’ve become very accustomed to inexpensive food, mostly through agricultural methods that would turn many into vegetarians if we saw how animals are raised. We don’t need anywhere near the amount of protein that we eat. If the $20 chickens were all that were available, we’d be more like the rest of the world who treat animal-based proteins as a condiment, and not as the centerpiece of our diet.

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Agreed. Which is why I’ve resigned myself to my $20 Chicken, as long as I can afford it. I’d rather give my money to the farmer in the next county who is paying taxes and raising actual chickens, vs. the corporation producing disgusting zombie meat. In fact, if I couldnt afford it, at this point, we’d just cut out the vast majority of our meat. And it does taste different. Even the bones are different. Chickens that run around, have a more robust skeletal structure than their factory farmed counter parts. I see that when Im eating my drumstick. But… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I don’t know. Maybe you’re right, but I don’t like it. Take bread for example. Everywhere in the world, bread is cheap and affordable. It’s a staple of the poor . But in America, a simple loaf of real bread will cost $5. Why in the hell is that? Some stupid “artisan” tag. If you want cheap bread in America, you need to get Wonder bread or some such crap. Which is an inedible baked paste. It doesn’t have to be–this is a grain producing country! Wheat and corn abound. Chickens eat grain, and a normal chicken shouldn’t cost $20.… Read more »

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

There is logic there. I agree. I’ve often discussed why french wine is cheap in france, but american beer is not cheap in america. Even if its brewed right down the stinking road. Some of it I chalk up to standard of living. Yep minimum wage is under $10 an hour, but do I think farmers should be resigned to making $10 an hour? Should that be a minimum wage profession? It’s certainly not going to attract many willing participants if it is. Shouldnt they be entitled to live just as comfortably as I do sitting on my bum in… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Oh, I’m not talking minimum wage going into the cost of the chicken raising, I’m talking about the ability of the minimum wage worker to buy a decent chicken. Sort of a Ford T argument. Why can’t everyone afford a decent chicken. I buy my chicken at Costco, breasts only. It’s lean, it has a decent texture, it’s a huge package for under $20, and I can cook it 1000 ways. The whole chickens don’t look so good though, so I haven’t had one in ages. I fear those greasy jello wings Maybe if I save and invest wisely I’ll… Read more »

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Yes, yes, yes!

People need to return to treating meat as an occasional indulgence, not a staple for every meal. I have relatives who plan their meals around meat – it’s clear that it’s the centerpiece, when really, it should just be a side.

We are cutting down on our meat consumption in my home, and I have been able to get very creative with food as a result.

Susan
Susan
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Hey, I’ve been able to find whole free range chickens for $8-$10 instead of $20 by buying them at farmers markets from Amish farmers or other small-time farmers. Often they’re not able to label them “organic” officially, but you can ask about how the chickens are kept. I don’t know if this is possible in your area, but it’s been a huge savings over the organic whole chickens in the supermarket.

Tara
Tara
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I’m one of those small farmers raising and selling $20 chickens, and feel like I can make some salient points here. Non-organic poultry feed is relatively inexpensive, but the cost is rapidly rising, and those chickens eat quite a lot over the course of their short lives (forget organic feed – it costs a fortune if you can get it at all). Even so, it’s not so much the feed cost that contributes to the price tag as it is the labor. We do all our processing by hand with two to four people, no one is getting paid a… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

@ Tara – thanks for the answer and explanation. Whenever I buy products like yours (e.g. grass fed beef) I go directly to the producer rather than buy at the store, which adds a huge markup. I can buy stew meat for $4/lb from the rancher instead of $8 (that’s the markup at the local food co-op). The problem is it’s not always easy to reach them. I wish I knew chicken producers in Albuquerque– even though here it’s legal for anyone to raise chickens in their backyard! (I don’t have the space to do it). As it is right… Read more »

Jan in MN
Jan in MN
9 years ago

I can’t help but be reminded of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver – best book about food, culture, politics, and local eating that I have read in a long time. I can’t bring myself to eat mass-produced chicken anymore either. I’d rather go without something else in my budget and fork over for an organic one.

Anne
Anne
9 years ago
Reply to  Jan in MN

That book could have used a much more editing, but it was very thought-provoking and a good read too! I actually tried to make my own cheese after reading it.

Kaytee
Kaytee
9 years ago
Reply to  Jan in MN

“Full Moon Feast” by Jessica Prentice is similar to Barbara’s book.

KM
KM
9 years ago

I think it’s important to distinguish between “tasting gourmet” and “healthy”.

Anyone can eat wonder bread & Tyson chicken and as part of the healthy diet–just control your portion size and don’t fry it or douse it in sauce before you eat it.

Sure your fancy $20 chicken tastes better, but you can indeed eat healthy using the lower grade stuff.

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
9 years ago
Reply to  KM

I disagree that wonder bread is part of a healthy diet. I suppose if you are talking in purely calorie count kind of way. Then yes it can be part of my 1600 to 2500. But refined starches and high fructose corn syrup? Part of a healthy diet? Really? Is that what we’ve come to?

Carla
Carla
9 years ago

Its almost like now healthy = gourmet = frivolous. I guess if you see what we feed our kids in school lunches, you’ll see where we get that idea from…

KM
KM
9 years ago

Focusing on demonizing individual ingrediants like HFCS or white bread is not going to help anyone’s health if their overall diet is not balanced and includes too many calories. I think a lot of people just give up on trying to eat more healthy because they hear all this stuff about how eating healthy absolutely requires they to get $20 chickens, and whole grain artisan-made bread. But the reality is that the most “unhealthy” problem that most people have with their diets is that they are too high in calories and make them gain weight. That extra weight is what… Read more »

KM
KM
9 years ago

It absolutely is possible to eat well for little money. I lived for years in an inner city “food desert” and I was able to make it work. While it was hard to get fresh meat, milk and fragile fruits like grapes and strawberries at the corner bodega or Korean market, cheese and basic fruits and vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, bananas, oranges, and apples were always available and sometimes melons too. As well as rice and pasta. Currently I live in the rich suburbs. While it’s easier to shop, I still cook and feed my family similarly, just with… Read more »

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

I think this is a classic example of how we as a people have become out of touch with reality. Like in so many other facets of our lives today, our buttons are being pushed and manipulated like a remote control by people who want their hands on our hard-earned cash. The sad part is that most of us just buy into the hype and refuse to think for ourselves. Of course cooking your meals at home is healthier and cheaper. Even if I chose to deep fry my chicken at home, it’s still healthier and fresher than the stuff… Read more »

Kate
Kate
9 years ago

People want to justify the cost of eating out and will do so, whether it’s Bourdain or KFC.

Jenn
Jenn
9 years ago

We pretty recently made a switch from a heavy diet of processed food / takeout to cooking fresh food ourselves. Funny how being told you need a daily cholesterol pill at age 35 can spur a habit change. We don’t buy organic, but we buy a ton of fruits and vegetables now, and overall our grocery bill is about the same. A big reason for that is we stopped drinking soda and drink water instead. That was enough to make up for the extra cost of produce. We save a couple hundred a month from not eating out at lunch,… Read more »

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  Jenn

I LOVED this post, especially this part:

“Usually we leave thinking we should have just cooked at home since it is cheaper and tastes better.”

Isn’t that the kicker? It’s nice to occasionally have someone else clean up, prep the food, cook it, and then clear the table and do the dishes – but at the same time, I think I could have done it better/cheaper.

Eltoro1000
Eltoro1000
9 years ago

As a side note, does anyone else find the KFC ads funny? It’s not like they intend them to be either- that’s the irony!

The $10 challenge, the “fried chicken is healthy because it has protein!” debacle, and the “mashed potato/corn/cheese bowl” thing- it all has provided me with a wealth of unintended comedic value!

Incidentally, Taco Bell is a close second- how many items can they come up with using the same list of ingredients?!

Chris
Chris
9 years ago
Reply to  Eltoro1000

You’re not the only one who’s noticed this about Taco Bell: http://www.theonion.com/articles/taco-bells-five-ingredients-combined-in-totally-ne,3781/

Beth
Beth
9 years ago

Hey Deen: re: “…not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine…I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills…”
YOUR $5 CHICKEN DINNER WOULD BE $4 WITHOUT ALL THE BUTTER YOU TELL PEOPLE TO USE! Healthy eating does not have to be more expensive. Yes, organic is more expensive. BUT, keeping the butter, salt, fat and other SILENT KILLERS low IS CHEAPER!Your arguement is about as smart as your cooking.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

YES!!!!!!

Paula Deen is disgusting and her recipes are vile!

I love your post. Thumbs up!

Jasmine
Jasmine
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Give it a rest already. We heard you the first time.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Jasmine

Cmon, don’t goad me, it just makes me want to say it more. 🙂

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I remember reading somewhere that one of the reasons that Americans eat less vegetables than Europeans is largely because we don’t use enough salt and butter on them. We therefore don’t like the taste of veggies and eat less of them. Let’s face it – butter tastes good! I’ve never cooked a Paula Deen recipe, and I imagine they are laden with butter and salt. But I wouldn’t demonize butter and salt. They do make things taste better, and I think they are valuable tools to actually keep people from going out. If you encourage people to throw a few… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Actually, many Europeans don’t use butter at all — they top vegetables with olive oil, sometimes with garlic and herbs.

You don’t have to load up vegetable with butter and salt to make them interesting. I think Americans tend to lack creativity when it comes to preparing veggies, that’s all.

Jen
Jen
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

That’s a fairly broad statement. As someone who has lived in Europe (Germany and France) I can attest that they do indeed use butter. Nothing swims in it though, and they do walk more than Americans. I think the point is that there are no “bad foods” it’s just that portions are out of control here.

G. M. N.
G. M. N.
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I recently heard a most interesting tidbit about salt & food. It was a nutritional site and it said you could eat all the salt you wanted to, on one condition. No processed foods. Cook all your food from scratch at home. It does make sense as processed foods can have 10-50% of our daily sodium and the processed foods have no iodine in their sodium. And have you gotten the website “Eat This, Not That?” When it shows the sodium levels even in restaurant foods, it is over- whelming. One sandwich can have enough sodium for 2 days for… Read more »

spiralingsnails
spiralingsnails
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

As a kid I disliked most cooked veggies. I dutifully ate them since they were ‘healthy’ but it was a chore. When I started culinary classes in highschool and did my own cooking in college, I finally understood why; I was used to frozen veggies microwaved into tasteless green mush. When I started steaming my own fresh broccoli, snapping fresh green beans, and sauteeing fresh carrots, it’s amazing how awesome vegetables became!

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

@Jen — you’re right, my statement was a tad ambiguous now that I re-read it! What I meant is that many Europeans have other ways to prepare vegetables without relying on butter and salt — like the olive oil on rapini my Portuguese friends prepare all the time. I think it’s kind of silly to say that a lack of butter and salt is to blame for Americans not eating enough vegetables. I think when we find creative ways to prepare them, we enjoy them more. Me, I’m a big fan of roasted vegetables — just toss with olive oil… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

@ GMN — I actually have to add salt to my food in order to get enough sodium in my diet. I don’t eat processed foods, and seldom eat out. I do most of my own cooking and baking, so I know exactly what goes into my food.

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Beth –
Perhaps I should have said “butter or oil”, because that was my point. I think we agree with each other here. Because veggies are healthy and butter or whatever oil is “unhealthy”, a lot of Americans feel like they should steam their vegetables and eat them plain. I’m saying just like you that if you put some additional things on it, it would taste better.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

@Jane, I think we’re definitely on the right page — it was just a convoluted of getting there. (Ah, the joys of online comments!)

Jacq
Jacq
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

Even Julia Child said in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that she personally will use a teaspoon of butter even if a recipe calls for a tablespoon. That kind of substituting or knowing what you can cut and what you can’t comes from experience though.

Teresa
Teresa
9 years ago

Healthy cooking does take a little more planning – both in preparation and in shopping. I think some people still have the perception that healthy food is gourmet food. Take a look at some of the health/clean eating magazines out there – portobellas, red bell peppers, multiple ingredients that most of us don’t stock in our pantries. I have cooked healthy meals from scratch for almost 10 years. Since becoming a mom, I have learned to simplify and you can eat cheap and healthy when you turn to your basics. It is not expensive, it is not hard. Just takes… Read more »

Mary
Mary
9 years ago

Eating healthy on a budget is as much about what you don’t buy as what you do purchase. DH and I are on a tight food budget but we eat free-range meat and lots of great produce (often organic). We don’t buy processed foods, packaged treats (organic or not), sodas, etc. If you open my pantry, you’ll be lucky to find some tortilla chips to go with the salsa we make. But we eat three good meals a day and have fruit and yogurt for snacks. Since I don’t buy the processed, packaged stuff (and I wish I could afford… Read more »

Meredith
Meredith
9 years ago

I received one of Deen’s cookbooks (the one about cooking with kids) as a gift and I thought it would be fun to use to cook with my son but I was astounded at all the butter and sugar and white flour, etc. I have never watched her show personally and I hardly have seen Bourdain’s show (although I read 2 of his books) but I can see his point. If she has the audience, why not focus on making healthier recipes that are just as cheap to make the unhealthy ones she focuses on? In my grocery store, the… Read more »

stephanieg617
stephanieg617
9 years ago
Reply to  Meredith

My family loves Deen’s baked french toast recipe for special occasions. That said, I have modified it beyond recognition changing the amount of butter, sugar, milk instead of cream, and using homemade white whole wheat bread instead of white baguette. I would never make it all the time but it is quite nice for a birthday breakfast.

Stephanie
Stephanie
9 years ago

No excuse for paying $10 for a meal when you can feed your whole family healthier beans and rice for much much less. Just get a variety of sauces to serve with it and you’re set. Make a big salad on the side for your veggies, using oil and vinegar for dressing. Buy a large bag of dried beans and rice, soak beans overnight and cook in a crockpot while you are at work. This is possibly the cheapest way to live and still probably get all your sufficient nutrients. Maybe still take a multivitamin just in case. If I… Read more »

Nette
Nette
9 years ago

I’m startled that nobody’s brought up the holy trinity:

Stop buying meat.
Shop from the bulk bins.
Grow your own (or share with neighbors).

Once you tweak the above to be vegan, you can feed two people on around $20 a week — no joke. I’ve done it. And it’s not difficult, either! 🙂

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Nette

“Grow your own” doesn’t work too well if you live in an apartment or high rise condo. Many people like me can’t afford a house with a yard, and a plot in a community garden isn’t enough to see significant savings.

Celia
Celia
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

It works well enough for us. I’ve grown tomatoes, green beans, kale, and zucchini for years on our small apartment balcony. Fresh herbs, too. Container gardening is surprisingly easy if you find the time to plant seeds and water once in a while. (I’ve had far fewer pest problems than my friends who live in single family homes because we’re elevated from where most of the nasty garden pests live.)

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Celia

Glad to hear it’s working for you 🙂

One of my roommates had success with balcony container gardening, but since I moved I haven’t managed anything more than lettuce — there’s not enough sunlight and no air circulation. My plants weren’t strong enough to stand upright, and they literally cooked on hot days.

I’m lucky though — many buildings where I am don’t have balconies at all.

I’m not saying it’s impossible for apartment dwellers to grow their own food, but for many people it’s a labor of love rather than a real money saver.

Frances
Frances
9 years ago
Reply to  Celia

I’m a pretty talented balcony gardener, but since I live in Calgary, the amount I can grow in our short season won’t reduce the grocery budget much. Makes the summer nice, though.

Jacq
Jacq
9 years ago
Reply to  Nette

We run about $3/day per person eating quite a bit of meat. Why? Because my dad has eaten 90% paleo his entire life (primarily meat driven since he lived in a rural area without access to a variety of fruits and vegetables) and at 91 y.o. is the healthiest senior I have ever seen. I’m pretty sure he’s never even eaten anything out of a box or can for that matter. The budget killer is the better vegetarian choices – ie. most fruit in Canada is at least $.50/item or serving. Two pieces of fruit per day is 1/3 of… Read more »

Brit
Brit
9 years ago

As a graduate student living on less than $15,000 a year, I am easily able to eat VERY healthy, mostly vegan, overwhelmingly organic. All it takes is sales, some planning, and a prioritization of your expenses. Healthy and delicious food is much more important to me than cable, nice clothes, expensive dinners out, etc. It’s so frustrating to me when people think healthy food is out of their price range, it’s your HEALTH and WELLBEING we are talking about here! If you just care about it, it’s completely do-able.

Jane
Jane
9 years ago
Reply to  Brit

I think you need to recognize some things about yourself. The main thing that sticks out to me is that you say you are a graduate student. This means you are educated and probably at least middle class. This also means you probably have a more flexible schedule than most. I’m not saying that you don’t have a valid point and that someone with less money can learn to eat healthy, but you need to recognize your own privilege and that some people have steeper hill to climb.

Brit
Brit
9 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I completely see where you are coming from, and I know my education and overall interest in health has at least something to do with where I came from (a family at least somewhat interested in health, even though they are blue-collar, on a budget, and I’m the first person in my family to go to college.) But, I work 40 hours a week and am a full time student – so time and money, I do not have. I think we just need better ways to educate people about their health, if I would have learned something, anything (!)… Read more »

Heather
Heather
9 years ago

…But maybe we need to look beyond the time, availability and money aspects of it and look to the long term affects such as the health of the family and how poor food choices play into future medical costs…

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
9 years ago

The one thing that is never addressed in the discussion of fast food vs. home cooked food in relation to the poor (or working poor) is the issue of kitchens. Most of the people posting here probably have kitchens, and use them. But not all of the working poor have access to living arrangements with ktichens. Those month-to-month “apartments” in old motels? No kitchen. Renting a room out of someone’s house? Most likely there is no access to kitchen use. So even though it might be cheaper to make meals from scratch, it doesn’t mean that they have the ability… Read more »

sushi
sushi
9 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Not to argue with you, but we live in a middle class neighbourhood and my neighbour WONT cook! She says she would have so much more space in the kitchen for the pre-boxed lunches if there was NO STOVE!! Cooking is definitely the choice for most people.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

I find all such discussions about the merits of “healthy food” completely meaningless because you cannot measure the healthiness of food. YOu can measure the healthiness of a person. You can probably even measure the healthiness of a person’s diet. You cannot measure the healthiness of an individual meal. Are french fries unhealthy? What about when Lance Armstrong eats them? Food is only unhealthy if it makes the person eating it unhealthy. If this isn’t happening, then what makes the food unhealthy? Lack of an “organic” label? The word “fried”? These mean nothing. No one has ever shown organic food… Read more »

Catherine
Catherine
9 years ago

I totally agree with your point here, except that I think you have to concede that most Americans don’t eat too much spinach or too many beans. Yes, entire cultures thrive on wildly different types of diets. But, if everyone ate an appropriate number of calories but it came from Doritos and Twinkies, then we’d have a nation of people who had a healthy weight and serious vitamin deficiencies. Also, your claim that people need 2500 calories a day to sustain themselves (i.e., maintain a stable weight) is flimsy. Calorie intake varies by size, % of body fat, activty, etc.… Read more »

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

Agreed! I started gaining weight when I got a desk job due to decreased physical activity. Calorie count guidelines need to be adjusted.

Also, all calories are not created equal. Sugars, refined starches, high fat foods, etc. have been shown to increase inflammation in the body which contributes to heart disease and other illnesses. Enjoy them once in a while and we’re okay, but make them staples in our diet — even if we’re still living below our calorie means — and there’s trouble ahead.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

Wether you need *exactly* 2500 calories is not the point. That’s why I say “something like” as a qualifier. If you substitute “1800” instead of “2500”, the point still stands — you need to get those calories somewhere. And you’re right — you could concoct such a diet that is actually unhealthy due to lack of certain vitamins. For example, a diet low enough in vitamin C will eventually cause you to get scurvy. But one, that’s not the problem we have in this country. How many people are getting scurvy due do adieu lacking vitamin C (or any other… Read more »

Catherine
Catherine
9 years ago

Oh, I totally misread the emphasis in your calorie sentence. I get you now, and that’s the part I agree with, as well as with your opinion that referring to a particular food as objectively healthy is useless. “We are not a nation that is obese because we eat the wrong food, we are a nation that is obese because we eat too much food.” This the part I don’t agree with. I think we are definitely a nation that is obese because we eat too much food. I think we are also a nation that is obese because we… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

“I think we are also a nation that is obese because we eat a lot of high calorie, nutritionally lacking food.” When I say “we eat too much food” I mean “we eat too many calories”. So yes, we are obese because we eat a lot of high-calorie food. We eat too many calories and so we are fat. I don’t understand what you mean by: “we are … obese because we eat a lot of … nutritionally lacking food” This doesn’t make sense to me. Are you saying that our national collective vitamin A (or any other vitamin or… Read more »

Carla
Carla
9 years ago

I agree we are malnourished as a nation. We are not *starving* but we are malnourished. How many nutrients are in a typical KFC meal vs. a home cooked meal made from whole foods?

Too many Americans (especially children are deficient in vitamin D, iodine, B12 and other essential vitamins and minerals. Instead of eating fruits and vegetables (that’s not already void of nutrients), they are eating candy, fast food, processed food and other nutritionally void foods.

Catherine
Catherine
9 years ago

Yes, our obesity problem is caused by overeating (too many calories). But it’s really really easy to eat more calories than you need when you’re eating food that is calorie dense and nutrient poor. Let’s pretend we lived in world without Coke, or Snickers bars, or chicken nuggets. Suddenly there are no high calorie, nutritionally void food. Instead, we’re surrounded by foods that are calorie dense and high nutrient like avocados, nuts or beef (a gram of fat contains more than twice the calories as a gram of protein or carbohydrate), foods that are low-calorie and high-nutrient like spinach or… Read more »

Anne
Anne
9 years ago

I have to respectfully disagree with this. There are vast quantities of research demonstrating that whole foods have measurable benefits on cardiovascular health, good digestion, bone health, cancer risk, etc. and the converse effects of processed, high-glycemic foods (or “food-like substances” 🙂 One may not be able to measure the “healthiness” of a particular food, but then the same holds true for people as well; e.g. is my health a 9 or a 15? (My husband, who is an amateur grammarian, has told me many times that “healthful” means contributing to health, and “healthy” refers to the actual physical status.… Read more »

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Xactly! So while processed foods may provide calories, that when limited, can keep us from becoming obese, they still aren’t doing us any favors.

Kristina
Kristina
9 years ago

ummm, calculate the nutrient density of the food (per gram or per calorie), that is how many of your daily vitamins & minerals are available in that food or dish vs. how many calories it costs you. The denser the nutrients in the food, the healthier it is. It doesn’t matter who is eating it.

Even if Lance Armstrong is eating french fries, they are still unhealthy – he’s just doing a better job eating them in moderation then other people.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago
Reply to  Kristina

This is completely false. It makes a diet consisting entirely of multivitamins the healthiest possible diet you could eat. You would starve to death. Calories are important and you have to eat them or you’ll die. Minimum possible calories is not healthy.

Frances
Frances
9 years ago

Um, no, Tyler. There is quite a body of research that shows that individual nutrients (as packaged in a multivitamin, say) are NOT the way to go. It seems there is synergy in how those nutrients (and others, not found in your multi) combine in whole or at least minimally processed foods. No one is arguing that calories don’t count. They do, both ways. But if you aren’t going to get too many, you need to eat nutrient dense foods, most of the time. Or you can eat nutrient poor foods in smaller amounts, but that is in now way… Read more »

Carla
Carla
9 years ago

You also have to take into account food intolerances, allergies and health issues. As someone who cannot eat gluten (and most other grains), soy products legumes, sugars, and a vegan diet made my hair fall out, it takes a bit of creativity to stick within a workable budget. All of the things I mentioned I cannot do is unfortunate because all of my forbidden items are very cheap, so I know I will never be able to eat on a few dollars a day. I think most people understand cooking at home is clearly the cheaper option, but that’s not… Read more »

BD
BD
9 years ago
Reply to  Carla

THIS. I’ve lived under the poverty line for much of my adult life. During part of it, I lived in a studio with no stove or sink (other than the bathroom sink) and just a tiny dorm-style fridge. Cooking was impossible. I ended up eating a lot of sandwiches, because bread, peanut butter and jelly was cheap and could be stored without having a full-size fridge, and could be prepared without a kitchen.

Carla
Carla
9 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

I totally agree with you there. It does sound like that would be a good topic on the subject of food.

Andriana
Andriana
9 years ago

Hi. I got here from Zen Habits. I’m from Europe, Romania – est-european pour contry. Not like Africa, a little bit upper Mexico. We had a revolution 20 years ago. Democracy came and brought McDonalds, KFC and coke. And people are changing. Young generation meets at KFC… We started having obese people, obese children – but it’s not only because of food, but also because of computer games,social media and the fear of letting children playing outside alone, like before. Our national kitchen is a heavy one, with a lot of meat products,and fried stuff (but no corn syrup or… Read more »

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