Thursday, May 22, 2008

Food Fallacy One: You Get What You Pay For

Also known as: Healthy food costs more.

I want you to think of two snacks, one really unhealthy and one really healthy. In my family, potato chips are the coveted junk food that we rarely eat. Carrots and yogurt come to mind for a healthy snack because we eat them a lot in my house.

Right now Lay's potato chips are on sale in my area for $1.99 for a 10 oz bag. These are ultra-low, Memorial Day weekend loss leader prices. This makes potato chips on sale $3.60 cents a pound. Baby carrots, not a loss leader and not generally included in holiday sales, are available at most of my area stores for $1.50 per pound regular price. All natural Mountain High yogurt in a big family sized 2 lb. tub is on sale for $2.50.

Chips: $3.60/lb
Carrots: $1.50/lb
Yogurt: $1.25/lb

Still think healthy food costs more? Consider breakfast cereal.

The major cereal brands offer both healthy and unhealthy versions. When they go on sale, you can choose to buy Cheerios instead of Froot Loops. Or, you can go ultra cheap and feed your family bulk bought oatmeal served with in season fruit for half the cost per serving.

Last, dinners. Consider chicken. Boneless, skinless chicken breast indeed is more expensive than whole leg quarters, usually twice as much. However, when you strip the leg quarters of skin, gristle, and bone, there is very little meat left. If you use unwanted chicken parts for stock, the leg quarters may be a good deal, but the breast generally costs about the same per pound. But you know what's even cheaper? Legumes. Beans and lentils generally cost between $1 and $1.50 per pound, and unlike meat, they swell when they cook to about four times their dry weight. This means that cooked beans are costing you 25 to 37 cents per pound cooked. That is the true bargain, and it's why we eat legume oriented dinners twice a week at my house. The nutrients in plant foods are also more easily digested, which for me has meant that adding more legumes to our diet helped me to win a lifelong struggle with chronic anemia.

I'm not even going to address packaged things like lunchmeats and desserts. The more unhealthy ones are often cheaper, but all versions are extremely bad for you. These do not comprise a necessary part of the human diet, and you can substitute healthier things that also cost less. If you have not banned processed foods altogether, they should take up a marginal part of your diet.

Check back tomorrow for another fallacy. If you want to argue, agree, or tell me about a fallacy you run into, leave a message on this blog or email me at