Even in critically acclaimed food documentaries like Food Inc. and Fed Up one massive piece of misinformation seems to relentlessly persist: that healthy food costs more than junk food. This is absolutely false and I think that perpetuating the idea that it costs more to eat healthier food is extremely destructive, especially for people who are operating on a modest budget.
Why even bother trying to cook and eat healthily if real food is oh so expensive and fast food is so affordable-right? That may not be the intended message but it’s easy to see how people get suckered into thinking their convenience meals are saving them money when high profile food journalists like Michael Pollan insist that real food simply costs more.
While I realize that some of the major problems for low-income families are lack of time, cooking skills, and nutritional knowledge, I still think it’s important to spread the good news far and wide that healthy food is CHEAPER than pre-made garbage.
People tend to forget that when you buy fast food or a pre-made meal you’re paying for marketing and packaging. You’re literally paying for the privilege of being tricked into buying something that’s inferior to what you could make yourself. You’ll notice in my cost comparisons below I use real pictures of the convenience food products and not marketing pictures because it makes it so much easier to see what you’re really missing (in terms of cost AND quality) by relying on pre-made foods.
Challenge #1: Taking on McDonald’s
McDonald’s Quarter Pounder With Cheese- $3.79
My Homemade Quarter Pounder With Cheese- $1.83
Challenge #2: Taking on Wendy’s
Wendy’s Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich-$4.59
My BBQ Chicken Sandwich with Bacon, Tomatoes, Lettuce, and Mayo- $2.59
Challenge #3: Taking on Subway
6-inch Meatball Marinara Sub-$3.75
My Homemade 6-Inch Meatball Marinara Sub– $2.86
Challenge #4: Taking on Taco Bell
Soft Taco Supreme- $1.59
My Homemade Smokey Tempeh Tacos: $1.12
Challenge #5: Taking on Canned Soup
From Progresso, one of the most popular brands in the country: $2.79
My Homemade New England Clam Chowder: $1.56
Challenge #6: Taking on Asian Noodle Bowls
From Simply Asia, one of the most popular brands in the country: $2.42
My Homemade Asian Winter Root Vegetable Bowl: $1.23
I could do this all day! I am so passionate about showing people the truth about food, meal planning, budgeting, and cooking because I truly believe the only way to food reform worldwide is to get more people in the kitchen. The more knowledgable home cooks we have in this country the savvier we will collectively be as consumers.
I don’t think, as a country, we’re going to go from fast food burgers to raw kale salad in one step, but I do think we could go from fast food burgers to home cooked burgers.
To learn more about cooking and saving money check out my tips on how to craft a frugal grocery list, breathing new life into leftovers, how to save money shopping seasonally, how to use a chicken in lots of different ways, and how to slash your grocery budget at Costco.