Frugal Living & Thrifty Ideas

Junk Food Is NOT Cheaper Than Real Food And I Can Prove It!

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

Simply Asia Roasted Peanut ppd

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.

9 thoughts on “Junk Food Is NOT Cheaper Than Real Food And I Can Prove It!

  1. It’s ridiculous how this rumor got started, and then was reinforced with a “meta” study last year, too. It was a study that included many different studies from different countries – I tried for hours to get to the bottom of it all, I think I put in about 20 hours total, and it really turned out to be bunk.

    Good for you – a few photos says it all. I just watched about half of fed up today and noticed one of the hosts flat out said real food was cheaper than junk, but there were several people that talked about real food being more expensive. My brother just repeated that to me not too long ago.

    I think it’s just that we, as a nation, don’t place the same VALUE on healthy or real food! When chips are $4.99 for 14 ounces and potatoes are $1.99 for 10 pounds – tell me, what’s less expensive!

    Sorry, I ranted…

    1. You’re awesome! Yeah I’m not familiar with the study you’re referencing but isn’t it crazy how these things just won’t die? I think some of it is that most people don’t price out their cost per meal. They look at chips for $1 and think it’s a good deal but if you just don’t buy chips, or soda, or candy at all you can put that money towards real meals! Haha, guess we’re just preaching to the choir!

      1. I sometimes feel like that one lonely person in the back of a room with my hand up, jumping up and down and no one calls on me!

        It’s exciting to speak with people that “get” it!! And easy to go overboard coz I feel like everyone is saying the sky is green, the grass is blue until you just about think you’re crazy….

  2. The study was Dec 2013, and while there were interesting things in it, it was a mishmash of information from the States and Europe, and of course, there’s no real “healthy” standard. Part of the study seemed to be based on the shopping habits of people with money to spare who only bought the “best” of everything. I wouldn’t mind living that way at all 🙂 but healthy eating is within the realm of savvy shoppers and cooks, and costs less than buying junk, as we know.

  3. I think one other thing we tend to forget, not mention, and overlook is how you can make different dishes from the same product. For example, a Rotisserie Chicken. Not only can you have chicken sandwiches that night, but you could make chicken salad with some of the other meat and then you could make chicken soup or chicken stock with the carcass. If you went and bought all those things at a fast food restaurant you would be paying a lot more and getting less product. That to me is a HUGE sell as to why real food is the better option.

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