I do think that eating low-carb is way more expensive than eating high-carb. My own grocery bill has increased by probably $20-30 a week for fresh meats and for more fresh vegetables. Plain greek yogurt costs three times as much as flavored yogurt, And since berries are one of the few fruits I can eat without spiking, and they are often not in season, that adds to the expense. If I were a member of the working poor I just don’t know how I’d be able to do it.
i AM the poorest of the poor. and i eat very well. no ‘traditionally packaged’ foods except pasta. i eat fresh fruits and vegetables everyday. whole grains everyday. i eat local organic meats and vegetables and eggs.
i need to do a lot of deciding WHAT i WILL eat. whats on sale, whats in season…to make it work. i have founds cheaper alternatives to many things. i of course want the organic bulk grains from wf, but i buy the goya grains and flours at a fraction of the cost. goya beans are also a fraction of the cost.
i can my own jams and fruits (gleaned from the neighborhood…plums, apricots, apples, crabapples, rosehips, etc) in jars that i glean from people who eat jarred spaghetti sauce.
i grow food all summer long so i can stock up on flours and beans and other things to balance my food budget for the rest of the year.
i live in a small apartment in a city…i have a garden plot in the community garden and grow in pots in my yard.
there is NO reason why people cant eat a low carb, nutrient dense diet on very little. we spend no more than $70 a week for the two of us. and my daughter likes packaged bagels and breads. i have celiac disease and can’t eat gluten at all.
i feel like i eat very well. and i never feel deprived. sometimes i’m not eating what i actually wanted, but what i’m eating is nutritious and appropriate for a diabetic with celiac.
Very interesting article, Brunetta, though not necessarily a comfortable one to read. The town I lived in in Guatemala was a close-living mix of ex-pats, many like me retired and on a limited budget, tourists with money (or rich parents), middle class locals working in the tourism industry and poor, mostly indigenous people living outside a town they had been priced out of by foreigners. I shopped in the local market, but also combed the 4 gourmet stores in town for ingredients to cook with; imported products often priced higher than they were in the U.S. The difference between what I spent for food and what the locals - even middle classed ones - spent was dramatic. I’d thought of myself as middle class or lower all my life, and it was not comfortable when Guatemalans assumed I was wealthy because I was a foreigner, and relative to them I guess I was. When the article mentioned percent of income spent on food I did some quick calculations and find I spend 25% of my income or more on food (and I rarely eat out anymore!). It is the one thing I don’t skimp on.
I agree it is hard to eat well on a limited budget. I shop in a market called Berkeley Bowl that is unique in being both healthy and gourmet product oriented far surpassing Whole Foods on variety, but priced much more reasonably. This is their philosophy, to buy locally, carefully choosing their providers for price as well as quality. When I occasionally stop into Whole Foods for an item or two I am shocked by the prices. But that is the market many people around the U.S. now go to for those “foodie” items.
I would say I’m pretty firmly in the middle class, but when I was younger, a perpetual student and compulsive job quitter/nomad, I struggled. I was never hungry (partly due to a caring support network) but often had to shop and plan carefully, doing arithmetic in my head so I left myself enough for bus fare the next day or to make it till my next check. I absolutely agree that it is harder to eat well with limited income. But boedica is a wonderful example of the possibilities! I do think that learning about healthy options and how to shop and plan helps. When I worked in a poor rural county I would often bring in a nutritionist to talk with my clients about nutrition and I knew her talks would be aimed at the limited income of my clients most of whom were on SSI. I’ve always hated fast food and food chains, but understood when people said, “I go there because they’re cheap”. Until one day I went along with someone and was shocked that for a filling complete meal it wasn’t all that cheap! Living in an area with lots of low cost snack and food options, I would much rather spend the same amount of money on a burrito made of fresh cooked ingredients, or a good pizza. I think fast food, and packaged/processed foods are not only lacking in nutrition (not to mention taste) but also not such a good deal financially, and sometimes more expensive than buying fresh whole ingredients! I do think nutrition should be taught in schools and available in free courses in local communities. When I worked in the county I mentioned above I would actually take my clients through a process of writing budgets/finding recipes/making shopping lists and then off we’d go to the market to buy a week’s worth of recipes (and often back to the office to cook a dish together). They’d been used to eating at Burger King , or grabbing something at the mini-mart when they were hungry and spending way more while getting way less in the way of nutrition and taste.
But having said all that, as boedica shows it takes time. My clients were on SSI and had the time. Many Americans are working two jobs while taking care of single parent families. Time is hard to come by. So yeah, it’s a lot harder to eat well if you have limited resources. But not impossible. Our society has lost track of a lot of things in its multi-tasking/texting/frantically trying to stay ahead lives. We do need to remember how to stop and crunch the brocolli and to sit around the kitchen table chatting with loved ones while a big pot of soup or stew cooks slowly filling the room with fragrance. I love the trend to urban community gardens as well as farmer’s markets. I wish everyone had a Berkeley Bowl in their neighborhood.
The class divide in America is painful. I certainly didn’t argue when my family planned to take me to Chez Panisse, Alice Waters 5-star restaurant in Berkeley for my 60th birthday for a dinner that cost more than some people in the U.S. let alone Guatemala make in a month. When we walked out there was a homeless person and my niece gave her her doggie bag. Was she positioned near Chez Panisse intentionally…homeless people can be foodies too! (sorry, bad joke). I also like that Alice Waters has spearheaded not only a slow food revolution but a program of fresh food free lunches and nutrition education in local schools.
This is a complicated topic with no easy answers. Sorry that my post was so long, Brunetta, but you definitely gave us food for thought. And the discussion is very relevant to TuD’ers who spend a small fortune on medical care and are hunting for that second small fortune to spend on good D-friendly food.
No apologies needed, Zoe. I appreciate that you both read and reflected on the article., You brought up several viable options for a quite complex problem; one that is influenced by numerous social,economical,educational, and governmental nuances. As you said, “There are no easy answers”. Thanks for sharing wirh us.
I tend to go with the Nutritious and Fast selctions, Duck… but as I approach retirement, I think I will delve more into Nutritious and Cheap, both for economic ( less income) and socio/psychological reasons… At some point I have to slow down and smell the roses. I could and plant, consume and can/.freeze my own veggies, like boedica. does. I actually have done it before for several summers in my backyard,. and I can do it again. A long-term less multi-tasked life style sounds appealing and healthy right now!!!
Yes, you can. (sorry I didn’t read the article - yet).
It all about choice. You can choose to buy crappy food or choose not too. Just because something is healthy doesn’t mean it has to be expensive.
I am on Food Stamps. I get $200 a month - doesn’t sound like a lot does it? I get no other money or aid for food. But I shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joes and I watch what I spend (it has to last all month) and I still buy organic veggies and non-GMO products and other healthy options (I am a vegan so no expensive meats or dairy at least - but speciality vegan foods are expensive). Most of the time the $200 lasts just long enough still my account get refilled. This month I am bit short because I bought extra stuff for making special Thanksgiving soup for a potluck - so not a monthly expensive. I try to buy certain veggie frozen so they don’t go bad but others have to be fresh.
That said, it is just me I am feeding but I still do comparsion shop and I will buy cheaper options but that doesn’t mean I have to always skimp on buying healthy stuff. I have been doing my research and comparsion shopping on products I prefer to buy because they are healthier for 20 years so I guess I have a leg up in a way. But I still think anyone can do, they just have to want too.
I don’t think you have to be a “foodie” but foodies do tend to know more about the food they eat because they are interested in that - so they are more likely to compare and research different things and brands.
Before I was dx (and was still on FS at the time), I bought alot of pasta, bread and things like that because well, they last longer and I would do one big shop and there was TWO of us (ex-bf) but we shopped at another place I am not near right now. But we still bought the organic healthier choices because we wanted too. We did our research.
Now that I am low carb, no more pasta, rice and potatoes and only very little bread. These things are cheap so I don’t really know if buying them saves one money. But I guess since pasta doesn’t go bad and bread fills you up so you can eat less (if you want too) than yeah, you can save money by buying high carb food because a little can go a long way.
IMO, there is also a difference between spending money on food you need for your body (ie stuff to stay healthy etc) and buying stuff that your body doesn’t need (ie, junk food like potatoe chips). I think lots of people spend too much of their money on “non-food” items like chips, pops, candy - stuff that has no nutrirional value and you don’t really need to stay alive. Spend all your money on stuff like this (and yeah, I know that’s the yummy fun stuff) and you have nothing left over for the stuff you should be eating that is of value to your body. The food companies know this - selling people junk food full of non-food ingredients and they are cheap ingredients too - so it looks like a good deal, the stuff tastes good so why not buy it? Not saying you can’t have a treat and enjoy these things once and a while but I think most people know these things aren’t good for them and are doing nothing for their health and sometimes it just comes down to willpower and motivation to eat better and some people don’t have it. It is easy to get addicted to those ‘junk’ foods and thats all they eat.
Anyhow, those are my observations and 2 cents on this…
I will look at the article later…time to cook my economically healthy low carb dinner.
I think that… it is not impossible to eat more nutritiously, and lower carb, under a lower income; even a little bit adventurously, foodie-wise. However, it is VERY challenging. I am very, very creative at making great recipes, and palatable recipes at that… But… income is indeed a challenge for me, because with both my husband and I being out of a job, I rely 100% on food stamps and food banks right now. Right now, where people’s fridges are probably bursting from Thanksgiving, we really don’t have very much. If we eat a little too much, we won’t have enough food until the 2nd, when our food stamps card gets re-charged… So, yeah, every month… taking care of my Diabetes, and not going for processed/cheap food is a very big challenge, and I rely a lot on luck on whether I’ll find healthy food to eat at food banks. Thankfully, not everyone donates junk.
For me & my husband now (my kids have moved out) it gets VERY hard to buy grociries for 2 different diets, I’m diabetic and he’s not. WE both are on SSD and that makes it even harder. I had to do the same when my kids were here though. I have 1 diabetic daughter (like her mom) and 1 who thinks all that’s out there is junk food. And she EATS TONS of it! One thing both her and her dad love is ANYTHING with sugar in it! 2 diets can be hard but I know I’m eating right even though the brocilla and cheese won’t be touched by ANYONE (including my Type 1 daughter nor her kids) but me! LOL!
Great article & rang true to me. Clearly a distinction between food & class, as well between urban & rural. When we moved to a small, rural town (pop 8500 permanent residents), there was one supermarket & that was it, unless I wanted to drive 30 minutes each way to shop. The supermarket was depressing in its offerings. Fresh fruits & vegetables weren’t in good condition. I sadly joked that the other markets in the chain sent their leftovers to our local store. I bought garlic & the cashier didn’t know what it was. The produce was also expensive because it was the only game in town. Having grown up in NYC & then having lived in Atlanta, I was used to an abundance of fresh choices of every food imaginable. I was naively surprised that food would be that limited living in the country. Things have improved over the years, but not by much. Organic products are few & are usually close to spoiling.
I started a farmer’s market that’s been doing fairly well for over 10 years. The market patrons are middle-class & above, though the prices are comparable to supermarket prices & the quality far surpasses anything available here.
My low carb diet has increased our food budget. Eating more protein & not eating pasta, rice, bread is more expensive. It takes more time, more planning, more cooking, along with more money.
$200 didn’t sound like a lot when I first read this, but I feed my family of four on $450 to $650 a month. Everyone in my family eats the same low-carb meals, and we eat out two or three times a month.
Wow. I just calculated that I only spend 6.4% of our net income on groceries. Housing and taxes on our home are by far the biggest drain on our income. (No income tax in Texas. Property tax pays for public school, city, county, community college, and one other thing that isn’t coming to my mind.)
I never get to eat out unless someone else offers to pay for it and I have no other income sources for food. No job, no medical insurance, no unemployment benefits or other benefits from the government to spend on food.
There is a big difference between $450 and $650.
I eat very little too compared to most people in the world. If I ate too much, $200 wouldn’t be able to cover it. Also, I live in a big city where food prices and taxes are more expensive. So you have to take that into consideration when you know much someone spends on food. My $200 may not go as far as your $200 because price of food might be higher where I live.
You live in Austin, TX from your profile. I live in Chicago - its an expensive city.
i think in the UK, there's a big deal about every being on the same level when it comes to buying food. most people go to their closest supermarket and then buy accordingly. the older and richer you get, the more time you have to spend in the garden growing your own produce, and the more land you can afford too, so it's sort of funny how the richer you get, the better you eat.
whatever budget you have, it's important to stick to it - you can eat really well for a very minimal cost, if you're willing to keep things really simple and eat similar foods a lot of the time. as a foodie i love to create as many interesting foods as possible with simple and cheap ingredients, and scouring old recipes for great combos and ideas with homegrown and wild foods.
the most nutritious food is veg, and that's pretty cheap. next are the cheap wholegrains and beans - which are very cheap when bought in bulk. everything else for me is a one off, bought on special offer at low cost. eggs and yogurt are staples for me, as are herbs and spices. i eat most of my carbs at the beginning of the day with some sort of porridge, and then keep it pretty low carb at lunch and dinner.
if you're interested in checking out some of my weird and wonderful combos, check out my blog Not Just Apples.