Solely In Black and White: Cost of Living: Food Edition

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cost of Living: Food Edition

Did you ever consider how much it costs to “live?” One of the jarring realizations of getting married is that life is expensive, or more aptly, life is freaking expensive?! Without even getting into the argument about materialism and vanity, living a “normal life” isn’t cheap. Sometime I really wonder how some people who are sitting in “Kollel” are able to pay their rent and afford to eat real food…  There are some other expenses that I truly wonder about as well, but I suspect that people choose their budgeting tactics based on their collective needs. For the record, I don’t have proof, but I suspect women consume more toilet paper than men. Between me and you, I think they’re eating it. Perhaps they do it to increase their daily fiber intake? Must be one of those female eating quirks. :-P (I suspect I’m going to get it over the head with toilet paper for this… :-/)

Vegan Food Guide
Old School Health Map
The purpose of the post, aside from writing a pointless rant, is to lament something that I believe is a significant issue nowadays: the monetary burden of eating healthy . This idea first donned upon me when I was single. A while back I swore off eating yeshiva food. You know that greasy, nasty, stuff they served us while we were doing hard time… I mean learning hard… :-)  (I suspect I really ought to blog about yeshiva food at some point, seconds anyone?)

Regardless, at some point I decided that I had had enough and replaced my daily food intake with more nutritious fare. Not everyone agreed with my approach. Some of my esteemed colleagues took a different route, the cereal diet. Basically, instead of a balanced diet of food, one eats cereal for all three meals and probably snacks too. The diet isn’t all that appealing to most people’s gastrointestinal framework or even sane within the context of couture gourmet, but it works, it’s healthier than eating yeshiva food, and it is extremely economical. Personally, I went with the more healthy approach of fruits and vegetables coupled with high fiber low calorie bread as my staples. I wasn’t surprised to find that not only was I healthier and had more energy, I also (think I) felt fuller longer. However, there was one downside to this plan, the cost.

Dollar for dollar it’s just more economical to eat unhealthy foods. That is before you even get into the whole dopamine effect of sugary food intake. Let’s take snacks as an example. A 16 oz package of Oreos will set you back about $3. The monetary equivalent of that would arguably be something like two apples, a banana, and an orange at best.  The fruit might provide enough snack time nourishment for a day or two, while the cookies should last a week or two! Personally, this is why I laugh at legislature that attempts to tax unhealthy food, because let’s face it, at best you can fix the socio-cultural aspect of food, but you won’t change the actual economics… I wonder if one day we’ll see that fast food chains like McDonads are actually killing the lower socio-economic classes of our society… I also wonder what sociologist will say about Kosher Delight, but that is more  out  of morbid curiosity. So what is the solution? How does one eat and maintain a healthy diet on the cheap?  In the meantime I think I’ll try some of that toilet paper… 

Toilet Paper Folding at the Riviera, Las Vegas, NV

Update/Quantification: Recent study shows that eating healthy adds $380 a year to yearly grocery bill. 


  1. Start 'extreme couponing':) the concept is becoming popular for a reason. This months issue of Money Magazine has a whole thing on it. I cant say i do it, but i have a couple of good friends who have really gotten into couponing, and now swear by it. It saves a heck of a lot of money. Acc. to the Money poll, 41% of americans now use them. Its something worth checking out.

  2. Interestingly, I read the same article last week, it was actually a very insightful article and a good read, but it kind of solidifies my point. Predominantly, most of those "deals" are for processed and unhealthy foods. I even looked into some of those extreme couponing sites and found that most of the deals were not for fresh produce or healthy items. I personally found it very bizarre that people were hording items that they wouldn’t be able to finish in their lifetime, like ketchup and mustard, but that is a side issue.

  3. If one eats junky food, they are eating a lot while not getting very satisfied or nourished. The fact is that when one eats healthy, they can eat less. If you have access to a supermarket produce section, per pound most fruits and vegetables aren't insanely priced.

    To eat healthy also means to not eat out, which, for kosher consumers, can be very pricey. It is only for those who have access to fast foods chains like Burger King that may find it cheaper to consume junk.

    Eating healthy also means that one is healthy, cutting back on medical costs. In the end, it is a worthwhile investment that pans out.

  4. Yes, eating healthy might be more expensive but it is, in my humble opinion, the greatest investment of your life.

    p.s. Love the vegan pyramid--I had never seen it before.

  5. Princess Lea and ZP, I agree that eating healthy is a wise investment and something ultimately worthwhile but let me ask you a hypothetical question. If one had to g-d forbid make a choice between either paying for medical insurance or eating healthfully, which one would you suggest they choose?

  6. Health insurance. Eating healthy isnt the 'end all'. u have plenty of ppl who dont eat healthy at all, and are pretty healthy ppl. On the other hand u have ppl who will eat healthy and then g-d forbid get some random sickness.

  7. Also check out this challenge:. I think it's a formidable budgeting challenge and a very insightful simulation...

  8. There is a difference between eating healthy and being healthy. If you are a healthy person that takes care of their body, watches what you eat, works out etc, that is one aspect. Stress and mental thoughts also have a huge effect on health.

    I don't think that hypothetically, you would have to make that choice. Meaning, you still have to eat. And there are many ways to find cheaper good foods. For example, yes vegetables in NY are insanely expensive! You can buy a bag of green beans at Diagostinos for six dollars, not exaggerating. But you can also go to the farmer's market, buy veggies at the stands in the streets, or go buy things in bigger bulk that are ultimately cheaper. I think it is all about budgeting and perhaps cutting in other places.

  9. I don't think it's extremely hard to budget healthy foods. For example, what I do (with my mother in law's guidance) is we wait for a sale on fruits/vegetables that are freezable (like berries, strawberries, herbs for soups/cooking etc) or wait for things like romaine lettuce to be on sale and wash it ourselves, which lasts for a while, as opposed to those Bodek bags that cost an arm and a leg and go bad quickly.

    I do find that kosher meat is the budget killer, especially if you don't live "in-town". (The cost difference between meat per pound where I live in New Jersey versus Brooklyn is several dollars, which is sad.)

    Also, for a budget friendly healthy snack, you can make smoothies out of pretty much any fruit and milk , just add some ice for "fluffy" factor, and they are filling and delicious. :) (Make it with orange juice for a parve option)


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