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I get a lot of questions during lectures from people wanting to know how they can eat better when it's so expensive. This is, quite simply, one of the last great myths of eating healthy - ranking right up there with the fallacy that eating healthy doesn't taste good. There's no doubt that it's just as easy and economical to cook a meal that's good for you than eat one that's not.
One argument that I often hear is that it's cheaper to eat at McDonalds. After Going to McDonalds recently and putting together a typical meal for 4 (mom, dad and two kids), I came up with a total of about $14.00 (I didn't actually buy anything – ugh!). You get almost nothing of nutritive value for your money – white bread, greasy burgers and fries with sugary soda.
That same $14.00 will purchase two pounds of lean ground beef, a pack of eight whole wheat buns, lettuce, tomato and enough potatoes to make oven baked French Fries with money left over. The best part is that this is twice as much food as at McDonalds, so there's plenty for leftovers later. Better food at half the price. O.K., I'll allow you that there's no soda included but that's for the best anyway. I will also concede that it takes a little more planning - but that's not very difficult, either.
I spend a lot of time in grocery stores and it's amazing how much convenience food I see. While we do review these on the Dr. Gourmet website, I don't endorse them in any way because I believe that you're better off making your own meals and it's a whole lot cheaper. For instance, we recently tested a Healthy Choice penne in tomato meal. For the same family of 4 it would take 5 of these (or maybe more considering the amount of calories that each member of the family might require).
At $2.80 per serving that's a minimum of $14.00 (just a coincidence, I promise). That same 14 bucks will buy a box of whole wheat penne, onions, tomatoes and cheese with money left over and it'll make six servings. The cost? $5.00. That's it. Here's the recipe to prove it: Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce and Pasta
There are dozens and dozens of such examples. For instance KFC is running television advertising that touts dinner for five at just $3.00 each. That fifteen dollars will buy a chicken for roasting, sweet potatoes and a veggie and, once again, there will be leftovers and the total cost is less than $10.00.
There are many recipes on the Dr. Gourmet website that are inexpensive and there are those that cost more. Even the most expensive are cheaper than eating out and so much better for you. These are difficult economic times. One of the best ways to save money and get healthier (which also saves money) is to cook your own meals.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
March 9, 2009