For anyone that’s been following my blog for a long time, you will know that I am a big fan of things like “eating healthier” and “increasing exercise.” One barrier people have to eating healthier is money. For many people (especially in America), COVID-19 kind of screwed everything up for everyone financially to where we are all pinching pennies while the costs of living continue to rise.
Many people cut costs is with regards to food. Hell, I’ve even been there. Instant ramen is dirt cheap and relatively filling, canned soups are often on sale and have a lot of food for what they cost. Even eating at fast food restaurants was a seemingly cheap option to get some edible-looking food.
That said, there is an observable difference in cost between eating healthier and not. In 2013, Harvard put out an article based on one of their studies that found that the true cost increase was not as much as people made it out to be. The total cost increase over a year (in 2013) was $1.50 per person per day. That’s not really a whole lot of money. Of course, individual results will vary, as the costs of goods changes over the years, dietary choices of people are vastly different, and costs of goods change over geographical location.
Some of these higher costs that people see when trying to eat healthy may come from misinformation. With the rise in labeling food as GMO-free, gluten-free, or organic, the public might confuse these higher cost options as healthier than ones that are not. However, this is most often not the case. Depending on where you shop could also contribute to the higher costs. Co-ops or health food stores might contribute to the higher cost of living, despite the fact that many grocery stores have the same or similar items for sale. For more information, feel free to read this article. Even within different grocery or outlet stores, the same items can retail for different prices, even if they are comparable otherwise.
The article written and published by Avraham Byers Financial also lists other factors to consider with healthy eating. Clothes may change how they fit if your body is changing in size, meaning you might have to buy a new set of clothes if the ones you have no longer fit right. Buying groceries on credit when compared to cash or debit can also increase the cost, depending on what your interest rate is and how often you allow said interest to build on your card.
Avraham Byers, despite starting his article with some strong barriers to living healthy, continues on by showing support for healthy eating from the perspective of a financial advisor, rather than a healthcare professional. He cites a figure from Sun Life Financial that nearly 40% of Canadians will face financial hardship after suffering a serious health event. An article by CNBC highlights that almost 67% of bankruptcies in America are tied to medical issues. That’s a lot of people! Another study published in PLOS Medicine highlights that diseases from poor diets contribute over $50 billion in costs for Americans across age, race, sex, and other controlled factors.
Some additional factors to consider, by my opinion, are how you might feel after eating healthier. Eating a proper diet can help manage symptoms and complications related to a chronic disease, such as diabetes. Additionally, I prefer the taste of a home cooked meal to one gotten from a restaurant or fast food joint. Cooking at home also allows you to have greater control over what you are eating and drinking, and often times is fresher, takes less time, and cheaper (and to me, tastier).
Other cost comparisons to consider are portions per container. A bag of chips may last a couple days, yet a bag of apples can last for a couple weeks for similar costs. Protein foods are often the most expensive, to being able to buy them on sale, or going with cheaper options (i.e. beans, nuts, and seeds) will save some money while eating healthy. Additionally, you can add different ingredients to expensive proteins like ground meats to increase their nutritional value and stretch it further (i.e. using mushrooms and onions in burger meat). Fruits and vegetables are also cheaper when they are in season, as seen if you frequently buy berries. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh, provided they are canned in their own juices without any added salt or sugar.
In conclusion, eating a healthier diet might have a higher upfront cost than eating unhealthy. Long term a healthier lifestyle can actually save you time and money when compared to the costs of being sick. There are ways to increase the amount of nutrition gotten per dollar spent by being more aware of the choices presented. To quote Avraham Byers, “don’t go cheap on your health because it will cost you more in the long run.”