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January 18, 2017

I calculated the cost of eating healthy for one week. Even I was surprised what happened next.


I think you’ll agree with me when I say healthy eating is not easy.

This is for three reasons, in my opinion. First off, there are a plethora of other foods that look, smell, and taste tremendously better than healthy foods. Next up, with the temptations surrounding us for quick freezer meals and fast food stops, eating healthy becomes more of a time burden. Lastly, healthy food sometimes costs more; or so it seems. 

Here’s the deal: 

It turns out you can’t look and feel your best by eating junk food all the time (unless you’re one of the rare people in the world with a crazy fast metabolism). So for the majority of people, you are left with a choice. You can either make your health a priority and invest a little more time into making smart food decisions. Or you can take the quick and easy route and turn down Unhealthy Avenue.

If you are uncertain which route to take or are considering making a change for the better, keep reading.

In today’s post I am going to show you that the cost of healthy eating is not as detrimental to our wallets and as demanding on our time as you may expect.

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True or False: You Must Eat Only Healthy Food to Be Fit

Do your eyes light up when you see bins of apples neatly lined up in the produce section? Or does that twinkle in your eye brighten more when you see a row of freshly glazed donuts? Most likely the latter. And guess what…there’s nothing wrong with that! Have yourself a glazed and sprinkled donut! Go for it! And don’t feel guilty. 

Here’s the truth: Society has led us to believe that there is such thing as healthy and unhealthy. Wrong. Yes, some foods are healthier than other foods, but a donut is not “bad”. 

It all comes down to the macronutrient content. In your mind, when you see a donut, you should think it is 30 grams of carbs. Just like when you see an apple you should think it is 14 grams of carbs. You see, macros are macros. If you choose healthier options 80% of the time but 20% of the time you enjoy life a little and splurge on a donut after your workout or on pizza at the ball game, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, you are more likely to reach your health and fitness goals by allowing little treats here and there versus never because that would lead to a binge.

The verdict: False. You can eat less healthy foods and still be healthy and fit.

flexible dieting university

Want to learn more about tracking macros and living with nutritional freedom? Sign up for our free four week online course HERE.

True or False: Eating Healthy Requires Too Much Time

Let’s talk time for eating in versus time for eating out. 

The amount of time it takes to prep healthy meals eating could easily equate to the time it takes to prep less healthy meals. For both situations, you could bulk cook twice a week, save food in Tupperware, and warm it up later in the week. So in my mind, those could be equal.

The same goes for time it takes to grab a meal out that is healthy or less healthy. Consider driving time and the waiting in line time. Since a healthy craze is swarming the US, there are more and more healthier fast food options than ever before. So once again, in my mind, those could be equal.

The verdict: False. Time to prepare or pickup food is equal for healthy versus less healthy foods.

The test: I experimented with timing how long it took me to bulk cook healthy food for the week.

On Sundays and Wednesdays I…

-crockpot a protein (5min)

-crockpot steel cut oatmeal (5min)

-rice cook some rice (5min)

-microwave frozen veggies (10min)

-weight and divide food up into Tupperware for packed lunches (10min)

Total food prep time: 35min, 2x/week

Eating healthy most of the time does not require a lot of your time if you properly plan ahead. We do so by writing a grocery list and only grocery shopping once a week.

True or False: Healthy Food Costs More Than Unhealthy & Fast Food

For a recent US Government study, Andrea Carlson and Elizabeth Frazão gathered national pricing data on more than 4,000 foods and then ranked the foods by price based on calories, weight, and portion size.  Overall, they stated this…

“We have all heard that eating a healthy diet is expensive, and people have used that as an excuse for not eating a healthy diet, … but healthy foods do not necessarily cost more than less healthy foods.”

The US Department of Agriculture has the most recent report of the average cost of food from December 2012. A two person family (in their mid-twenties) eats about $87.30-173.30 of food per week.

Oh really????  Let’s test that theory.

Test #1 Eating Out

We only eat out about once a week. Partially because we want to avoid over-indulging and partially because we want to save money. Here are the average prices of the casual places we usually eat out at.

  • Chipotle
    • Burrito, bowl, or salad with chicken $6.25
    • Chips & Salsa $1.75
    • Regular soda $1.60
  • Chickfila
    • Chicken sandwich combo (w/ medium fries and drink) $5.79
  • Subway
    • Footlong special $5 (if you can find one you like on the $5 menu)
    • Chips $0.99
    • Soft drink $1.99
  • Panera
    • You Pick two (half sandwich, half salad, half soup) with bread $6.59
    •  Soft Drink $1.79
  • Chili’s
    • Chicken Quesadillas $9.29
    • Soft drink $1.99

*prices vary by location

So one meal out would cost about $6-10 per person.

Test #2 Eating In

For one week, our grocery costs were $134.99 total (they normally range from $125-150).  That is right smack dab in the middle of the country average- despite all the healthier foods and 4+ meals a day.

Here is the breakdown from the three stores we shop at: Costco, Wal-mart, and Whole Foods.  Costco is great for the items needed in bulk.  Wal-mart is great for the items we only need a little of.  And Whole Foods is our favorite for the produce and natural foods.

  • Costco
    • 10 dozen eggs $13.98
    • 12 boneless chicken breast $21.23
    • 4 packs of asparagus $19.96
    • 5 avocados $4.49
    • 2 tupperware of turkey breast deli meat $6.99
    • Bag of almonds $12.69
    • Bag of broccoli $3.99
    • 6 romaine lettuce heads $2.99
  • Wal-mart
    • 3 bags of frozen veggie mixes $3.27
    • 1 bottle of balsamic vinegar $1.74
    • 2 packages of steak $14.37
  • Whole Foods
    • Loaf of ezekiel bread $4.99
    • 2 cartons of unsweetened almond milk $5.79
    • 2 large natural peanut butters $10.98
    • 3 lbs of sweet potatoes $6.05
    • 2 white onions $1.48

To conclude this test:

For the two of us, $134.99/week was the total cost.  So for one person, that comes to $67.50/week which is only $9.64/day per person. Assuming I eat the same portion size as my husband, I eat 4+ meals a day for under ten bucks!  Compare that to the fast food meals above which are $6-10 per meal.

The verdict: Eating in is cheaper than eating out!

With the ease of cooking in bulk, time is not an issue.  Eating in is the smartest choice. So the only thing we haven’t tested is what healthier foods cost compared to less healthy foods. But ya know what….it doesn’t matter! Because there is no need to eat 100% healthy or 100% less healthy.  Buy and eat about 80% healthy and then throw some treats in there too!! Just switching your mindset from one of eating out a lot to eating in more will save you a TON of money. So the little difference in the cost of an apple versus a cookie is irrelevant. Your health is more important than the pennies you could save by buying ramen noodles instead of whole wheat noodles. Healthy is the way to go.  Save money, save time, save your body & look great doing it!

food prep

What’s the Point?

The point in eating healthy is to cherish your body. You only get one body so take care of it now before it’s too late. Food is energy. The better you eat, the more optimally your body will function, and the better you’ll feel.

Your gut can effect the rest of your body! So be choosy with what you put in it. Interview each piece of food just like you would interview each potential new boyfriend in your life (okay, not exactly but you get the point). 

The Shocking Truth

  • Healthier foods should be consumed more often than less healthy foods
  • Practicing flexible dieting is a sustainable way to reach your health and fitness goals
  • Healthy eating and bulking cooking can take under 70 minutes a week
  • Staying in and eating a healthier meal is cheaper than going out for fast food
  • What you put into your body will determine how you feel and function so choose wisely

Even I was surprised to see that we spend less when we eat in and eat healthier versus eating out! Test this theory out on your own this week and let us know how it goes. 

PS- Don’t forget to look for grocery shopping deals to help with that (ie coupons). We use Walmart Savings Catcher each week which is a phone app that allows you to scan your receipts. We end up getting about $100/year back which is almost a week of free groceries simply by taking 10 seconds to scan our receipt each week! 

Have any tips of your own to help others save money? Let us know by commenting below.  Enjoy saving money and eating healthy!

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