"Money is tight." "The holidays are just around the corner." "I only like blueberries and they are so expensive this time of year!"
"I refuse to spend a lot of money on fruits and veggies so I just eat out every day - it's cheaper."....wait, what was that now?
I had this conversation with a friend last week. Or I should say I heard these words come out of a friends mouth and stared open mouthed in their general direction. I may also have mentioned the $8 grilled cheese sandwich they had for lunch. The grilled cheese didn't offend me - I am a grilled cheese fanatic! The thought that $8 for a grilled cheese was acceptable while $1.50 for a bunch of bananas was expensive is where I got lost.
In my friend's defense, she also has a long commute and extra-curricular's that often have her searching for quick dinners to make in the evenings.
I've posted about the cost of eating healthy in the past, but this time I did an out and out comparison - my friend's day to mine. Sure, I have lunch out once in a while, we have steak for dinner some nights (more expensive than the $2.53 bag salad I buy at Sam's), etc. etc.
My friend and I both agreed, though, that the comparison below represents a typical workday eating pattern.
Post-comparison, I added a 3rd category - what choices to make if you still are convinced that eating out is the only option. So be sure to scroll to the end if you need some ideas for healthy eating on the go.
Me: All food bought at the local grocery store
1 slice of whole grain toast ($.40)
1 TBSP all-natural peanut butter ($.11)
1 6oz plain Greek yogurt ($1.00)
5 large strawberries ($.16)
8oz organic 2% milk ($.57)
2/3 cup tri-colored cheese tortellini ($1.00)
1/2 cup organic meat sauce (homemade) ($1.24)
10 large grapes ($.66)
1/2 cup blueberries ($.80)
5 large strawberries ($.16)
Salmon Kale Caesar Salad with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar ($1.93)
5 oz red wine ($2.25)
Total cost: $10.46
Nutrition breakdown: 1,537 calories, 51g fat, 171g carbs, 82g protein, 1,735mg sodium
My friend: Breakfast, lunch & snacks on-the-go; dinner items bought at same grocer
Sausage Burrito ($1.00)
Lo-Fat Strawberry Yogurt ($1.00)
Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup ($7.99)
Think Thin Nutrition Bar from cafe ($2.59)
Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers ($3.59)
Total cost: $17.17
Nutrition breakdown: 1707 calories, 77g fat, 175g carbs, 78g protein 4,523g Sodium <-- say what?!
Seems to me that I had a lot more food for a lot less money. Not to mention the fact that I also had less than 40% of the sodium that my friend did - and a glass of wine.
If you enjoy eating out , there is a way to be frugal AND healthy.
By bringing snacks from home and making some different menu choices, my friend could have made the same stops during the day and saved money, reduced her sodium intake and met the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
McDonald's Oatmeal with Brown Sugar, Diced Apples & Dried Fruit ($1.99)
Strawberry Whipped Greek Yogurt ($1.00*)
Small Salmon Salad & Cup of Tomato Bisque Soup ($4.95)
Afternoon Snack (from home):
String Cheese ($.35*)
1 cup of long grain brown rice - the 90sec variety ($.66)
1 cup of frozen steam in bag broccoli ($.72)
1 Morning Star black bean burger patty ($.92)
Total cost: $11.00
Nutrition breakdown: 1,597 calories, 47g fat, 218g carbs, 89g protein, 1,923mg sodium
Items marked with an asterisk (*) were brought from home instead of purchased in the cafe