Many people cite the high cost of healthy eating as a reason they cannot eat right, but you should think of the groceries you buy as an investment in your health.
In my last $0 Weekend Post, I was singing the praises of the iPhone app MyFitnessPal, which alerted me to the fact that I was not getting nearly enough protein in my diet. No wonder my muscle-building was stagnating! I made some adjustments to my diet, but I’ve decided to take it one step further and follow the Blogilates 90 Challenge Meal Plan with some modifications*. I realize I won’t see perfect results by cutting corners on some items, but I’m not doing this to enter a fitness competition, I just want a better diet!
The Blogilates Meal Plan is seriously heavy on protein, so it’s going to go over and above to solve my problem of not getting enough. There’s only one big downside:
Eating healthy is expensive.
And eating a protein-heavy diet is even more expensive. As a general rule I’m not one to cheap-out on food, but even I’m finding my new grocery bill hard to swallow (no pun intended!). Thankfully, fruits and vegetables are typically very affordable at the grocery store, but you do need a lot of them to ensure you’re consuming enough calories. Ideally, you want to choose organic produce, preferably from your local farmer’s market, but this can significantly drive up the costs. Try to find balance between buying the healthiest, most nutritious food you need without breaking the bank!
How much does a fitness-focused weekly meal plan cost?
For fun and spreadsheet-love, I actually calculated the weekly and monthly cost of following the Blogilates 90 Day Challenge Meal Plan:
Your own totals might be more or less depending on where you live, and the prices in at your local supermarket. Calculating the cost per item will let you utilize the data however you want — you can calculate price per meal or per week, depending on how you want to manage your food budget. Since I set a monthly food budget, and shop for my groceries weekly, determining the weekly and monthly costs made the most sense for me.
My meal plan costs $360 per month
A $75/week grocery bill is big for one person, but as you can see, protein is the biggest culprit. My chicken and tilapia cost nearly half of the total at $30/week I’m spending at the grocery store. I realize you’re looking at this and thinking there might be some places to cut costs but…
- I know almost $5/dozen for eggs is expensive, but I prefer to select omega-3 enriched eggs. You can recognize them by their dark, almost orange-colored yolks. These are healthier and more nutritious than cheap eggs with pale yolks.
- I’m loyal to 2 brands of yogurt, and these are more expensive than generic brands.
- I’m limited to what grocery stores I can go to because I don’t have a car, so travelling far for marginally cheaper items doesn’t make sense. Additionally, I’m morally opposed to shopping at Walmart, so I do not frequent those type of big box stores for my food spending. Shopping at local, smaller stores makes my food more expensive.
I could elect to eat less healthy in order to save money, but that doesn’t appeal to me. I know buying healthy, nutritious food is a long-term investment — in my health! This will pay off financially in the future when I avoid costly health issues that are related to a bad diet. There really is no reason to go undernourished for the sake of having a few extra dollars in the bank. Doing so just ends up being more expensive in the long run when you have to deal with a myriad of health issues from years of poor nutrition.
I’m lucky that I can afford to change my diet with my budget, because many people can’t. I recently watched A Place At The Table, a documentary about how many Americans are underfed and malnourished — often going hungry while being morbidly obese. How is that possible? Simple:
Bad food is cheap.
Calorie-wise you get more bang for your buck when eating like garbage, which isn’t right and certainly isn’t good. While the film highlighted poor Americans that couldn’t actually afford to eat better, I think there is some conversation to be had about what we perceive is reasonable to spend on food. Food accounted for 30% of household spending in 1950, and now is down to only 13%. We don’t want to spend a lot of money on food anymore because we want to spend it elsewhere: houses, cars, leisure, etc. Not ok!
Culturally, we have a disconnected, inconsistent, and often toxic relationship with our food.
Fixing our bad eating habits and improving our health has to start with changing our perspectives and values. While I’m not as interested in food culture as I am consumer culture, I really did enjoy a few books by Michael Pollan on the topic (though he’s a little too hardcore veg for me).
Ultimately I just want to eat food that will be used as fuel for my body. Whatever makes me stronger and healthier is going into my grocery basket and onto my plate — even if it’s a little bit more expensive.
What do you think is reasonable to spend on groceries?
*For those interested in my modifications to the Blogilates diet this is what I’m changing:
- Keeping my yolks in my eggs! I’m not eating only egg whites, yuck.
- Sometimes I’ll eat only 1 chicken breast or tilapia filet per day, because let’s be real, 2 per day is just too much of the same thing.
- Making up for some of the deficiency in skipping 1 chicken/tilapia per day by 1) adding 1-2 tbsp of ground flax seed to my oatmeal and 2) adding 1-2 tbsp of hemp hearts to my salad 3) eating hard-boiled eggs with my salad or by themselves.
- Making up for caloric deficiency of skipping the protein shake and one meat portion by consuming extra veg (mostly baby carrots, cucumber, and steamed asparagus) or extra fruit (berries, apples, bananas), extra eggs, and snacking on things like the energy bites I listed the recipe for in this $0 weekend post or nuts & seeds.