Recession Hysteria, Food Choices, and My Thoughts

April 30, 2008

There seem to be an awful lot of blog posts lately about the recession and how it’s going to impact - or already is impacting - people’s food buying choices. Some people are complaining about how cheap food is unhealthy, and the unfairness of that. Others are posting about how poverty makes us fat. Others are offering tips on how to keep your food budget in check even with skyrocketing prices.

After reading a whole lot of these and even getting caught up in a little bit of a fear cycle myself, I came to a kind of peaceful realization. And it is:

Good Healthy Food Is Still Affordable

Shocking isn’t it? Let me explain what I mean.

First of all, I’ve complained myself that it’s unfair how “real” food costs so much more than fake food. Ever compared two bags of rice: one white, one brown? The brown rice is double the price of white rice. That ain’t fair! And the temptation is there to buy the white rice to keep in your budget.

Same thing happens when you talk about sugar. The naturally sugar free product always costs more than the product with added sugar. In what universe should that make sense? It’s not right, but it’s the way it is. But instead of getting upset about it, I had the above realization.

When you pay more for real food, you feel full with much less.

Ever noticed that?

How much white rice can you eat? I can probably eat two cups of the stuff, easy. Just wolf it down with my Chinese takeout. Then I’m hungry again in 30 minutes. But I’m doing good to eat half a cup of cooked brown rice though. So it’s actually cheaper isn’t it?.

How many pieces of lunch meat can you eat? Probably the whole package without trying too hard. How many pieces of homemade roast chicken can you eat? How much orange juice can you drink? Probably a huge 16 ounce glass. How many oranges can you eat in a sitting? One? Two if they’re Clementines. How many white flour pancakes can you eat? How many slices of hearty, whole grain home baked bread can you eat?

See where I’m going with this?

It’s the added sugar, salt, artificial flavors and corn syrup - the stuff that’s in cheap food that makes it cheap - that makes it not cheap. In other words, all that stuff that makes cheap food bad for our health also ends up making us eat far more, feeling hungrier, and gaining weight. We would have been better off buying real food - even if it meant spending more for it, because we feel full with less food and enjoy it more when it’s real, whole food.

So I think the answer to our current reality of rising food prices is to take a deep breath, stop being afraid, and just buy real food in the form as close to nature as we can obtain it. And maybe just eat a little less of it. Use a smaller plate. Light a candle. Vow never to eat while doing another activity. Put the fork down between bites. Probably everyone reading this would do just fine if they ate a bit less.

So buy a whole chicken. Better yet, buy a whole chicken from a local farmer. It will taste far superior to what you can obtain at the grocery store (a sickly animal raised in confinement) that you’ll savor each bite and eat less. I spend more per pound for grass fed meat from a Tennessee farmer, but the last steak I had from them was practically a religious experience. It melted in my mouth.

Buy real butter. (Real fat makes you feel fuller longer and reduces cravings. And I hope noone reading this blog would ever buy fake fats!) Buy whole fruit. Buy brown rice. Buy dried beans and take the time to soak and cook them.

Maybe the answer is for us to spend more money on real food (that our Great Grandmothers would recognize as food), spend more time preparing it with love, more time eating it with people we love, so that in the end we eat less, spend less and enjoy it and benefit more?

What are your thoughts?

Another great post on the topic of how the recession may lead to poor food buying choices from The Simple Dollar.

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One Response to “Recession Hysteria, Food Choices, and My Thoughts”

  1. Stephanie - Green SAHM on April 30th, 2008 10:08 pm

    So true! I’ve been working with my family on the white vs. brown rice thing, but my daughter so far won’t eat it. On the plus side we all prefer whole wheat bread, generally homemade.

    Hardest has been teaching the kids that they don’t always need sweet snacks. We get frozen berries at Costco - they run cheaper per ounce than fruit snacks and are definitely healthier.

    My family’s definitely feeling the pinch these days; my husband was laid off in January. But I just keep cooking at home and not buying premade or processed stuff, and the food bill is a lot lower than what I hear others complaining about.

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