On Eating Cheap and Healthy
One of the things that Erin and I often hear when we talk to people about the changes we made to a more healthy, active lifestyle is "but didn't you end up spending so much more on groceries?". People will often also say to us that in their experience, it's cheaper to eat fast food than cook fresh, healthier food at home.
This is one of the most commonly believed myths about food, that it's not possible to eat cheap and healthy and that it can be cheaper to eat fast food instead.
In this blog post, I'm going to compare two meals to show how it's not only possible, but easy to eat cheap and healthy!
Meal One - Big Mac, Large Fries and a Coke
In this corner, the iconic Big Mac. This was a staple in our diet when Erin and I were at our heaviest and unhealthiest. We still enjoy a Big Mac meal on occasion, but now that we are calorie conscious, we often split the meal and get a zero calorie drink option.
Let's have a look at the stats
Meal Two - Lentils, Rice and Frozen Vegetables
In this corner, a new staple for Erin and I. Lentils, rice and frozen vegetables. This is a meal that I eat on a daily basis. It's easy to prepare and freeze for later, so I can just grab it on my way out the door in the morning and microwave it for lunch.
Let's have a look at the stats
Round One: Short Term Costs
It's pretty clear that the dollar value difference in these two meals is enormous. For the same amount of money, you could choose to have one large sized Big Mac meal or you could have 20 of the lentils, rice and vegetables meal.
This is what I based the cost of a large sized Big Mac meal on. The cost might be a bit higher or lower at your local McDonald's, but the cost difference would still be huge between the two options.
I based the costs of the lentils, rice and vegetables meal on the combined per unit cost of dried rice (one cup cooked), dried lentils (one cup cooked) and frozen vegetables (1/2 cup cooked). As a side note, the dried rice is by far the cheapest part of the meal, clocking in at 6 cents per once cup cooked rice. So, you could have one large Big Mac meal, or 166 cups of cooked rice!
That's a lot of rice!
Time is also a factor here that a lot of people will bring up. The claim being that eating healthy involves a huge time commitment. Let's compare the two options and see how this turns out.
It would take me about 5-10 minutes to get in my car, drive to McDonald's and get back home.
I use a rice cooker to cook the dried lentils and dried rice. The method is the same for both dried products. Measure one cup dried lentils or rice, put in the rice cooker with 2.5 cups of water and select the 'white rice' cook option. Once the dried lentils and rice are cooked, I portion it out into separate meal containers, add a 1/2 cup of frozen vegetables and put in the freezer for later. This whole process takes about 10 minutes of actual prep time. The rice cooker takes about 40 minutes to cook the lentils and the same amount of time to cook the rice, but while that is happening I can go for a run, or watch something on Netflix.
A FANTASTIC time saver!
So in the same amount of time it took me to get one Big Mac meal, I could prepare about five of the lentil, rice and frozen vegetable meals.
Round Two: Long Term Costs
The average american eats out about four times a week. Erin and I are Canadian, but when we were at our heaviest and unhealthiest, we were flirting with that number.
Changing our lifestyle and eating out at restaurants/fast food less, in combination with drinking less alcohol ended up saving us $600 a month and helped us pay down our student loans well ahead of schedule.
If you ate that large sized Big Mac meal four times a week and replaced it with the lentils, rice and vegetables that would save you $1,664 a year. If a couple decided to make that kind of a change together, they would save $3,328. That's enough for a pretty decent vacation!
While making the change to a more healthy, active lifestyle and eating less fast food will not guarantee a long healthy life, it will reduce a lot of risk factors and in our experience, help you live a more full life!
One of the reasons that Erin and I made the changes we did was so we could live a longer, fuller life with one another. Eating less Big Mac meals and more lentils, rice and vegetables won't guarantee a longer life, but it certainly puts the odds in your favor!
Well, seems like this was a knock out! It is important to remember though, that life is about balance. As I said at the start of this blog, Erin and I still do eat Big Macs on occasion. But now we just split the meal or plan it into our day by having a really great work out or eating lighter during other parts of the day.