Eating Healthy Without Breaking the Bank: a (non-scientific) CAFB experiment – the child-friendly edition

May 21, 2010 § 3 Comments

Last year, we conducted an experiment to answer the question, “Is it true that choosing healthier options is prohibitively expensive for low-income families?” With the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act in peril of losing full funding, and summer vacation from school just around the corner, we decided to do this experiment again with a child-friendly twist. This time, taking many of the comments from last year’s experiment into account, we worked with our Nutrition Education department to come up with a list of foods. We’re also including an organic column when those items were available for purchase and the items met the healthy criteria.

Our rules:

1. The shopping had to be done at a grocery store in a low-income neighborhood, easily accessible to public transportation.

2. The low-cost food was the lowest cost available for that item, regardless of nutrition.

3. The healthy food was the lowest cost for that item. When possible, the item cannot contain artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, or nitrates or preservatives. Grain products must be 100% whole grain or multi-grain.

4. The food must be easily prepared by a child or be child-friendly foods.

  Low Cost Healthy Organic
GRAINS      
Hamburger Buns .86 $2.79 (whole grain)  
Flour Tortillas .89 $2.78 (whole grain)  
Sliced Bread $0.88 $2.50 (whole grain)  
Waffles 1.39 $2.38 (whole grain)  
Rice $0.64 (white) $0.69 (brown)  
Spaghetti $0.82 $1.17 (whole grain) $1.98
Mac & Cheese dinner $0.50 $1.14 (whole grain) $1.98
FRUIT      
Fruit Drink $1.97 $3.98 (100% juice)  
Peaches $0.89 (canned) $1.97 (fresh)  
Strawberry Preserves $1.60 $1.60 (no HFCS) $2.59
VEGETABLES      
Corn $0.72 (canned) $0.66 (fresh)  
Microwave Popcorn $1.19 $1.19 (low-fat)  
DAIRY/MEAT/BEANS      
Hot Dogs $0.78 (pork) $3.48 (turkey)  
Ground Meat $1.88 (beef) $3.49 (turkey)  
Deli Meat Slices $1.28 (bologna) $2.99 (turkey breast)  
Peanut Butter $1.36 $2.32 (salt and peanuts only) $4.39
Milk $5.96 (dry non-fat) $6.19 (skim) $10.98
Bacon $1.50 (pork) $2.46 (turkey)  
FATS/OILS      
Catsup $0.88 $0.94 (no HFCS) $2.28
Margarine $0.64 $2.88 (Smart Balance)  
Cheap $26.63      
Healthy $47.60      
Healthy and Organic when available $58.44

The extra cost of eating healthy: $20.97, or 3.20 hours of minimum-wage work ($6.55 per hour).

The extra cost of eating healthy and organic when available: $31.81, or 4.86 hours of minimum-wage work.

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§ 3 Responses to Eating Healthy Without Breaking the Bank: a (non-scientific) CAFB experiment – the child-friendly edition

  • […] options do families living in low-income neighborhoods have? The Capital Area Food Bank of Texas conducted an experiment to answer these questions. The guidelines were as […]

  • […] for children living in low-income households to access healthy food.  We’ve also conducted our own experiments to understand the financial impact of making healthier meal-time […]

  • I’ve been doing my own experiment, keeping track of cost of meals in terms of dollars and time spent to prepare the meals. So far, I’m getting 50 – 70 grams of protein a day, and 4 – 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day, for an average of less than $4 per day and 15 or 20 minutes of time, total, preparing the meals. All the foods I’m eating are available at the Lockhart, Texas HEB which. Lockhart, Texas is not a slum, but I believe its median income is one of the lowest in the U.S. Almost all the foods listed above are what you might call “empty calories.” The only really nutritious foods listed are the fresh corn, the meats (however, the processed meats such as hot dogs may not be that nutritious, depending on what’s in them), the peanut butter, and the milk. If you eliminate the empty calories and focus on truly nutritious foods, and especially if you buy fruits and vegetables in season, it IS possible to eat a healthy diet on very little money, and with very little time spent.

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