When Canada’s new Food Guide was announced, I knew instinctively what was going to be said. I waited. Sure enough. There it was. It costs too much to eat healthy and it takes too much time. And to that I say a resounding bullpucky. I don’t buy it and neither should you. It does not cost more to eat healthy. But whenever someone of influence is asked about it, they go right along with the charade, I guess because people are generally so quick to say they have no time or money for that. I didn’t buy into it as a single parent with a child to support and I don’t buy into it now. It’s not the money you have. It’s how you spend the money you have. And a healthy meal can be on the table in less time than it takes to phone and wait for a pizza. And at a lot cheaper price.
We volunteer at the Food Bank. Again it’s rumoured the food bank doesn't offer healthy food. But it does. It’s just not what the average person wants. There are dozens of tins and bags of pinto beans, chick peas, lentils, kidney beans, white beans, etc available. We also have stewed tomatoes, canned vegetables, broth and canned mushrooms. In fact, the very foods hubby and I eat at our home in order to eat healthy are literally there for the taking. But because they are not familiar to most, the tins stay on the shelf. Although I encourage clients to try them, the majority prefer not.
I admit on first becoming a single mom, I took it as a challenge to stretch a dollar. Nothing was thrown out - leftovers were made into something. Everything was eaten and became a meal somehow. And because I worked, volunteered, had a daughter in activities and went to school at night my time was limited. So I never cooked just one meal - I cooked many and froze things. We still do this and because we choose not to have a microwave, we decide the night before what our next day’s meals will be and remove them from the freezer. No hassles the next day about meals. No real cooking kitchen time.
We have changed our eating habits and are saving money as a result of it. Gone is expensive, unnecessary meat. Gone are pricey, sugary foods. Gone are $30 trips for fast food or pizza. Instead we eat beans, legumes, lots of veggies, fruit and plant-based protein. We feel better than we ever have, are sleeping better and best of all for me, not a lick of heartburn.
When we grocery shop, our eyes are instantly attracted to the sale items, the 50% off items, the misshapen, so cheaper, avocados and such. These have become our foods of choice. After checking for freshness, if we aren’t able to eat it immediately, it gets blanched or cooked and frozen for a later meal. We see nothing wrong with having our fridge and cupboards full of pink or yellow reduction stickers. Most nights we do a quick tally on what our delicious meals cost us. Generally, it works out to about $4 to $5 each. And a meal is on the table in under twenty minutes.
Returning from a shopping trip a few weeks ago, hubby came home saying how expensive produce was becoming. I brought out a past bank statement showing where we had gone out for a meal and had spent a significant amount of money. And I do believe that’s what the average family does. It’s a question of priorities. I’ll bet, with no second thoughts, that money can be found to buy a daily coffee or two from Tim’s, a weekly lottery ticket, a package of store bought muffins, or an updated cell phone. I think you catch my drift. When a family or a person makes a concerted effort to eat right and eat healthy, contrary to what we are being told, it is not expensive to do so. When we watch how and what we eat, our grocery bill goes down not up.
Don’t buy into this ‘food is expensive’ line. Some food is expensive but chances are it’s not what your body needs anyway.
The reactions of some to this article may well be that we mustn’t have a very fun life with no pizza, no cookies or cake and to them I say I’m not saying don’t have those things. What I am saying is that if you choose to have them, then, of course there’s less money for real food. Presumably you’ve made a conscious decision to have those priorities, but don’t blame the high cost of food on not eating healthy. You are the reason. Own it.
Sheila Graham is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.