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The Cost of Eating Healthy

There is a common misconception that eating healthy costs more. Many people would like to consume a healthy diet, but believe that they can’t afford to. With takeaway providing full meals for very little money, it can appear cheaper when compared to purchasing whole foods and preparing a meal from scratch. Supermarkets also create the impression that packaged food costs less than their fresh alternatives, however this isn’t the case.

Packaged and junk foods are marketed differently to fresh foods. The majority of the time fresh foods are priced according to weight (price per kg), however packaged foods are priced per serve or for larger packets, per gram. This makes it difficult to compare and decide which one will give you more value for your money.

Advertising is another way the junk food industry can mislead you. Something we don’t see advertised on TV is that you can get a bag of carrots for as little as $1, which will last for several meals. Yet what we do see is processed, packaged and takeaway meals often priced under $10, and sometimes under $5. This appears cheap for a full meal, but it’s only one meal; and when compared to cooking from scratch, it's going to end up costing more.

Some Examples

  • A microwave meal might cost around $4-$5. To purchase the same ingredients and make the meal from scratch, it might be around $10. But you will get four or five meals out of these fresh ingredients.

  • Frozen oven chips average around $4 for a 1kg bag, and some are up to $6 or $7 depending on the brand. Although many come in 500 to 750-gram bags, so watch out for that. But if you buy local potatoes from a farmer’s market you can pay as little as $1.99 per kg and make your own oven bake chips.

  • Apples per 100g are around 60 cents compared to a fruit bar/strap at 95 cents per 100g.

Tips to eat healthy and save money

  • Stick to fruits and vegetables that are in season. Out of season produce is more expensive.

  • Local produce is generally cheaper than imported. So, purchasing from farmer’s markets can save a lot of money.

  • Bulk up meals with lentils or other legumes to halve the amount of meat you use.

  • Usually the more processed a packaged food is, the more it costs and the unhealthier it is. Read the ingredients and stick to foods with a short list.

  • Buy basic bulk foods. For example, if you’re buying quick oats you will pay more for the ones that are packaged into individual servings. Instead buy a big bag of quick oats in bulk. It doesn’t take much longer to scoop out the amount you need compared to ripping open a little bag.

  • Buy bulk staples that keep for a long time, such as rice, pasta, canned beans and frozen vegetables.

Studies have shown that households spend more on unhealthy diets compared to what it would cost to eat healthy. Research has found that an unhealthy diet costs householders up to 34% more.

It often appears that unhealthy foods are cheaper, and when comparing individual items, this may be the case. However, when you look at the total diet and meals over time, a healthy diet can be a lot more affordable.

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