I often hear people complain about the “expense” of eating unprocessed food. If we really take a closer look and compare prices, though, unprocessed foods provide far better value:
Does that make you think twice about the cost of processed foods? Not so “cheap” when you break it down, right?
A few weeks ago, my kids and I saw a billboard for a famous fast-food restaurant boasting $5 meals. While five dollars sounds like a reasonable amount to spend, dinner would be over $20 for a family of four. That’s a lot of money to spend on a “cheap” meal! I usually spend $8-10 on a nice home-cooked meal. With $20, I can go all-out!
When we saw the billboard, my kids and I started talking about what we could make for $5 or less. How about some of these alternatives:
- Two eggs, two pieces of organic/pastured bacon and a glass of unprocessed milk.
- A quarter-pound grass-fed hamburger with a side salad.
- A bowl of steel-cut oats with cream and honey.
- A pastured, organic sausage and some steamed vegetables.
- A bowl of whole milk yogurt, half a cup of frozen berries and a drizzle of raw honey.
- A lettuce, ham and cheese roll-up with hummus and raw vegetables.
Beyond the price, remember that fast food contains lots of preservatives, additives, and other processed ingredients.
Cheap, premade “convenience” foods usually mean cheap, processed ingredients and minimal nutrients. A bag of tortilla chips serves as a normal snack in the US, but it contains very few nutrients and won’t “fill you up” or keep the body running efficiently for any real period of time. If you eat foods that don’t satiate, you’ll want to eat more so your body can feel full. Instead of a bag of chips that will soon leave you hungry, why not eat two deviled eggs with good fats and nutrients and keep your body satiated for several hours?
I recently witnessed a family of four pay $45 at a gas station for “road food” – chips, candy bars, sodas, etc. I was shocked the bill was so high! On top of that, the foods they purchased wouldn’t nourish or satiate, so I’ll bet that family hit the drive-through a couple of hours later for another stash of nutrient-void, empty food.
Many people tell me they don’t have time to cook so they resort to fast-food or processed foods. I have news for you – “fast” foods don’t always save you time. A few weeks ago, I took my daughter for a little date and we decided to go to our favorite BBQ joint here in town. This restaurant only has a drive-through, so we got in line and chatted while we waited. 25 minutes later (25 minutes!), we got our food. Granted, that was a particularly long wait, but in 25 minutes I could have made an entire unprocessed meal for my family. I was shocked at how long it took, especially knowing so many modern families go through a drive-through 3-5 times a week!
In the mornings, I see cars wrapped around the fast-food restaurants. They wait about 10 minutes and each person spends at least $4. At home, I can scramble two eggs in some ghee and wash it down with a glass of fresh juice or milk in 10 minutes. I’d even save myself a little cash.
Am I saying you shouldn’t grab a quick bite? No, but let’s all be mindful of how much time and money it really takes for fast, premade foods.
If you have some busy days during the week, plan ahead. Make a pot of soup or stew on the weekend. Then you can quickly heat it and pour it into an insulated thermos when you’re on the move. I can’t tell you how handy an insulated thermos is!
Next time you’re tempted to grab some “convenience” foods or drive-through, think about the money, time and nutrients. Maybe it’s just as quick and easy to get home and heat up some leftovers or throw together a salad. Better yet, try to plan ahead and bring some good, satisfying, real food along with you.
Here are some of my favorite quick or make-ahead meals for busy days:
Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Sausage
Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Kale
Creamy Chicken and Tomato Soup
Simple Weeknight Chili
Caesar Salad (Make the dressing ahead of time and grill some chicken and store in the fridge. When you get home, toss the romaine, dressing and meat together. Done!)
Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry (Marinate meat, chop the vegetables and mix the sauce the night before or when making breakfast. When you get home, you can cook up a nutritious stir fry in about 20 minutes.)
Coconut Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie (You can even make this for dinner if needed! It’s quick and provides a wealth of nutrients.
Grilled Steak with Green Beans and Mustard Shallot Sauce
Creamed Kale and Eggs
Butterflied Chicken with Red Onions (I make this at least once a week and then use the carcass to make chicken stock. To save a bit of time, just brush the chicken with ghee and season with sea salt and pepper.)