Doesn’t Eating Healthy Cost More?

This is a question I often get when teaching healthy eating to budget-minded individuals.  It’s true that some healthy foods will cost more than some less healthy foods.  But, there’s a wealth of low cost recipes that are easy to prepare and packed with nutrients.  Most importantly, they taste great!

Let’s take a look at a convenience meal versus an easy home-cooked meal in terms of cost and nutrition.

Let’s look at a typical meal from McDonalds – specifically a Big Mac, a medium Coke, medium French Fries, and a few packets of ketchup.

This will run you $4.23 and provides a whopping 51 grams of fat – 14 grams of which are saturated.  The meal also provides 1190 calories.  The average adult needs approximately 2000 calories for the entire day.

Now, look at an easy recipe you can make at home – specifically Vegetable Rice Skillet served with a glass of skim milk and an apple for dessert.

This home-cooked meal will run you just $1.75!  This saves you $2.48 compared to going to McDonald’s.  If you have a family of four, the savings is $9.92.  More importantly, the home-cooked meal is low fat – providing just 5 grams of fat with only 1 gram of saturated fat.  It provides 570 calories which is a healthy amount when balancing the calories from breakfast, lunch and snacks to equal approximately 2000 calories.

Now the best part – besides the major cost savings – is the nutrients the meal provides.  The home-cooked meal provides you more than 100% of the vitamin A and vitamin C you need in a day.  The McDonald’s meal provides you with only 10% of vitamin A and 15% of vitamin C.  The home-cooked meal also provides 40% of the calcium you need and more than 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables.  The McDonald’s meal provides very little calcium and a measly lettuce leaf and tomato slice.

To summarize, healthy eating can actually save you money.  Give this recipe a try and let us know what you think.

Vegetable Rice Skillet
4 servings

  • 1 (15 oz.) can kidney, black or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables, frozen
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup rice, uncooked
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme or dried dill weed
  • 1 (10¾ oz.) can tomato soup
  •  hot sauce, to taste
  • ½ cup cheese, shredded (optional)

1. In a large pot, stir together beans, canned tomatoes, vegetables, water, rice, thyme or dill weed.

2. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the rice is tender.  Stir a few times while cooking.  Add more water if mixture becomes too dry.

3. Stir in tomato soup.  Bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes more.

4. Serve with hot sauce and shredded cheese, if desired.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 400, Total Fat 4.5 g (7% DV), Saturated Fat 1 g (4% DV), Cholesterol 0 mg (0% DV), Sodium 1290 mg (54% DV), Total Carbohydrate 79 g (26% DV), Dietary Fiber 10 g (41% DV), Sugars 6 g, Protein 14 g, Vitamin A 100%, Vitamin C 110%, Calcium 10%, Iron 30%.

Total Cost:  ~ $3.60    Cost per Serving:  ~ $0.90   (Prices calculated November 6, 2006.)

Source of Recipe: The Cook’s Helper, 2nd Edition.

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