by Bonnie Minsky MA, MPH, LDN, CNS and Steve Minsky
Many believe that to eat healthy, the deck is stacked against us monetarily. While this may have been true as recently as 2006, it certainly is not now.
Last week, the USDA released a study showing that the cost of high-calorie, nutrient-empty foods are less likely to be affected by inflation and, on average, cost less than low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Showing yet again how behind the times they are, the USDA failed to mention that the study was performed using 2004 and 2006 retail prices, well before the cost of grain, corn and wheat in particular, have skyrocketed.
Thanks in large part to the increased demand for corn to make ethanol for fuel rather than food and feed, food prices are rising at twice the rate of inflation. In addition, high energy costs and reduced domestic commodities due to increased exports pushed US retail food prices up 4% in 2007, the highest gain in 17 years. The forecast for 2008 is a similar rise according to USDA Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.
The biggest price gains in 2008 will be grain-based foods and oils (corn and soybean). Corn doubled in the past year. The price of wheat has more than tripled during the past 10 months, pushing the price of cereals and baked goods up nearly 9 percent higher over the same time last year. Milk and cheese are up 21% to its highest price since World War II.
One thing is for certain. On a dollar-per-nutrient basis, healthy food is not more expensive. Lab studies have shown that fruits and vegetables are also more satiating--they make you feel fuller than junk food even though they have fewer calories. Making these changes will ultimately save you thousands in future health care costs!
With a little no-how and careful planning, you can adhere to a Low Inflation Diet while improving your health and maybe even drop a few pounds!
Low Inflation Healthy Alternatives? Let's Compare Equivalent Foodstuffs.
1 Liter Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water (rich in naturally-occurring calcium) at Trader Joes - $1.69
1 Quart Dean's Milk - $1.79
Ground Beef Alternative:
Tallgrass Grass-Fed Beef at Peapod - $4.24/pound
90% Lean Ground Sirloin at Jewel - $4.49/pound
Filtered Tap Water (Brita) - $0.02
Dasani (Bottled Tap Water) - $0.99
Grain Carb Alternative:
One Fuji Apple on special at Dominick's - $0.33
One Bagel on special at Dominick's - $0.50
Vegetable Oil Alternative (48 oz.):
Mazola Canola Oil - $5.29
Wesson Vegetable (Soybean) Oil - $6.99 OR
Mazola Corn Oil - $5.29
Salty Snack Alternative:
Woodstock Farms Natural Sunflower Seeds Roasted No Salt 16 oz. - $3.79
Doritos Tortilla Chips Cool Ranch 12. 5oz. - $3.49
Filtered Tap Water (288 oz.) - $0.29
24 pack Diet Coke Cans (288 total oz.) - $7.99
Tips to Avoid Inflation and Stabilize Your Food Costs
- Eat less.
- Limit corn and soybean vegetable oils.
- Limit wheat, corn, and soybean products.
- Choose grass-fed meat and flaxseed-fed poultry.
- Consume local fruits and vegetables at farmer's markets, co-ops, or at your grocery stores. Buy produce that's fresh and in season is less expensive.
- Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water.
- Choose foods that satiate (nuts/seeds, fruits and vegetables) over foods that ravenate (translation: food that creates a ravenous state).
- Limit milk. Choose instead naturally-occurring calcium water or calcium-enriched nut milks.
- Skip Buying Sugary/Salty Snacks. They tend to be overpriced in proportion to the nutritional value they provide and don’t have much usability factor (they can’t be re-used in recipes).
- Make A Grocery List - And Stick To It. Don’t control your grocery list when shopping, let it direct you. Sticking to it will seriously guarantee that you buy less items that you don’t need. That’s what a grocery list is supposed to be after all, a list of things you NEED from the market. Not a list of things you feel like getting once you’re in the store and surrounded by tempting food. That leads into what I think is one of the most important rules for grocery shopping which is:
- DO NOT go grocery shopping on an empty stomach! If you are hungry, you will buy what you don’t need. If you are hungry, you will tend to buy in bulk because you really feel like eating it lots of it. If you’re hungry you’re going to tend to buy more snack items. If you’re hungry, you’re in a hurry so you’ll forget you have coupons. If you’re hungry, you will mentally throw your budget AND grocery list out the window.
- Eliminate Dessert foods (replace with fruit) and Sugary/Artificially Sweetened Drinks (replace with good old filtered water; flavor it with a little fresh lemon, lime, or juice).
- Replace one meat/poultry dinner weekly with beans.
- Use your freezer and get an extra one for storage. You can stock up on good deals on meats and other frozen items as well as accommodate doubling or tripling up on recipes!
- At health food stores, think private label products. Whole Foods 365 brand and Trader Joe's brands are often comparable to conventional grocery store equivalents.
Copyright 2008, Nutritional Concepts