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Cheap Food Ain't Cheap

The New York Times published an interesting graphic about the prices of real cooking vs. fast food.  It's very telling, and it shows that the so-called value meal isn't much of a value, especially once you take nutrition into account.  I've inserted it below.

Just today I fed the boys and me a supper consisting of fresh salmon ($6), mashed potatoes ($1 at most), home made bread ($.25), melon salad ($1), and sugar-free drink (maybe $1). The whole meal was under $10. AND we had leftovers. AND it was atypically expensive because we had salmon.  But if I'd've taken the boys to a fast-food place, I would have easily spent $15 or $16, with no leftovers.

I took the boys to Red Robin a while ago on a rare restaurant outing, and got sticker-shock at the bill--the three of us spent $45. For burgers and fries and soda. I had a really hard time with that.

In media literacy class, I show the documentary FOOD, INC. In it, an Hispanic family struggles to make ends meet and does so by eating at Burger King every day because it's cheap. The same family goes into a store and makes a half-hearted attempt to buy nutritious food. The youngest grabs a fresh pear, but they have to put it back because the pear costs a bazillion dollars, while a whole bag of chips costs half what the pear did. I always stop the film there and point out to my students that, while I like the rest of the movie, this part is highly inaccurate. Pears are indeed expensive, but you can certainly buy a huge bunch of bananas for less than a bag of chips. Soda may be cheaper than juice, but water is basically free. And doing basic cooking is way, way cheaper than any restaurant. What FOOD INC. should have focused on was the fact that between work and commute, the family was putting in 15- and 16-hour days and didn't have time to cook most days, or (perhaps) that they didn't have a proper kitchen. Home cooking is always less expensive and way better for you.

The restaurant industry, though relentless advertising, have convinced us that cooking is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. 
No one has time or money to cook anymore!  Come to our restaurant, where the food is a cheap party all the time!  What they're giving us, of course, is assembly-line, plastic food riddled with fat and salt and prepared by a stranger who doesn't care in the slightest about you or your family.

And anyway, it isn't cheap. The numbers are clear.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
While I do agree that you can eat healthy food cheap, the McDonald's prices are pretty misleading in this comparison.
4 McDoubles = $4
1 large coke to share = $1
2 small fries to share = $2

This is how my parents would have done it. I do basically the same thing except my kids are very small, so ours is currently:
2 McDoubles = $2
1 large coke to share = $1
1 small fries to share = $1
1 chicken nuggets kids meal for the kids to share = about $4.

That's only $7-$8 for our families of 4. As we were told many times in a restaurant, "No you can't have that. You are getting the cheap item."

McDonald's was a once a week thing, and I ate in a real restaurant only once or twice per year growing up. I think it's worth it to pay more for healthy food because if you're not healthy, you're going to end up paying a LOT for prescription diabetes and high blood pressure medications.

To be fair, the price on the regular food is a bit high, too. I think the price of the bacon on that pinto beans and rice is pretty inflated. And the green peppers should be $1 each, not $1.50 each. I'm pretty sure the bulk bag of potatoes doesn't work out to $3 for four potatoes, either. They got the fancy potatoes. I guess there is also the cost of cooking the food, washing the dishes, etc. Plus, there's always wasted food in the house because someone can't make it home to make dinner or whatever and you end up eating out.
Jun. 18th, 2012 12:22 pm (UTC)
It's the New York Times, so I'm assuming the food prices are for New York, and they're a little higher than, say, the Midwest.

I do know that when I took the boys to McDonalds, the four of us would easily spend well over $20 and into $30, depending. This was with one adult, two teenagers, and a grade-school child. That's between a fifth and a third of the weekly grocery budget--for fast food!

Edited at 2012-06-18 12:25 pm (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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