Spending more to eat healthy: Frugal Dilemmas

Does it cost more to eat nutritious food?

A University of Washington researcher found that customers who spent the most on their groceries were most likely to come close to meeting the federal Food and Drug Administration's recommended nutrition standards, particularly for potassium and fiber, according to this MSNBC story. (Thankfully, most were already within the range of calcium.) They also were more likely to stay within recommended levels of fat and salt.

I was surprised by this finding, because I think there are plenty of things that would cost a lot of money --- like cheese and meat --- that are also high in fat and salt and sugar.

The study acknowledges that there are inexpensive foods that would boost potassium and fiber intake, such as potatoes, beans and bananas. Kale or cabbage always seem pretty cheap, too.

But potatoes and bananas eventually spoil, unlike a cheap packet of salty, fried instant ramen --- and every banana that rots before you eat it is wasted money.

And cooking food from scratch requires time, knowhow and most importantly: equipment. It's one thing to know how to prepare dried beans or to saute kale, but another to have the knives and frying pans and pots to prepare them.

To avoid the spoilage issue, I appreciate the convenience of giant bags of frozen vegetables like spinach and broccoli that come magically pre-washed and chopped and can be added directly to things like pasta sauce. You can usually just cook the portion you want. Some people don't like canned beans, and they do cost more than dried, but having them prepared options in your cupboard are an option for when you're tempted for takeout (just rinse them before serving to get rid of the excess salt).

I also freeze things like bread and bananas that might spoil before I can use them. (Frozen bananas are seriously a delicious alternative to ice cream when pulverized in a blender. I'm serious.)

Do you find that eating healthier takes a toll on your wallet?

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