put your money where your mouth is

I was at Costco this morning and wowzers what a selection of packaged convenience foods! I wondered to myself if it really costs more to buy healthy snacks vs. packaged snacks? Not really. Costco’s Banana Chocolate Chip Loaves (individually wrapped, single-serving snacks in a box) cost 35 cents each, while the kiwis worked out to 32 cents per fruit. Granted, more often than not, chips, pretzels or candy do cost more than, say, organic yogurt or raw nuts. But for me it’s not a tough decision where to put my money, and I’m not the money-spending type. In fact, I don’t like spending money. Ask my closet. My wardrobe is so sparse that I have a friend who constantly gives me her old clothes when she’s done with them. I think she feels sorry for me because I don’t generally buy new clothes until mine have holes in embarrassing places.

But I will spend more on food because to me, what goes into our bodies is infinitely more important that what goes onto our bodies. This means buying less packaged food with ingredients that you either can’t pronounce or never heard of. It means buying more produce and putting a bit more effort into planning kids lunches and family dinner. This might not be what you want to hear, but this might be what you need to do, if you want to help your kids develop healthy eating habits when they’re young.

In 2009 Americans spent about 13% of their income on food, compared to almost 30% in the 1950s. It could be time to switch from spending less and eating more, to spending more and eating less. And not just that: spend more on fruits and vegetables! It amazes me that my modern-day fridge has such a teeny little space for produce. If you open my fridge now, you’ll see that the fruits and veggies have taken over. They will not, under any circumstances, remain confined to their puny little “designated drawers” down below. (regrettably, they don’t seem to realize that when they spill out of their designated drawers some of them tend to get frozen because the fridge wasn’t built for cilantro to go on the top shelf). Even our fridges were built to allow a certain percentage of produce and the rest other stuff. What is this “other stuff”, I wonder? And why aren’t more people complaining that fridges don’t have enough room for produce?

Fresh produce sometimes costs more than convenience snacks. As do whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, wild and brown rice, steel cut oats, etc. But you get what you pay for. Spending more on quality wholesome foods might cost more, but you only have one body. It makes sense to me that taking care of this body should be a priority. There’s no sense in spending so much on stuff and activities if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy them. But do your research because there are many ways to save money while maintaining a healthy diet (like eat less meat, buy in bulk and on sale, etc.). Check out the article Nutrition Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive from the USDA.

It’s OK to tell your daughter “no, I will not buy you another pair of leggings, I prefer to spend our family’s income on feeding our bodies so that they work properly”. Healthy food gives our bodies so much more than the physical appeal that leggings offer (which may be questionable in itself, but that’s another topic entirely). It’s useful to ask yourself before making a purchase if you really need this item or if you’re getting it because everyone else has it.

If this has been your family motto since day one then stop reading now. Actually don’t since there’s only one line left. But if you want to start changing, accept that it will be hard to buy less “stuff”. At least at first. But people can adjust to almost anything. Even, gasp, not having an iPhone 5.

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