Friday, May 06, 2011

What Is The Real Cost of Eating Real Food? An Open Call to Healthy Eaters on a Budget

There are two core criticisms that seem to come up a lot with paleo/LC/whatever diets.
  • They are boring.
  • They are expensive.
The boring canard is quite old, Atkins addressed it way back in the 90s. William Banting probably addressed it way back in Victorian England. Nowadays, there are plenty of amazing paleo food pron blogs around that easily lay that one to rest.

The second one is not a falsehood, exactly, more of an excuse and typically an exaggeration. I'm going to dub it the Hamburger Helper Hypothesis (HHH). It's not a hypothesis, of course, I think we can all agree that a bowl of spaghetti costs less than a bowl of meatballs but I couldn't resist the alliteration. Also, I think it is really cool that Hamburger Helper has it's own Wikipedia page.

The Hamburger Helper Hypothesis is an excuse along the lines of, "Exercise takes too much time" (and believe me, I'm the king of excuses). Anybody who poses that excuse needs to read Body-by-Science, or Skylar Tanner or any of the other myriad of people who look fantastic working out 10- 20 minutes a week.

The Hamburger Helper Hypothesis is something I've never really seen properly addressed even though it is brought up quite a lot. A while back Don Matesz did a series of posts on budget paleo with prices in response to an earlier complaint about expensive ass paleo on Richard Nikoley's blog (here, here, and here and a several others). They are great ideas (especially the fish head soup) but it would be nice to see a more comprehensive post somewhere, along the lines of: this is what I ate this week, this is how much I spent and here are some pictures.

As far as I know, no one has done this, but this being the internet and all, someone probably has and I simply haven't come across it.

OK, enough hemming and hawing. 

I'm offering an open challenge/invitation to anyone who wants to document their shealthy (or Real Food or whatever you want to call it) diet on a budget experience for a week and the winner shall receive a year's supply of grass-fed beef!!!

Sorry, I got a little carried away there. I can't afford that by a long shot. What I will offer is a health book of your choice, Paleo Solution, Perfect Health Diet, and yes, even a T*m F*rr*s' book (but not Lindeberg, I ain't made of frickin' money). Also, you get to guest post on one of the least prestigious health blogs around.

This particular challenge/invitation came from recent comments on Richard's site. In particular, Leah wrote:
I guess it depends. To be honest, since I was (and still am, more for household stuff, now, though) a major couponer, my budget went up drastically since switching to a whole food diet. I do eat less now, and rarely snack, but since I was getting all my snacks nearly free previously and pasta/rice/starchy fillers for pennies, it has definitely made a difference. Actually, it has almost doubled my food budget, and even now I use coupons for frozen veggies, avoid buying pricey items like nuts, and only buy free range/grass fed about 50% of the time (and I stick with mostly whole chicken, ground meats and organ meats).
In the long run, though, I can’t complain, because I have more energy, weigh less, and will hopefully save on medical bills down the road :)

I should probably add that I still only spend about $50-55/week to feed myself and a ravenous toddler- so it’s probably not an average person’s definition of “expensive” ;)
To which I responded:
I’m sure it is more expensive to eat paleo than to buy bulk grains, but how many people actually do that? And what are the actual differences in terms of cost?

The offer stands for anyone who wants to document this for a month or so to write a guest post on my blog, or perhaps even a “real” paleo blogger like Richard would be interested :)

Unfortunately, Leah didn't reply. So this is my formal offer to people like Leah to document their budget eating of real food for a week (a month is really redundant) with real prices.

Obviously, fresh salmon costs way more than macaroni and powdered cheese, and obviously fresh salmon is way more healthy. Much less obvious is the cost of cheap home-rendered lard vs crap like industrial rapeseed oil.

I'd love to see the Hamburger Helper Hypothesis really laid to rest, or more specifically, put into its proper perspective of overall health.

Also, I'd like to point out I'm no absolutist on the subject of diet. I really try to avoid grains, frankenoils and sugar, otherwise I'm pretty flexible.

Addendum: thanks to Richard for spreading the word. If you are interested, leave a comment or send me an email at

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