Cost of Healthy food versus Unhealthy food

I tweeted recently about healthy food choices versus unhealthy food choices being more expensive and possibly prohibitively expensive for people with low incomes. A paper recently tweeted about by Boyd Swinburn attempts to address this issue and concludes that healthy food is not more expensive.

Boyd Swinburn tweet

So it seems I’ve been labouring under false pretences.  However I read the paper and I’m not entirely convinced. I think the authors are glossing over an issue that I think may be an under appreciated contribution to the obesity epidemic.

Firstly, the unhealthy basket as described by the author comprises more take-aways and convenience food. The healthy basket contains more nutrients with healthy, raw foods most of which aside from fruits, will need a time, co-ordination and cost to turn into appetizing, palatable meals. To simplify, I think, the authors are comparing apples with pears. They are comparing a basket comprised partly of pre-prepared foods with unprepared foods. I think it’s a little naive to pretend time isn’t money. You know the old adage “time is money.”  Plus processing cost such as electricity, water bills etc. There’s also the thinking and planning time required to find suitable recipes that combine what’s in your basket in a meaningful healthy, satisfying way. In a busy modern household this time cost isn’t insignificant.

Secondly our family has recently made an attempt to improve our diet to be more inline with recommendations i.e. less processed carbohydrates, more vegetarian meals but maintaining protein in the form of cheese, tofu, eggs. We’ve stuck to seasonal fruit & veg and our grocery bill has gone up circa $100.00 per week. I know this is an anecdote and maybe if we spent more time looking for bargains or analysing our shopping. Now where can I get that time?

I’ve had to replace de-cluttering/house-garden maintenance with recipe planning and cooking time. We’ve had some jolly tasty fresh meals but I’m starting to trip over plastic boxes and the cupboards are developing a more chaotic state, not to mention the weeds taking over. I may not live to appreciate the benefits of my healthy diet, I’ll suffocate under an avalanche of rampant consumerism and unkempt, inedible chlorophyll!!!




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