Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?
The answer is NO.
The “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli …” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”
this bullshit fills me with a very specific kind of rage. so, TIME TO DEBUNK!
- that meal from mcdonalds takes virtually no time to acquire AND is available almost anywhere.
- the second meal? that “salad” is lettuce … with nothing else, not even dressing unless its just olive oil or some milk i guess? gross.
- also thats the price of each serving, not an entire loaf of bread, a bottle of olive oil, etc. that stuff adds up which means you have to have a lot of money at one time to buy it all.
- that meal probably took an hour and a half to make, which is a long fucking time when you work multiple jobs or are caring for a lot of people or dont have help! seriously, if you are a single parent of three who works, is spending an hour and a half every night preparing a meal a likely option?
- same with beans and rice! also, you know whats a fucking bummer? eating beans and rice every night because you are poor. ask any person who has done it and they will tell you (you can start with me).
- there is a “nutrition” argument here that lacks a follow up: poor people are more likely to be doing physical labor and need more than 571 calories per meal.
- you know who is less likely to know how to bake or prepare a chicken? people without access to the internet, or libraries, or who werent taught how to by their parents because their parents worked all the time. access to healthy foods is a classist issue and classism is cyclical, you fucking morons.
- seriously, these sorts of infographics make me want to fucking flip tables. do you know why people don’t eat more fresh fruits and vegetables? because fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, because they take a long time to prepare, because they dont live near a grocery store that has a decent produce section, because they dont have reliable transportation to get groceries to and from the grocery store, because they dont have the energy to plan all of the shit that is involved in making healthy, intentional, filling, balanced meals. basically: poor people get fucked, and then we get BLAMED for being lazy.
- eating “healthy”, aka access to fresh fruits and vegetables, is a privilege, first, foremost, always. so fuck you new york times and your ignorant goddamn infographic.
- there are SYSTEMATIC REASONS that we do not have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables. they are very REAL problems. besides, you know, systematic poverty in america, the total mis-distribution of farm subsidies is a perfect place to start. read about that, then either get bent or start working on the actual problem.
All of these are important points, but I think #3 gets so overlooked sometimes. Proving that statistics can be used to prove whatever point you’re trying to make, using the price per serving when comparing ingredients to prepared food is such bullshit I can’t even.
A small bottle of olive oil in my neck of the woods retails for about $6.99. I’m pretty sure I can get an entire meal off the value menu at McDonalds for seven bucks, and if seven dollars is all I have, a goddamn bottle of olive oil isn’t going to make me any less hungry.
I cook from scratch a lot, and I can tell you that even a “cheap” meal for me is only cheap because I have so many of the ingredients already in my pantry - oils, spices, butter, milk, etc. But if I had to go out and buy every single thing for the recipe from scratch, a $15 meal for my family would easily double, or even more. And yes, as someone who cooks a lot, I can vouch for how time consuming it can be, or impossible to do if you don’t have a reliable stove or refrigerator.
I’m all for people eating better, but that’s not going to realistically be possible for the poor if society doesn’t stop ignoring the very real obstacles that prevent this from happening.
I’m on Unemployment and buying LITERALLY the bare essentials (i.e. - Bread, Milk, Eggs, Pack of 3 Chicken Breasts, Pack of 1lb Ground Beef, Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Olive Oil/Coconut Oil, and some Fruit/Veg) at Whole Foods - aka where you go to REALLY eat healthier - practically 2/3rds of my $250 check disappears for a weeks worth of food. A WEEK.
I’m lucky I can cook and I don’t need to buy prepared frozen meals which for someone that can’t cook they would but they’re SO FUCKING EXPENSIVE. Even the non-organic kind. It alllll adds up.
Exactly. If you’re buying just what you need to feed yourself, and don’t have additional funds to build up your pantry, it’s always going to be expensive as hell when you go to the store.
Here’s a good example. Last week I made sweet-spicy chicken and green bean stir fry for dinner. Filling, yummy and made servings for about four. On the way home from the store, I picked up the ingredients I needed to make it: one pound of boneless chicken and green beans. I think it set me back seven bucks or so. It would be easy to say “Hey, I made this meal for seven dollars! Why can’t everyone do that?” But here’s what went into the stir fry that I didn’t need to buy, because I had it on hand:
- Hoisin sauce
- White wine
- Rice Wine vinegar
- Powdered ginger
- Crushed chili flakes
- Jasmine rice
- Vegetable oil
Just eyeballing it, I’d say that if I had to buy all of those ingredients from the store, my seven dollar meal would probably have run me $25-30. Sure, I’d have all the ingredients after to use again, but what if I didn’t have the money to spare in the first place? What if all I had was the seven dollars to buy the chicken and beans? Maybe I could boil them with no seasoning and they’d still be edible, but I sure as hell would take a value meal from McDonalds over that any day for my hard earned seven bucks.
I know people who make these posts have never been poor, but that’s no excuse. I didn’t grow up poor, and I understand perfectly well that the OP is comparing apples and oranges just based on using my brain. I think the main problem is that a lot of people want to keep portraying the poor as lazy, obese losers who could live just like the rest of us if they just put in a little effort. And they do that because they don’t want to make the effort to fix the problem, because it doesn’t affect them.