Day 26: Food Spectrum – Making the Right Choice For My Budget

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Breakfast (4 min): big bowl of oatmeal with bananas and honey; latte

Lunch (5 min): egg skillet with onions, kale, and cheese

Dinner (10 min): Mediterranean dish with ground beef, onions, cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach, garlic, basil, oregano, dill, and yogurt

Snacks: 1/2 apple and banana with peanut butter; carrot sticks

Although my goal is to eat healthy on a food stamp budget, I cannot afford the most natural foods on the market. First and foremost I must use my limited resources to prevent myself from going hungry. Although hunger is my primary concern, malnutrition is equally important, yet often overlooked. If I am both overweight and undernourished, so often the case in the U.S., that causes an even bigger strain on the body. Strains lead to breaks lead to giant doctor bills.

Balancing hunger and health, the trick is choosing appropriate foods in the spectrum for my budget. Given my experiences and more valid evidence discovered through this project, I arrange the spectrum for the majority of the U.S. like this:

Very expensive (highly natural) ……… Free-range chickens, grass-fed beef, organic fruits and vegetables

Expensive (highly processed) ………… Fast food, pre-cooked meals, t.v. dinners

Inexpensive (natural) ………………….. Supermarket raw meats and produce, farmers markets produce

Somewhat cheap (natural) ……………. Discount store (i.e. ALDI) raw meats and produce

Cheap (processed)  ……………………… Whole wheat grain, steel-cut oats, unbleached flour

Very cheap (highly processed) ……….. White bread, rolled/instant oats, corn syrup

I find this spectrum helpful in choosing what foods to buy. From a economic standpoint, it makes more sense to buy natural foods than expensive, highly processed foods. From a health standpoint, buying the cheaper, more natural foods is essential. If it is necessary to incorporate processed grains into the diet due to budget constraints, that is perfectly fine. The point is working within a budget to make healthy decisions.

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