I really get really irritated when I hear people say things like, “How is it that we are the only country in the world where our poorest people are also our fattest people?” Now granted, I almost always hear things like that when I dumbly decide to tune into some conservative AM radio station to pass the time on a long drive or something. I should know better. But I am a glutton for punishment.
But seriously…every time I hear that I want to claw my eyes out. It represents such a disconnect between the haves and the have nots. There is this sentiment behind statements like that which imply that the reason why poor people are fat is because it’s just another product of their own laziness.
I’ve been poor. I’m still fat. So I can speak from personal experience when I tell you that eating cheaply AND healthily is a near impossibility. If you haven’t been poor, let me clarify - I’m not talking about the kind of poor where if you prioritized, you could find space in the budget for healthy food. I’m talking about a weekly grocery budget of $30 for a family of 3. I’m talking about having to trust that God would somehow provide you with tomorrow’s meals because you just aren’t sure where they are going to come from. I’m talking about adding water to your gallon of milk so that there is enough left for more than one bowl of cereal. That’s the kind of poor I’m talking about.
Right now I am doing the South Beach Diet. I like it. But it’s biggest downfall - it is expensive. It calls for lots of lean meats, fresh vegetables, reduced fat cheeses, and nuts. When those are some of the main staples in your diet, the grocery tab ads up very quickly. When I go to the grocery store and watch the price tag rise on my cart full of groceries, it makes me feel a little panicky. I have to continually remind myself that it’s worth it.
So what are some of the cheapest, most economical foods that seem to stretch the furthest for your dollar?
A box of spaghetti - $1.25
Ramen noodles - .26 cents each
10 pound bag of potatoes - $3.99
White rice - .78 cents a bag
Boxed mac-n-cheese .69 cents a box
Boxes of cereal $2-3 a box
Banquet frozen dinners and/or pizzas $1.25 a piece
Loaf of white bread $1.25
Instant oatmeal - 12 packs for $1.99
Now in comparison let’s look at some prices for a few healthier choices and pay attention to how long each would last as well - because when you are poor, it’s all about stretching a meal for as long as possible.
Boneless skinless chicken breast $1.99 lb
Ground turkey $3 a pound
Almonds $6.99 a bag
Loaf of whole grain bread $2 a loaf (if not more)
Salad - lettuce .79 cents, tomatoes $1.99 lb , cheese, $2.50 & dressing, $2 for a total of about $7 and that‘s not enough to serve as a whole meal for a family.
Low fat/light/low sugar/low sodium anything is always more expensive than their less healthy counterpart.
Steel Cut Oatmeal $3.79 for a small container
Get my point? Yes, I know that there are exceptions. A rotisserie chicken can be bought and used for several meals for around $5. You can (for a small price increase) replace regular spaghetti with whole grain noodles. But for the sake of my argument, you can see what I am trying to say. It is much easier and generally cheaper to eat foods that are highly processed and full of weight-gain causing carbohydrates.
So if you have heard statements like that and bought into them, next time stop and think about how sometimes people are forced to choose between dinner or the electric bill. Try not to be too judgmental if they choose the $1 McDonalds cheeseburger over the $6 McDonalds grilled chicken wrap. That additional $5 they saved could potentially be used to pay for another day’s worth of food.
And as a side note, should you ever decide to take someone groceries who needs them, just to be nice - throw in some fresh fruit and/or vegetables. When you are scraping the bottom of the barrel, things like apples, oranges, melons, asparagus, berries, broccoli, and cauliflower are rarities. It would make their day.
I digress. So help me if I ever see Ann Coulter on the street. Her and I are gonna have words. I’ll show her what the fat and poor people in America are capable of.