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“And your total is $160.32, ” says the checker at Whole Foods. I hand over my card while thinking “annnnd you’ve got to be effing kidding me, food for two people for three days is $160? Namaste, MF.”
Is it more expensive to eat clean? You can get a McDonald’s Big Mac Meal for $5.69. Salmon and cauliflower cost $8.99. But wait, there is a trump card at the end of this post.
A Look at the Numbers
We’ve all wondered if eating clean is more expensive. It sure feels like it. Kira was asking the other day so I had Mr. S pull a bunch of our numbers to compare.
A little caveat — we are foodies, so we don’t eat cheap when we go out or when we go to the grocery store. The overall total could be very different for other people. This isn’t research science, it’s illustration of a point.
Each set below is the same 6 week period from January 2 – February 7 per year.
What We Ate — 2008
We were both working outside of the house in 2008 and regularly having lunch and dinner out. I don’t think we ever took a lunch or went home for lunch back then. I wanted a pretty true baseline for people that don’t have all day access to a kitchen. (shown in blue on the graph)
- Total food expenses: $1,947.27
- Dining out: $1,467.79
- Groceries: $475.48
What We Ate — 2013
We were both working from home and had the option to cook or go out. We weren’t on any special nutrition or exercise programs although Mr. S was already drastically cleaning up what he ate. (shown in beige on the graph)
- Total food expenses: $2,407.96
- Dining out: $1,523.75
- Groceries: $879.21
What We Ate — 2014
We were both working from home and this is during my second clean eating sprint. I wanted to track it against my second sprint because I didn’t have someone else telling me what to eat, so this is a more true overview. (shown in orange on the graph)
- Total food expenses: $1,744.03
- Dining out: $643.22
- Groceries: $1,100.81
So it is a little cheaper to eat clean / cook for yourself. It’s not drastically cheaper, but it’s also definitely not more expensive. Let’s look at WHAT we were eating though:
How Dining Out has Changed
In the 2008 numbers we ate at the following places. Names in red are places that we no longer eat at on a regular basis, in fact every place on this list is now only an occasional treat. Also, reviewing this list leads me to the notion that you can lie about what you record in your calorie tracker, but your Amex will never lie.
- Balance Rock Diner (vacation eats)
- Brighton Ski Resort
- Bruges Waffles & Frites — hey! they are a client, healthy or not we *have* to keep eating there! research!
- El Pollo Loco
- Five Guys
- Great Harvest
- Greek Souvlaki
- Iceberg Drive In
- J Wong’s
- Java Express
- Love Muffin Cafe (vacation eats)
- Paradox Pizza
- Pie Pizza
- Quizno’s Subs
- Rocky Mountain Pizza
- Roots Cafe
- So Cupcake
- Sushi Groove
- Taqueria 27
- The Wing Coop
- Training Table
The Trump Card
Yes, a big mac meal is cheaper than a salmon and cauliflower meal. However, once you add in cost of eating a Big Mac Meal for a year and the heart attack you are headed for* the numbers look more like this:
- One year of Big Mac Meals is $295.88
- Plus a Heart Attack $29,773.
- One year of salmon and cauliflower $467.48.
- Pricing for the Big Mac from fastfoodmenuprices.com
- Pricing for salmon from my last Whole Foods receipt – $6.99 per portion.
- Pricing for cauliflower from seriouseats.com, I eat half a head for lunch.
- Price for a heart attack from this awesome New York Times interactive graphic. I used St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and an Acute Myocardial Infarction, Discharged Alive.
What do you think?
Do you tell yourself that eating clean, organic, etc. is too expensive? Have you looked at your numbers? I’d love to hear from people, to comment please join us in the closed Facebook Group – Leans, Greens, & RDLs ›