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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is good food too expensive?

Israel now has a dubious distinction: we have become the country with the highest rate of diabetes-related deaths. Diabetes-related deaths are now the 3rd leading cause of death in this country, after cancer and heart disease.

I don't know WHY Israelis are dying from diabetes-related issues.

But I do want to discuss a theory that has come up - that more people are dying from diabetes-related issues because good, nutritious food is not affordable.

Is this true? Is it not possible to eat well and not spend a lot of money?

If it is true, I may as well shut down this blog. After all, I focus a lot of energy on finding ways to feed my family nutritious food without overspending.

Yes, some foods are incredibly expensive here. Fresh fish is out of reach for many, and most red meat (the kind not processed with soy fillers) is very pricey. So are cheeses that are not price controlled! (I'm thinking of that Cheddar cheese I saw, that can easily cost about 80 shekels/kg, and some cheeses were labeled with prices over 100 shekels/kg.)

And depending upon the season, some produce may be incredibly expensive.

So what do we do about it?

The latest study shows that the average family of 6 (like mine) spends about 3100 shekels/month on food (I lumped all the different food categories together). But I think that's high. I'm going to share some personal budgeting numbers here, in the interest of being REAL...

We set a realistic grocery budget - no more than 100 shekels per week per person in my family. So on average, we spend 600 shekels per week on food. Some weeks we spend a little more - I've at times done HUGE 750 - 800 shekel shopping trips, but this evens out later in the month when we'll spend only 200-300 another week, because during the HUGE shopping week we stocked up on all the rice, lentils, split peas, flaxseed, popcorn, corn meal, etc that we need for the month. We actually try spend a little less than 600 shekels/week, on average. Our monthly totals lately have been hovering around 2100-2200 shekels on food expenses, including any iHerb or Vitacost orders I might make.

I don't plan my shopping trips very well - I usually have a rough list of what I need to buy. I will write down general categories to help me stay focused, but to be perfectly honest, I am a price sensitive shopper. So even if I wanted red peppers, I won't buy them when they are 9.99/kg. No matter how badly I wanted them.
I may have wanted red apples - my children love red apples - but if yellow apples were on sale for half the price, we get yellow apples instead.

You get the idea.

One thing we don't do: we don't stock up on junk food. I won't say we never buy a bag of junk, but when we do, we do it knowing that it is a treat, an out-of-the-ordinary splurge that is not necessarily a healthy choice. But we try to practice moderation. We don't gobble up our treats. We try to practice self-control. And enjoy them a bit at a time.

I have a year's supply of chocolate chips on hand, but I use each bag as if it was the last one I had, so that we don't go overboard and use them too quickly.

But we DO eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. And homemade treats like muffins and my famously easy crackers. And for meals, we eat vegetarian food most of the time, as regular readers of this blog probably know by now. Vegetables are far cheaper than animal proteins. If you feel you MUST eat more animal proteins, you can find ways to stretch them. This will help you eat more plant-based foods, and will stretch your meat/fish/egg budget even further. We do, however buy chicken for Shabbat, a few dozen eggs/month, and a certain amount of cheese every week (enough to keep everyone happy. This family loves cheese. And pizza. And grilled cheese. And... I believe you understand now!).

So I would venture to state that I believe that healthy food is available, and is not out of reach. No, we don't eat everything available, there are foods we never purchase, we rarely eat out, but we eat good, tasty, nutritious food. And we spend less than 600 shekels per week doing that, for our family of six (including a teenage boy!). I think we may be able to do even better, but it is not always prudent to chase the sales. Gas for the car costs money, and time is limited.

We could certainly do better if we had a little garden, and my girls have started to lobby hard for that. I'll keep you posted if we ever follow thru on that idea! (My allergies make that difficult, but I would absolutely LOVE to grow some veggies one day...)

What do you think? Is eating healthy food too expensive?

1 comment:

  1. As my husband is fond of saying food is less costly than medicine. Better to spend on eating well than on remedies for the illnesses that result from a poor diet, I'd say. Am I perfect? No, but I do my best to eat well and only keep nutritious food in the house.

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