We have been pounding the drum of eating better for your health for a while here at Gear Diary. But Dan brought up an interesting point last week, one that gets tossed around as an excuse often: is it really cheaper to eat processed food options over fresh food you prepare yourself? I decided to do some comparison shopping this weekend, buying food for a typical day and comparing the prices for a pre-made, processed substitute meal. The results were …. read on to find out!
Here was my “fresh” menu:
Two eggs ($.22), one slice Canadian bacon($.36), and two slices of bread ($.40): $.98
Salad material ($1.00), 1/2 can of beans ($.62), carrots ($.20), banana ($.20): $2.02
Snack: cup of watermelon ($.62)
Dinner: pasta ($.50) with homemade meat sauce (turkey-$.99, one can diced tomatoes $1.25, tomato paste $.69) and broccoli ($.25): $3.68
Daily total: $10.38
And my processed “meal in a box” menu:
Breakfast: Jimmy Dean bowl ($3.00)
Lunch: Lean Cuisine ($3.50-$4.00)
Snack: Handi Snack $.54
Dinner: frozen bertolli pasta meal ($7.99)
Daily total: $15
On a purely day by day basis, my fresh menu was cheaper. But there’s another piece to this too. I spent approximately $38 buying the ingredients, and those would cover 3-4 days of meals and snacks. I spent $15 on the processed food, and that was EXACTLY the right amount of food for one day (well, except for the Handi Snack, which came 6 to a box). You would spend upwards $105/week if every meal for 7 days came from a box! Instead, buying the fresher stuff brings the grocery tab down to somewhere in the realm of $90ish a week, give or take a few dollars.
So not only does eating better keep you healthier, it keeps your wallet healthier too. Plus, none of the fresh meals required hours of cooking time. Egg sandwiches take very little time to cool, salad is as simple as dicing a few ingredients, and while pasta with meat sauce does require a few minutes of active cooking time, it’s not hours upon hours…it’s a meal that can very easily be thrown together in a half hour.
Even though we do our best to prepare our meals instead of resorting to convenience items, it’s still a wake up call when you break down the price of convenience. With just a few minutes of meal planning, and some careful list making, you can reap significant savings AND take better care of yourself!
Need some ideas on meal prep? Here are a few of our favorite recipe apps:
Nom Nom Paleo ()
Epicurious (, Android)
Big Oven (Android),