There was an error in this gadget

9.25.2011

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

Source: NYTimes, Sept 24, 2011

THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli ...” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

More

1 comment:

Little Brother said...

I think your second example of a meal (rice and beans) is more practical than the roast chicken, because putting together the fresh meal of roast chicken could require significant transportation costs for a family.

I'm not sure about Moncton, it's been a few years since I lived there, but in Saint John, many lower income neighbourhoods are not well served with fresh food options, making McDonald's or canned convenience store food seem "cheaper" in terms of effort and time.