Fast Food, Slow Food, and Your Dollars at Work
The slow food movement has taken off over the last two years. You've probably noticed that more and more people are growing their own vegetables, sourcing grass-fed beef, avoiding fruit shipped from South America, and becoming members of the local CSA. Some people are even finding themselves headed back to the kitchen, cookbook in hand, to learn how to make their own meals for the first time.
At the same time, many are looking for ways to trim their food budget. As a nation, we're eating out less, clipping more coupons, and buying the bargain cuts of meat instead of the fillet. We're literally tightening our belts as we eat less and slim down. Whether out of desire or necessity, many of us spend less on food than we used to. (See also: How to Grocery Shop for Five on $100 a Week)
While these aren't mutually exclusive pursuits, trying to save money and eat high quality, natural, organic food can be rough. Though the popularity of this kind of food has risen, there's still less demand for it than for those nationally recognized name brands of junk and fast food, so the slow food costs more.
Additionally, because the processes for raising, harvesting, and shipping slow food are not as well-established as those for other kinds of food, simply getting it to the store costs more and those costs are passed on to the consumer. And those processes are inherently more time and labor intensive for slow food, which means the costs won't go drastically lower anytime in the near future.
In contrast to this, junk food is not only cheaper than slow food, but it's getting even cheaper as the days go by. This chart from New York Times blogger David Leonhardt, shows just how much the prices for things like soda, butter, and beer have gone down since 1978. For people trying to save money, the choice may be simple: eat more junk.
And yet, this set of circumstances leaves many consumers frustrated. They want to eat well but they can't afford to, or they struggle with paying so much more for food items that could easily be replaced with cheaper, less healthful, alternatives.
So what can be done? Is there a way to get food that is truly good for less money, or to justify paying more for what we eat when there's cheaper food available? Here are some musings on just that topic.
Eating well is an investment.
And not the kind where you see an immediate return. You may not feel better tomorrow because you ate free-range eggs for breakfast instead of a toaster pastry. And you may not know that you avoided catching the office cold because of the antioxidants in your system from those organic blueberries. But if you stay healthier than most, thinner than many, and as happy as you want to be over the long haul, at least some of that is probably a return for your investment in good food.
When it comes to eating, where you spend your money is like voting.
Do you want all-natural, sustainably-raised, wholesome food to be widely available at competitive prices, or do you want fast food and junk food to continue as the foods of choice for the people in this country? Though it won't save you anything today, spending more money for better food may influence the way things roll down the road.
You just might recoup that extra money you spend on high-quality food in healthcare savings.
We've all heard about studies showing the effects of junk food on health. People who eat a lot of it are fatter and sicker than ever before. Though it may be hard to see in your own life (because you don't know when you avoid being sick), eating well sure seems like it will save you money in the long run.
Sometimes you just have to pay more for a better product.
We see this elsewhere. Better quality hi-def TVs cost more than their low-quality counterparts. Long-lasting, no-drip candles cost more than the disappearing, drippy kind. Hard back books are more expensive than paperbacks. You get my drift. We've come to expect this elsewhere...why don't we expect it regarding our food?
What choices do you make when it comes to your food and your money? What do you think about spending more money for food that's better for you?