Let’s begin with a puzzling thought: A recent article by a financial analyst suggests that it is now cheaper to eat at a fast food restaurant than to cook at home. I don’t know about you but my first thought that crossed my mind was: How is this possible? Has our food system really come down to this?
Shortly after the article was published, the New York Times published an op-ed that compared a typical McDonald’s meal for four people against a meal of pinto beans and rice for four people. Not only was the nutrition of the beans and rice (which included onion, pepper and seasoning) much better than the McDonald’s meal, but it was also 67 percent cheaper.
Recently, I heard someone say that we should be eating more like our great grandparents. Think about it—it makes a lot of sense. Eating the way our great grandparents did would significantly reduce the cost of food for the average person, not to mention curtail our astonishingly high intake of preservatives and hormones.
Take my great grandmother for example. Nearly all of the meals she created were made using her old wood stove. She canned hundreds of quarts of fruits and vegetables, usually plucked from her own garden. Not only that, she and my great grandfather could probably count on their hands the number of times that they dined at restaurants each year. She and my great grandfather would eat a huge breakfast, a large lunch and a fairly small meal in the late afternoon. They ate things that they could grow, and had a huge garden, a variety of berries, and a large orchard.
Obviously, eating this way would require more time to prepare the foods. Over the last several decades, we’ve been trained to want a “faster” and “easier” mode of doing everything. We have timesaving gadgets and options so plentiful that the idea of cooking a filling, healthy meal rather than driving to obtain one in a paper bag might seem old-fashioned and impractical.
The goal for those of us trying to maintain or improve our health is to prepare most of our foods from ingredients that are healthy. Ideally, many are products that we grew in our own gardens, or from a farmers market, or, at the very least, aren’t packed full of chemicals and disease.
We like to tell people to shop at the edges of the store because that’s where a lot of the good stuff lives. Things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains are often found around the edge. Ironically, the things in boxes often live in the center of the store. These are often highly processed and their origins, as well as their nutritional value, can be ill-defined.