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Put Down Those Fries: How Eating Healthy Can Save You Money

August 24, 2018 | By Daniel Dewitt

Does it save more money to buy fast food or to eat healthily at home? And which way saves more time?

Adam Beck, a data analyst from Bankrate.com, says it's "definitely way cheaper to cook at home," versus buying fast food. "You can make four quarter-pound hamburgers for around $8 total shopping at Trader Joe's."

"Fast food only saves time if you're on the go," Beck says. "I could easily cook a hamburger at home in the same amount of time that it would take me to drive somewhere, buy a hamburger and then drive home to eat it."

In a 2016 study by CouponBox.com and MyProtein, they compared a hypothetical "couch potato diet" to four different athlete types: the bodybuilder, fitness model, professional football player, and strongman competitor, with surprising results.

According to the study, eating healthy helped consumers save thousands of dollars annually. The researchers discovered that a diet made up mostly of fast food and take-out costs 193% as much as a diet made up of fresh, home-cooked meals.

The annual cost of food and supplements:

  • Couch Potato Diet: $16,016
  • Pro Football Diet: $9,048
  • Fitness Model Diet: $8,632
  • Bodybuilder Diet: $8,476
  • Strongman Diet: $8,268

Look Deeper Than Physical Cost

While he agrees that it saves money to cook healthy meals at home, Jared Lafitte, a speaker and executive coach in Louisville, Kentucky, says there's something far more important to consider:

"Money aside, if you eat and live in a way that shortens your life expectancy by 5-10 years and greatly diminishes your quality of life in the 10 years before that, I'd say that eating fast food definitely wouldn't be saving you 'time'!"

Lafitte notes that eating food that isn't the best for your body can rack up massive damage on your health costs such as insurance, prescriptions, and hospital visits. "In other words, a $3 Big Mac might really cost $6 when you divide and itemize the lifelong health costs, time needed to exercise it off, etc." he says.

Donna Heilig, a certified occupational therapy assistant in Texas, shares a similar viewpoint. She says it costs more to buy fast food (in ways that go beyond money).

"It doesn't satisfy your body's need for nutrients and that equals having to eat more or more often!" Heilig points out why it is so bad on your body: the food is generally full of salt, preservatives, fillers, and sometimes toxic.

Benefits of Eating Healthy

  • You could live longer
  • Higher quality of life
  • You could save more money
  • You could be more productive and efficient
  • You could be more active, and perhaps more able to keep up with your kids
  • You could have fewer doctor visits and bills, which also means fewer sick days
  • You'll have fewer clothes to replace when the old ones shrink

Ways to Invest in Your Health

  • Join a CSA: This stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which lets you pay a seasonal amount of money in advance for a "crop share" in farm harvest each week. In other words, each person who has a share gets the same food as everyone else that particular week. Not only does it support small local farms, but you will get to know your community better. Plus, you'll most likely try new things and become more creative with your meal planning.
  • Freshen up your meals and recipes: Doing so will prevent you from burning out on healthy meal choices. It's far too easy to fall into a rut and then resort to unhealthy food once you can't stand having the same healthy meal any longer.
  • Eliminate pricey vices: This could be smoking, drugs, soda, energy drinks, or even late-night snacking. When you sit down and do the math, you might be surprised how much it adds up to in any given month to support less-than-desirable habits. Bonus step: Quit cold-turkey and use that money to do something fun.
  • Compare store prices: It's very easy to underestimate the price differences between the same item at Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe's or Wal-Mart vs. Publix. Go to several stores and spend time comparing prices to get the lowest one. This could save you a lot of money, and even though it might take longer than you think, it could be quite worth it.
  • Time yourself: For this experiment, you should time how long it takes to cook a meal at home versus going to the drive-thru. Perhaps get some friends together, or better yet, your family household, to time a race to see how long it takes each team to complete their part of the experiment.

Don't Let Time Control Your Health

Kyle Shaughnessy, an entrepreneur in South Florida, says that proper eating takes planning. "You can make five meals for the price of one at a fancy restaurant." He credits this as being way healthier than fast food. "You are doing double goodness by just staying at home," Shaughnessy says.

Sarah Meilike from Champaign, Illinois, agrees that it saves money to cook at home over the long-term, but believes it saves time to grab fast food. "However, eating too much fast food makes one feel squishy and awful," she adds.

Risa Rees, a single mother of a 9-year old son named Conner, says it is cheaper to grab drive-thru food than it is to buy the ingredients and cook it. "I think it depends on family size," she says.

"We can eat out for about $5-$6 for both of us," Rees says. "Unless I plan on eating spaghetti for a week or more, I have a very hard time buying groceries that would equal $3 a meal," Rees says. "Not saying it can't be done, it is just extremely difficult without planning in advance."

All Good Things Take Planning

Whether it involves your health or financial hardships, life can be overwhelming at times. They say you can’t put a price on your health, but just about everything else in life has a price tag on it. Worrying about bills or debt can have a negative effect on your health and well-being, especially if the stress is keeping you up at night.

With the growing numbers of people with credit problems in our country, it’s no surprise that people are struggling more than ever to cut costs every way they can, including in their family food budget. While there is no easy answer to this poignant and timely issue, the fact remains that too many of us are facing tough financial times.

Some Things Shouldn't Wait

Your health is undoubtedly one of the most important areas of your life, which is why it deserves to take priority. The same might be said of your financial situation. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by debt and daily living costs, and you need help right away.

By doing a search for "title loans near me" you may be surprised at how many options there are for using the value of your vehicle to get fast access to emergency cash. This short-term financial strategy is designed to help you get ahead when times are tough.

With so much at stake and the disastrous effect that long-term stress has on our health, exploring all the options for creating a better and healthier tomorrow for you and your family is the new prescription for happiness.