Over the past couple months, I've found it hard to ignore how difficult it has become to eat healthily. Since graduating college and moving out on my own, I've had to learn how to navigate the treacherous terrain of managing a budget. Of all the new expenditures that come along with life outside the nest—utilities, cable, gym—I was most shocked by how expensive the food I wanted to buy was. And I wasn't looking to buy beluga caviar—I'm talking about organic cottage cheese versus conventional; fresh-squeezed orange juice versus from concentrate.
As I began to look over my receipts and peruse the aisles of my local grocery and health food stores, I noticed an obvious (and disturbing) trend. The more heavily processed and artificial a food, the less expensive it was. How is it that something that you eat exactly the way it looks when it comes out of the ground or off a tree can cost more than something that went through a day and a half of mechanical digestion by heavy machinery? Doesn't it strike you as a bit odd that our supermarkets are crammed with 99-cent bags of chips, but apples can cost $1.25 or more? Or that a hamburger at a fast food restaurant might run just less than $4 compared to a large salad, which can cost twice that.
Look at the example of a hamburger. First you have the beef (which involves raising livestock, slaughtering them, processing the meat, potentially freezing it and shipping it to the point of sale). Then you have the bun (which is processed flour, meaning all the wheat had to be grown, harvested, ground, mixed, baked and then shipped). Now add whatever other vegetables and spreads might be included. You get all this for $4. But what if you want to eat a head of lettuce and some dressing? It's going to cost you twice the amount? How can this be?