Monday, November 22, 2010

False economy

Yesterday, someone told me they found shopping for groceries very expensive, and that eating take-aways was far less costly. Am I missing something here?

My weekly grocery bill is between R600 and R800 for two people. That includes some toiletries and cleaning products – these products are expensive, so let’s say they constitute 15% of R700 (average) - that’s R105, which leaves R595 spent on food. R595 divided by 2 is R297.50 per person. R297.50 divided by 7 (days of the week) equals R42.50 per person per day: divided by 3 (meals a day) comes to just over R14 per meal. Show me where I can buy a healthy take-away meal for R14!

Here’s what I get at each of my R14 meals:
My typical daily menu consists of breakfast – cereal or toast, with fruit; lunch – a salad with cheese, canned fish or an egg, or maybe the same ingredients in a sandwich; dinner – fish, chicken, vegetarian or, very occasionally, red meat with loads of fresh vegetables and some starch (pasta, rice, couscous, beans, whatever), followed by a good size helping of fresh fruit salad and yoghurt.

At the end of each week, there is still plenty of food in my house – I could probably go six weeks without shopping, and we would still eat reasonably well. There is always something in my freezer – chicken, fish, frozen peas, home-made ready-meals etc. There is always plenty of pasta, rice, flour, canned goods, dried beans, nuts, tea, coffee and treats in my store cupboard. Of course, I would run out of fresh fruit, vegetables and yoghurt within 10 days, but we would survive the six weeks in reasonable health.

And that is the key issue in my book – reasonable health. Take-aways are notorious for their high fat and salt content, and are usually starch based. Loads of calories that will push you way over the recommended daily allowances of cholesterol (300mg), salt / sodium (2,400mg), fats (65gm, including 20gm saturated fats) and carbohydrates (300gm) – and all in one meal. Eating in excess of these allowances can lead to weight gain, water retention, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes… must I go on? Poor eating habits lead to disease, which can be horribly expensive.

Beyond the ubiquitous paracetamol I keep on hand, and sinus tabs (we live in a gold-mining area with a lot of environmental pollution), I don’t need to buy vitamin and mineral supplements, antacid powders, laxatives or any of the other thousands of over-the-counter medications most people take (in an attempt) to compensate for poor eating habits.

Eating a variety of foods from all the food groups provides all the vitamins, minerals, fibre and calories anyone needs – in a balanced and healthy form; vitamins and minerals are synergistic – they work together. Fresh foods provide a wonderful variety of textures, aromas, colours and flavours – far more interesting, satisfying and delicious than a burger and chips, don’t you think?

Cheaper, too.

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