One of the first question any vegetarian/vegan/herbivore/plant-based foodie gets asked is: “How can you afford it?” This is usually after, “But where do you get your protein?” and before, “But don’t you miss meat?” Sometimes a well-intentioned, “Wow I could never do that” gets thrown into the mix and then you really feel like a superstar (kidding).
My personal response is that it all comes down to priorities. I choose to spend a larger portion of my income on food because I believe that proper nutrition is the best preventative medicine money can buy. I believe that a
plant-based, or mostly so, diet can reverse chronic illness (Forks Over Knives anyone?) too. So I make buying high quality, organic-when-possible, wholesome foods a top priority and budget out what some would say is “a lot” of money to purchase said food.
Its just my way of life.
Sometimes if I’m in a sassy mood or with someone who I know can handle a little, ahem, intellectual stimulation, I’ll bring up the fact that I have none of the following: a smart phone, unlimited calling, or unlimited texts. In addition, I can’t really remember the last time I spent money on clothes. The fact of the matter is: I just don’t spend a lot of money on anything besides the necessities. Which, for me, include rent, utilities (as minimal as possible), and wholesome food.
Obviously this is my choice and I do my best to not judge others for making a different choice. I’m human though so sometimes when I get this response from someone who is currently enjoying their new x, y, and/or z, I get bit frustrated. Add in health issues and well… On one hand, it boggles my mind. On the other, I completely recognize and understand that there are myriad of factors which play a role in determining whether a person decides to purchase, prepare, and/or consume wholesome foods:
My not-quite-comprehensive list includes:
- Fear of cooking/belief that you are a bad cook
- Lack of actual cooking skills (vastly different from above, although most of us start here)
- Confusion over what to purchase
- Not knowing what is truly healthy (thank you food industry)
- Desensitized taste buds from years of eating processed foods
- A history of eating poorly prepared vegetables
- Bad experiences with healthy foods and/or inherited negative beliefs/emotions surrounding healthy foods (x is gross!)
- Sugar/salt addiction
- Time constraints
- Peer pressure
So I get it! Because I once suffered from every one of those issues too. In fact, I still consider myself a novice cook (my knife skills alone will convince you of that) and I still suffer from a sugar addiction (as evidenced by the disappearance of my frozen grapes…although there are worse things to binge on). I hope to explore each one of these issues in depth as the blog goes on, but for now I want to focus on the idea/excuse that eating healthy is outrageously expensive.
And thus I present with this gem:
Need I say more? (I’m going to anyway)
Thanks to faulty government subsidies and policies as well as lobbying by the food industry, our ideas about how much food costs have become grossly misconstrued.
Laboratory experiments “Food” has gotten so inexpensive thanks to these various factors that we believe we only need to spend 7% of our income on food. Further, the price of actual food seems outrageous, and those of us who spend, say 15 or 20% of our income on food may come off a little crazy…or indulgent Are you seeing a theme here? This infograph really hit home for me because I never made the connection between government/food industry factors and my personal experiences.
Now obviously there are other factors at work here, most strikingly healthcare. We’ve more than quintupled the amount we spend on this factor alone. To some this might imply that we’ve had to cut our food (and admittedly our clothing) budgets because healthcare has gotten so expensive. I think this is true…to a degree. However, my hunch is that if we go one level deeper, the graph is telling us something else: spending a lower percentage of our income on food is somehow related to spending a higher percentage on healthcare. This isn’t a revolutionary idea by any means. You’ll hear healthy food advocates talk about this with phrases like, “Pay now or pay later!” and other such transparent arguments. However, seeing it presented graphically is both concrete–and that is rather disconcerting to me.
Now before anyone starts to make the argument that the reason we are spending such a high percentage on healthcare is because the cost of premiums and medications has increased dramatically, I want let you know that I agree. These things have gotten quite pricey. But I push you to think about what has caused this increase. Is it only the insurance industry being greedy? Or is part of it related to the increase in chronic disease and medication use by so many which, in turn, pushes everyone’s costs up? If the latter is true, as I believe it to be, then the converse of my above hunch is correct: spending a higher percentage of our income on food would lead to a lower percentage on healthcare.
My point is, regardless of how or why we are spending more on healthcare, we circle back to the same point: food and health are intricately connected.
What do you think?