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Will a Tough Economy Expand Your Waistline?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There's no doubt about it. Times are tough, and more people that ever are struggling to make ends meet. Recent studies show that a shrinking wallet might actually have the opposite effect on your waistline. Obesity rates could continue to climb as people rely more on cheap and unhealthy sources of food like fast-food meals and processed junk.

According to the U.S.D.A., food prices are expected to jump 6 percent this year. This means that many families will be forced to cut back on the quantity of food they buy, and many will likely cut back on the quality of the food as well. When it comes to food choices, it's cheaper to buy a package of ramen noodles than it is to buy whole wheat pasta and fresh veggies.

One study found that if you follow the suggestion to get 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies daily, it will end up costing three times as much at the grocery store. Higher-fat foods tend to fill you up faster than a plate of vegetables will, which can be important if you're trying to feed a family on a limited income.

So does this mean we're all destined to end up in the drive-thru line at McDonald's? I don't think so. Although it can take more work and planning to create healthy meals for you and your family on a budget, it can be done. There are some great articles on SparkPeople to help you save money without sacrificing your waistline at the store. Here are two to get you started: Eating Healthy On a Budget and Grocery Store Steals and Tips.

Do you think it's possible to eat healthy on a budget? How do you make healthy choices at the store when times are tough? Any good tips you'd like to share?

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Anybody who thinks the economy won't change the look of your shopping cart is in la la land. If you are truly strapped for cash, fruits and veggies can be cart busters. As well as organic foods and other "healthy" alternatives like whole wheat pastas and grains. When I'm broke, the fresh foods are the first to go, because they are the most expensive. Report
No matter what the economy is like people are going to eat what they normally do . If someone fill their cart with Ramen Noodles and Rice Krispe Treats when times are good, they wil do so when times are bad. For a lot of people eating healthy isn't about cost it is about effort. The amount of effort doesn't change based on the economy, boxed mac ansd cheese is always fast and esy to make. The Dollar Store my me, ALWAYS has a nice selection of fresh fruits and veggies but people still fill their carts up with garbage food. Report
It is definitely possible to eat healthy while on a budget. You might have to go without certain things, but.......where there is a will, there is a way. Report
I hate that food is getting so expensive. I have to confess that box of kraft that a dollar and is ready in 20 minutes does often look more temting the the 3 to 4 dollar bag of whole wheat pasta that leads to the kitchen sink full of pots and pans once you make the sauce and whatever else you put in it. I worry about it two because i work two jobs I dont have time on most nights to take all this extra time cooking. Report
Eating cheaper, did put on some weight. Since I can't eat raw veggies/fruit everything is steamed/blanched and then frozen. It took a while but it's doable.

I've turned to cheap cuts of meat since being on low carbs. I can only have 1-2 servings of fish per week, so I keep that at canned tuna w/o soy. yep it's in olive oil.
Eggs are cheaper..1 egg, 2 egg whites..discarding the yokes. I don't eat the liquid carton of eggs fast enough. Use within 7 days.
I have Candida w wheat/gluten and soy intolerances. I eat a lot of foods, still not reaching daily requirements, meals are finished as mini meals. Report
By and large, yes...I do. Even if I splurge on a nice salmon filet, the taste and nutrition payoffs are well worth the bucks. And even if it did cost a little more, for me, possibly lengthening my life and definitely improving its quality are priceless. Report
It is definitely more expensive to eat "healthy". Fresh fruit and veggies can be expensive and they are perishable. The quantity of the healthier product is often times much smaller than the less expensive item and when you are feeding active teens quantity matters. Not to mention variety - people bored of what they are eating at home are more likely to binge when faced with yummy options elsewhere-like birthday parties and sleepovers. I make a weekly menu considering time schedules, $$, nutrition, and variety. We make the healthier choices, and try to balance out the less nutritious choices. Report
I interned at Aldi foods last summer, and I have to say the job was not for me, but the stores are wonderful. If you have one in your area, go! They are generally int he midwest, Texas, and Florida. Cereal is $4-5 per box, but at Aldi it's around $2. The stores are small, they sell what you would consider staples, which helped me to keep my buying under control. I would go there, then go to a larger store for whatever else we needed, but I found that we didn't really need much more. They have the lowest overheadd of any store I have seen (bring a bag and pack up your own groceries because they don't pay people to bag). Now that I've moved away from a store, it's really hurting my wallet Report
I think another important thing to consider is that food is a fun luxury that doesn't cost much. What do we do on first dates? Go out to eat. Want to get together with friends? Go out to eat. A family that can no longer afford to go to a theme park or to the movies might order pizza and watch a movie on TV. Looking for an inexpensive gift? Food tops the list, homemade cookies, fudge, candy, cakes. It's tough to get beyond these habits, and I definitely look to food as a fallback when I can't think of something fun to do or a gift to give. Report
Coupons and scouring the flyers of your local grocery store. It saves a lot of money believe it or not, oh and STICK TO YOUR LIST! :) Report
I've had a really hard time trimming the grocery bill though I need to, badly. The economy has taken its toll on my husband's landscape business and we're trying to make it on less. I just refuse to start eating processed foods! I've got inherited blood pressure problems and don't need the sodium. I feel so much better now that I've been eating a cleaner diet. I swore after watching my father slowly die from congestive heart failure, and seeing all the pills my inlaws have on the shelf, I won't eat like that. I'll keep pecking at that Wal-Mart bill to wittle it down where I can, but I'd rather pay now than pay later if you know what I mean. Report
The article leaves out the impact of stress. Sure, you can flex your planning to eat healthy enough even with food still on the rise in most places. But the longterm impact of lack of good sleep, job worries, watching your neighborhood collapse, etc really takes its toll as well.

Definitely suggest that people trying to stay above it all really make sure to take what measures they can to help reduce those stressors.

Cause its really darn hard to plan when you you're spending so much time bombarded with doom and gloom around every corner. Report
Definitely tougher. I was laid off in January and that's a huge stressor. After 15 years in maketing I can't get a job doing what I've done (no degree). So, I'm starting my own business. I bake special occasion cakes. ( ). Well that poses another problem altogether. I'm surrounded by sugar all day long.

We definitely do the coupon clipping thing, but we've really cut back on processed food and are buying more meat and vegetables. We're actually finding that we can save money by shopping the perimeter of the store. If you really look at coupons--very few are for "real" food.

We also shop at Costco (big box store). That lets us by the freshest meats and veggies and fruits at great prices. We're also growing four "square foot" gardens. Get the book: Square Foot Gardening. It's great. Report
I used to shop at Whole Foods and eat all organic, lots of produce and lean meats and grains. Now my boyfriend and I clip coupons and go to Publix. We eat lots of frozen dinners and carbs. Why? Because our grocery bills are reduced by about 60%. And yes my waistline is expanding but my wallet remains intact. Not really sure what to do about this... Report
Yes, I believe it will be tougher on most everyone. If we are fat, they stand to make more money off of us in the long run, & we'd end up spending more money seeing doctors & spending time in the hospital.

If we are going to be healthy, now is the time to do it. For I believe they want to make it harder on the common person to be healthy.

Sugar coated stories will make you fat if you listen to them & believe in them: because if you do, you will alsways be fat. The easy way out, is the hard way out & a short cut on your health: to death sooner then later.

Seek preventive care & you should be healthy sooner. Few doctors know enough about health, to help you. To boot, they aren't required to put very many hours in in regards to classes in health. If doctors actually cared about your health in the 1st place, then there would be no need to see a doctor & the pharmisysts would be put out of business. I have a family member who works for the pharmisysts & he calls himself a legalized drug pusher & yep that is what they are. Report
I don't really think eating "well" cost more ..... it just takes more thought which most people do not want to think about is easier for them to just pick up JUNK...... yes, Pasta meals can be cheap & filling for a family but it does not have to make you gain weight just have to learn how to plan a menu. The Key word there is PLAN !!!! When I started gaining weight is when I stopped planning meals and started just picking up whatever...... Where I work I see people everyday with carts loaded down with "Snack" foods ...... Women (Men) need to learn to cook again.......take an interest in their families health and well being........ Report
I know that I've been saving money lately which is great for my waist! I have a jar that I keep next to by bed and I put all my money I would spend on junk in there. I'm planning on using it to go to Cali this summer to visit my cousin and sit on the beaches.

As for eating healthy: my favorite part of the grocery store is the bargain produce bin. Usually people shy away from near expiration produce but you can really find some great stuff there. For example, this week I found broc., squash, field greens, eggplant, and mushrooms. It's a great, inexpensive way to make sure you get all your fruits and veggies while still watching your wallet. Report
That's just totally untrue! When I was poor, all I ate was beans, rice, and veggies! Vegetables are so much cheaper than meat or pre-packaged dinners-- a lot are less than 60c/lb. Since they have a limited shelf life, they routinely go on sale-- managers have got to move them or lose it.

Check out whatever's in season, local, or on it's last leg. If nothing else, you can make a gi-normo batch and freeze it. Dried lentils and rice are super-cheap supplements to veggies/fruits. Oats and cream of wheat are good grains. If you can slip into a warehouse store and buy these things 50lbs ata time-- we got 50lbs (189cups) of flour for $11.46+tax. Report
The economy is actually helping my waistline. Gone are snacks, junk food, soft drinks, dining out (on the rare occasion I do go out to dinner, I always get a togo box to stretch it out to two meals). Fast foods - what's that? A five dollar meal? I can eat cheaper and better than that at home. Look for specials in the weekly flyers at the grocery store.

Instead of driving short distances, I walk to save on gas. That certainly helps the waistline too. Report
I have a family of 5 (including 2 teenagers) and its not cheap to shop. I have gone to coupon clipping, and price matching at our local Walmart. The rise in the cost of food, and other things has been to much. I have begun going to our local food trucks for help. Everything isn't always great, but it usually gives a variety of veggies, fruit, sometimes milk, and misc other stuff. That way I only have to buy meat, cereal, and things of the like. Since sometimes I have a surplus of one kind of veggie, I have cooked, blanched, chopped, ect to freeze to use at a later time. I have never done that before, always just bought what we needed. It is helping though. I would also recommend to anyone having trouble to look into Angel Food Ministries. YOu can go to their website, and find a distribution near you. For this you pay $30 a month for about a weeks worth of dinners worth about $70. (It includes enough meat for a weeks worth of dinners, some frozen veggies, a dozen eggs, a dessert item, rice, and some other things) It will feed a family of 4, I have learned to make it stretch for my family of 5. Its sad that a family with both of us working has to do these kind of things, but you do what you have to do to get by. I don't see it getting better anytime soon. It is very hard to eat really healthy when you have to buy what you can (or can't) afford. Report
There is no doubt that fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, fresh fish, healthy grains, etc. all cost more. I have seen about a 10% increase in our food costs since I started paying attention to what we eat. I could switch to frozen, but that increases the sodium in our diet and I don't want to do that. Canned is even worse. So for the time being, we will continue buying fresh and watch what we spend in other areas. The bottom line is that if we don't eat well, we won't be around as long to worry about what it costs. It is the gift we give ourselves. Report
No, the failing economy will not make me fatter. I will actually spend less on dining out, and that in turn will help me with my weight loss goal. Report
Not sure how much ramen noodles are and is a one person serving per package. A box of pasta costs 99 cents for most store brands in several states and makes many servings. Fast food costs more if totaled up for the week for all family members than the food bill if one buys in season veggies and sale items.

We eat out less and buy in season and seconds in good condition. We actually have cut our weekly grocery bill in half and our entertainment bill by more than 75%.

As to the economy, no telling where that will lead us. Heard some statistics yesterday about times in Europe around time of WW1 that the money from a five story home sale didn't buy some simple staples for the family a few months later.

Consider yourself in the top 15% of the wealthiest population if you have food to eat daily, a roof to live under, a clean change of clothes and one car. You are among the top 5% if you have several meals a day, your own home, several garments and two cars. Report
I don't eat out pretty much never, and we all eat healthy foods, its just me and my hubby and two toddler sons, so we haven't really felt anything different even with the economy going down, we buy lots of fruits, lean meats, vegetables, and I cook healthy for all of us, only time we got out to eat is if were on the road or away from home visiting friends, family,etc. Even then we choose salads, subs and healthier options of everything. Report
We don't eat out anymore. We have a make your own pizza night and the kids can pick their own pizza toppings. The combinations are a riot. We do more things as a family now. We all go swimming together, or pick a movie rather than everyone doing several different things. I'm lucky though. My kids aren't very picky so eating healthy is pretty easy. I know some kids that will not eat anything. Report
no matter how you twist it - eating fresh greens, veggies and wild rice is more expensive than a big bag of white rice.

We do many of the things others have listed, but we also try to mix and match. It's not all black and white for us - we mix our white rice with the wild rice to make it stretch. We can have fresh spinach salad one day and a cheapy bag of frozen broccoli the next.

I do look forward to the day when cost will not be such a large factor - but until then we compromise on some and hold strong with others.

everything costs something. either time or money and typically both. I just have to choose which i am willing to spend on what. Report
Our local food bank, which gives away food to low income families and individuals, mainly gives away low quality carbs. However, they also give away frozen ground turkey and salmon -- sometimes -- plus fruits and vegetables in season that have been donated. So it is a mixture of healthy and unhealthy. Report
i try to shop at discount grocers before i go to the grocery store. the dollar store and aldi's have some very good comparable products to what's offered for double at my local grocery store. i try to only get the quality products from the grocer. Report
I do not agree that eating properly is costing more. I am very cautious at the grocery store, buy in bulk, and I am vegetarian. I am not gaining weight. I am just more careful. I always see what I need on sale at one store or the other being careful watching for sales. due to the economy I see better sales at the stores and only buy what is on sale. Some stores will price match what another store has advertised.
This economy has just forced us to be wiser and more careful when shopping.
Maybe if more people substituted their proteins from meat to grain they would see a lower grocery bill. *** read my blog. Report
fast food meals are NO cheaper than eating at home, and often have very little nutritional value. if people plan ahead it is doable to eat well on a budget. our mother raised 7 of us and went to the grocery store once a month, and we ate very well and on the cheap. Report
A box of tuna helper: 1.25 Report
Ideally I hope I can just eat less instead of lower quality cheaper food. Report
I know it does cost more to eat, esp. fresh fruits and veggies. One area that I'm working on to cut cost is the amount of diet pop that I drink. Last week I allowed myself 1 per day. I will continue to cut that down to allow a diet soda for a treat now and then and drink water. I'm just not going "cold turkey" this time due to caffeine withdrawal that I have suffered in the past.

I will probably also take the suggestion that others have made -- and by more frozen fruit and veggies. The think I like about dried and frozen fruits -- I take out a serving and put the rest back -- less waste. Sometimes I get too many fruits and something will go bad.

Randy Report
As my budget get tighter, I am eating many more mini-meals at McDonald's. Buying fresh produce and veggies cost much, much more - will try to get back to it as money flow improves in the future. Report
Most will not be able to afford to even have a computer, much less get coupons at on line sites. MORE will end up sleeping in shelters, and eating in the food kitchens...and ....waistlines WILL expand because of it. When you have no job, no place to live, your whole outlook is on what you can eat, and you will eat whatever you can to quench the burning in your gut. The times will be so very sad for so very many....we are heading into a deep depression, I pray it doesn't last a long time.... Report
My family uses Angelfoods Ministries ( ). It is an organization where one can purchase about $150 worth of food for $30 per month. They operate out of local churches throughout the USA. It has been a God send! IT IS NOT BASED ON INCOME.

I purchase meat, cheese and vegetables in bulk, seperate into smaller portions and use zip lock freezer bags (we label with purchase date and what's inside). My family invested in a small 5 cubit foot freezer (around $200) about 3 months ago. It has paid for itself because I don't have to go to the grocery store as frequently (which also saves on gas and time).

I use my slow cooker that is great for less tender cuts of meat. Plus I get everything ready in the cooker the night before, before I go to work I turn it on and wala, when we get home from work - dinner is done. There are some great slow cooker recipes online. One of my favorite sites is ( ).

Using coupons, buying items that are on sale and buying store brand items keep cost down as well. I plan to try my hand at growing a few items next year in a raise bed garden. Report
Dried beans--I just stocked up yesterday. I'll use our slow cooker a lot this fall & winter making bean & veggie dishes. And we have a good pressure cooker for the nights when I didn't manage to get the slow cooker going. Report
I buy all of my meat in bulk at Sam's club and lots of the other canned products that I use like tomatoes and tomato sauce. Sam's often has good deals on produce in bulk too, like 3lbs of bananas for 1.29. I am also very fortunate that I have a discount produce store not too far from my house, I can not always gaurantee what they will have from week to week, but I can get about a weeks wroth of produce for anywhere between 8 to 12 dollars, their price on fresh herbs is a third of what my grocery store charges. This makes a huge difference in my grocery bill. I try to by other things when they are on sale. It is possible to still eat healthy and stay on a budget Report
I think there are many ways to eat healthy on a budget. One is buy bulk vegies and learn to blanch and freeze them. Also Fast Foods are expensive and usually high in calories so don't go there. I know my husband and I love to eat out and as the economy gets bad and things change eating out will be the first thing to go. It is already something we do less because we are eating better and have been losing weight. You can also get lean meats on sale and freeze that. There are lots of ways to save and still eat good foods. Report
Most people don't realize that you can buy from the local "Wholesale Dealers" in your city. Here I get items much less, but I must go in with a list and cannot "shop" in the warehouse. I learned this from years ago when I worked as a waitress and went with the restaurant owner to the "W.D." in the city. We bought gallon jars are BBQ Sauce, etc. That is how restaurants make a profit. Report
I can tell by our weekly shopping (because we keep a record of our spending)it has cost us more.But I use coupons and buy generic brands.I have an upright freezer(31 yrs old) and keep it stocked.Last week we bought Green Giant Steamfresh veggies in 12oz bags.I think the retail value was around $2.69.They were on sale for $1.69.I had $1.00 coupons from got each bag for .69.But I copied the printed out coupon 20X.So I only use coupons on items that are ON SALE and if that item is cheaper than the store brand.It takes time but it is worth it.And I agree with the fact that a lot of these young people don't know how to economize.My son & his wife earn great salaries (both college educated,with their own $)but they know how to save.
It is cheaper to have netflix(share with your kids and get lowest plan)make your own popcorn & pizza and go watch the movies at different friends/families houses.
We have become a lazy nation and need to learn to entertain ourselves and grow our own food.This is great for our minds and bodies. Report
Eating a bag of carrots is cheaper and healthier than the dollar burger. Buying beans and rice is cheaper than buying a family meal at KFC.
I've been poor and it was a "treat" to go to a fast food place and buy dollar tacos. And I was far from over weight!
It boils down to choices. If people are going to continue to make poor choices whether they have the money or not, they're going to pay the consequences.
I eat a clean, vegan diet on a serious budget that amazes a lot of people I talk to. But tell hard is it to stock up on frozen veggies when they are on sale, purchase and eat whatever fresh fruits are in season and on sale, and buy dried beans in bulk...not expensive at all. If I went the way of processed, prepared foods that were vegan it would cost me a ton more. It's all in how we choose to use our time and spend out money. I'll take 4 hours in the kitchen once a week with a $50 a week grocery bill over a $100+ dollar eating allowance any day. Report
The cost of food here on Kauai has always been expensive. From July to September, the cost of food increased by 25%....most everything has to be shipped over. I have always enjoyed the farmer's markets for several reasons: fruits and veggies simply taste better, far less expensive than at the grocery and I'm helping to support a local family buy buying locally grown foods. Bulk buying and vacuum sealing items works well or splitting the cost/item with a neighbor. The most important thing is to plan ahead (meals, shopping and prep).
Aloha! Report
I will not sacrifice eating (mostly) healthy foods just because they cost more. I may bypass some if the price is exceptionally high for a while. I will adjust my budget elsewhere, like less expensive clothes, fewer books, etc. in order to afford good food. Report
I have been trying to eat better. I think that it is more challenging to learn how to control what you eat and learn how to prepare things. Sometimes when I am shopping it is easier to get the things that are easier to make and doesnt take any thinking on my part. I like the idea of planning my meals out for the week. I think I will try this and see how much time I can save and how much healthier we can be Report
"One study found that if you follow the suggestion to get 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies daily, it will end up costing three times as much at the grocery store."
Cost 3x more than doing what? If we decide that we are going to eat healthy, that is how much it costs to eat. Is there really another option?
Often people are misled to think that eating healthy has to be expensive. Our ancestors got through the winters on carrots, potatoes, turnips, cabbage, and storage apples. We don't have to be eating out-of-season asparagus or tropical kiwi fruits to get our fruits and vegetables. Variety is great, but variety in season is good enough.
Also, it is a LOT cheaper to but whole veggies and prep them yourself. You don't really need "baby" carrots and prewashed bagged salad, and it takes only a little time to prep them for eating yourself. What it takes though is planning--part of the deal when you decide to eat healthy. Report
It actually helps me with food costing more I have to think more about what I can afford out with the junk food and sugary cereal. In with cans of tomatoes they are great at helping to stretch meat for more meals. I find I just plain need to cut down on how much I eat anyways.
I went to the farmers market today now I have a half bushel of butternut squah to peel, remove the seeds, and cut into strips for frys and freeze. Report
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