Guest Post: Is Real Food Too Expensive?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

Is Real Food Too Expensive?

Please don't claim real food is "too expensive" to eat. What's "too expensive" is unhealthy processed and fast foods.

It is a truism that food is expensive in America. What if we ask, "is real food expensive in America?"
Let's define "real food" as unprocessed or minimally processed: raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed meat. Minimally processed would include rolled oats, 100% whole wheat bread, tofu, etc.
Exhibit #1: I recently bought this real food, here in America, for less than $5: 9 oranges, large bag of mustard cabbage, large bag of Shanghai bok choi and a large bag of malabar spinach. It was not in the "half off" bin; I paid the full retail price:
Exhibit #2: all of the above, plus 30 eggs and a hand of bananas: total less than $10:
Each of these vegetables makes 4 to 6 servings, and the 2.5 dozen eggs provides plenty of protein for multiple meals. I could have added some excellent frozen fish for under $2 a pound, and cooked a few ounces per serving--a typical serving in traditional Asian cuisine, where one piece of chicken is thinly sliced and added to vegetables to feed four people.
$10 in fast food might get you two "value meals" of saturated-fat burgers, fries and sugar-water drink. $10 in packaged food will buy an assortment of fake-food: frozen pizzas, snacks, sugar-bomb breakfast bars, etc.
Is real food expensive in America? As a percentage of median household income ($49,777), no. Is processed or fast food expensive? If the "value" is measured in nutrition and well-being, yes, the cost is very high indeed.
Apologists often cite four reasons why people (and more particularly, low-income people) tend to eat so poorly in America. One is the high cost of "real food." This is not quite true, as shown above: if you shop at Asian or Latin markets, you will find prices for fresh produce and other real food is typically much lower than in conventional supermarkets.
The second reason offered is that there are no grocery stores in low-income areas. This is also not quite true, as the aforementioned ethnic markets are typically only found in low-income immigrant-friendly areas.
The third excuse is that low-income people lack a proper stove/oven. The majority of Indian, Chinese and southeast Asian cuisine is prepared in one saucepan or wok that only needs one burner, a cutting board, one knife and a stirring/serving tool. The variety and healthy qualities of these cuisines are well-known. You only need one burner and a single saucepan/wok to make a huge range of healthy meals.
The fourth reason given is that people work long hours and have no time to cook, especially low-income workers with long commutes on public transport.
I routinely prepare a healthy meal with the above vegetables or equivalent (green beans, etc.) and a few ounces of meat in about a half hour. With a pressure cooker (widely available at garage sales, etc.), you can prepare a pot of beans or lentils (dal) in less than an hour.
Compare these modest investments of time with surveys that routinely find Americans of all incomes and ethnicities watch up to four hours of TV or equivalent "entertainment" (web-surfing, videogaming, etc.) a day. Some surveys put the total even higher than four hours.
So the apologists are claiming that people find four hours to watch TV, etc., but they have to stop at fast food outlets for dinner because they have no time to prepare a meal with real food.
None of these excuses hold water. Even more absurdly, some apologists claim that "people don't know how to cook." With dozens of cooking shows being broadcast and thousands of recipes available to anyone with a smartphone or Internet connection, this strains credulity. There are even these useful things called cookbooks that can be borrowed from a public library.
Let's also recall that up to 40% of all food in the U.S. is thrown in the garbage. Do you throw away what is costly? No, you throw away what is cheap.
What it boils down to is convenience, marketing and engineering: processed food and fast-food are engineered to "taste good" (i.e. salty, fatty and sweet), marketing hypes them 24/7 and Americans have been brainwashed to worship convenience above all else.
So please don't claim real food is "too expensive" to eat. What's "too expensive" is unhealthy processed and fast foods.

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SheepDog-One's picture

Oranges here are going for about $1 each, head of lettuce $3, 18 eggs for $3.50....not sure where this guy is shopping.

vast-dom's picture

he is shopping in fantasy-land. and none of that is organically grown either. try that little shop experiement in nyc, even bargain discount bin non-organic produce and welcome to reality. nonsense post!

SheepDog-One's picture

OH wait I see....he says he shopped at an 'Asian market'....not many of them here in rural Montana. Maybe this works in NYC in 'Little Vietnam' or whatever but I'm definitely not seeing it anywhere here.

idea_hamster's picture

It is a truism that food is expensive in America.

Simply not true.  Americans spend a smaller portion of their available income on food that almost anyone else in the world.  I.e., relative to incomes, food in the United States is inexpensive -- "real" or otherwise.

Whether that may be changing, and that the negative trend feels uncomfortable as food expenditures globalize, is a different story.

camaro68ss's picture

This is all to depressing. I’m going to head to Starbucks, buy myself a $7 coffee and a GMO muffin and contemplate my life.

El Viejo's picture

Welcome to Peak Food.

Pay me a little now or pay me a lot later. (for health care)

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

Whenever I make myself a chicken burger I put some mayonnaise and hot sauce on it, and then start saying out loud "Its a ZINGER sandwich!"  "The ZINGER!"  And then I eat it.  Its funny how I have been programmed (by advertising) to think that a "real Zinger" would taste better than my 'imitation Zinger'. 


Whats even funnier is that I can overcome the brainwashing just by proclaiming my chicken burger to be a "Zinger"!!!!

Satan's picture

You can pick up some Zynga for pretty cheap these days...

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Location, location, location.

In growing Zone 8b we are enjoying plenty of lettuce, sweet potato, peppers, and baba ganoush right now.

I love Mrs. Horseman's sweet potato muffins...

Bohm Squad's picture

HH - Just a quick FYI:


You made a post a while back regarding farming an entire meal; a meal without any store bought items at all.  I just wanted to let you know that inspired me to do the same.  It's an amazingly tough thing to do!  

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Once one has a family cow it gets much easier to do so.  Beef, milk, cream, butter, and cheese open up many options.

Initially I was very resistant to owning a cow, but thank God Mrs. Horseman persisted. 

The Alarmist's picture

"try that little shop experiement in nyc ..."

Ah, NYC, where a can of SPAM costs $4.25 ... plus tax.  No wonder those people were shitting in the hallways.

chubbar's picture

Do you pasturize the milk or go the raw route? Just curious how you operate because I was thinking of doing the same.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Raw. We just pour it through a Tuffy paper filter into the glass jug.


TruthInSunshine's picture

In KomradeKronyKapitalism Amerika, edible food like substances own you!


Whole Foods Parking Lot; Shit's Gettin' Real
Citxmech's picture

Pasturization isn't really necessary if your cows aren't raised knee-deep in shit on a feedlot.  A pastured cow that gets to eat grass will be extremely healthy.  All those antibiotics are used to keep factory cows alive in spite of horrendous conditions that would otherwise kill them in short order (eg a grain-based diet rather than grass)

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Hamby has almost everything you will need.  

Specialty Bottle sells (and $hips) the right type of reusable, dishwasher-safe, jugs and lids. 

It is not necessary, but it is really nice to have hot water in your milking parlor.

Here is the business end of our little lady.


daveeemc2's picture

Nice set up; we have something similar.

Make sure u look for mastitis.

We do something similiar, primarily for reason #1; and reason #2.

cheetahbaby's picture

Dude, once you beef that cow no more milk, cream, butter or cheese. Just sayin'

VisualCSharp's picture

Cows are used for beef? Pretty sure only steer are used for beef.

EDIT: Okay, so cows are made into beef when they get old. :)

hedgeless_horseman's picture



A cow must be bred and give birth to produce milk.  This happens about once per year, and the resultant offspring, male or female, can be slaughtered for veal or beef. 

sullymandias's picture

Yes right, plenty of cheap "real" food, so long as you don't mind unknown quantities of GMO, ridiculous quantities of pesticides, and fish and shellfish from the oil-spill Gulf of Mexico, or the newly nuclear Pacific ocean. We eat real food here but it is by no means cheap. And those eggs he shows came from chickens that are stapled to a wall and force-fed the ground up parts of other chickens that were not suitable to go into a McNugget.

Terminus C's picture

So what you are saying is... you want all of the above and additional "processing" materials added for preservation and "taste"?

What is your point?  If all you can get is GMO food at the grocery store, you are still better off than if you ate GMO processed fast food.  Would it be best to be HH and grow/hunt/gather all of your own food?  Yes.  Is it possible for people to go from eating fast food to self sustainability immediately?  Yes, but unlikely.

Cook your own food.  Buy from local farmers, if possible, grow as much as you can.  Look up permaculture to see how you can farm your apartment deck etc. 

goldfish1's picture

I have the pleasure to eat real eggs from free chickens fed organic feed. What a difference. So delicious.

So much "food" is wasted. I buy the good stuff...I consume less.

Org. Oatmeal in the late morning with raisins nuts and real milk. Alternate with eggs and not genetically mutated bread.

Dinner, little meat with whole non gm grain and veggies.

Healthy snacks of non gm cereal or non gm granola bars or org. fruit.

After a diet like that, you start to feel pretty good all of a sudden.

vast-dom's picture

let's amend this post to: get your groceries on in Buttfuck USA. not that i have anything against most of Amerika, but living in major cities a la Fight Club, this is all horseshit and cow manure posts. And Clueless et. al. are turning the Fight Club into a fucking FuckBook look at my pathetic life pics and posts site. Please, let's clean this Fight Club up with some dirty boxing and germane posts. oh and FUCK Hallmark Holidays and buying shit when you are told to: ie Xmas!

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Vast-Dom, I have noticed that you have a significant number of posts on exactly these types of threads.  What is causing you to spend your valuable time reading and writing about topics for which you hold no value? 

let's clean this Fight Club up with some dirty boxing and germane posts.

Germane posts such as...

 "oh and FUCK Hallmark Holidays and buying shit when you are told to: ie Xmas!"

...on an article about food, or a different type of germane post ?

vast-dom's picture

you miss the point, every time. post your inane cow tits pics on fuckbook please. germane to Fight Club is your dumb ass posting xmas shopping lists and i promise you more idiotic pathetic pics of your x-mas feast of your cows and turkeys. get it now? know what germane means now? i am unsure what Tylers are thinking, and it's there "home" and they allow some of this in poor judgement, for fuck's sake. luckily there are several tylers.......

akak's picture

Had your meds stolen again at the homeless shelter after binging on MD20/20 under the overpass?  I hear that can be a bitch.


PS: Was that "fight club" enough for you?

PPS:  Happy Christmas shopping!  Send me your address, and I will mail you a special Hallmark holiday card, picked out just for you.

goldfish1's picture

What's not germane? I didn't know those cow milkers are so bad ass...

Maybe I'll get a cow.

trader1's picture

i love me some sweet potato muffins too!  especially the ones with the herbal infusion :P

SmallerGovNow2's picture

Whomever junked you is jealous.  Nice looking veggies.  I got several dozen green tomato's bout to turn red on me....

DaveyJones's picture

I built a greenhouse a few years back and have been eating fresh greens all winter since. Purple kales, cilantro, burnett salad, mizuna, mibuna  - lots of things. LIke this site, it's not just for my health, it helps me get through winter.  

MillionDollarBogus_'s picture


Those bananas are past their prime.

Those white eggs came from factory farmed chickens.

Real eggs have brown shells, from chickens that get to walk & forage.  

White shells come from chickens in a small cage.

What else have you got for us...?? 

HeatMiser's picture

Okay what Happed to MDB ? He never writes anythig worth reading. This is the second post in two days. The world really is coming to an end. OH CRAP

TheAntiBen's picture

Couldn't agree more.  I do a word search on the forums for MDB every day for a good laugh, and lately it has been horrible compared to his past writing!

Bwahaha WAGFDSMB's picture

Look closely, MillionDollarBogus_ spelled with a g.

TheCanadianAustrian's picture

An incredibly easy and annoying mistake to make. I wish MillionDollarBogus would just fuck off. He isn't even a parody. All he does is sap attention, and he never has anything entertaining or informative to say.

fourchan's picture

i dont know one person who knows how to cook. i find it amazing on a daily basis.

Jena's picture

You're hanging out with the wrong people, unless you're teaching em how to cook.

FrankDrakman's picture

Could it be you're confusing some talentless douche "MD boGus" with the real thing?

viahj's picture

this is MDBogus, not MDBonus, parady of a troll.

SilverDOG's picture

White eggs come from chickens which lay white eggs.

Commercial breeds are as such.

You can free range and OG feed, and still get white shelled eggs.

Rhode Island Reds kick arse.

Brown egged and mahogany feathers on the dozen in the back yard.


Tijuana Donkey Show's picture

My Red is one of my fav's, she is a SPARKY little chicken. 

hedgeless_horseman's picture



We have some Americanas that lay nice green eggs.

El's picture

Oddly enough, the green/blue shelled eggs are supposedly lower in cholesterol than the brown or white eggs. I had a little speckled hen when I was a kid that layed the green/blue eggs.

Oh...and can one keep a cow on five acres? I don't know much about cows, but was told you need at least 20 for a regular size breed. (Maybe not quite as much for one of those smaller cows...can't remember what they are called at the moment.)

hedgeless_horseman's picture



...can one keep a cow on five acres? 

Yes, where we live.  It depends entirely on the pasture.  Some places like Idaho it is acres per cow, while other places like Panama it is cows per acre.  In the USA, your local ag extension office will offer free consultation on just this sort of thing.