So I had to write to Rachael Ray today..

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1246176_bowl_tomatoes Note: This is an old post, but the topic is still relevant, what do you think?

Rachael Ray not only has cooking shows and cookbooks but she has her own talk show.

One of her segments had Whoopi Goldberg on to help explore a “hot topic”. Today it was the Fat Tax. Here is basically what I wrote her:

I just had to write because I just saw your segment with Whoopi about the “fat tax”. Now, while I do not agree with the fat tax I really have to contend with something else that was said- that healthy food is not affordable.

Healthy food can be affordable- most people are simply not educated in the ways to find it.

My husband and I spend around $40 a week on food- and I have a special diet due to health- so I know I could spend less if this was not the case. I also live in San Diego, which is one of the more expensive places to live in the US. Granted we do not have kids yet, but I am a firm believer that we could still spend under $75 a week with kids.

The types of things I buy are: fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, proteins (including meat, eggs, peanut butter and beans). These are not cheap things, but if you know how to shop for them they can become very affordable.

I do realize that some of the places I shop are regional but I would bet that there are affordable places to buy healthy food in every area. Great places for really affordable, healthy food in my area include the 99cent only stores (tons of fresh fruits and veggies for a steal), Fresh and Easy (offering half price, fruits, veggies, meat and premade entrees that are up that day as well as a $6 off a $30 purchase that can be printed from their web site), Also, looking through my local grocery store ads I can see several great sales that would allow people to get great prices on healthy grocery items.

Also see: The “Three R’s “ of Saving Money on Groceries- Part 1

Truly, consumers need to relearn both shopping and eating. You mentioned a viewer that talked about not being able to afford broccoli for a recipe you made on the show- so what if you can’t afford broccoli this week- then substitute the frozen green beans that are on sale for .99 cents a pound (and frozen or fresh broccoli will probably be on sale next week and you can stock up).

I run a web site that helps people not only get free stuff but also helps them lead a more frugal lifestyle. And believe me- this is a learned behavior- I am still learning. But I love helping people learn to spend their money more deliberately and meaningfully.

It is possibly to live (and eat well and healthfully) on a limited budget.

Happy Saving

So what did you think of my letter? Is my experience true? Or do you find that it is really impossible to eat healthy on a limited budget? What are your strategies?

I think it would be beneficial for Rachael to have an ongoing segment that would help educate the American people how to live more frugally and prepare meals on a budget.

happy saving.


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  1. says

    I totally agree with you! It can be done, with reading ads, clipping coupons etc. Fresh N Easy is awesome. I used to live in CA and now live in CT and miss them. We don’t have something like that here but we do have local farms etc. I am glad that you said something, if people with influence like her says it can’t be done people are likely to give up. Good Job!

  2. Amanda says

    For me personally it is expensive because I live in such a small town. We only have one grocery store. The closest wal-Mary for example is 1 1/2 hrs away. Our little store here is very charges a boat load for the ‘healthier’ options. I know I could do better if I had more shopping options where I lived.

  3. Stephen says

    I live in San Diego too! The point that I think you are missing is that in many smaller communities affordable and healthy food is not as easily accessible. It’s great that you have all these options where you can get good deals on healthy foods, but in many food deserts that simply isn’t an option. This thinking also ignores that fact that subsidies that go to corn and its by-products on average make more processed foods be cheaper per calorie than fresh and healthy foods. You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops and find coupons and wait for deals to get affordable healthy foods. We’re the richest country on the planet and one of our citizens wanted to buy BROCCOLI and couldn’t afford it that week? That’s a failure of the system, not an opportunity to get creative with a recipe and replace it with another green vegetable.

    • jlpenner says

      you have a point Stephan, I still do believe that people could at least eat better if there were better eduction out there for everyone on how to do so on a budget.

  4. Lisa says

    Have to agree with the previous comments, while its great that some have access to the stores like you do, the reality is that a lot of us don’t. The closest thing to cheap fresh produce in the DC-Balt area s available at what we call Asian markets. Even there, it isn’t cheap, just better than the grocery store. Local grown here translates to more costly because they can, and don’t get me started on organic! Its hard to take part of a meager grocery budget and spend it on ‘fresh’ food when it may go bad a day or two later before you get a chance to use it. I appreciate the idea of having a celebre-chef do something budget friendly but healthy but unfortunately, though well intentioned I’m sure, they don’t truly ‘get it’. If I have one more person tell me beans are a great way to stretch a budget, I may scream. It may be true, but some people don’t like beans! The bigger issue is that we live in the land of ‘plenty’ but the finer things…if one could call broccoli ‘finer’ aren’t accessible to all.

    • jlpenner says

      You are right.. there are always going to be people who have much less access to budget friendly healthy items

  5. Sharon says

    Your post doesn’t take into consideration the issue of ‘food deserts’ that are heavily prevelant all over the nation. Even in those areas where fresh produce can be had at the grocery stores, if you live in an area with a colder climate, you won’t find cheap produce unless it is seasonal. And as Lisa mentioned, local produce and meats do not usually does not equate to cheaper food. Instead they are much more expensive. In CA, local and fresh fruit and veg might be abundant, but this is not so in most of the other areas of the nation. Sure you can use the ads and circulars to find deals, but the savings is not usually that substantial to reduce weekly grocery costs overall.

  6. Rosemary says

    I wish they would open a .99 only store that had fresh veggies and fruit! You are lucky to have those places. I live in the Northeast where the growing season is short, so fresh fruit and veggies cost more. But, I buy a lot of frozen vegetables and buy the fruit on sale. I buy spices/herbs at the health food store because I can buy a little or a lot and also buy smaller portions of grains. I don’t buy pre-prepared foods and make my own. It can be expensive to eat healthy, but, with a little effort, it is doable.

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