Those who have the luxury of disposable income (cable television, multiple wireless devices, travel) often question if not outright complain about the cost of eating healthy. Keeping in mind that 70 percent of Americans are sick and medicated and 54 percent of our kids are chronically ill, with these illnesses overwhelmingly caused by the foods people consume, it is time for perspective.
First, take a look at what has happened to food expenditures in America since 1960: Your Grandparents Spent More Of Their Money On Food Than You Do. Food expenditures have gone down dramatically from over 17 percent of income in 1960 to just less than10 percent in 2015. The article reports:
Because of the overall rise in income, and the consistent shrinking of food prices adjusted for inflation, we actually have more disposable income than our grandparents did, according to Annette Clauson, an agricultural economist with USDA’s Economic Research Service who helped calculate the data in the chart.
The article continues: “… when it comes to consumer purchases, Americans spend the least on food consumed at home compared with just about every other country in the world.”
In summary, Americans are spending less of their income on food, they have more income than ever, and they are sicker than ever, with per person healthcare spending at $10,000 a year in 2015.
So how do we compare to the rest of the world? Take a look at this U.S. Department of Agriculture table, which will download to your computer: Percent of consumer expenditures spent on food, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco that were consumed at home, by selected countries, 2015
If you aren’t comfortable downloading it, below is a screenshot.
These data show how ridiculously little people in America spend on food at only 6.4 percent of income. In my family’s case, we spend about 17 percent of our income on food and are in the company of eastern European countries. My family has chosen our health over owning more stuff and it has paid off. Instead of all three of us being sick and medicated, we are healthy and having fun. And we spend about $1,500 per person per year, with 99 percent of that spending going toward health insurance we do not use. We have chosen the experience of life.
Can my family lower the percentage of income we spend on food and still eat healthy? Yes and no. Over time we have learned that Ryan and Colson are sickened when eating most grains and some legumes, so a cheap replacement for meat is largely off the table. We could reduce the amount of dark chocolate we eat and Colson can skip his occasional almond milk, gluten-free ice cream. We could replace Colson’s rare rice noodles with plain rice or cabbage, which we sometimes do. But overall, those things aren’t a significant part of our expenses.
Everyone has their own path to health and their own vision of what is acceptable. If you are thinking about taking the journey, please know that it can be done with less money than my family does it now. If forced by a layoff, our food expenses will come way down, as we have experienced in the past. Organic bacon and organic ground turkey will quickly be eliminated, as will other luxuries. During the Great Recession, we ate for $161 a week, or 9 percent of our pre-layoff income, and we still ate largely organically.
Finally, keep in mind that if you are eating junk food or eating at restaurants, if you eliminate that and shift your money to real food, the increase in food cost will not be as large as you may think.
The decision is yours. What will be your one small and powerful step today to improve your health? Join us!
You can purchase our eLearning program, Small and Powerful Steps to Wellness, for $15 (10% goes to InterFaith Food Shuttle to help kids who don’t have enough food). I know it sounds like there can’t be much to this program for only $15, but it is packed full of tips and strategies to help you and your family excel, and we want to reach as many people as possible. We have condensed eight years of our learning and some of the latest medical research into a few hours in our self-paced, multimedia eLearning.