Affording Real Food

Real Food Economics 101: The Real Food Lifestyle Costs Less

This post is part of a series, Real Food Economics 101. The series covers the cost of real food and applying the 80/20 rule to managing your time and money in the kitchen in depth. Click here to start at the beginning.

Last week in “Strategies to Reduce Real Food Costs” we looked at a number of different ways to bring the cost of food down for your family. Two weeks ago we examined real world real food budgets and compared them with the average food budget. We found that real food budgets are the same or smaller than the USDA average food budget making real food eating amongst the most economical ways to eat. This week we’re taking a look at how eating real food lowers your families expenses in ways other than your food budget making it even more economical!

Saving on Healthcare

We’ll start off with the most obvious and clear savings, healthcare. You may wonder what healthcare has to do with food budgets. A lot actually :-). Chronic illness accounts for 70% of all money spent on healthcare in the US. Chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity, all of which are acknowledged to be preventable diet related diseases. Then there are autoimmune diseases, lung disease, arthritis, and mental illness for all of which people have found significant relief through improving their diets. Then there is the everyday run of the mill over susceptibility to cold and flu, seasonal allergies, indigestion and reflux again all of which many people have found relief for through diet alone. If you improve your diet you stand a better chance of not developing these illnesses in the first place. Even if you already have a chronic condition it is likely that through improved diet the need for medical intervention will be reduced. That can add up to thousands of dollars in savings over a lifetime! And you’ll feel better and look better to boot :-).

It’s no news to anyone that healthcare in the US is outrageously expensive! This is even when covered by insurance. Without insurance it is simply unaffordable.. The uninsured practice self-care for the most part, with a few emergency room visits thrown in when things get too bad. The cost for healthcare in the US is an average of $7000 per person. Now this average includes the critically ill … your families expenses are likely lower than this. Still expenses are high. I searched statistics on out of pocket expenses without success, so I’ll venture a guess. Seems reasonable to suggest the average family of 4 with 2 kids under 10 spends about 2-3k per year total if there are no serious issues. Out of pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays being around $1,000 if all expenses are covered. If not, add another $500 or so. If your family is insured the remainder will be covered by the insurance company. But everyone has out of pocket expenses whether it’s deductibles for doctors visits or prescriptions, or uncovered medicines or procedures. The list of things insurance plans do not cover grows longer each passing year. This is for conventional allopathic care.

If instead you choose to go the alternative route, for the most part you’ll be footing the bill alone. And while alternative care is cheaper than conventional it isn’t free. You may need to try several different things in order to address your health issue before you find something that helps. This isn’t cheap to do. Visits to alternative practitioners, herbs, supplements and therapies can be expensive. I know, I’ve been down this road dealing with asthma and allergy issues.

Most people that switch to a real food diet see a reduction in the need for medical intervention. They visit the doctor less, need fewer prescriptions, have less surgery and over a lifetime are less likely to develop diseases like cancer or heart disease. This just makes sense. If you feed your body nutritionless food your body will malfunction! Now, some have more stamina than others thru healthy living in the past or genetic wealth and can keep healthy on a poor diet longer. But sooner or later it catches up with all of us.

Real food hasn’t made me superhuman nor completely cured my chronic illness (asthma) which I’ve had since childhood. I’m still unable to run a marathon ;-). But I can tell you that it has greatly improved my quality of life and significantly reduced my need for medication. And the improvements keep coming with every month a little better than the one before it.

Saving on Dental Work

Dental work in the US is also very expensive! Most people do not have dental insurance, and even when they do the amount covered is pathetic. There is usually a long wait after employment before the insurance is effective and then the yearly caps effectively exclude anyone with dental problems of any size from assistance with the bill. About half do not have even this meager coverage. Even something as common as a single root canal and crown costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500 which with a cleaning will put you over the yearly maximum. Some have a mouth full of teeth in need of this kind of care adding up to many thousands of dollars. This is why we have scenes where people line up in the thousands for free dental care.

So good dental health is very important not just for your overall health and good appearance. It’s important for the health of your pocketbook too! How does real food help with this? Any dentist will tell you that sugary sweet and acidic food eaten regularly will put your teeth in danger. Much of processed food has added sweeteners and by avoiding it you will greatly reduce the amount of sugar you eat. What most dentists won’t tell you is that your teeth and gums are a reflection of your overall health. If your overall health improves you are likely to see that reflected as a reduction the number of cavities you get and the amount of gum inflammation and disease you suffer.

Saving on Eating Out

If you’re cooking at home you’ll eat out less! This fact is pretty obvious and might be considered a simple savings in food cost but I decided to add it here since eating out is entertainment for many. After you’ve been cooking and eating at home for awhile you will most likely find that you are disappointed in the quality of the meals you get when out compared to the high price you pay. Soon eating out won’t be very entertaining anymore :-).

Saving on Beauty Care

This is mostly for the ladies here but also applies to the guys that might be inclined to spend to look better. Most women spend something for lotions and creams, hair treatments, and makeup to help our appearance. Some spend little and others a lot. You may be astonished to find that the need for some of these things fades on a real food diet. For instance, I don’t use any lotions or creams anymore. On a diet with saturated fat I find that my skin just doesn’t dry out like it used to. I’ve given up on hair treatments that involve chemicals. Most hair lotions, gels, smoothers, waxes, etc. have become very expensive in recent years so this can add up. Also, many notice that they just plain look younger when eating well … what a nice bonus!

A New Hobby That Saves Rather Than Costs

Learning real food cookery will of necessity become a new hobby. A new fun hobby! And it doesn’t add dollars to your expenses instead it helps lower them! So you have the excitement of learning a new skill while lowering your expenses making your life a little more full, the way an expensive hobby might. You may find yourself less tempted to look for things to do that cost money rather than save.

Next week we’ll talk about how to keep from stressing about a “Not 100% Real Food Diet” when a large part of your diet hasn’t changed yet. The first part of the transition is the hardest and is likely to cost the most. We’ll talk about how to make this period smoother.

9 thoughts on “Real Food Economics 101: The Real Food Lifestyle Costs Less

  1. I would venture to say the first medical number is more the norm. Our out of pocket for a family of three is a six thousand dollar deductible, copay, and 10% coinsurance. Cost are increasing and coverage is decreasing.


    1. Wow, really! I knew my guess was probably too low … With my kids grown I’m the only one in our house that sees a doctor anymore and that’s just once or twice a year checkups. So glad I learned about real food! We’ve become out of touch with the cost since we rarely go.


  2. I never would have believed this to be true until hubby and I added up the amount we spent eating out last month, and it was staggering… basically my entire paycheck last month. I could have quit my job, stayed home and cooked real food every night and we would have been better off in every possible way! Sobering thought.


  3. Pingback: Real Food Economics 101: Not Stressing a “Not 100% Real Food Diet” — Mrs Dulls Nourished Kitchen
  4. I spent over three hundred dollars on parenting books and CDs in order to try and improve the behavior of my oldest child. When we were at the end of our rope I finally tried going gluten free. That was the answer. No gluten, no problem. If I had thought to do some troubleshooting with our diet when the problem started, it would have saved me a lot of money.


  5. Hi Kathy – great summary. For our family (7 of 10 children still at home) our medical expenses have amazing decreased. When we moved to TX to start our vineyard, we left a job with good insurance to having no insurance at all. Real food has made the difference (and cod liver oil!). That good insurance cost us lots of money not only in monthly payments but also co-pays. I guess I am also much less likely to visit the doctor but instead try a home remedy.


  6. This is a great reminder for me why we go to the trouble to do what we do! We still can’t afford to eat as “real” as I’d like (organic, grass fed, etc.), but I find that, even on our very tight budget, we can afford foods with ingredients I recognize, and we’re definitely saving money on eating out less! Thank you for this post!


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