Save. Spend. Splurge.

The Privilege of Food

As I was making my breakfast sandwich the other day to save money, about $2.50 versus $4.00, I was thinking about how lucky I was that I basically have no food budget to speak of (yes we have an idea of what we want to keep to, but we aren’t militant because we don’t need to be), and that I have access to said fresh foods, plus the means to be able to prepare and cook them.

First, the budget.

We make good money, and on average spend up to $1000 a month on food.

We are talking just FOOD. Not eating out, not anything but buying grocery staples like pasta, noodles and so on, or buying actual fruits, vegetables.

In recent months, this has dropped down a bit due to the fact that we don’t eat meat as often as we used to, and we also don’t buy pre-packaged things like smoked salmon or duck confit as often as we used to eat it.

But people can’t really afford to buy fresh vegetables sometimes.

I know it seems cheap, but when you look at three bags of chips for $4 that can keep for ages in a cupboard versus $3 for a tomato or $4 for a single avocado (yeah I have totally seen these prices), it can make you wonder – well.. I get MORE.. for X amount, versus something that I can only eat once, if that… it makes you realize that the choices they are making are ones of survival.

Second, the accessibility of fresh food.

People who live in rural areas, or in more remote areas, do not have the ability to even buy fresh food.

Do you know how much goes into shipping and trucking fresh fruit and vegetables all over the country?

These are easily perishable goods and to get them to areas where it doesn’t seem like it is “worth it”, can be very costly in terms of time and gas. Not only that, the ones who live in said areas may not visit “the city” often enough to be able to get fresh fruits and veggies all week.

This means either they have to grow everything so that they do have access to fresh food, depending on if the climate and soil will allow it, or they have to (unfortunately), do without.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a privilege I don’t think many of us realize.

We just go to a grocery store (any, even the crappy ones), and you have a choice of even the most exotic, far-flung fruits from all four corners of the world but whether or not they taste any good is another story of course.

(Like dragonfruit? Seriously?.. it tastes like nothing, but sure looks cute. I hear they taste better in the actual country when picked fresh)

That leaves people with frozen options, flash frozen vegetables and fruits, and canned or less perishable items that are easily reconstituted to be made into a meal, if that.

I can completely understand how poor or remotely-located people, don’t eat well, and can get extremely frustrated when being lectured to about the importance of doing so.

It’s like looking down on them on a high horse saying – well WE can buy that stuff in our grocery stores, but YOU should make the effort to grow everything from scratch if you cared about yourself / family / kids…

Third, the time.

We all know – to save money, you need to cook everything from scratch and make it all healthy by knowing what you put into each meal.

But even WE, with all of this free time after work, no matter how “exhausted” we are, don’t even cook fresh meals daily.

I mean, we have to think about the fact that these people without money, are probably working long hours for very little money, and/or working two jobs at once to make ends meet, perhaps at odd times of the day.

They get home, completely screwed off their circadian sleep rhythm and you expect them to whip up a fresh homemade meal?

It is so much easier to open a package and pour some hot water on it to eat.

The time it takes to prep vegetables, fruit, and to have the means to buy things like Tupperware to keep said food fresh and easily accessible to bring to school or work, is not easy.

I know this because we have two FULL drawers of Glasslock containers that we pretty much clear out each week we cook – 5 containers each, means 15 containers in total just for lunches, and 18 containers alone in the size that you need, costs $150 ON SALE.

Who is going to invest that kind of money for lunches when you barely make ends meet as-is?

Forget snacks, dinners, all that stuff goes out the window if you can’t even get lunches or breakfasts made hot and fresh on a daily basis. It is much easier to open a box of dried cereal and be done with it.

What do you think?


  • Sue

    What a well-written, well-said thoughtful post. Many people don’t have access to fresh foods and what makes me mad is people wasting food that is perfectly fine. My office bin is full of food that looks fine except that the person didn’t want to eat it. So they tossed it in the bin. People don’t even think for a second about the effort needed to plant, grow and then transport food to their nearest grocery store. It is frankly a culture of entitlement. You have captured many points so well.

    P.s. Those food pics are just gorgeous!!! Did you take them yourself?

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I was thinking about it because of my aunt… who is on food stamps and we supplement her with whatever she needs, but it is still not easy for her at her age to get to a fresh market, and cook and do all of these healthy things. It is not easy..

      No I did not take the pictures, they’re free stock photos 🙂 I WISH!

  • CorianneM

    yes. yes. yes.

    I couldn’t even make myself cook dinner this evening cause I was just so tired (and I’ve already done the groceries on the weekend, and know exactly what I want to make!!) – now I need to re-plan my mealplan haha. Planning healthy meals takes time. If I had to do it on a super tight budget, that would take even more time! I can totally imagine people going for the cheapest, simplest option, that doesn’t involve learning new skills or improve your skills – it’s all about knowledge about food and health, time management, financial management… it’s really not always that easy.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Do you have those food box things in your country? Here in Canada you have “Freshfood” boxes that send you pre-measured out ingredients and food that you can use to make a single or double meals and no need to grocery shop or think about portioning out 1/2 a celery stalk…

  • ArianaAuburn

    I love the access I have to fresh fruits and veggies. I have time at home to eat them, but when I go to work, I bring the ready-to-make microwavable lunches because they take less time to prepare during the lunch hour. Between coding and working, I sometimes draw a blank whenever I try to plan for a meal because I am so mentally exhausted. It is probably why these mailed meal-prep boxes are so handy sometimes.

  • Nina

    Damn. I couldn’t focus on writing because I was staring at food pictures. 🙂

  • Sense

    In some cases, it is also that people lack the mental capacity to plan through a meal and execute every step. My sister, for example, has some learning disabilities on top of her mental illness diagnosis, and the combo makes it very difficult for her to do much more than follow the instructions on a box of mac’n’cheese. Little ability to focus, little attention to detail, little impulse control or planning capacity on her own. The lack of planning and impulse control also means that she wants what she wants, immediately, and what the body wants when it is really hungry is sugar, fat, and carbs, so that is what she exclusively eats because she lacks the ability to adequately plan and pre-prepare healthy meals for when she is hungry. It is sad. She has developed diabetes on top of all her other issues, primarily due to her eating habits, and the knock on effect is that she doesn’t have much capability (or drive) to actively manage it.

    I really feel for those that have it more difficult than we do! I wonder if there is anything we can actively do to resolve these issues? Make fresh food more affordable and available? Provide fast recipes using those ingredients? etc?

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I would say fast recipes with those ingredients would work. I was watching Queer Eye – Season 2 the other day, and they taught him how to make a quick blended Green Goddess dip with roasted cauliflower. Done! .. it looked so delicious.

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