After rent, food is one of the most expensive things in my budget because I pay a lot of money (probably too much) to have food delivered to my door for 3 meals a week. Yes, it is one of those poshy places that sends me all the food I’ll need in mostly the right amounts for me to cook for dinner. But you know what it has meant? My husband and I eat a lot more vegetables. (We don’t have kids). I didn’t learn how to cook particularly healthy food ’cause my parents didn’t cook particularly healthy food, and when they cook vegetables they were horrible. I’ve eaten stuff in the past few months that I never, ever though I’d eat and like. We ate take out a lot (not fast food a lot, more than we should, of course, but take out from restaurants, so not quite 100% processed. This was also the 80s and early 90s, so, again, slightly less processed).
Preparing healthy food (beyond the “here! eat an apple!”) takes time and effort. While I could just try to shove kale into my mouth (full disclosure, kale is one of the things that I thought I’d never, ever like and now do!), I don’t think that’s going to work for long.
The pre-prepared-ish foods save me time. I don’t have to plan the meals. I don’t have to go shopping for the food. This means I don’t have to spend time figuring out what ingredients we need. I don’t have to figure out how to fix them. Sure, the internet could teach me anything, esp. with recipes, but, again, so much time to find them!
I don’t have as much anxiety about what we’re eating on the non-pre-prepared days, either. I can make crappy food (things like mac n’ cheese, or a boxed pizza) or we can go out, without feeling guilty. (Oh, there’s a whole long history between me and food and guilt — but that’s another issue). I’m struggling (as is my husband) to keep a “healthy weight” (another term we’ll just let lie for now), and we’re old enough that words and phrases like “cholesterol” and “blood pressure,” and “thyroid” and, esp. for him, “diabetes” all have much more urgency.
It also means I don’t have to spend money on a full jar of a spice or a paste or a fancy oil or vinegar that I won’t ever use again, too. While the meals take longer to prepare than I was used to (most take an average of 45 minutes), it gets faster as I learn to chop faster, and in the long run it is worth it.
I live in an urban sub-urb, I guess — in a town on the outskirts of a big city — one of those the area used to be a bunch of small things apart, and now it has grown and run together. Farmers markets and fancy markets are easy to get to. I could buy healthy, local, and not-hysterically expensive food without a lot of extra effort. But that extra effort was enough for me not to do it.
Anyway, thank you for this. It is important to recognize that there are a bunch of factors, money being one, that make “crappy food” easier and more affordable. And, frankly, while it is somewhat a money issue for us, it really is time. I can imagine someone with a much tougher, lower-paying job than me coming home from a 10 hour day. When I come home from my job, though it is a drive (I commute), I am not physically exhausted — not like retail or factory or service job. And I don’t want to have to fuck with dinner. I can manage to pull out a bag of ingredients, follow directions, and then sit on the couch with my husband and watch stupid TV for awhile together before I do more work or more leisure, and he does his own thing — often reading.
All this makes me wish I’d had a good home-ec class. Not in hs, that was worlds away from where I ended up. But possibly one offered in grad school. It would be nice for stressful grad programs to offer a weekly “hey, here’s how you plan and make healthy food on the pennies you’re paid with the ten minutes you have!”