Eating out is one of the primary causes of obesity in North America thanks to the wallop of calories served in restaurant food. Dining outside of the house used to be an expensive and rare treat but now, with 24-hour access to fast food and pizza delivery, it's commonplace. Even if you go to the grocery store it's quicker and easier to buy something frozen in a box and fire it into the oven or microwave.
An argument has been made in the past that eating unhealthy food has become cheaper than eating healthy. While I'll agree that there are government subsidies to certain food industries that are not good for our health, this argument rings false. A recent USDA study compared "healthy" vs. "less healthy" food and found that the healthier stuff was actually more affordable. You can add this information to a column last fall in the New York Times by Mark Bittmann showing that it's less expensive to prepare meals at home than to eat fast food.
Basically, the arguments that eating out or eating processed foods is cheaper are false, and have been perpetuated by people who don't want to shop for groceries and cook (I get it). Healthy, home-cooked meals cost less money, but take far more time and effort to make. Nothing good comes easy, but it does get easier with practice. As someone who does all the cooking at home, trust me that it becomes routine much like an exercise regimen can. Refusing to eat processed foods and deciding that eating out is a rare treat is an important first step. A slow cooker really helps too.
I recently purchased a slow cooker and am happy to say that it's been awesome not just for the quality of food, but as a time saving device. Last Saturday I spent all of 45 minutes prepping a beef curry in the slow cooker. It turned out great and not only did we have dinner for four that night, but I was able to freeze enough for three more dinners, which only involves thawing and nuking the next time we eat. The total ingredient cost was $40; with four people, over four meals, that works out to only $2.50 per meal. You can't get much at a fast food joint for that!
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