“Healthy food is too expensive!” is a complaint that Autumn Calabrese, creator of the 21 Day Fix, hears all too often. But it’s simply not true. So, Autumn decided to prove once and for all that a healthy home-cooked dinner can cost the same as fast food from McDonald’s. Let’s call it a tale of two meals.
First, Autumn went to McDonald’s to buy dinner for herself and her son, whom she calls “Little Man.” She ordered a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, large french fries, and a large drink for herself. For Little Man she ordered chicken nuggets (6 piece), a small fries, and lowfat milk. The bill was $13.91. Here is the approximate nutritional breakdown of the meals using nutritional data from McDonald’s website.
• 1310 calories
• 50 g fat (15.5 g saturated fat)
• 185 carbs
• 35 g protein
• 830 mg sodium
• 80 g sugar
• 669 calories
• 31.5 g fat (6 g saturated fat)
• 60 g carbs
• 23 g protein
• 795 mg sodium
• 18 g sugar
Next, Autumn and Little Man went to Trader Joe’s with the goal to spend the same amount of money on ingredients to make a healthy dinner. She spent $15.01, about a dollar more, but she had enough for leftovers. Her $15 purchased one packet of 5 thinly-sliced chicken breasts, two potatoes, a cucumber, a bell pepper, and a tomato. With those simple ingredients, she made 34 chicken nuggets for her son (leaving 28 for leftovers) and made 2 chicken breasts for herself (giving her one for leftovers), baked homemade french fries with one of the potatoes, and chopped veggies for a large salad. Watch the video below to hear more about her cost comparison.
There are many healthy inexpensive options out there. Look for fruits and vegetables that are on sale, those tend to be what’s in season too. Check the bulk bins for dried beans and lentils, brown rice, rolled oats, and other whole grains. Get more tips for eating healthy on a budget here.