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Healthy Food is the Cheapest Food Everywhere

After 12+ years travel I cannot help but to notice a pattern that extends over the fertile world: meat, vegetables, fruits, and starches are THE cheapest foods that anybody can buy. It is a good thing that these are the foods that people need to maintain health. Outside of Mongolia, Iceland, or other countries with [...]

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After 12+ years travel I cannot help but to notice a pattern that extends over the fertile world: meat, vegetables, fruits, and starches are THE cheapest foods that anybody can buy. It is a good thing that these are the foods that people need to maintain health.

Outside of Mongolia, Iceland, or other countries with infertile soils or extreme climates, meat can be had for a dollar or two a pound, five dollars can get you a week’s supply of vegetables, local fruits are almost too cheap to mention the price of, and starches — rice, pasta, couscous — sells for no more than $1 a pound anywhere in the world.

Healthy food is cheap food.

Even in the United States of America or Europe, if you have the means to cook for yourself, a solid meal can be had for a just a couple dollars per person. Basic foods  — meat, local fruits and vegetables, and starches — are cheap everywhere.

Ounce per ounce, healthy food is cheaper than even the lowest quality, cheap-o  junk food. Given this, it really blows my mind when I hear people defend poor eating habits and obesity by saying they don’t have enough money to eat healthy.

“A Big Mac is cheaper than vegetables,” is often touted in the United States. I find this to be in gross noncompliance with facts. This simply is not true — anywhere in the world. A Big Mac goes for around $3, I believe in the USA. This is just a portion of one meal for one person. $3 of fresh carrots, broccoli, tomatoes or other local vegetable can take care of this health requirement for a single person for multiple days. If I remember correctly, a pound of carrots sell for around $1.50 in the USA, and the same goes for many other vegetables. — and this price is even less if you buy from the reduced produce table.

Healthy food is cheap everywhere

If you don’t believe me, march to the grocery store with $40. With twenty of those dollars buy a family pack of chicken thighs, some beef, a few pounds of vegetables, a bag of fruit, and a couple pounds of rice or noodles. With the other $20 buy processed food or fast food. Compare the quantity of each. I guarantee you that the first pile will have more food in it, and this fresh food is far healthier.

Financial restrictions are no reason to not eat healthy.

There is no cheaper foods ANYWHERE in the world than meat, vegetables, fruit, and starch.

It is cheap to eat healthy.


Filed under: Economics, Food

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3689 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii

7 comments… add one

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  • bryanpaul December 25, 2011, 5:46 pm

    definitely!…good article(is that what it’s called?)…….i wish more people would realize this….you see folks with three kids in line at the store with a cart piled up with “hot-pockets” and pop tarts and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and it’s like damn….your payin a rediculous amount of money so your kid can look at the skateboarding dinosaur on the box and maybe do a maze on the back or somethin……

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    • Wade Shepard December 28, 2011, 3:32 am

      Yeah man, it’s really nuts. Fast food is EXPENSIVE compared to raw plant foods and meat. I think part of the problem is that people are becoming more unwilling to cook for themselves and either want microwave, out of the box, or fast food. It is my impression that the issue has more to do with laziness or lifestyle than economics: preparing your own food takes time and effort. The sad thing here is not that people can’t afford to eat healthy but that they are, apparently, too busy or lazy to good healthy food for themselves and family.

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  • Sean C December 29, 2011, 8:22 am

    Would it be possible at some point to have a list of recipes using healthy and inexpensive ingredients that you and your family prepare while traveling? Even maybe some recipes that can me made without too much difficulty using an alcohol stove. I think that might make a very useful addition to your site.

    BTW, been reading for years now. Keep up the great work.

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    • Wade Shepard December 29, 2011, 4:22 pm

      This is a great idea. Where it is normal to write all about food in restaurants when on the road, I will write a cookbook of all the ridiculously simple meals I make. Though I think the simplicity of it may be a little humorous. My wife says, “Nobody wants to eat our food, Wade.” But I’m going to do it anyway. Thanks.

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  • Sean C December 29, 2011, 5:19 pm

    The meals may seem simple to you, but for many of us who were practically raised eating food out of boxes and cans it’s not so easy. I know many people fall into the trap of eating prepackaged food or eating out at restaurants not just because they are lazy but also because they really don’t know how or what to cook for themselves. I am one of them. But I think that if you had a list of simple recipes that can be made without too much trouble while traveling I think that would be extremely beneficial for many people. Just some thoughts for your consumption.
    Also, I’m fascinated with the alcohol stove. If you know of any dishes that work well with it I’d love to hear them.
    Anyway, thanks and I look forward to your recipes.

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    • Wade Shepard December 29, 2011, 5:34 pm

      Yes, perhaps I’m too far into my hole to see out. Basically, I just take some vegetables, some meat, some pasta/ rice/ couscous etc . . . throw it into a pot, make it warm, pour on hot sauce, and eat. For the most part, I follow a one pot cooking regime, but things are far easier if I have two (and a stove with two burners is a luxury, though one that is sometimes rare). Just about everything I cook can be made with an alcohol stove or a single electric burner. I will run a Vagabond Cookbook series on the world chronicle starting tomorrow. I didn’t really take into account that some people may be interested in the type of food I live off of. Perhaps after you see my vagabond/ hermit meals you will feel otherwise haha. Thanks for the suggestion, it’s a good one.

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  • Walt Goodridge, Jamaican in China January 14, 2012, 5:44 am

    Hey Wade,
    Definitely concur! As a vegan, minimalist nomad in Asia, I made it my business to find non-chemicalized, fresh produce as a prime directive of my travels.

    If I may be allowed a plug to answer one of the earlier comments, I even created a new genre of healthy nomad cuisine that ChinaTravel.net and HappyCow.net both featured on their sites. It’s called “The Coffeepot Cookbook: A Fun, yet Functional and Feasible Traveler’s Guide to Preparing Healthy, Happy Meals on the Go Using Nothing but a Hotel Coffeepot…. and a Little Ingenuity”

    In addition to your own forthcoming carnivores recipe guide :-), I’m sure some of your more fanatically frugal and flesh-fleeing readers might benefit!

    Great job!

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