Confession: I like Doritos chips and I like ice cream. I really enjoy eating a spoonful of triple chocolate frosting and on particularly stressful days a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie is like a piece of heaven that I can savor here on Earth.
I’m saying all of this now so that you know that I too eat food that does not serve a purpose other than to release a short burst of dopamine in the reward-center of my brain. That’s all that those foods do, they provide no nutritional value (even though I will occasionally argue that ice cream is an excellent source of calcium to make myself feel better about this poor decision). I want you to know that I am not perfect and that I am working everyday to achieve that which I will prescribe in this post. And that is:
STOP shortchanging your body to save money on food. Yes, you read that correctly. The money-saving, super thrifty Winning Williams are recommending to not save every possible penny on your grocery bill. There are many complex reasons for this but we’ll break it down:
- The least expensive food that is available in the United States is often the worst for you
- Getting to an absolute bare minimum food bill likely means that you have purchased foods that have little nutritional value
- Food is one of the necessities to live, don’t shortchange your health so you can spend on unnecessary items.
So let’s dive into each of these reasons.
The first one is the sad truth of modern America. The long-standing corn and sugar subsidies where the US Government incentivizes farmers to produce a surplus of corn and sugar have yielded the era of foods that are lousy with corn and sugar. 99% of the American diet is corn. Because the food market is flooded with these items it is very inexpensive to use them to produce new foods, sweet foods that will make those dopamine receptors in your brain happy. This makes it not only very inexpensive to buy nutrient poor foods, but your brain gives you a treat for it. It is very unlikely that this will change soon, although I applaud those who are championing this cause. We prefer to shop at an inexpensive store and pay a premium of my grocery bill for fruits and vegetables. We seldom have sweets or snacks in our house (although Ice Cream was Buy One Get One at Publix last week and we had a moment of weakness).
Second if you have an absolute zero on your grocery bill it likely means you went on a crazy couponing spree and purchased a stock-pile of items with little to no nutritional value or you receive assistance from the government to purchase food. This is not a situation I would envy. SNAP, commonly referred to as Food Stamps, offers up a challenge to those who would criticize their program. The ironic part is that celebrities, like Gwenyth Paltrow, have taken the challenge to prove how much healthy food they can buy on so little. But this isn’t the point of living. To play a game to see how little food you can live on. There are people starving across the world, and likely across the city from where you sit now. It’s not a race to the bottom to see who can spend less, it should be a race to the top to see who can nourish themselves and their families the best (hopefully finding some savings and efficiencies along the way).
This brings me to my last point. Mr. Winning Williams and I have given several examples of how we align our budget. Necessities come first, then items related to our larger goals, then wants. For us we define necessities as shelter, food and basic utilities (cable never makes it into this first category). When we have paid these off we put a significant amount towards our savings and also to our travel fund as this is a priority for us right now. We pay our car insurance because we have the luxury of owning a 2007 Toyota Camry with close to 150,000 miles on it. For those who are not as blessed as we are, focus on the the first section only. Even for those who are more fortunate than we are, focus on that first section. If you spent every last penny of your paycheck on having an adequate shelter (not a McMansion), running water and sufficient food to nourish your body then you are one of the luckiest people on Earth. Anything else (cell phones, cars, cable, internet, dining out) is an extravagant luxury.
The way that we as a society see food is that eating something healthy is an expensive choice and eating something delicious but nutritionally poor is a treat. We need to flip this and realize that eating fresh foods that will provide us with the proteins and nutrients that we need to thrive is the ultimate luxury and eating snack foods or junk food is the dietary equivalent of burning money because you like to watch the flame. As the Winning Williams we have made a clear objective to live a deliberate life together and part of that necessitates that we are healthy. We can’t live a full and long life if we don’t take care of our bodies first. This is something that every person should strive for because you only have one body. So when you are at the grocery store and the same flawed logic of trying to save as much as possible jumps in and makes you want to forgo healthier options, think about how your kidneys, heart, liver, stomach and all of your organs will thank you (now and for years to come!) when you opt for spinach and sweet potatoes over chips and dip.