Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Jul

How Much Are You Willing to Pay for Your Health?

MoneyIt’s a common refrain that living healthily costs an arm and a leg. The food bills, in particular, garner the biggest sighs and frustration: the price of pastured meats, eggs (and dairy for those who partake), of wild-caught fish, of organic this and that, of healthier nuts and nut butters, of just about any whole food. For some folks that doesn’t take into account the extra travel schlepping from place to place. Shopping for healthy food can be a long-range foraging expedition in some parts. Internet suppliers can help, but they don’t cover all the bases. The time, expense, and inconvenience of healthy food shopping (and preparation) add up, and some days we can wonder if it’s worth all the trouble. What if we just gave in? Gave up? What if we went back to buying the typical processed food products that seem to colonize nine-tenths of the country? Just think of the convenience – and the savings? Seriously, what would we do with all that money? For a while, it might seem like a financial boon. Over time, however, I think we’d be looking at another story.

Last week’s post about prevention got me thinking about the comparative costs of living healthily versus not. After all, we supposedly love a good deal in this country. We’re coupon clippers, discount store shoppers, bargain hunters. Are we really getting the good deal we think we are when we cut the quality of our food substantially? Some people, I understand, are in tougher straits than others and are feeding families on a few dollars (or less) a day with no other choice. For those of us without such dire constraints, it’s illuminating to look at the real cost of ill health. We know the choices that feed disease. We can all use a good reminder that the money we put toward a healthy lifestyle is wisely invested.

Simply compare the cost of disease. People with diabetes, for example, pay medical costs 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes. Out of pocket spending for medications jumped from 23% to 47% between 1996 and 2007. Add to this multiple co-pays for not just primary physicians but assorted specialists (e.g. ophthalmologists, nephrologists, endocrinologists) who often monitor diabetes-related concerns. People without insurance or with high deductibles can spend thousands of dollars on equipment, including the cost of a pump and testing strips. The CDC and Research Triangle International in their simulated model to assess what an individual would pay out over the course of a lifetime for diabetes and related complications expenses pinned the average number at around $85,000. For men diagnosed between the ages of 25-44, lifetime direct expenditures were estimated at $124,700 and for women in the same age range at $130,800.

For cancer, the costs can be financially devastating to individuals and families. Duke University research calculates the average out of pocket cancer expenses at $712 a month, which adds up to more than $8500 a year. For prostate cancer specifically, ongoing costs in a 5-year period have been estimated at over $42,500. For breast cancer, costs have been estimated at $16,910 for those younger than 65 (PDF) and $23,078 for those over 65.

For cardiovascular disease, the numbers vary considerably based on intervention, but they’re all sobering. Cardiac pacemaker insertion is calculated at $33,000. The average heart valve procedure with hospitalization is estimated at $49,000. A “severe” heart attack overall can cost a million dollars in direct and indirect costs when lost work time, follow up visits and rehabilitation are considered. Clearly, in every case, we’re looking at big numbers – startling numbers – even when you figure in insurance coverage (which varies considerably).

A few years ago I held a poll asking what readers spent per person, per month on Primal food (including all shopping sources – e.g. grocery stores, meat shares, CSAs). The results varied, but nearly 70% reported that they spend $200 or more per person per month. How do those numbers settle for you in comparison to the “big ticket” diseases above? We all have to pay for food: that’s a given. Do we deem the extra amount (whatever we believe that is) we pay for good, whole, “clean,” nutrient dense food worth the investment? Do we accept that eating well (and making other healthy Primal choices) lowers our risk so considerably with regard to disease and related disability? Do we accept the bigger food bills as a continual long-term investment in health and vitality? Do we appreciate what we will in all likelihood avoid paying (literally and figuratively) when we make that investment?

I know for me the first thing that comes to mind is what it’s worth to feel good day to day. What am I willing to pay to feel good right now – to enjoy a full day’s worth of consistent energy, to feel I can take up any activity I want at any given moment, to get a good night’s sleep, to not be plagued by any of the aches, pains and other issues I used to experience before going Primal? How valuable is it to me to be healthy and vital enough to enjoy my family, to enjoy my years in whatever way I want? What dollar amount would I affix to being able to heli-ski at age 60 instead of shift into low gear? In our own ways, we each ask ourselves these kinds of questions. What is your answer today?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Offer up your thoughts on investing in a Primal life, and have a great end to the week, everyone. 

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mark, what you say all rings true. However, many people still will not act on this if they FEEL healthy in the present. For them it’s hard to see the value in spending more on higher quality food to help prevent something that might happen further down the road. As a society we need to shift from the short term to a more long term approach or else disease will continue to climb and no amount of medications will fix it.

    Jacob wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • I personally think it’s easier to make people see the value in how they FEEL right now, as opposed to preventing something in the long term. Both are difficult, but I personally can’t justify what I buy and eat only based on the idea I am preventing cancer or diabetes in the future. Guess what, you can STILL get cancer and host of other illnesses even if you eat right. But you’re changing the odds drastically.

      EXPERIENCING health benefits is always going to be more influential than knowing what they are. You just have to convince someone to jump ship for 30 days…

      Chase wrote on July 11th, 2014
      • Well put. One issue is many people who have been living a certain way for years won’t even realize they can feel better than they currently do. It’s how they’ve always felt so they don’t even know there’s anything to change. Once in college I began eating healthier in preparation for a competition. I felt so much more energetic and clear-minded. In celebration of a few good weeks of eating, I went to McD’s. Big mistake….I instantly felt like crap for the remainder of the day.

        Jacob wrote on July 11th, 2014
    • Sweet new cell phone vs spending money on food that people might not like the taste of…

      I see the repercussions on a daily basis of the long term effects of people not caring about what they put in their bodies. You hit it right, but I’m a skeptic in that it will ever happen. People love to feel good and love to live in the moment.

      One thing I’d like to add: people have the “fix it with a pill” mentality. Which, most of the time brings on a whole other set of issues (if they have insurance and can even afford medications in the first place).

      Then there’s cultural barriers as well – another thing which I see regularly. For example, you have an Asian with newly diagnosed diabetes and you have to tell them that they can’t eat their rice as abundantly as they used to. The same for telling Hispanics they need to cut out mass quantities of tortillas and beans. It just doesn’t go over too well. It’s honestly frustrating watching people’s health decline over the years to the point of limb amputations…

      Matt wrote on July 16th, 2014
  2. Not only do I not mind paying extra for some things, I don’t think there is any amount of money that anyone could pay me to go back. I’m not rich or rolling in money either. I can’t spend all day cooking. I just made some adjustments. I grow fruits and veggies, I got some chickens, I buy stuff from farmers, I freeze things to use later and I don’t waste as much. I spend extra on important stuff but it’s worth it. Feeling good, like really good, is totally worth it :)

    Melissa wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • I’m much the same way; in practice or intent. Good for you! And I wholeheartedly agree that I would not want to go back!

      Kevin Grokman wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • I do, however, object to the price being jacked up on foods because they are aimed at the health conscious. In several supermarkets in the UK, for example, the own-brand nuts are one price in the baking section and considerably more in the ‘healthy living’ section. Same nuts, different package, total rip off. Similarly anything stocked in Whole Foods, Planet Organic, etc. Because I take the trouble to be informed of what I’m eating, try to stay healthy, be less of a burden on the health service, I should be fined? Not cool.

        Pen wrote on July 14th, 2014
  3. When I went Primal my food bill actually went down considerably. While I’m just shopping for me, only buying meat, fish, eggs, veg, some nuts and the occasional berries and some good fat (coconut and red palm oils and butter) is much less costly than anything in packages, even though what I buy is clean and organic.

    Even if my grocery bills were higher, the benefit of my health is so worth it. I spend almost nothing a year on healthcare – have high deductible insurance that covers nothing but wellness check ups; it’s all I’ve had to use.

    Susan wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • I’ve noticed the same thing and if you think about it, it actually makes sense that it would go down. Fresh/frozen fruits and veggies are naturally cheaper than the processed concoctions you’ll find on the inner aisles because there’s less overhead costs involved. Usually just bag it and tag it and it’s good to go.

      The only downside is there’s typically a little more prep time in the kitchen compared to browning some ground chuck and throwing in the hamburger helper packets. A tradeoff that’s well worth it IMO.

      Jacob wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • +1

        WelshGrok wrote on July 11th, 2014
      • I had the same experience. I was spending more when I was eating out/buying crap food at the store vs. eating a healthier diet (closer to the PHD) and preparing meals at home. Another factor, I was always eating 3 meals a day and not even thinking about it. When I started eating better, I noticed eating 2 meals over 8 hours and then fasting the other 16 hours per day works for me. I would have never figured that out eating the old crappy diet.

        David wrote on July 11th, 2014
    • Hi Susan,
      I would be grateful if you could give me an idea of what you buy for yourself weekly that resulted in a lower of you food bill. Since I started eating primal, mine has gone up by 50%. I only buy for myself as well. I no longer keep on track of it because it was causing so much anxiety. I decided since going primal that that what I put in my cart is going to keep me as healthy possible, and there is no negotiation. I am also buying organic and responsibly raised meats out of respect for the animals who are losing their lives for me. That is the least I can do. So since going primal, I gave up premium cable, don’t go out to restaurants nearly as much, lowered my phone bill, and started tutoring math on the side for extra money. This is the way I roll. Once I make a decision like this, there is no going back. I am not willing to eat any other way now that I know what I know thanks to Mark and the 13 books I have read since March on nutrition.

      Tiff wrote on July 11th, 2014
      • To keep paleo lifestyle cost-efficient, buy less meat, more vegetables and don’t buy unnecessary faddy things like nut-butters (it’s cheaper to make your own anyway). One does not need to eat meat everyday. When it comes to meat, try and opt for cheaper cuts over more expensive cuts, my household enjoy offal meat regularly, which is fantastic (but make sure it’s grass-fed).
        Consider cow-sharing, a brilliant way to save money on meat in the long-run.

        Pria wrote on July 11th, 2014
        • I have never been much of a meat eater, so the cost of meat is not my issue. My favorite dish used to be mashed cauliflower and black beans, until black beans landed on the “don’t eat” list. I ate that frequently. I like chicken liver, but never had much interest in beef of any kind. Just isn’t my thing. It is still very expensive, and I don’t know how nut butter can be cheaper to make. I can’t afford to buy nuts. They are over $10.00 or more for a simple bag, that would not make that much nut butter.

          Tiff wrote on July 12th, 2014
      • I guess it comes down to what you were buying before vs. now. If you were eating 33-cent ramen noodles regularly, then your food outlay is definitely going to be more if you’re now buying fresh vegetables and meats…

        PH wrote on August 1st, 2014
  4. You nailed my thinking on this subject. Compared to my colleagues and immediate family my family spends 2-3X more on food. Outside of canned vegetables there is nary a processed food in the house.

    What keeps us on this path is that we know we are making an investment in our future. Plus, all of us feel better in general and rarely are we ill. That adds up to fewer doctor visits and less money out of pocket despite the fact that I have insurance.

    What’s great about going primal is that I feel better and make fewer visits to the doctor than I did when I was in my 20’s (now into my late 30’s).

    So yes, I see the value in eating this way despite the expense because I feel that it will pay out over time.

    C L Deards wrote on July 10th, 2014
  5. Oh man, what I wouldn’t give to pay $200 a person a month in food. We budget $400 every two weeks for our little family of three. Granted, this budget also carries things like paper towels, cleaning supplies, dish soap, and our eating out (vastly less than it used to be) but still. It’s expensive. We’re doing a work-share CSA this year and it’s helping a little – we get a box of veggies, a fruit share and 2 dozen free range eggs a week for 15 weeks at $25 per week in exchange for 8 work slots (the husband and I count as two slots each time we show up for 3 hours – thankfully). It’s a good deal – but not a smoking hot deal yet. Maybe it will turn smoking hot as the produce gets going and more is growing but it sure does cost.

    But I sure feel great eating like this. Until you try it, you can’t even begin to comprehend the changes possible.

    Kandice wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • He said that ppl spent $200 extra/per person/per month going Primal not $200 in total

      Joey Thomas wrote on July 13th, 2014
      • That’s not what the article said. It said that a poll *done a few years ago* showed that people spent $200 or more per month per person. This is not saying people spent $200 more. It’s showing that the upper amount of the poll spending categories was “more than $200″ spent on groceries.

        PH wrote on August 1st, 2014
  6. I haven’t had health insurance for the last 10 years thanks to working as an adjunct, but I always tell people working out and eating right IS my health insurance!

    Erica wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • I don’t mean to sound harsh, but if you can afford it, please purchase a plan. I realize all the negative connotations that health insurance has attached to it, but consider if you were to ever catch some infectious disease or end up in the trauma ER.

      Erin wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • Yes, good advice– my sister is fairly young, has always been active & a very healthy eater, yet she suffered a major stroke this Winter. There are no guarrantees… thank goodness she is a teacher with good insurance.

        Paleo-curious wrote on July 10th, 2014
        • wow seriously! that is scary. do you remember if it was a blood clot or aneurysm or something else? I hope she is doing alright.

          Erin wrote on July 10th, 2014
        • This scares me, in the US the insurance makes so much of a difference.

          I can’t really understand this being from Europe.

          John Finn wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • I believe you can purchase catastrophic insurance for a pretty fair price to cover anything major that might happen. Might be a good solution for you!

        Stacie wrote on July 10th, 2014
        • Erin, the bleed was so big they could not pin down the cause for sure.

          Stacie, I agree catastrophic care is a good solution if money is holding you back. Still not cheap, but better than the full coverage type.

          Honestly, I hate talking up the insurance companies, but it’s really a vital issue– one bad break can destroy you financially. John, how I wish the US weren’t so far behind on providing health care for all its citizens! It doesn’t make any sense to me.

          Paleo-curious wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • Hmm.. I don’t know. 10 years of no health insurance sounds like a LOT of money saved. Probably would cover the most likely catastrophic scenarious. Not ALL, of course, but insurance doesn’t cover all, either.

        Travis wrote on July 10th, 2014
        • I recieved a cancer diagnosis at 29. Ate healthfully, exercised… My medical bills this year are over $800,000. For this one year alone. Without insurance I would not be receiving the care I need. I also doubt that ten years of insurance payments even come close to that. You really, truly never know what will happen.

          KStew wrote on July 11th, 2014
    • Nah you’re good on health insurance. Be risky while you’re young.

      Matt wrote on July 12th, 2014
  7. I genuinely haven’t ever really thought about it like this, great point.

    I’m paying for an extra 20 years, hopefully 10 of which I’ll still have all my marbles.

    Mark wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Don’t begrudge what you send now…it will pay off when your my age: I’m 75 and my hubby is 83. We were so fortunate to find this diet even now…we feel so much better even though we are not eating everything organic but we do what we can on our limited income which is just SS as we have been retired since 96.
      Medicare is not what it should be…here’s on clue…they don’t pay anything on hearing aids…but have recently OK’d sex-change operations…can you believe it…not that I have anything against people who want them.

      So if you’re young…just be glad you found this diet now and not when your old like us!

      joan wrote on July 10th, 2014
  8. You know the old “Primal” saying don’t you? A pebble of prevention is worth a boulder of cure.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • +1

      Tinman Julie wrote on July 10th, 2014
  9. My family of 5 spends just under $1000/month on food. We are happier than ever, and healthier. I also enjoy the fact that my kids eat better than most well-off adults.

    People complain about food costs, but American spending on food is at a low (% of income).

    http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2009/07/spending-on-food-at-all-time-historical.html

    Dubs wrote on July 10th, 2014
  10. Tough to put a price on looking good AND feeling good. For me it is the improved performance at work (energy levels, cognitive function, etc) that makes up for it. I attribute at least a 25% increase in salary due to this.

    Vince wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • I spend about $300 per month on food plus $100 on Kombucha ;-). With that said after I went Primal my performance at work improved and I got a promotion that raised my salary by about $1,200 per month. I would say that was a great investment. I also have about $600 in a flexible spending account for medical expenses, problem is I have not been to the doctor since I went Primal and will lose the money at the end of the year. Maybe they will let me use it for massages ;-).

      Oregontinker wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • Wow, if you’re THAT into kombucha, you might consider making it yourself! It’s really not that difficult!

        Mark S wrote on July 11th, 2014
      • Wow! Congrats on the promotion. Things like that are one of the biggest reasons why it’s worth putting in the extra time, effort, and money into living healthy. You never know when you will be rewarded or presented with a lifechanging opportunity. Good luck in the future!

        Becky wrote on July 11th, 2014
  11. Surely it’s worth remembering the cliché that you can pay for good food now or pay the doctor later.

    When you remember that “normal” people who buy all that crap in the grocery stores are paying more for the advertising (and often more just for the packaging alone) than the ingredients in the food cost then eating the way we do doesn’t seem so expensive. We buy half a steer every year and a lamb or two from a farmer; we can see these animals grow up and live in a field and know there’s nothing odd in their food or their lives; the actual cost per pound is far less than you would expect if you compare it to the total price of those cuts of meat in the store. Arkansas chicken? Don’t even go there, for so many reasons.

    But at that, I consider myself lucky. My wife works at a medical non-profit that provides healthcare for people who don’t have insurance; most of these people are low-income and many are truly and horribly POOR; in their neighborhood there is one grocery store (Albertson’s) which has stocks far less variety there than at its other locations and has been talking about leaving because it can’t make any money. These people can’t find good food, couldn’t pay for it if they could find it, and many of them, because of a life spent this way, wouldn’t even know how to cook it; they eat a lot of what they feel is the cheapest food they can find. Lots of highly processed carbs figure in, as you’d expect. The obesity level is high too, exacerbating the problem. What is the solution for them? I’m afraid there is no one solution – anything effective requires so many different heads that even a hydra couldn’t make a good start at it, let alone the recent stumbling changes in healthcare availability that the government has instituted.

    These people may well want to eat more healthy foods, but first they have to figure out WTF those foods are, then they have to find them, and finally, they have to pay for them – no, finally, they have to PREPARE them so they can eat. For us, the lucky ones, things are a lot easier. So even if somebody tells me my food is expensive (and I would argue with them on that, but this is the media’s line most of the time) I am still grateful that I can still find, get, fix and eat it.

    Tyrannocaster wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • These people don’t even have Medicaid? Surely there must be community resources. Even in my town of just a bit over 140K, we have 5 organizations that assist directly with providing resources to those who can’t afford it.

      Erin wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • With the new Obamacare logistical foulups many of the people who should be eligible for Medicaid have been stymied by the difficulty of getting coverage; that is one of the jobs that the non-profits are trying to do, ie, helping make it easier to navigate the maze of hoops you have to jump through. “Surely there must be community resources?” Did you read the part that said “My wife works at a medical non-profit that provides healthcare for people who don’t have insurance”? Believe me, we are in a position to know what resources there are and even though I live in a pretty good sized city the part we are talking about is one of the poorest areas in the entire state. No, there are not a lot of community resources; there are some, but they are stretched pretty thin. I would also say that 5 organizations for 140k people isn’t that much. A lot depends on how well they work. There are more than that here but my town is a lot bigger than yours. This is a huge task. Your comment also includes the presumption that the people who need the help *know* about it; what if they don’t speak English? What if they don’t trust the authorities? What if they are afraid of being reported to INS if they even ask for help? You and I have it a lot easier than they do in ways that haven’t even begun to occur to us.

        But this is getting off Mark’s topic.

        Tyrannocaster wrote on July 10th, 2014
        • Well I didn’t mean for my initial comment to come off as offensive. I too work for a non profit agency that assists specifically the elderly with utilizing community resources to ensure their health and safety. That is why I inquired.

          Erin wrote on July 10th, 2014
  12. It’s possible to eat a reasonably healthy diet on a limited budget, but it takes some research, a little nutritional knowledge, and the willingness to routinely shop several different stores instead of buying everything at one place. Not everything has to be organic or non-GMO. (As Mark famously stated not long ago, we aren’t as fragile as we think we are.)

    Grass-fed beef and free-range, humanely slaughtered chickens are ridiculously expensive. So is good lamb. If you can’t afford them, buy the best that you CAN afford. Food bought at the local supermarket instead of Whole Foods isn’t automatically devoid of nutrition. The idea that you must buy nothing but the best and most expensive in order to avoid getting sick is nonsense. Just know what you’re buying and shop as wisely as you can.

    Paper products and many other items can be bought in bulk at big-box stores like Costco, where they are often significantly cheaper. Simply avoiding processed or ready-to-eat foods and various other junk foods can open up considerable room within the budget for the purchase of quality meats and produce.

    Shary wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • I agree, you can eat well and healthily on a budget. It’s just a matter of doing your homework and shopping around. I’ve discovered that if anything it’s cheaper. For an instance if I see hard vegetables that will keep well such as potatoes, pumpkin and onions on special offer, then I”l buy up big.
      To give another example, I don’t know if you have the Aldi chain over in the States, but here I can buy their Budget Bacon for AUD5.99 for a one kilogram (2.2 lb) pack, good value.

      Paul in Australia wrote on July 11th, 2014
      • I live in central Florida and yes, we have Aldi’s here. I love this store. If I can’t find what I want there, then maybe I don’t really need it.

        Ann wrote on September 5th, 2014
  13. One unexpected benefit of eating this way is that you don’t eat as much. I recently sat down and compared our grocery spending compared to pre-primal (it’s just the two of us) and found that we’re actually spending less on food because I’m no longer buying snacks–we don’t need them. And yes, I’m thinking of the future. I don’t want to be like so many of my coworkers, taking drugs for this and that because it’s easier to pop a pill than to make a change.

    Trish wrote on July 10th, 2014
  14. Every day for lunch I make a salad:
    -Salad greens
    -Handful of chopped walnuts
    -1/2 diced avocado
    -Slices of jalapeno
    -8oz sliced steak (or tuna, chicken, etc..)
    -Tons of garlic olive oil (the secret ingredient imo…)
    -Salt and pepper

    Its definitely still cheaper that a Chipotle bowl with guac, and takes 10 min to put together! Switching to a primal eating strategy might be more expensive at the grocery store, but overall I save a ton because I eat out significantly less.

    Jeff wrote on July 10th, 2014
  15. Those figures are staggering. Thank goodness for free healthcare (UK).

    Still, I’d rather stay healthy because I don’t like being sick :)

    Stevemid wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Well, yes and no. It’s free at the point of delivery but we still pay for it in taxes. Unfortunately it also means that some people have no incentive to reduce their costs by adopting healthy lifestyles and those that do still pay!

      Grokesque wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • Yeah, nothing is free. Thats just a naive thing to believe. Its free to the end user who then has no incentive to make any effort to help themselves.

        Insurance is a gamble, a wager if you will, where the insurer is betting that we (the consumer) will spend less than we pay in. We only “win” the game when we actually use medical services, meaning we are either sick or hurt. Its the same with life insurance. You only “win” if you die before you pay more than the company pays out. Fascinating really. Just like Vegas, the house always wins!

        JFK wrote on July 13th, 2014
  16. For me, not buying junk pretty much pays for paying a little more for better fresh vegs and fruit. (Not that I used to buy a lot of junk… two 6 packs of soft drinks would last for a summer.) I don’t buy pastries or packaged cookies and crackers, or boxes of cereal, I skip the ice cream, so all that money I used to spend can be spent on fresh food from the local farmer’s market or the organic section at the store. Some people switch to “organic” or “gluten free” processed food, but that’s way overpriced, and still junk. One day in the check-out line, the woman in front of me had boxes and boxes of “gluten free” this and “gluten free” that — and I wanted to tell her it still wasn’t healthy.

    Yes, pastured meat is more. I’ve seen the ranch where our beef comes from, I’ve talked to some of the men who work there, they have a humane operation, and I’m glad to pay a little more for what they provide.

    After going Primal, I saved a lot of money by being able to fit back into my older nice clothes … this morning my husband put on his 30 year old suit which fits again, he looked sharp.

    And cheap food is not worth bad health. It’s sad watching the increasing health problems of my in-laws, now in their late 80s, I’m hoping we can avoid ending up like that. My father-in-law is on so many drugs that he gets dizzy, he fell last week and cracked his collarbone. Just got a call a few minutes ago that he was taken to the hospital last night for some other problem. Bad health is expensive! And it hurts! I hope I stay healthy by eating good food.

    sandy wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Cheap food is not worth bad health! Sandy, that should be the quote of the week!! I hope your FIL will be ok.

      For years I spent hundreds of dollars for Nexium (2/day), Prilosec, etc all to keep my heartburn bearable. There were other meds and dr visits aplenty. Now, none of that! We do spend more for grass-fed meats when we can and pastured eggs, etc. But our overall budget is about the same because although we spend more for good food, we don’t spend it on meds, drs, etc. To say nothing of the fact that feeling great and good health are priceless!

      Laurie wrote on July 10th, 2014
  17. If I lived somewhere where organic, grass-fed and pastured weren’t even available, I would still just buy fresh meat and eggs and fresh vegetables and fruit (or frozen) and I would still get plenty of health benefits. It’s not really the grass-fed vs. not-grass-fed that is the big step, it’s the processed and ready-made vs. single-ingredient foods that makes the biggest difference.

    Diane wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Amen, Diane. Simply eliminating the processed foods, including the breads and pastries, and shopping the perimeter of the supermarket for fresh produce, meats, eggs, etc. and cooking from scratch can make a huge difference, both health-wise and expense-wise. That’s basically the backbone of eating Paleo. Grass-fed and organic are icing on the cake for those who can routinely afford it, but I doubt they are the big disease-preventers people are being led to believe they are.

      Shary wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Absolutely! Right now I live in an area where I have access to organic foods on a regular basis, but I didn’t use to. I lived in a small town in west Texas where Walmart was just about my only option for food. The whole town was consider a food desert, but I still managed to eat plenty of produce and clean meats (I was lucky–I had access to a local grassed rancher who sold his meat at only marginally more expensive than the conventional at the grocery store. I really miss them!).

      Michelle wrote on July 11th, 2014
  18. Ha! This reminds me of a conversation I was having with a frugal coworker of mine who wants a motorcycle:

    “…but think of the gas savings over time, too, especially here, where you can ride it year-round.”
    “Yes, but the cost only seems cheaper, since you haven’t really quantified probability of death in your financial calculations.”

    I love it when my frugal and my paleo lifestyle overlap.

    Meggrz wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Okay, I laughed. :D

      Trish wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Had that same conversation with my son! When my brother briefly worked in emergency medicine they called them donorcycles…

      Paleo-curious wrote on July 10th, 2014
  19. That is ALWAYS the biggest obstacle in trying to convince people of the reality of the SAD vs Real Food diet. I tell people my second biggest expense is food. They lose it. But I try to make them understand how much it costs to be sick.

    And I can say this honestly… I went from severe allergies and normal seasonal illnesses, etc… to not having been sick – AT ALL, seriously – in 2 years. True story.

    As always, thanks Mark, and you guys too!

    Vince G wrote on July 10th, 2014
  20. I had a friend who wanted to lose weight. I recommended Primal. She said “it sounds expensive” I ask her if she could take a pill that gave have her ideal body would she figure out a way to pay 500 a month for it. Her response, “absolutely!”

    I think money is often used as an excuse for the time issue. You can make some cheap healthy meals, but they require trimming of bulk veggies, prepping, and actually cooking. It’s hard to find healthy, ready made food that’s affordable.

    Compare that to the cheapest foods and meals you can buy. IE drive through. I think it would be surprising if it were dollar per dollar how many people would still opt for the quick unhealthy meal.

    Luke wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • +1. You can also stretch expensive produce from the farmers market. I got 3 beets and the greens on top were sauteed for two nights worth. Ditto for the delicious carrot tops. The regular grocers usually chop off most of the goodies to make it look perfect. What a waste!

      Nocona wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • It’s crazy they take all the good stuff away. But in the case of greens on conventionally grown root veggies, they are doing us a favor. The leafy part of carrots, turnips, radishes, beets, etc. are typically bathed in some pretty nasty chemicals.

        JFK wrote on July 13th, 2014
  21. Some time ago I did a calculation for my diet (approximate):

    1300 calories of hard-core primal (organic grass-fed farm market etc) plus one-scoop whey powder: ~$13.50/day.

    1300 calories of grocery-store primal (CAFO meat/eggs on sale, froz veg) plus one-scoop whey powder: ~$9.75/day.

    Junk for a day: $1 McCafe coffee breakfast, $6.59 McCombo lunch, $3.00 3-item McValue meal dinner, plus a snack Ho-Ho from 7-11: ~10.50/day.

    It’s more about time and effort.

    oxide wrote on July 10th, 2014
  22. My neighbor friend is on 3 meds and is very unhealthy. He brags to me all the time how much money he saves on food. I told him I pay $300 a month for food and he laughed at me. He thinks I’m insane (which is possible), but I’m thinking he is the one insane. He’s in his early 50’s and can barely walk. I have him halfway believing that cheap, refined carbs are doing great damage…

    Nocona wrote on July 10th, 2014
  23. Pastured eggs and grass fed beef are a big leap from the processed food products that can lead to these diseases. What about the middle ground? Would the lean, fit individual who eats primarily meat, veggies, fish, healthy fats, nuts, roots and tubers, but the veggies aren’t organic and the meat is all CAFO really benefit that much in healthcare cost by switching to locally grown produce, pastured chickens, and grass fed butter churned with hippie farts and rainbows?

    Adam wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • It helps to think of being primal as a spectrum: yes, you can be 100% grassfed, pastured, organic (one end of the spectrum) or you can be standard grocery store, conventionally raised meats and eggs, non-organic veg (the other end). And you do the best you can with what you have. Buying some things organic or grassfed/pastured is more important than buying other things, and I know Mark has laid out what really should be the most healthful in your diet and what you can get away with buying conventional. Wherever you land on the spectrum, though, you’re still doing loads better than being on the SAD.

      Now, where did you find the grass fed butter churned with hippie farts and rainbows? Surely that has some magical health benefits….

      Stacie wrote on July 10th, 2014
  24. Good reminders and figures for some unfortunately common (and expensive) health conditions. It’s easy to forget that healthier food can dramatically reduce our health care costs in the future. But even in the present we might find that healthier food isn’t necessarily any more expensive if it helps us to cut back on things like processed snacks and nutritionally-empty sodas. A few months ago I wrote about a meta-analysis which had concluded that a healthy diet cost about $1.50/day more than a standard diet high in processed foods. http://www.uncomfortableoptimist.com/cost-eat-healthy-diet/

    A small price to pay for better health, and given the costs mentioned above, it might even be considered an investment with a pretty high rate of return.

    Michael Corayer wrote on July 10th, 2014
  25. Good food is worth it, but with all four of us now eating various forms of primal/paleo, I swear my food bill has gone up $100/week. My kids have been very active this summer, so have a bigger appetite, but the increase is also because we’ve had to replace the grains with something and that’s usually more expensive items like nuts, cheese, and paleo baking. My kids eat salad, vegetables and meat, but it’s not likely they’re going to eat a big-ass salad, 2 cups of vegetables or 6oz of meat at a meal. It’s been a transition for my kids – at swim meets everyone is eating doughnuts, candy for breakfast or burgers, nachos and velveeta, and candy for dinner – and while we never ate that stuff, it’s worse this summer from their perspective. I just keep telling myself that all the money we spend on food will all be worth it if we can heal my daughter’s eczema or my son’s constant runny/stuffy nose and fatigue.

    How do other parents handle this?

    Kim wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • The way to go might be to go primal/paleo at home and let the other stuff go when they are out with friends (aside from candy for a meal). That way they get to fit in- which is important to kids- but also have a majority of quality food in their diet. This is what my husband and I do with our kids and they are starting to choose to eat the way we do and reject the other foods because they don’t like it as well. Nachos or pizza every once in a while isn’t going to kill them and it helps them to appreciate the healthier stuff at an earlier age. Good luck!

      Stephanie wrote on July 10th, 2014
      • I’ve done a similar thing with my kids – at school I have no control over what they eat (and it always include non-primal) but at home we stick to the real stuff. Funily enough it has made them appreciate real food more than if I had forced the issue and insisted on 100%.

        Grokesque wrote on July 11th, 2014
    • I know what you mean about summer bringing more challenges for primal/paleo children — there are so many more ways for people to try to get sugar and other junk into them!

      Here in the U.K., there are ice cream vans everywhere — in the park, by the river, in the town centre, in our own street, etc. And everyone, very kindly, seems to want to ‘treat’ children to an ice cream.

      Birthday parties are not too difficult as our friends tend to offer fresh fruit and salad (or I will bring some) but the birthday cake part is always a bit awkward (unless I’m providing the cake, in which case it will be a paleo concoction). My boys, both nine, just say no. It helps that they really enjoy the much better quality food that they are now having and they just seem to bear in mind how much nicer their own food is. (I also make sure they don’t go out hungry; that if a packed lunch is called for, they have interesting food; and that they have some nuts or dried fruit on standby.)

      We just spent a few days camping in the Lake District and everywhere we went, we found fudge, cake, and speciality ice-cream shops, not to mention the bakery goods, sandwiches, crisps and fizzy drinks that are widely believed to be suitable lunch foods. I had waves of feeling that I was depriving the children of typical holiday treats but we just bought lots of fresh fruits, local fresh (jersey!) cream and various types of nuts as treats. It wasn’t too difficult, just different (and maybe around the same price as these were not processed nor take-out foods?).

      I agree entirely that it costs more to feed us all with quality items like those you list rather than cheap bread, pasta and cereal. I haven’t done the maths — it’s complicated by an 18-year-old son who eats non-primally — but I do know that we are no longer spending money on huge slices of cake in coffee shops! For convenience, we buy prepared date and nut snacks (Nak’d Bars), which are not as cheap as I would like (50p each if I shop around) but which can get us through long days out (we home-school) when I don’t have time to make our own similar bars or something paleo-baked.

      I do worry about the children eating enough sometimes because, as you say, they are very active and they don’t need to lose weight, but I try to trust that they will be fine as long as they have nuts, nut butter (now, that’s not cheap!), yoghurt, fruit, cheese, and dried coconut to supplement their meals as required. (I also try to pay attention to getting butter, olive oil or coconut oil into their meals.)

      Interesting to hear other parents’ experiences, thank you for your post.

      Caroline wrote on July 12th, 2014
  26. What a great post! And you make a great point. Is good food worth paying more for? I really believe that it is. I mean, why are people willing to pay lots of money for miracle cures that Dr. Oz promotes on his show, but aren’t willing to spend that money on better food? That makes no sense; clearly they want better health. I guess most people just want a quick fix, in the end.

    My husband and I have shifted gears recently, moving away from a low carb/paleo diet and are more focused on WAPF, whole foods traditional diet (still low carb compared to the SAD diet, but carbier than we used to be, plus we’ve started eating small amounts of traditionally soaked grains and legumes which we avoided before). It wasn’t always easy to stay on our budget before, but this new way of eating is even harder. Now we’re only buying organic foods, go out of our way to buy local pastured eggs and raw grass fed Jersey milk, and spent a bundle on a 1/4 grass fed local cow. I’m a homemaker and it’s a good thing; with a lot of planning and work, not to mention self control at the store, plus the fact that I make nearly everything from scratch, we’ve actually been able to CUT our grocery bill! We’re spending about $10-$20 less a week than we were on a low carb (but not organic) diet, and about $20-$30 less than we spent when I was a vegetarian. Of course, we’re putting the extra money away so we can invest in another local animal.

    So I don’t think it’s necessarily true than good food costs more. I think the truth is that when you start eating nutrient dense foods, you crave less food in general and less junk food especially. And if you’re careful with how you use the food you buy, and maybe start a garden or buy a whole animal from a farm (which saves you a lot of money per pound), you can even come out on top.

    Julie D wrote on July 10th, 2014
  27. Many paleo foods are pretty cheap and by shopping circular sales and gratuitous use of Costco, you can get a lot of organic food, wild caught seafood and organic meats at prices no higher than routine food. Organ meats and long-cook cuts of meat are also very inexpensive. It really DOESN’T have to be more expensive. Its just a red flag excuse that gets thrown up a lot. Granted if you go to whole foods and buy regularly priced items, its going to cost a lot. Don’t do that.

    cfb wrote on July 10th, 2014
  28. Bone broth is good and inexpensive too. I add 2-3 eggs in it and poach ‘em. Makes a perfect breakfast.

    Nocona wrote on July 10th, 2014
  29. The farm I buy our grass fed pork and beef lets us take as many bones, fat and offal as we want when we come pick up our meat share. We load up on pounds and pounds of the stuff and completely fill our chest freezer, then render the fat, make bone broth, liver pate, braised heart, etc. I told my husband I feel like I’m MAKING money when I buy grass-fed since we get so many extras for free. I know that’s more a perception than a reality but it makes me happy. :) And the extras are all the awesome for you stuff! For FREE!

    jenny wrote on July 10th, 2014
  30. Amen, brother! Sing it! Having had a major cost health event (cancer) for which I had not only regular insurance but also supplemental insurance, I can say that I am still out of pocket at least what I pay in groceries a year. Not just work time lost and insurance deductibles but also secondary health events related to medication for the first event.

    I’m 100% convinced that I am saving money in the long run by buying whole, primal foods and living a primal lifestyle. Not only that but I feel better, weigh less, and am happier. You can’t put a price on that because that is priceless!

    So many people do not value good health while they have it but they sure miss it when it’s gone.

    Tina wrote on July 10th, 2014
  31. Oh my. We pay £200 ($US343) per week which is basic meat, fish, fruit and veg with the expensive things being manuka honey and matcha tea.

    I know it’s worth it but I do feel the pain.

    On the upside, we haven’t had a day of sickness since going primal.

    River wrote on July 10th, 2014
  32. The thing is, even if you eat crap all your life, it doesn’t mean you’ll get cancer, diabetes, dementia, or other dread diseases. It’s not a foregone conclusion. My mother-in-law and father-in-law both lived into their 90s, and were in their right minds and certainly not chair-bound. And they ate CRAP! My MIL, for example, would eat a processed corncake every morning, have crackers and peanut butter for lunch, several cookies and tea for a snack, a small serving of meat plus corn (usually), a potato, and bread at dinner, and some kind of sweet dessert.

    Just because you smoke doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get cancer. My own mother smoked like a fiend her whole life and never got cancer, same with my father-in-law.

    That’s why it’s hard for some people to spend a whole lot more at the grocery store for grass-fed protein, free-range eggs, etc., when they can’t really afford to.

    The short-term often trumps the long-term.

    Kathy from Maine wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • “The short-term often trumps the long-term.” Indeed most people feel this way and behave in this way. Everything is about instant gratification. It’s beyond a monster task to get people to consider their health far into the future when most don’t even have a plan or a goal for today to make a change for the better.

      I find it amazing how some people can eat bad foods their whole life and live long and still feel good, but surely there are other factors at play (i.e., genetic, environmental, level of activity, etc.). But I agree it happens. We all just have to find our balance!

      Kevin Grokman wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • This ties in with the older generations having better momentum and stronger genes. I wouldn’t press my luck with the smoking and eating crap. I think we are, as a species, getting much weaker.

      Nocona wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • And for some people – the really poor, the people on minimum wage working 3 jobs, the welfare dependents who often can’t get enough to eat at all – the short term is all that matters. When you’re in survival mode, you take what you can get. You can lecture them about “health” all you want – but if the choice is between getting some food and getting no food at all, any normal human being would go for some food over no food, even if the “food” they’re getting is bad for them. The hope is to survive in the short term and hope the financial situation improves in the long term, and to hope that one’s health is not too damaged.

      meepster wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • Well, sure, and the other problem is that food is probably the least important variable in a healthy lifestyle. The healthy-living gurus are pushing food as the most important thing, but there are many more important things: sleep, movement, sunshine, stress, light exposure at night, socializing, touch, intimacy, and so on. The human body and mind are a complex system. Maybe the centenarian who ate crap all her life had a good social support system, slept well, didn’t expose herself to a lot of artificial light, and walked 5 miles a day. Maybe the smoker who lived to a ripe old age also slept 8 or more hours a night, which cuts your cancer risk dramatically. It’s not all about food.

      Meepster wrote on July 12th, 2014
      • This is a very good point. I think the food angle is over-emphasized; I’d bet most of us can get 90% there on standard supermarket primal foods without spending extra on organic and pastured.

        And the rest of the stuff is pretty much FREE – moving, getting sleep, appropriate sun exposure, positive social interaction, etc.

        mister worms wrote on July 12th, 2014
  33. A dozen organic, pastured eggs costs me one dollar more than the breakfast I used to get at McDonald’s every morning: $6. And I get a minimum of four breakfasts out of that dozen of eggs and endless health benefits.

    Curtis wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • YES! Exactly the conclusion I came to recently (although my morning breakfasts were usually at local bagel shops).

      Kevin Grokman wrote on July 10th, 2014
  34. This is certainly a concern for all who care to try and eat well for themselves. I may be facing some financial changes in the near future that make it seem more challenging to keep up with this, but one way or another I will do everything I can to do so. Pass the avocado please!

    Kevin Grokman wrote on July 10th, 2014
  35. I think this is another symptom of the poverty mentality vs. the abundance mentality. For the truly poor, life is all about the survival mode. They’re not thinking about 20 years from now; they have to think about having enough food to get through today so that they can function at work and not get fired. They’re not thinking about preventing an illness that will appear 10 years later, and may not even appear at all; they can’t afford to.

    The rest of us, thankfully, can afford to think about the long term. I can afford to spend a bit more money up front to avoid a much larger expense later – or at least, to make it less likely. I never skimp on health expenses, and even when I was on a grad student stipend, I never skimped on food. Prevention is always cheaper than treatment.

    I also rationalize the extra spending by saying that I’m not spending more money on doctors (knock on wood), but I’m also not spending more money on extra sets of clothing (my size has never changed all that much), so I guess that’s a factor too.

    Meepster wrote on July 10th, 2014
    • “Cheap food is not worth bad health!”

      I read this and I have to say. health care (to a degree) is FREE. if your poor it’s more so free. thank you Meepster for recognizing us. we not all lazy, drooling, SAD addicted people who can’t think about our future health. every time I go through the check out at a grocery store, I see two days worth of food that costs 5 days worth of budget, sometime I literally feel physical anxiety come over me. (the pills for my anxiety are free by the way). you work hard to find creative ways to cut the bill a little further. then prices go up. the food bank are not much better when it comes to health. I am humbly grateful for the food, make no mistake. but grain, milk, sugar and chemical foods are abundant in your box. and the fresh food is often so rotten by the time it gets to the bank, you would take a risk eating it after cutting out the bad parts, if there’s anything left. IT SUCKS!

      so yes its better for your health to eat well now and receive only what little healthcare you need later, as a result. but it’s cheaper and more feasible to eat WHATEVER your handed now and get free healthcare later.

      but those who can eat well without fear, please remember us. I long for the security you have, but I have no ill will. I don’t want scraps and hand outs. (rather have the fishing pole, not the fish.) I want a human society that will support ALL of us. help me build that instead of giving me money and prayers.

      believe me if I had a piece of land to my name I would work my butt off to be able to hand out healthy food from my land for FREE. I hope I will be blessed one day to be able to do just that.

      I hope all the blessing you hold continue on. peace out!

      DAKOTA wrote on July 12th, 2014
      • Dear Dakota,
        I have been on welfare in Germany, where people get more money than in the USA, they say, and just for a few months. I wasn’t living primal, and I would never have had your strength and poise in that situation to struggle and fight to keep up the healthy livestyle. Limited money is such a restriction on your freedom when you are living in a city. And there is nothing to cut back on, as many people here mentioned they can do – you cannot save money at Starbucks or for manicures or in restaurants becuase you do not have the money for Starbucks to begin with.

        So, my sincere admiration to you!

        I am a freelancer and the (relatively) good times could be gone tomorrow. So I know this little, hurtful shock seeing the grocery bill and I can imagine how you feel. A little bit, that is.

        BUt I hope it does work the other way round, too, and I wish you better times and an easier life and the piece of land you wish for (preferably TODAY and NOW…).

        My best wishes to you,

        Barbara

        barbara wrote on July 13th, 2014
        • Thank you Barbara. I feeling a little guilty for complaining now. :P but sometime you just got to let it out.

          The only significant thing happening tomorrow is the future, and the only way to get there is together.

          so here I am holding your hand, my friend, from all the way across the world.

          DAKOTA wrote on July 14th, 2014
  36. Yes, it is expensive! I live in a place where organic food is very limited, but I do the best I can. My grocery bills are tremendously high because I always buy the best quality food I can get, and when you live in a place where it’s not mainstream, it’s very expensive. I analyzed my grocery bills a while back and realized I was spending 60% of my grocery money on produce– and decided that was a great investment in my health and not to try to cut back on grocery bills. A couple fewer stops at Starbucks, another week between pedicures, fewer iTunes purchases- those are sacrifices I can make.

    Michelle wrote on July 10th, 2014
  37. My grocery bill has gone up since going primal/paleo, but I can’t go back and don’t want to. I feel so great and the energy I have now it’s well worth it. I may not have the newest and biggest wardrobe, my nails aren’t done and I may get my hair done twice a year :)..but what matters to me is my health and my children’s health.

    Maria wrote on July 10th, 2014
  38. Interesting numbers to say the least. I, too look at it not only as health insurance but I can see the day-to-day benefits. After a while eating like this though you learn clever ways to cut costs. My local co-op has almost every staple you could ever need in bulk bins. Bulk spinach, bulk nuts, bulk but butters, bulk honey, bulk olive oil, I could go on forever. The savings really add up. Then add in things like “pick-your-own” berry farms that I go to in the summer and freeze up as much as I can for smoothies, then growing a small patio garden, learning how to ferment my own drinks and vegetables…you get the picture. My costs are declining with every new skill and resource I find. :)

    Katie wrote on July 10th, 2014
  39. While I live in a country with public health care, I need to say that the health system (doctors, meds, etc…) is really not good at dealing with chronic diseases. And naturopaths, osteopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturist and the likes are not covered by the public health care.

    But what irks me more is the quantity of money going into the system to treat illnesses easily preventable by a change on diet. I agree that the government should not try and control what people eat, but I can’t stand how the government endorse the SAD diet. That makes so little sense. Maybe there will be a change soon like the Time magazine did but I’m not too optimistic. The idea of a doctor telling a patient to eat eggs, butter, bacon, etc, makes me laugh out loud.

    Coco wrote on July 10th, 2014
  40. When calculating the cost of illness, don’t forget the length of the illness. If it goes on for many years, you and your family will suffer major financial reversals. Even with the most generous insurance plan and the best medical care available. And the mental and emotional anguish involved is beyond description.

    maidel wrote on July 10th, 2014

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