Many people hear “fast food” and think the following:
- value (aka cheap to get)
- easy and fits my schedule
With increasingly busy schedules, a desire for low-cost food, and the plethora of fast food stops popping up everywhere (we have THREE McDonald’s within 3 miles of each other – who needs that?!), fast food has become a more and more common part of many people’s diets.
I won’t pretend that I NEVER eat fast food, as we eat Subway and have the very occasional Chick Fil A grilled chicken sandwich. However, I hope to avoid fast food as a staple part of our diets. I also believe it doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) form the back bone of others’ diets. Once every few weeks is one thing. A few times a week every week is another.
So, let’s break down some of the reasons for turning to fast food.
Fast food often isn’t the cheapest meal for a family. Those “value meals” can run $3-4 minimum per person. Yet, there are plenty of meal options to make at home for cheaper than that.
- Mix up a rice and beans dish.
- Have a quick soup with some broth and a frozen mixed vegetable mix and lentils or beans.
- Eggs and a sweet potato hash.
- A box of pasta ($2) with some low-sugar, organic tomato sauce ($3), and even some quality meat ($10) could run cheaper than $16 for the meal and feed a family of four.
An easy, fresh meal can take the same amount of time to prepare as the time it takes to sit in line and order and get home from a fast food joint. So many meals can be quick and no-fuss. Believe me, I know. It’s the only way I cook. Want to know one of our meals this past week? Some hardboiled eggs mashed up with avocado and seasonings for a “healthy egg salad” sandwich along with some vegetables on the side. It cost about $10 to make that entire meal and took less than 10 minutes of “work” to cook (since I don’t really count the eggs sitting in a pot as “work”).
Fresh foods will not only taste good, but feel good to your body. Our bodies appreciate quality food. Foods full of grease, sugar, sodium, etc that often fill the menus at the local drive-thru won’t readily provide what our bodies need. Feed the body junk and it will feel like junk. It may be a hard habit to break, but once the body receives more quality nutrition, it will begin to crave those things. Plus, fresh tastes GOOD! It may take some creativity, but give it a try. With time, I promise you a fresh crisp apple will taste better and more satisfying than a half baked, fake apple “pie” for $1.
A few ways to make this easier to accomplish:
- Plan ahead. Know your weekly schedule and try to plan meals that fill fit that schedule. Have a filled evening? Make sure to get a soup started in the crockpot in the morning. Need a meal on the go? Pack up some sandwiches and cut up veggies or fruit in a cooler to go. You can also pre-prep foods to use one day of the week to have ready for meals the rest of week – chop veggies, pre-cook chicken or meats or beans to toss in dishes, hard boil eggs, make a big batch of oatmeal/quinoa/rice/etc, and the list goes on!
- Research recipes. Get online and you can find a world of resources dedicated to healthy meal ideas for cheap or re-creating old favorites in a healthier way.
- Find favorites. Healthy foods exist that you like. Know what they are and make them readily available. Eventually, you may find yourself branching out even more, but as you get used to eating less “Combo #2”, make sure you’re subbing it with a healthy option you enjoy.
- Use coupons. Buy less meat. Meal plan around sale items. There are plenty of ways to cut down on expenses for groceries. I’m not an expert by any means, but doing just the above (and I’m not a coupon master by any stretch of the imagination) has kept us at budget every month ($100/week for a family of four with fresh,whole foods the emphasis).
Your Turn – How often do you stop for fast food? Any tips or meal ideas you have to share?