Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Everything's going to pot...pie

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As I munched an apple and guzzled some Silk Light Soy Milk Wednesday morning, I listened to a story on NPR's "Marketplace" about a rise in the number of people buying food at Dollar stores. One man raved about the tasty Dollar Store pot pies he now regularly scarfed for lunch. He said they were just as good but so much cheaper than the New York City street food he could no longer afford.

"Well, so much for trying to eat healthy," I said aloud.

His stumping for the $1 pot pie made me think about the chain reaction that rising gas and food prices could be setting off. The chain goes something like this: gas prices rise, food prices rise (both already done), people sustain life on cheap packaged food, health begins a toilet-swirl decline, health insurance skyrockets even more, diet industry prospers even more, life expectancy goes down...

Maybe that's a little fatalistic. But when middle class folks are forced to do more with less,
pre-packaged pot-pie goodness from the Dollar Store - preservatives, corn syrup, fat and all - makes a whole lot of economical sense, despite the obvious health faux pas.

And that presents some problems. For those of us who'd like to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles (which is pretty much just about everyone), microwavable meals that cost 99 cents simply aren't the best food choices, no matter how tasty. As much as I don't like to admit it, one of the cardinal rules of healthy living is the following: If man made it, don't eat it.

But when Aunt Jemima sells her stuff cheaper than Mother Nature, who can blame people for skipping the produce section?

In an attempt to help people get their daily servings of fruits and veggies without having to put them on a credit card, here are some possible options:

"The 99-cent evangelist." Author Christiane Jory wrote a book about how to make gourmet food using items that mainly cost $1 or less. No endorsement from me on the health factor, but at least this book will show you how to make that canned chicken look pretty.

Shop at Aldi. They sell healthy stuff at a rock-bottom price. A friend of mine who's a personal trainer says he began shopping here to help lower his monthly grocery bills while still buying super-healthy items such as almonds and low-fat yogurt.

Grow your own food. Don't have a green thumb? Food prices these days might force you to get one. I don't have my own backyard yet, otherwise I just might try to grow my own food. I'm starting small with a hanging herb planter.

Stock up on healthy food coupons. A number of sites offer universal coupons for healthy items made by organic food brands , as well as simple savings on everyday healthy foods.

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