It’s possible to eat healthy without breaking the bank, a study says.
For a family of four, buying a basket of food while shopping at a bulk or discount market averaged out at $25 a day, according to a study published March in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. That number was compared to $35 in specialty grocery stores.
“This study determined the likelihood that families living in low-income households could create meals that meet the USDA dietary guidelines presented in MyPlate nutrition education materials,” Karen M. Jetter, a researcher at University of California at Davis and study lead author, said in a news release. “In addition to food cost, the other factors considered were access to stores, time for meal preparation, and whether the menus included culturally appropriate foods.”
Researchers worked with Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria in California, where 88 percent of households have incomes below $35,000, to create menus of food to feed a mother, father and children ages 7 and 10.
The menus offered a variety of food, didn’t have processed foods, were affordable and didn’t require always require cooking to prepare. Each menu also had manageable portions of food without high fat or salt content.
This was a two-week menu, however, and the meals didn’t always meet the daily requirements for nutrition, researchers cautioned.
The researchers visited 13 grocery stores within a 10-minute car ride of most community members to figure out the cost of food. While bulk and general grocery stores had the biggest selections for a two-week menu, the specialty and discount markets lacked 52 of basic necessities for the menu.
According to the U.S. Census, close to 40 million people live in poverty. That’s also the same number of people who live in households experiencing food insecurity, the USDA reports.
“This research demonstrates that menus that meet USDA guidelines can be purchased by a family of four when shopping at a bulk supermarket, but any reduction in SNAP benefits or increase in food costs would make it difficult for these economically vulnerable families to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Jetter said.