Yesterday I summarized part of Dr. Oz’s show on Fighting Hunger in America. It got me thinking about a logical approach to providing the most nutrition for the lowest cost.
Obviously, if you are trying to get the most out of your food dollar, you need to keep in mind not only the cost per calorie, but also the nutrient content of the foods you purchase.
Check out where spinach turns up on both lists…
You don’t have to eat only super-nutritious foods such as kale, carrots, and wild salmon, but you don’t want to live on white rice just because it’s dirt cheap.
I’ve compiled two lists of foods titled: Cost per 100 calories and Cost per gram protein.
If your goal is to provide calories for the lowest cost, choose foods with low “cost-per-100 calories” values.
If you are trying to get the most protein for your dollar, choose foods with the lowest “cost per gram protein” values.
As you know, prices can vary greatly, so when a great deal comes up, stock up if you know you can use the food before the expiration date. That’s how I bought my tuna for 44¢ per 5 oz. can!
It’s essential that kids get adequate protein from the diet, since protein is needed for growth and repair. But if the overall calories are too low, the body will be forced to use protein for energy needs instead of for growth and repair, and that is a waste of protein!
In general, if you include one protein source at each meal, most kids will get enough protein. Since protein tends to be more expensive per calorie than carbohydrates, you don’t want to provide more protein than the body can use.
The body’s hunger mechanism has evolved over millions of years, and it’s a pretty reliable indicator of whether or not we are getting enough calories from the food we eat. If your kids are getting enough food to satisfy them, you can be fairly confident that they have enough calories to meet their needs. Just be sure to include enough protein so that growth and repair can be maintained.
Here are the lists:
Food cost-per-100 calories
white flour (28¢/lb) 1.8¢
white rice ($.50/lb) 3¢
oatmeal ($2.10/42 oz canister) 4.5¢
corn tortillas (6″, 80 count, $2.59) 6¢
pinto beans (dried, $20/25 lb) 6¢
chicken, whole (78¢/lb) 8¢
peanut butter ($2.70/18 oz. jar) 8¢
white bread ($1.50/24 oz) 9¢
whole-wheat bread ($1.50/20 oz) 11¢
cold cereal (bulk, bagged, $2/lb) 11¢
whole milk ($3/gal) 12.5¢
butter ($2.25/lb) 14¢
eggs ($1.50/doz) 15.6¢
Snickers Bar (50¢/2 oz. bar) 19¢
80% lean ground beef ($11.69/5 lbs) 25¢
canned tuna (44¢/5 oz. can) 44¢
spinach ($3.50/lb) $3.63!!!
The above list is certainly not complete, but gives a good idea of the relative values of typical foods.
And now for protein:
Cost-per gram protein:
Food Cost per gram protein
white flour (28¢/lb) 0.6¢ (dumplings, anyone???)
pinto beans (80¢/lb, dry) 0.8¢
chicken, whole (78¢/lb) 1.0¢
oatmeal ($2.10/42 oz canister) 1.0¢
white rice ($.50/lb) 1.4¢
eggs ($1.50/doz) 1.8¢
peanut butter ($2.70/18 oz. jar) 2.1¢
canned tuna (44¢/5 oz. can) 2.2¢
whole milk ($3/gal) 2.3¢
80% lean ground beef ($11.69/5 lbs) 2.8¢
corn tortillas (6″, 80 count, $2.59) 3.2¢
Snickers Bar (50¢/2 oz. bar) 12¢
spinach ($3.50/lb) 22¢
Interesting to note that several foods appear near the top of both lists:
Rice, flour, oatmeal, pinto beans, and peanut butter. Getting these items on sale can further cut your costs, so use the internet to look for sales and coupons. Generally, larger sizes are better values, but yesterday I found that the huge food-service size can of chunk light tuna cost 16¢/oz, while the 10-pack of 5 oz. cans only cost 14¢/oz. Do the math!
Do you have any thoughts about this post? I’d love to hear them, please send me a comment!
Robert J. Stone