The Urge to Buy Cheap Food

All things I do when trying to life a sustainable and ethical lifestyle feel good. When I’m in the train instead of the airplane I feel good. When I buy secondhand clothing instead fast fashion I feel good. When I get broken stuff repaired instead of buying something new I feel good. However, there is one things that always gives me this shock. For a split second it does not feel good. That happens when I buy food. There’s always this feeling I get in the checkout. Did I spend too much money? Not at all. But why do I have this urge to buy cheap food?

Food Expenses

So, this past week I spent a lot of money on food. A lot for my terms at least. I went to an organic bulk food shop as I planned to do. Once in a while I buy the dry base of my foods. You know, the oats, quinoa, nuts, rices, popcorn, etc. All the food that can be stored longer. I stack those up all at once because it saves me time, the store is about 8 kilometers from my house. So when I’m there, it’s best to stock up since I’m sure I’ll use it all and it can be stored very long. I get this base of my food zero waste in my own bags and it’s all organic. Anyhow, that cost me about 65 euros all at once. This is more than my usual week-spendings for food, all spent in once. That felt a little bad. Also, I got a box from TooGoodtoGo via Lidl and there were two food boxes in there to make a stew. The only thing I still had to add was about 1 kilograms of vegan meat and some potatoes basically. I can eat for about 5 days from this stew because I made a loooot. But, I spend 25 more euros on that. I spend about 80 euros on food in one day and somehow that was tough on me. I felt like I was spending too much. But was I?

Whole, Organic and Zero Waste Food

Over the years I’ve learned more about food. I know how to make sustainable food choices. And as you know, ethical and sustainable food is important to me. As I said, I buy the base of my food in bulk. It’s organic and whole-foods. This is more expensive than buying the cheapest food available in a supermarket. Then, I usually buy fruits and veggies via TooGoodtoGo. I rescue food this way and this completes my whole-food diet. I can’t manage to do everything this way and so I also go to the supermarket for some additives. I buy for instance more fruit there, coconut milk or tempeh, just to name some random things I buy in the supermarket. Those things I buy are usually the most expensive things in the whole store. Last week for example. I bought a big box of organic blueberries, organic dates and organic tempeh. Those are among the most expensive products in the store. As I said, I get to the check-out and I get a little shock. Am I spending too much money?


Now that I live completely by myself I feel like I eat the healthiest as I ever have. It’s my own money and I can do whatever I personally want. No restrictions, nothing. I think I am pretty close to a (obviously plant-based) whole-foods diet. I eat a lot of fruits and complete this diet with veggies, nuts, seaweed, whole grains and very little processed foods. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I’ve ever eaten I guess. I am also quite busy so I also barely eat food because I’m bored (like I used to do), but I eat when I am actually hungry. All in all, I am very happy with my diet. I also know that I would never want to save money on all this. I want to eat a plant-based whole-foods diet. I want to eat organic. I want to eat healthy. I want to eat zero waste. I would never want to save money on food. It’s the base of my life. I always think that when I save money on food now, I will pay the bill later in health case costs (not only me, we will all pay). I believe that a good diet is the base of everything else in your life. Of course a healthy diet does not always mean you’re healthy. People can get sick because of all sorts of reasons and when you’re sick this is surely is not your own fault. However, I do think saving money on food can make you sick later in life. That’s because our society is built in a way that makes the most unhealthy food the cheapest and healthy food the most expensive. Organic fruit is expensive and processed foods are cheap*. I think it should be the other way around, but well.

Taught in Society

All in all, I live up to my values and beliefs. I consume what I want. But why then does it always feel so bad when I pay for it? Why does it feel like I am spending way too much? I honestly find this a hard question and have been thinking about this a lot. I guess I was taught this in society. When supermarkets advocate their products, it’s always about price. Where is the cheapest food? Where can you pay the least? This is reinforced by the people around me. Most people look at the price of food when doing groceries. What products are the cheapest? For a small part of the people in the Netherlands this is because of their budget. However, for the most part it’s about priorities. People are just not willing to pay for a better world or for their health. I guess this has influenced me a little. And maybe there are other factors too. I mean, our whole society is built on money. The point is to gain the most money and to pay the least. I don’t agree and I don’t act alike. My shopping behavior is in line with my values. But I do have that little cringe when I am at the check-out. I wish this would go away.

I hope I can someday get over this feeling. Do you have this feeling too? Why (not)?

*when I say cheap or expensive in this post this is just about monetary values. Processed food costs less than healthy food in terms on money. I do know that these are not the true costs. Healthy and sustainable food ‘cost’ the least when externalities like pollution are included. Today this is not the case in stores in the Netherlands unfortunately.

Yours sincerely,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap