A Banquet chicken dinner with a single piece of chicken is $1.29 and yields 22 grams of protein. A Snickers energy bar has 13 grams of protein but is $1.39. A cheap Michelina’s dinner is always $1 on sale but typically has 10 grams of protein regardless of whether or not you go with their lean offerings. When you have a few bucks in your pocket you have some choices to make, and not just for lunch, but your entire workday. What are you going to eat and how can you get through the day?
The problem with dinners and energy bars is that while they may have a lot of protein for a cheap price you may also end up with a lot of salt in your diet and even chemicals in your food that you do not want or need that can affect your health in the long run. Take a McDouble from McDonalds, it costs a dollar and has 22 grams of protein. Yet the sodium content is 38% of your recommended value. For me it is actually $1.11 because food is taxed here, yet at 22 grams it would appear to be a safe bet as it is even cheaper than that Banquet dinner, but is it good for me?
A double cheeseburger used to cost a dollar but is a bit more, yet still less than $2. But it only has 3 more grams of protein, so I could probably do without that extra piece of cheese. As far as keeping me full, it does not help me at all and I am probably better off without the extra fat and cholesterol that comes with that extra slice of cheese. What it does have, is more salt, at 48%, which for some may translate into better taste.
The real question is, how do I avoid these packaged dinners and the fast food restaurants altogether? If you are poor, it may be cheaper to deal with the dinners on a day by day basis than to pay to get your gas turned back on so that you can cook. It may seem as though it is a cheaper option on the surface, but it is not really. If you end up taking medicine for your blood pressure, that is a lot more expensive. You need to have insurance to afford the medication, you have to pay extra costs in transportation and take time out of your day to see the doctor. You may have wished you paid a few hundred bucks to get the natural gas turned back on for your stove.
You can eat healthy and get all of the protein and nutrients that you need but you have to be diligent and aggressive in how you spend your money if your funds are limited. You can always find large amounts of protein in nuts, peanut butter and fish. Eggs are often a source of protein that we take for granted, but a cheap source that is easily overlooked. These foods will help you to “feel full” and satisfy your appetite.
My problem is that I do not like regular peanuts but need something a bit more expensive. The other day I was a hypocrite as I had a 2 liter of Sierra Mist and a bag of pistachios for a dollar. Yet the pistachios kept me full and I did not eat for the rest of the night. I do realize that a jar of pistachios is like $6, but you can often get nuts for cheap as it is not anything the average person is willing to pay more than $2 for. The other day I found a jar of cashews for less than $3 and thought that I was going to have my way with them. Yet after a small amount I was decent and that jar actually lasted a few days.
When you figure that I can eat a bag of potato chips that costs $3 in a matter of hours I think that my money is better served with the expensive nuts. Do not shop when you are hungry. Do not wait until the last minute to purchase food. Spend the extra dollar or two when you can afford to do so. You will find that you are in better shape, have more energy, and can avoid the high cholesterol and high blood pressure that is going to be your “undoing” when you are in your thirties or forties if you do not eat right today …