If there is one area of dietary advice that nobody seems to be able to agree on, it’s whether or not “real food” costs more than “pre-packaged food”. It’s widely accepted that fresh produce has health benefits over and above the pre-packaged stuff but why should this be? What is the cost financially and in terms of health of choosing one or the other?
When we talk about pre-packaged food, we’re talking about food which is available in a like-for-like format without preparation. So, for example, pre-peeled carrots in a bag would be a pre-packaged substitution for actual fresh carrots.
Tinned food and frozen food, unless the contents have been prepared in some way, are not always particularly different from a nutritional perspective to fresh food.
Now that we have a definition, we can take a look at the cost difference of some real life examples. We looked at Coles Supermarket’s online prices on 29 July 2017.
Fresh bananas were $4.40 per kilogram. Coles ready to eat bananas (slices of banana in a bag) were $6.30 per kilogram. That’s a shocking difference when you consider how easy it is to slice a banana.
A completely fresh pineapple (average weight is approx. 1-1.5Kg) cost $4.50 but a few slices of pineapple came in at $14.71 per kilo.
It quickly becomes obvious when comparing like for like items that pre-packaged food is considerably more expensive than fresh food.
If you’ve got the money to spare and you don’t mind paying for convenience, what’s the problem with pre-packaged food like this?
Well, the big issue is that once you start to slice and dice your food, much of it is exposed to the air and the environment, which means that the constituent parts start to – there’s no nice way to put this – rot more quickly than they would otherwise.
This can lead to the degeneration of vitamins within the food, which in turn makes that food less nutritious when we consume it. One of the reasons we eat fresh fruit and vegetables is to be healthy and to take that away can be a real issue.
It would be almost impossible not to conclude that it’s better to use fresh ingredients whenever possible than the pre-packaged equivalent. Firstly, you’re going to save money. Quite a lot of money if you take the example of that pineapple – that’s a $10 a kilo difference in price. If you just saved on a pineapple a week, you’d have $520 more at the end of the year in the bank. That would pay for a fair amount of Turmerix to boost your health, wouldn’t it?
Then there is the undeniable truth that pre-packaged food won’t be as good for you as the fresh alternative. We know that you want to get as much benefit from the food you eat as possible and this is a easy way to make food do more work for your health.
Note: Prices may (and probably will) have changed since the data was captured.