Do people still say that it's cheaper to eat crap than fruits and veg? not true...

For years I’ve been hearing about how poverty forces people to eat crap, because fresh fruits and vegetables are too expensive.

well, I don’t know if all that bitching has changed reality, but I am WAY more cost conscious now than I was before, and in my neighborhood, which is half middle class, have lower class, the local markets catering to the lower-income community (usually ethnic, with an emphasis on Latino and Armenian) always have spectacular deals on fruits and vegetables, along the lines of 2-6 pounds of a given item for $1. Yes, SIX pounds. ON solid, healthy food like cabbage, carrots, apples, potatoes, oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit, etc. And very good prices and specials on broccoli, cauliflower, dark greens, pineapple; at one of my favorite local markets they sell fresh, washed giant bags of bags of dark leafy salad greens for between $1.99 and $2.39 (I’m not really sure what it weighs, but it’s probably 4 of the tiny bag of the same type of greens selling for $3.49 at Ralphs, which are usually less fresh!

And if you give me a choice between, say Gelson’s and Superior Mart when I want meat? It’s the Superior Mart every time… not just because it’s so much cheaper it’s like a different planet, but because the price of meat at a high end place like Gelson’s is SO high that I don’t feel at all comfortable about how fresh it is. Plus the clientele, at least in LA, skews to models and actors and vegetarians at places like Gelson’s and Whole Foods, whereas the local cheapo markets catering to ethnic communities have massive turnover of the meat.

So I can fill my cart with very nutritious, fresh food that is enough for a dozen meals for…$20-$30, and that will mean extra left over depending on what I buy (like rice, potatoes, etc.), but fast food, frozen, packaged and SNACK food is ridiculously priced. A bag of chips for $3? $3 would buy boatlods of vitamins, minerals, fiber and calories in the produce department. Hell, you could buy a bag of beans and a couple of carrots and onions for $3 and feed a family of 4 for two entire days! (It would be boring, but that’s not my point and that’s not usually what most people have to do)

Even in the frozen department… I was shopping Target last night, and the prepared meals were $2-8 per, but they were selling “steamer” bags of Green Giant broccoli, beans, spinach… for a buck!

And in LA, 99Cents only has come up in the world big time, bigger stores carrying perfectly nice produce for… 99 cents. (Some of it is tired or just tasteless, but a lot of it is fine, especially the hard-to-go-wrong stuff like potatoes, onions, peppers…)
So has it changed, or was the claim always pretty shaky?

I have always questioned that claim. I think it’s probably hard to make very interesting healthy foods without spending a few bucks on stocking your kitchen with stuff like pots, pans, salt and oil, but frankly the value menu at McDonalds isn’t very interesting either.

That claim is made because in our current food system - industrial, commercial, federally subsidized - the cheapest and most abundant things are corn, soybeans, and CAFO beef.

Thus you get things like McDonald’s burgers, and chicken nuggets that contain huge amounts of corn- and soy-based bulk fillers, and sodas filled with HFCS … all of which are cheap and come under what the OP probably (and rightly) considers to be “crap.”

Also, preparing food that is both nutritious and cheap generally requires a higher investment in something else: time. Someone working three minimum-wage jobs to make their next rent may not have the time to prepare those cheap and nutritious veggies.

One last thing: OP, do you live in California? If so, then you live at the epicenter of US agriculture. I would friggin’ *expect *peppers to be cheap, since y’all grow a lot of them there! I can pretty much guarantee that someone living in, say, Minnesota does not find 6 pounds of peppers for a buck at their store. They’re probably more like $2.99 PER PEPPER. I’ve seen prices like that before around here.

Aren’t you in LA? You have a lot of stuff available more often than a lot of the country and a lot more roadside stands with good prices; we get those stands but only for maybe 3 months out of the year.

Kind of like the whole locavore thing. Basically, if I wanted to eat only things grown within… 200 miles of here, even 300, I’d basically have root vegetables and apples from October - May.

And yes, some of those prices you put are INSANE. A single red bell pepper here is $3.99. Green ones are cheaper, but nowhere near what you can pay. Avocados right now are somewhere around $2.50 each (if you get a bangin’ deal, maybe $1 and change each). And I’ve never seen 2-6 lbs of any produce for a dollar here. Ever.

There are lots of bogus excuses for being fat. The claim that “healthy food is too expensive” is one of them.

IMO, the vast majority of chronically poor people in the U.S. are very lazy and/or very irresponsible. Hence the reason for a correlation between poverty and obesity.

You also need to remember (in addition to the whole we live in CA, so we’ve got it a bit easier thing) that the issue with junk being cheaper isn’t necessarily just the actual cost to buy XYZ item, but the cost of actually getting it.

Even poor neighborhoods here in CA tend to have some sort of grocery store in close proximity (at least that I’ve noticed), but when I’ve traveled to other places, that isn’t necessarily the case. If I live in the middle of a bad part of town where the only food suppliers are fast food restaurants or 7-11 (which does sell some stuff, but at an incredibly high markup), my only option may be traveling far, far from home to get fresh produce. That costs money. And time. Both of which cost, just in different ways. Obviously, to some folks, the cost is worth it, to others it isn’t.

Anyone who would pay 4 bucks for a single red bell pepper has more money than common sense.

They are usually from around 69 cents (on sale) up to a dollar per pepper (regular, everyday price), but $3.99 each?!?

As a non-meat eater who is pretty aware (in other words, when it comes to grocery prices I am a cheapskate who compares sale and bargain prices on a constant basis) of the local prices of food, I think the prices that you have posted are more unusual than the ones that Stoid quoted in his OP…

I’ve always wondered; Fiesta is a Texas grocery chain (Houston, Dallas and Austin anyway) that caters primarily to Hispanics.

Produce is usually cheaper and better there than at the local Kroger or Tom Thumb, never mind Whole Foods or HEB Central Market. Like limes @ $1 for 10 or 4 grapefruits for a dollar.

The meat and fish departments are kind of nasty though - the fish section is rather stinky,and I don’t know if it’s lighting or what, but the meat market is just sort of gross. My wife claims she repeatedly got ground meat from a Fiesta that had bone chips in it.

The beans, peas and rice type staples are very cheap there as well. I can’t imagine that people couldn’t get food there cheaply if they had to.

I wonder though if the comment is either a statement of insufficient cash-flow, or if it’s a total cost of ownership type argument.

I don’t know if that many dirt-poor folks have $20-30 bucks to rub together, although those broke-ass Mexicans seem to, so I’m not so sure that the argument holds water.
The total cost of ownership type argument takes into account the value of people’s time, to a degree. I can see that one, although when you’re in that situation, money’s more valuable than time, I’d think.

As someone who lives in produce central (central valley of CA), I can say that in “off season,” I regularly see peppers (usually orange, red, or yellow- not green) for $2.99-$3.99. Seriously.

Right now, at the cheaper grocery store I went to the other day, red bells were $1.39 a pound (which is, what? 3-4 mediumish peppers?), while green were $1.39 each. This is the cheap grocery store, by the way.

Avocados, on the other hand, were 2 for $1. Now, if I go to the local farmer stand and get avocados from him, I can get 10-15 avocados for $2.

The issue isn’t the objective cost of food. It’s the lack of access – places where you can’t get to any full service grocery, or can’t get there on public transportation – lack of cooking facilities where you live, because you live in a homeless shelter or single-room occupancy or weekly rental, and lack of time – because you are working two jobs already, and are too exhausted to carefully shop deals and put a homecooked meal on the table.

These three factors add up to many people who are living in poverty, eating a very unhealthy diet. It doesn’t add up to everyone who eats a bad diet, but it is not so simple as “oh, poor people are just lazy.”

There are large areas in the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs that are called “food deserts”; no supermarkets are around for miles, and the available stores are little corner stores or fast food places. Report on the situation in Chicago in 2009 (PDF warning). It is estimated that over 600,000 residents of Chicago are affected by these “food deserts”; many have no cars, and are working poor who are short on time and money to find other ways to get to a nice grocery store. The area affected covers over 5,000 blocks or 113 million square meters of land.

You are fortunate to have a good, inexpensive source of fresh fruits and vegetables nearby. Other areas are not so blessed.

Yet, freakishly and infuriatingly, I live in a neighborhood that was built in a former citrus grove, and every house originally had at least one citrus tree, and many still have them (the orange tree in my backyard is enormous, and almost certainly a hundred years old), including many lemon trees, which, like all citrus, are common everywhere in Souhtern California.

So when I go to the market and see lemons for 49 cents EACH, I want to know who to smack for that.

“locavore” is a great word for a concept I know about, but never heard that word applied to.

And I’ve often wondered about that, because I know that in California and all temperate growing regions it’s easy to commit to local, seasonal food, but it’s pretty elitist to consider that a universally available option.

And now that y’all remind me I do recall hearing about the situation being partly one of access in certain areas. Which is a damn shame… I wonder why it is? If low income folks are buying junk from little stop-n-gos, they would certainly buy proper groceries from a real market…what stops the markets from locating there? Hell, being someone who does live in an area where the low incomes are not far from insanely high incomes, and being very familiar with markets catering to all of the above, it seems to me that lower-income people shop MORE than upper-income people, who eat out a lot more at nice restaurants. Gelson’s is never as packed as Ralphs.
And on the topic of citrus trees, I’d just like to share my absolute joy at having my neighbor recently share the remaining bounty of her NAVEL orange tree, which produces navel oranges that are like the navel oranges I remember from 30 years ago… insanely juicy and tart and sweet and flavorful. They reminded me of why I used to adore navel oranges above all other fruit, which lately I had been wondering if I was crazy when I was a kid, because I hadn’t had a decent navel orange in years and years.

So next year when her fruit comes in I’ll be at her front door… (before anyone asks, the oranges on my tree are juice oranges, and I like them, but not like navels.)

I was so happy when Walmart came in. That was the first time I could afford fresh produce. Fresh is still weeks old. Before that this town had little selection, and high prices for any fresh produce. $3 to $4 a pound apples don’t get bought when $4 is your day’s budget for all your consumables. The area I was living in before still doesn’t have affordable produce. Larger cities have a big advantage over small ones when you don’t have lots of money and the ability to drive 30 to 50 miles. I think if people would stop drinking soda obesity wouldn’t be as extreme as it is. Eat all the produce you want, but the sugar in soda is still going to make you fat.

I saw the peppers were at $3.99 a piece in February at Walmart the cheapest store here. I don’t eat peppers but I do remember noting the high price. Thanks to Walmart I can get apples for $1 a pound. For comparison to the $4 a piece peppers, bacon has been $2.50 a pound for the last two years. How do you fight eating bacon all the time at that price?

My wife had an avocado tree behind her practice. It was huge and she couldn’t give the things away. Now she gets upset when the best deal we get (at the cheap ethnic places) are for $1 each.

Really? Not where I live. That’s the going rate.

What is your idea of common sense? That I get together with my neighbors and charter a jet every week or so to a state and city where produce is cheap?

Good point—It’s your money and you should spend it exactly as you see fit…

I am in a pretty affluent area, and am around people who for the most part are not hurting for any material needs, and money is generally not much of an issue, but I still dont see someone spending 4 bux on a single pepper, if only on principle, most likely because I am used to getting them for so much less.

That said, I have certainly spent plenty of money on things that others would think I was crazy for buying, so it’s all a matter of perspective.

Reference point: We just bought 2 red peppers for $1.29 apiece. But fresh jalapeños were only $1.99/lb.

Everybody elsewhere have a valid point in that Californians enjoy a special place, fresh-food-wise. Try getting fresh peppers in Palco, Kansas in the middle of winter sometime.

Where I am living right now (Tokyo suburbs), fruit is expensive. My nearest grocery store sells a pack of six (small) strawberries for about 598 yen (like $6+). Two peaches cost the same. One apple can cost $4. Good quality, beautifully packaged fruit can go for hundreds of dollars; I once saw one cantaloupe going for $40. I was like, are you kidding me. On the flip side, it’s so easy to pick up a prepared meal from the same supermarket for a fraction of the price.

But yes, when I lived in CA, fruit was indeed quite inexpensive, in comparison.