Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cheap Food, Healthy Food

So, I recently started a new job. It's in a pretty cool location, food-wise, in that it's relatively close to a lot of interesting ethnic food, as well as a few national chains (eg, Noodles & Co). So far, I've availed myself of Thai and Lebanese, and I look forward to trying more. Persian kabob place, you'd better watch out. But the best thing of all?

H Mart!

I was despondent when we left Houston behind. Mostly because of H Mart. But, happily, there are a few in the metro area, including one right next to work. For the uninitiated, it's a fabulous Korean grocery store.

This morning, I bought seaweed salad, sashimi salmon, and marinated tofu slices. H Mart's prepared foods section is seriously awesome.

I am a cheapskate at heart, and their prepared food prices always seem a little pricey for an ethnic grocery store. But then I started thinking about the cost relative to other options. Likewise, tonight at dinner I ate half of a pasture-raised, super-happy chicken that was pricier than I'm used to paying for chicken. As hard as it is, I think it's important to do the math and really think about it.

I'm not even talking about your typical "I read the Omnivore's Dilemma and now I'm a food snob" type arguments. Food is so ridiculously cheap in this country, our nice chicken dinner for two was less than a meal for two at Popeye's (which, don't get me wrong, I adore on occasion as well). My $5 of tofu, $3 of seaweed salad, and $7 of sashimi will keep me healthy and super-happy for at least three days of work lunches, for about the same price and less hassle than the crappiest Subway sandwich I could possibly eat (no, I really *don't* adore Subway).

It just comes down to eating really being about choices, with the exception of people who really don't have as many choices (food deserts, I'm looking at you). I feel like people make poor food choices based on a sense that they're somehow cheaper, and that much of the public discussion of food issues assumes that crappy food, or healthy food that no one wants to eat, is the only cheap food. But if you take a few minutes to think about food, and plan things out, it's almost ridiculous what tasty things you can enjoy.

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