|Originally featured in the New York Times|
My family's transition to whole foods eating has been a process (and I believe it's easier to tackle such a huge transition slowly rather than to dive head first into an unfamiliar world of reading and deciphering labels). This journey began about 2 1/2 years ago, leading now to a grocery cart that is nearly unrecognizable from the one I pushed to the check out before it began... back when I thought our diet wasn't all that bad.
I'll talk in my next post about the various things we have done along the way, but for now, I want to talk about my first meal comparison. This time around it's all about avoiding the drive-thru at breakfast. We almost never have an occasion to do so. My kids are not in school and I'm a SAHM. I will be honest and tell you that we don't completely avoid drive-thrus. They are occasionally my salvation. When I'm gut-wrenchingly hungry and I know my kids will take an hour or two of settling when we arrive home, I've been known to grab a snack at a drive-thru. I loathe McDonald's though. I usually head to a local chain that I actually worked at as a teenager (and I know they fry in lard versus vegetable shortening) or I head to Culver's (not exactly local, but Wisconsin based, so you may not have heard of it). Their meat is sourced from Wisconsin and just tastes a heck of a lot fresher.
Biscuits, Scrambled eggs, Melon
Baking Powder Biscuits: I've never made biscuits before, so I think the total time for this breakfast was a bit longer than it will take in the future. I grabbed the recipe from AllRecipes.com, but replaced the shortening with coconut oil (shortening, even the organic stuff, is hydrogenated soybean oil, we don't do soy, so anywhere a recipe calls for shortening, I use coconut oil. This, of course, ups the cost a bit, so if you're cool with soy, use the shortening and save some dimes. The recipe produced about a dozen biscuits for me.
Total Cost: ~3.45
Cost per serving: .29
Cheesy Scrambled Eggs: My boys are big egg eaters, me not so much. I scrambled up 6 eggs (actually, 5, but one was a double yolker), with a tablespoon of milk, a few dashes of hot sauce (trust me, you won't taste it, but it adds an amazing depth of flavor, about 1-2 dashes per egg does the trick), and a pinch of salt. Towards the end of the cooking, I threw a 1/4 cup shredded cheddar on top and folded it in to let it melt. The cheese is locally produced (but this is Wisconsin, so locally produced cheese is not hard to come by), the eggs were free from a friend's chickens, but I estimated the cost with what I usually pay for local, organic, pastured eggs.
Total Cost: 1.25
Cost per serving: .42
Muskmelon: Sigh. This was not a locally grown melon, but it sounded so good. And it ended up being a very sweet, juicy melon, much enjoyed by all. What can I say, we're trying, but we're not 100% localvores.
Total Cost: $2.69
Cost per serving: .45
Coffee: Organic breakfast blend, with organic sugar and a touch of evaporated milk. (Obviously, only the adults had this).
Total Cost: .45
Cost per serving: .27
Total Cost of Meal: $4.08
Cost per Person: $1.16 (with coffee: $1.46)
Approximate Nutritional Breakdown:
And since we all ate more than one biscuit (because they were *awesome*). Here's the biscuits specifically:
I figure this is a typical drive thru meal from McDonald's. I don't know, it's been a long time since I ate there, so I took one for the team and went through the drive thru to get the prices of these items. We won't talk about the shameful purchase I made while doing so.
Three Egg and Sausage Meals (with cheese instead of sausage)
That's three biscuits, three discs (?) of egg, three slices of American Cheese, three hash browns, two coffees, one orange juice. (Or, at least it would be if I ordered for my family of adult and toddler eaters, with our at-home meal, our seven month old noshed on muskmelon).
Total Cost: $11.09
Cost per Person: $3.69
Approximate Nutritional Breakdown:
McDonald's provides an easy way to figure out the exact nutritional value of your chosen meal. Here's what I came up with for the biscuit, cheese and egg with a hash brown and cup of coffee.
The meal prepared at home took approximately 40 minutes to prepare. That's including chasing my toddler and giving the seven month old raspberries to squish all over herself while I cooked. We live minutes from TWO McDonald's (one in either direction), and if just one adult ran up for food, it would likely not take long, but since my toddler rarely allows an adult out the door without a HUGE meltdown, we usually end up riding with at least one child. So, I figure, loading both kids up into the car, driving up to the drive-thru, waiting and returning home, then taking the kids out of the car, would likely take about 20 minutes.
For me, what goes into the food (and my body) is more important than pretty much all else, cost included. That said, a few ingredients stand out as quite a bit different nutritionally between these two meals. I'll point them out as I go along.
Eggs (farm raised, organic eggs have been shown to
contain higher concentrations of nutrients)
Cheddar cheese (cow's milk, rennet, cultures, annatto)
Unbleached all purpose flour
Organic whole milk
Expeller pressed, virgin, organic coconut oil
Organic sugar (some in biscuits, some in coffee)
Coffee (organically grown, fair trade)
Commercially raised eggs
American Processed Cheese Food
(*No information provided on McDonald's website concerning ingredients in bread products)
Hash browns, fried in canola 'blend' (soy bean oil and canola-both are typically
Coffee (no mention of fair trade, etc)
Orange juice (oranges are often sourced from other countries, usually Brazil)
*So I looked up what typically goes into a commercially produced biscuit (in this case, Pillsbury Biscuit Dough): Enriched bleached wheat flour, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sugar, baking powder, salt, whey, xanthan gum, natural and artificial flavor.
Our Father's Day meal took more time to prepare than going through a drive thru, by about twice as much, but the cost difference is staggering. For a comparable meal at home, we saved $7.01, not to mention calories, fat and food additives.