We're living in some challenging times, and for those of us who have to watch our pennies, the 99¢ store is a frugal girl's heaven. There is nothing organic or remotely healthy for you here at the dollar store. You can buy some produce but it's limited and the dairy and meat section is really quite depressing. For me, it makes sense to buy items like toilet paper, batteries, and cleaning supplies. Sometimes the items you get are less than optimal. The pack of sponges, 3 for a 99¢ are useable, but fall apart much faster than the "Scotch-Brite" brand found at 'normal' stores.
Anyway, I understand why so many of us choose to shop cheap - and I generally don't see much of a problem if your getting the odd household items. The 'food' you will find is mostly canned, processed and fantastically unhealthy. Most of it is high in sodium, refined sugars, flavorings, MSG, nitrites, EDTA, nitrates, hormones, pesticides, gases, colors, and chemicals sprays.
When economic hardships come along, we tend to rationalize purchasing crappy food, not realizing that they put their long-term health at risk. This is especially true for folks who have existing health problems. Do you really think a bunch of cheap Top Ramen will give you the nutrients you need to function at the level you body needs? I know you may think you don't have a much of a choice financially, but you do!
My advice during these tough times would be this: Skip the junk food and buy whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds at the Farmers Market, Mesa Produce or Tri-County Produce. Even the expensive food stores will have a bulk section where brown rice, oats, whole wheat flour etc. can be bought for around 99¢. Buy foods that have had the least amount of tampering with, and you will feel, look and be much better off in the long-run. Plus, think of the (future) medical savings!
By the way.. I am in no way perfect when it comes to eating healthy. My vices include Coke, Hard Candies, Sour Patch Kids (OMG), and Kraft Ranch Dressing (waaay processed). So 'Everything in moderation' is a rule that I find helpful when I'm craving a junk fix. For me, it's about putting the money and time into your health now, not when you have Type 2 Diabetes or Obesity.
Of course, there is no guarantee to a long and healthy life, but you can feel good now and have a better chance at living a longer and healthier full life. Plus, now that I've undermined the whole 'crappy food is always cheaper' myth, what excuse to you have?
Last night I was at the grocery store and when I got to the check out counter, I noticed a shopper had "Lite Cranberry Juice" in among her other items of food. A lot of people think they're being healthier if they buy "lite, fat free or trans fat free" products (and they are in a way). However, it is still good to read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels because often it's full of junk. Often there are more sugars, preservatives, artificial ingredients and sodium in these products - and that ain't good.
For example: A 8 fl oz. of "Lite Cranberry Juice" has 75mg of sodium. The RDA recommends that you consume no more than 2400 mg of sodium per day, which is roughly about a teaspoon of table salt.
What if you have two glasses of juice, like most people do? With all the other food and beverages a person consumes in a day, that sodium intake can increases quite quickly. Too much sodium can cause some biggies like high blood pressure, dehydration, and heart disease.
And of course then there is the sugar problem... Too much sugar can cause some of the same problems, and some great 'extras' like diabetes, and obesity.
The RDA recommends 40g. of refined sugar per day. One can consume 1/2 that amount in one glass of cranberry juice. Not to mention, it's not just straight sugar, but high fructose corn syrup...which is even worse!
Until next time...try to get in the habit of reading any product that has a label. You will be surprised in what you will find.
Be careful what you buy, for I may be be there with my undercover eye! (It's cheesy but it works, right?!)