No, you can't buy all that for $20

Some of you may have seen this little graphic floating around the Internet. Claiming that for the same price as family meal from KFC you can get a shit ton of groceries. I call bullshit. 

I scoured the Internet and these prices just do not match. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the USDA, these prices are terribly out of date. The average price of 2 pounds of chicken breasts is actually almost $7! A pound of lean ground beef is over $4. A gallon of skim milk is (if you're lucky) $3.50 and 10 pounds of potatoes costs $5.60. Every single item on that list is actually more expensive in reality than the graphic claims, with the full total being a lot closer to $40 than $20. And remember that those are just the U.S. averages (meaning that in quite a few places this pile of groceries costs considerably more than $40). You can maybe - MAAAAAAYYYYYBEEEE - get all those groceries for $19.54 if you are an amazing couponer. Maybe. However, you can also probably reduce the price of the KFC meal as well using coupons, so... yeah. I still say "fuck you" to that graphic.

It also doesn't take into account the amount of time or energy needed to cook these groceries (something that many working families just don't have enough of). The thing about fast food is that it's fast and easy, after you've worked a long, physically-demanding day and just want to eat (or play with your kids or help with homework or get ready for your other job). This graphic also doesn't take into account the existence of food deserts (low-income neighborhoods without access to fresh, healthy and affordable food) or the possibility that not everyone has a full kitchen with working stoves or refrigerators, proper cookware or even clean water.  

The graphic appears to have been created by SparkPeople which is a health, fitness and diet site, so it probably wasn't intended to be as offensive and inaccurate/outdated as it is... but that doesn't make it okay. It completely shames people while being incredibly ignorant about the realities of life for many. Eating healthy is a luxury. Even when you compare the monetary cost of food dollar-to-dollar, there is so much more to it and it's incredibly obtuse to pretend otherwise. It's not just laziness or a "choice" to eat unhealthy. Poverty can make it near impossible to eat healthy. No one is arguing that KFC (or any other fast food) is good for you... but life certainly isn't as black and white as this picture would have you believe.  Didn't we learn anything from Gwyneth Paltrow's gross food-stamp stunt?

Price Sources:
UPDATE: So the creator of the original post emailed me and explained themselves... but they asked that I not share any of their email. So um... okay... that happened.


Austin said...

I live in an area that is pretty much exclusively farming community, so we luckily have near constant access to fresh fruit and vegetables, and prices are comparatively low. That being said, I looked up how much these would cost at my local Wegmans (a chain store on the East Coast) that's known for low-price groceries. Wegmans has an app that I use constantly for price comparison. Using the same items above, I looked up how much I would have to spend to get all those items (Hint: It's way above $20)

Peaches: $1.99/lb.
Sweet corn: 5/$2.00 (if you wanted 8, it would cost approximately $3.50)
Potatoes: $1.99/5 lb. (if you want 2 lbs., it would cost $3.98)
Chicken w/bone (cheapest): $0.99/lb. IF you get the family pack, which costs about $4.65
-Smaller packages are generally around $3.89/lb., and you can't get just a single chicken breast unless you get into line at the counter, which takes forever, so a smaller package costs about $5.49
Frozen sweet peas: $1.99/lb. (if you wanted 2 lbs., it would cost approximately $3.96)
Yogurt: $2.19/32 oz.
Milk: $1.99/gallon (I live in a place where dairy is VERY cheap, this is not normal)
Kidney beans: $1.99/lb.
Oats: $2.79/18 oz.
Lean ground beef: $2.99/lb. IF you get the family pack, which costs about $18.24
-smaller packages are generally around $4.49/lb., so total would be $4.49 if you got a single pound


Totaling that up, assuming you got the equivalent of everything on the list in the picture, you'd actually spend about $32.37, assuming you didn't get any family packs and got the absolute cheapest items. If you did want to save money but spend more by getting the family packs, which are bulk items, you'd spend about $45.28.

With all the items listed, 7 out of the 10 need some kind of preparation. The other 3 are the peaches, milk, and yogurt. It would make no sense to buy peaches and spend that kind of money on a high cost, low calorie fruit.

If you've got a tight budget and have kids to feed, you're going to go for low cost, high calorie foods. A box of generic mac & cheese is $0.59. That can feed about 3 kids, if you make small portions. $0.59 per meal, when your kid is going to get more calories and stay more full for a longer period of time, or buy a bunch of food that's low calorie, won't fill up a kid, will take time to make and feed to a kid.

A single adult could probably get buy on the above groceries, IF they have the time to make them. Honestly, the cheapest option is a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter, but that's a good way to get very sick, very fast, because you're getting almost no nutrition out of it. But some people have to live that way because idiots think that $20 can buy a week's worth of groceries.

=8)-DX said...

I'm pretty sure the oil in peanut butter and the starch in the bread are nutrients. That word, it does not mean what you think it means. Other than that interesting comment.

Anonymous said...

Items to buy to make just two meals cost me about $60 or more at Wal-Mart. So $20 dollars don't get you much! This is absurd

Abby Rose Dalto said...

To =8)-DX... Austin didn't actually say "no nutrients." They said "almost no nutrition." Pretty sure they didn't mean that peanut butter and bread have zero nutrients, but rather that living on almost only peanut butter and bread is not a well-rounded diet on which one can thrive.