11 January, 2017

Eating healthily

A couple of months ago I edited an article by a missionary in Japan who mentioned that before coming here she'd been advised to not be too frugal, to take care of herself, and particularly, to eat a healthy diet.

I thought that was good advice, but also a bit intuitive. I've never considered eating less healthily in order to save money. In fact, the time when I've been the most short on money was early in our marriage (when we were still in Australia) and it was the luxuries that we cut out: ice cream, snacks, chocolate, going out for a meal etc.

Then, in the last couple of months, I've been shocked to hear different expats who are relatively new in the country talk about minimising the fruit and vegetables they eat because they are more expensive in Japan than they are in their home country. 
I would happily pay 100 yen (AU$1.16) for this in Japan. Generally if an apple is much
less in an ordinary store, it is of poor quality and not really worth the money.

My first reaction is shock. For me fruit and vegetables, along with meat, are key parts of our diet. I'm not careless in spending on groceries: I shop at cheaper shops, buy fruit and vegetables that are in season, and don't buy expensive cuts of meat. We don't eat large meat meals every day, but we do have vegetables and fruit every day, and with most meals. But for me those three categories of food are not-negotiable.

My second reaction is to reassure people that fruit and vegetables have hardly changed price since we first arrived in Japan in 2000. I don't pretend to understand economics and how food ends up the price it does when it gets to the consumer, but a good price for a largish piece of fruit here, like an apple that is bigger than my palm, is 100 yen (AU$1.16). And that hasn't changed. If I see fruit at about that price, I buy it. 

My third reaction is to recommend that people who are living here for an extended period try to get to the point of not comparing the prices of food with what they could buy them for at home, but rather try to figure out what is a good price for Japan. Constantly comparing prices is not healthy, it doesn't help you live where you are. I know that 100 yen for an apple sounds expensive from an Australian and American point of view, but this is where we live and we need to eat food we can buy here at a price that they offer. We don't eat tonnes of apples (or anything else, really, we keep a tight lid on the quantity of food we eat), but we do eat them, when they are in season.

But as I've reflected on this whole topic (I've been trying to write this blog post for a while), I've realised that I've always had a long-term perspective about our diet in Japan. We're living here long term, raising a family here, we're "running a marathon", and to do that we need to eat healthily. I'm aware that each family does that differently and have different standards, I'm just telling you what we do.

If you're interested, see this blog post for more details on how I do our grocery shopping (we source food from several different shops, and not always on a weekly basis).


Ken Rolph said...

I've just put a load of summer fruit into the compost heap (peaches, nectarines, bananas). We have had some over 40 degree days here, so stuff is going off quickly. When food is too cheap you tend to buy too much of it and it gets wasted.

Wendy said...

Very true, Ken. If the weather is so hot, it may go to waste anyway, though, before shops can sell it. Oh, but now I'm craving stone fruit...