Tragic experiment: What Honey Boo Boo's 'sketti' says about healthy, inexpensive food

Published: Monday, Nov. 19 2012 5:30 p.m. MST

Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, 7, loves "sketti," a family recipe.

Jennifer Brett, MCT

KELOWNA, Canada — People kept emailing Kerry K. Taylor a video clip from TLC's new reality TV show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." In the clip, the eponymous star of the show, 7-year-old Honey Boo Boo (aka Alana Thompson), helps her mother cook their favorite meal — something they call "sketti."

Honey Boo Boo bounces around the kitchen as the simple recipe is joyfully scooped, squirted and microwaved.

"I just found the family so likable," Taylor says.

Kerry K. Taylor is a frugal living blogger at SquawkFox.com and author of "397 Ways to Save Money." The sketti recipe symbolizes the problems many people have with food in tight economic conditions — not realizing it is often cheaper to eat healthy food than it is to eat unhealthy food.

The Honey Boo Boo sketti recipe is easy to replicate. To make it, Taylor says to nuke 8 ounces of ketchup and 8 ounces of margarine together in the microwave, stir and dump over 1 pound of cooked spaghetti noodles.

"It made me feel really sick and really sad all at the same time," Taylor says. "Just because you don't have a lot of money for food doesn't mean you have to eat poorly. It just made me sad that this was a meal — that someone thought this was the best they could do with the money they had."

Taylor set out to prove people didn't need to have a lot of money in order to eat better. She went to Wal-Mart and bought the ingredients for sketti — and also ingredients for a spaghetti recipe that would be tastier and, she hoped, less expensive as well.

Lazy eating

Charles Mattocks wrote the book "Eat cheap but eat well" and is the television personality known as "The Poor Chef." He has made a career of cooking inexpensive, but tasty and healthy recipes.

"We live in such a microwave society," he says. "It is convenient for people to grab something that isn't good for them."

On top of that, Mattocks says companies know how to make these foods taste good.

Mattocks says it takes planning and a little preparing to make a healthier meal. "We've become lazy," he says, "and don't want to take the time."

Mattocks remembers the last time he took his daughter to a fast-food restaurant. "Those chicken nuggets," he says, "within five minutes those things are like rocks. You just look at those things and you just know, 'I should not be feeding my child this.'"

Many people do not know how to cook — and of those who do, many only know how to make a few meals. "Most of us eat the same meals over and over," Mattocks says. "Baked chicken. Fried chicken. Steaks. Boiled vegetables."

Making better food takes some effort and time — effort and time people are reluctant to engage in. Mattocks understands the appeal sketti has for Honey Boo Boo's family. "That meal is a fast meal to make," he says. "It doesn't take much time. It doesn't take much preparation. It doesn't take much thought."

Making it easier

Jessie Price was the editor for the cookbook "EatingWell on a Budget" and is an editor at EatingWell, a popular magazine about food and recipes. She says it may be difficult for some people to change their eating and cooking habits.

"It is a matter of convenience," she says. "People want food to be easy and quick as well as cheap. Honey Boo Boo's sketti sounds pretty easy to make. If you are going to eat healthy, you have to try to make it easy too."

One easy way, Price says, is to go vegetarian. She says vegetarian cooking is almost always cheaper than cooking using meat. "If you eat a vegetarian meal one or two nights a week it will be cheaper and healthier," she says. "People eat way too much protein and meat in their diet."

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