The trade-off I’d resigned myself to—nutritious and expensive versus affordable and crappy—turned out to be an illusion.
Last summer, for the first time in decades, I made a box of Hamburger Helper in the spirit of journalistic investigation. I was researching what it takes to eat well in America on a budget, and had come across the distressing information that three-quarters of our salt intake comes from processed food. What my Hamburger Helper lacked in health appeal, I assumed it would make up for in convenience and price. This is a compromise Americans have long accepted as fact: You can have food that is nutritious or food that is affordable, but you cannot have both. I resolved to see how things played out in the kitchen.