5 Tips for Going Raw on a Budget

5 Tips for Going Raw on a Budget
5 Tips for Going Raw on a Budget

My Pinterest boards are overflowing with pictures of gorgeous pantries stocked with raw goodies and beautiful Vitamix blenders and Excalibur dehydrators. But for now, as a full time college student with a part time job, those pins will have to hang out to hopefully inspire the future me with money. When I first began reading about a raw food diet, I was pretty intimidated by the amount of gadgets and ingredients I saw being used on many of the websites and in the books I was reading.  However, my desire to go raw and be happy and healthy could not be dampened by a lack of cash, or by my tiny dorm room space. Once you really understand why eating raw foods can make you a healthier person, and you are determined, you can find a way!  I’ve only been high raw for a month, and while I’m still learning, I have found some short cuts and tips that have made eating raw possible even with limited time and a limited budget.

1. Do your Research: Shop Around for Good Deals

While I’m sure that a Vitamix would make my life a lot easier, my $40 Farberware blender holds its own for my needs and keeps my wallet happy. I make smoothies, sauces, and desserts with relatively little effort with its 800 W motor on the highest blending setting.  I finally settled on this particular blender after reading reviews online and price comparing at different stores. All of the fancier equipment makes raw food preparation much easier, but it’s not necessary. Instead of a vegetable spiralizer, I use a julienne peeler I got for $7 online; my zucchini noodles still come out great! As you continue shopping for pantry staples, you will notice places where similar items cost less, or you can get more for your money. I also like to check out amazon.com or vitacost.com for deals on bulk nuts, seeds and berries. Keep track of how much you paid for certain staple items and where you got them, and make note when shopping next time.  In the long run, keeping your receipts and comparing prices can help save a lot of money.

2. Use What You Have

Before I started to go high raw, I already had a lot of things in my pantry that were vegan, but not necessarily considered raw. Organic canned garbanzo beans, organic rye crackers, and many other things that were still good for me but not technically raw. Those items are still good and still good for me; also, I did still pay for them! Take a quick survey of the things you already have on hand and decide how much of it you would be willing to incorporate into your diet before you go out and buy new. Incorporating these ingredients into high raw dishes helps decrease food waste, and saves you money when you still have perfectly good ingredients on hand. Also, I was very surprised by how many of the things on my list of raw foods that I already had on hand! Not everything is foreign, expensive, or exotic; many things we already use in our standard diets, and as we can read from other posts like 5-easy-ways-to-add-more-fruits-vegetables-to-your-diet, gradually adding in more fresh and healthy foods does not have to be complicated!

3. Experiment           

When I started reading raw cook books, I was intimidated by the long lists of ingredients to make only one dish, many of the ingredients being things that I had either never heard of before, were very expensive, or I would probably never use except for in that recipe. In those cases, I often just have fun with it, adding in things that I do have on hand or that work better for me. Maybe you’re not a fan of a particular ingredient – that’s fine! You are the one eating the food, and you have to like it, so changing a recipe to fit your appetite and your budget is much more satisfying than creating it exactly as written. Plus, that’s how new tasty recipes are born. Reading other people’s recipes and ideas is a great way to get started, but once you start to become more comfortable with raw foods, don’t be afraid to go off the main path and try out something you think might be delicious!

4. Plan Ahead    

The first few weeks of my raw journey, I realized that I was throwing away a lot of vegetables that had gone bad only because I hadn’t eaten them fast enough. In fact, I was buying more than I needed because I wasn’t really sure exactly what I would need when I went shopping; I bought a wide variety in order to be prepared for whatever I decided to make that day. While it’s nice to have things on hand, throwing away food is a sad way to lose the money spent on it. I started to compile a list of recipes that I wanted to make for the week, and shopped from that list only. That way my fridge is not overcrowded, I’m eating everything I buy, and most importantly I’m spending money only on the things that I need.
I also use the weekend to start soaking and sprouting, so that later in the week I have plenty of beans and sprouts to include in my meals.  When eating raw, it’s more important to know what you are eating two or three days in advance, because if you want to make a raw pizza, you might need more than a day to dehydrate the crust and make the cheese. But when you plan for those meals, making them is a lot easier and helps make the whole process feel like a lot less work.

5. Buy in Bulk

I’m a big fan of shopping the bulk bin section of my local health food stores. You can often get so much more product weight than you would in a conventional package for the amount of money spent. If I can’t find what I’m looking for in the bulk section, then I’ll head to the packaged section.  It’s helpful to compare the price per unit weight of the packaged version versus the bulk – sometimes the packages are actually the better deal. Most stores have a separate price listed on the tag that says how much a pound of a certain thing costs, or the unit price. When comparing this number to how much a pound of the item in bulk costs, you can see which one really is the most for your money. Buying in bulk might sometimes be more expensive since you’re buying more, but you have to restock less often, and you have larger quantities on hand for bigger recipes when you need it.

If you are interested in integrating more raw foods into your life, don’t let all the steps, pricey ingredients, and equipment deter you! Learning about new foods, different methods of food preparation, and planning meals ahead formulates a more personal investment in what you’re putting in your body, and helps to create a healthy, intimate relationship with food that is well worth any money spent on it.  You can go at your own speed, experiment to see what works best for you and your lifestyle and your budget. There are no Raw Foods Police holding you accountable if you don’t blend with a Vitamix, or sometimes eat organic beans from a can. In the end, any time and money spent on raw foods is an investment in your health, and any amount of effort you are willing to put into it will be repaid to you in happiness, energy, and self-confidence!

Nicole Labarge
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