The raw food movement has been around for a while, but is quickly growing in popularity and curiosity. Celebrities like Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore are advocates for its nutritional and anti-aging benefits. Raw foodists believe that eating unheated, unprocessed foods in their natural state optimizes one’s health by keeping alive all nutrients and enzymes. For a recent grad who was used to eating pizza and burgers, changing how I ate took some effort, as processed and heated foods are far cheaper and more common than their raw counterparts. I decided to eat more raw food after watching the documentary Hungry for Change. After giving it a skeptical 30 days I noticed my skin looked better than it ever had, I was more energetic, my ravenous appetite no longer plagued me, and I had a greater knowledge of what I was putting into my body. It’s been a year and half now and I’ve also managed to save money in the process. Here’s how to eat raw on a budget:

  1. 60-80% Rule: Going 100% raw, while impressive, isn’t realistic for most people. Keeping your diet above at least 60% raw will help you enjoy the benefits of a raw diet and without completely transforming your kitchen.
  2. Salad-IFY: Produce can be inexpensive–stick to buying organic for the Dirty Dozen only. Buying produce at the farmers market might be more expensive than Trader Joe’s, but it will last up to 7 days longer. Fill your fridge with fruits and vegetables for varied, multi-colored and delicious meals.
  3. Go Nuts: Nuts and seeds are a staple in a raw food diet. They make great snacks on their own or made into nut butters, nut milks, “cheeses” or “meats”. Sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds are inexpensive options and packed with protein, essential fatty acids and other nutritional benefits. Although most nuts aren’t cheap, when you compare them to the cost of meat–it balances out.
  4. Hungry No More: Raw food is extremely dense, fibrous and filling. Think about how many more roasted almonds you can eat in a sitting as opposed to raw. You’ll end up consuming less, feeling more full and saving money.
  5. Finding Your Go-To’s: When I started to eat raw, I found it helpful to find a few recipes with inexpensive ingredients and minimal prep that I could always fall back on. These turned out to be a lot less foreign than I expected. Breakfasts, lunches and snacks turned out to be the easiest. Now, I like to make a big portion of my favorites and eat them over the course of the week. Salads, smoothies, juices, cold soups, chia pudding, zucchini noodles, are all great options.
  6. Invest In The Staples: Some items (chia seeds, cacao, nuts, raw honey, coconut, cardamom, goji berries) are a bit pricey but absolutely worth the money. In addition to being nutritional powerhouses, they make eating raw delicious. Choose a few that you use often or treat yourself from time to time. A blender, food processor, dehydrator and spiralizer are also really helpful if you want to experiment with raw recipes. Although, I’ll be honest, I’ve lasted so far without them.
  7. Buy In Bulk: Once you’ve found what you like to eat, stock up on ingredients you use over and over again. The bulk sections of the health food stores are great ways to save money on nuts, seeds, cacao nibs, dried fruit, etc. I’d probably be at Pizza Hut without it.
Now go out there and enjoy the clear eyes and skin, healthy weight, powerful immune system, and lost taste for processed foods without ever overspending at the grocery store. Your new fresh, cool, and clean cravings may surprise you in their affordability. Make sure to talk to a raw food specialist for the best ways to incorporate protein, fiber, iron, and all of our other nutritional requirements.
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