Six ways to eat raw without going broke

Is it possible to eat healthfully without breaking the bank?

This is a difficult question, and one that I’ve been preoccupied with since I began studying at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I’m the one who’s putting her hand up in class to ask, “But what do you do if you can’t afford that?”

Flax oil, coconut water, raw nuts, kelp noodles and the like are nifty, but my experience in the non-profit sector has shown me that not everyone has the choice of eating quality food.

The choices I’ve made

I’m fortunate that I have a choice, though over the years I have made many adjustments so I can have that choice. I don’t own a car. I have an old, hand-me-down cellphone. I wear my shoes until the soles wear down, and then I try to get them fixed at the cobbler. I buy simple, non-trendy clothing that will last. We eat at home a lot.

I’ve made these choices so I can afford to walk into a grocery store or go to the farmers market and buy nourishing, healthy food.

I’ve approached this raw food challenge with guns a-blazing. I’ve treated myself to luxuries like lucuma, gogi berries and vanilla powder. I want off these meds, and I’m willing to pay the price for food that will heal me.

The cost of disease

Besides, how much money have I spent on medication and health premiums? This year, after I left my job, I shelled out nearly $1,000 for health coverage, which doesn’t even cover 100% percent of the cost of my azathioprine. I still pay around $40 each time I fill a prescription.

I was going to calculate how much I’ve spent on pills and premiums over the last twelve and a half years, but I didn’t want to bum myself out. I’m sure the amount is obscene.

Six ways to eat raw without going broke

I’m glad that Jen understands the difficulty of buying organic, raw food. I believe in supporting local farmers and eating in season as much as possible, and she shares my values. When she put my meal plan together, it wasn’t mandatory to buy plenty of fancy ingredients or expensive tools. It was just simple, raw foods.

While eating the way I’ve been won’t necessarily save you money, there are ways to eat raw without spending an exorbitant amount. Here are some tricks that have been helpful for me:

1. Shop around. I visit several stores in my neighbourhood and buy items where I know they’ll be cheaper, rather than going to the shop that is most convenient. Does this take more time? Sure. But there can be huge price variances in the same items, even in stores that are down the street from one another.

2. Visit farmers markets. A recent US study showed that prices at farmers markets were lower than prices for conventional items at supermarkets. And organic items were 40% cheaper at farmers markets than at neighbouring supermarkets. I do most of my shopping at the local farmers market here in Vancouver, especially in the summertime, and my food bills stay steady.

I wouldn’t say that organic food is 40% cheaper at farmers markets than at regular stores, since Vancouver is an extremely pricey place to live. But it’s definitely less expensive.

3. Prepare meals at home. Buying ready-to-eat organic meals is expensive and it adds up. For example, a pre-prepared organic chickpea salad will probably cost you $5 or more, when you could make the same item at home for half the price.

4. Buy sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Organic nuts and seeds are often a raw foodie’s biggest expense. I can buy sunflower or pumpkin seeds for $7.99 a pound, whereas most other raw, organic nuts are twice that.

5. Eat in season. I used to buy fruit like grapes and berries all year long. Do I really need to eat berries in February? No, probably not. By eating in season, I save myself the expense, plus it makes berry season something wonderful to look forward to.

6. Eat simply. There are lots of ways to make delicious, gourmet raw food using exotic ingredients. But it doesn’t have to be like that. As I learned at the RAW Foundation, mouth-watering raw food doesn’t have to be complicated. You can use five ingredients and make a meal in five minutes. Besides, the less time you spend fixing meals, the more time you’ll have for other things.

How about you? What tips or tricks have you learned to eat healthy on a budget?

This post is part of a month-long series about exploring the raw food lifestyle. With the help of holistic nutritionist Jennifer Trecartin, I’m doing a 28-day raw food healing challenge to improve my Crohn’s disease. At the end of the month, I hope to transition off my medication, which I have been taking since I was 18.

Click here if you’d like to check out other posts in the series. And if you don’t want to miss a post, please consider subscribing to my blog, either my email (at the top right of this page) or in a reader.

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5 Responses to Six ways to eat raw without going broke

  1. Chris July 1, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    You make some good points but although eating raw and more specifically organic food can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Yes vanilla powder, goji berries, cacao and hemp seeds are quite expensive but steel cut oats, flax seeds and growing your own sprouts aren’t. Also by buying in bulk, you can save quite a bit. If that means going in with a few people to buy a case of truly raw almonds or a large bag of sunflower seeds it is worth it in the end. Hemp seeds are quite expensive but if you buy direct from manitoba harvest in bulk you can save quite a bit, they go on sale once in a while too. I like how you talk about the adjustments you made, because a lot of it is a shift in priorities. A lot of people go out to the bar, spend a lot on alcohol, fancy shoes, purses etc. but then complain that organic food is too expensive. By making it a priority to eat organic and in this case raw food, you do what it takes to make it happen, you make it a priority. It’s definetly nice to have the raw food specialty items like goji and cacao, coconut oil etc. but if you don’t make them a staple, but just something you have as a treat, raw food is definetly doable on a budjet with some planning and prioritizing.

    • Sondi Bruner July 1, 2011 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks, Chris, you are absolutely right. There are lots of ways to eat raw when you plan and prioritize. And one of the things I’ve learned over the last month is how to recognize what I need to eat, versus having the specialty items that aren’t vital but are a nice treat once in a while!

  2. Adventures in Dressmaking February 25, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    Great thoughts and tips! I second #4–I’ve also found that raisins and prunes are the cheapest dried fruits, if you eat those, so I throw them into brownies and such sometimes! I’ve been mostly raw for more than 2 years now and love it, but I am also very lucky to live in Oregon where we have Winco–Pacific NW chain with TONS of bulk foods. Raw sunflower seeds there are $1.78/lb, as are raisins, and “raw” almonds are $3.48/lb. They have low prices but you have to bag your own groceries–worth it to me!

  3. Katelyn June 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    “I want off these meds, and I’m willing to pay the price for food that will heal me.”

    I have Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, and I’ve been gluten, dairy, and soy free since last March. I’m in school, now living back at home, and I made the choice to change my diet after a horrible episode three months ago that left me out-of-commission for nearly two weeks.

    It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
    I’m off of my medication. I don’t have flare-ups in episodes that leave me bed-ridden for weeks at a time.

    Diet and lifestyle change. It’s such a foreign concept until you’re faced with it. I’m pushing towards a more raw-based diet. God, I’m happy with my choice.

    Two points for health.


    • Sondi Bruner June 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

      Hi Katelyn – thanks for sharing with us. I’ve never even heard of that syndrome! It’s amazing what diet and lifestyle can do for us. Glad you are well, and I wish you plenty of health in the future.