18-Day Raw Food Challenge on a Budget

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I undertook an 18-day raw food challenge in July 2011 in preparation for the 100-day challenge. You can read a summary of my findings on this page. To see in detail what I ate and how much I spent each day, visit the food diary links below:

Week 1, average daily spend: £9.70
Week 2, average £6.71 per day
Week 3, average £7.14 per day

The total spent on food and drink during the 18 days raw food diet was: £143.40 ($226.41, €164.04).

This gives a daily average of £7.97 ($12.58, €9.11).

My weekly spending ranged from £47 to £68 per week ($74-107, €54-78).

My daily expenditure on raw foods was between: £3.42 and £29.72 ($5.40-$46.92, €3.91-€34.00). (The £29-day being when I ate out at a raw restaurant.)

The projected monthly expenditure continuing to eat like this would be £243 ($384, €278) per month. This figure is for one person (small female) living in London where costs are quite high.

(Please note that because of the exchange rate and the Northern European capital location, the food prices are a lot higher than those in the USA or other parts of Europe, for example.)

I will try to improve on these figures during the next challenge. Also, if you find that you still can't afford to eat raw, my advice would be to at least partly eat raw, by including some raw meals in your daily schedule, e.g. a raw breakfast every day.

Also, I would be interested in publishing your views on how other countries/ cities compare with these costs.

What I Learned from the Raw Food on a Budget Challenge

What I learned and how I will improve during the 100-day Challenge...

As I am just getting used to the raw food diet and am still in the experimentation phase - what can I afford, what kind of food I enjoy, how to organise my eating in practice and what kind of food does my body thrive on - keeping this diary for 18 days proved to be extremely useful. I would encourage everyone just trying out raw foods to do the same.

The key challenge I found was that I started to get very tired and demotivated on day 13. Looking back at what I ate I think I either didn't get enough calories or ate too many fatty and heavy foods. This may sound like a contradiction but it is possible to get majority of calories not from fat (say, nuts and avocados) but from carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, sprouted millet and fruit, for example). Fruit was nearly non-existent in my diet, which partly has to do with the fact that I live in Northern Europe where the quality of fruit is not great for a large part of the year.

A definite improvement during the 100-day challenge will be to ensure eating enough fruit and trying to calculate calorie percentages to ensure plenty of glucose and carbohydrates from fruit.

Although many raw foodists occasionally include organic wine in their diet, I found during my test trial that drinking alcohol makes me crave heavy, starchy foods on the day, as well as the day after. Thus during my 100-day challenge I will not be drinking any wine or alcohol, as they seem to make enjoying the raw journey much more difficult. Also, the cost implication of drinking alcohol is considerable and as I am after the ultimate feeling of well-being and energy, drinking alcohol would definitely be a notable hindrance. At least for me personally.
Having said that, the adverse effects from drinking do seem to lessen while eating plenty of raw foods for a length of time. It may well be possible for others to feel that some organic (and raw) alcohol fits well with their healthy lifestyle.

Not drinking alcohol; eating more fruit for carbohydrates, glucose and calories; drinking a juice with at least one bunch of greens (ideally two) every day; and reducing the fat intake should provide me with much more energy during the 100-day raw food challenge.

Also, I recently had a blood test done on the NHS to determine my iron levels and although the levels came back as 'normal', I found out that my ferritin levels were far from ideal: 26 µg/L. ('Normal' range for women being: 12-150 µg/L.) I did some research on this and found out that the ideal ferritin levels would be 50-70 and above, whereas levels below that would always make a person tired and unenergetic. Since this discovery I have started to take Floravital vegan liquid iron supplement, and it seems to have increased my energy levels significantly over just a few days. Thus I will definitely include this supplement into my diet during the 100 days as well, although it is not raw and presents an additional cost.

I found out that with a raw food diet it is easy to reduce the amount of food one eats because the feeling of hunger becomes very different and much more easily tolerated (see Dr. Joel Fuhrman for more explanation on this). Also, the high-nutrient food eaten seems to satisfy the body in a different way than a cooked diet does so, that feeling 'hungry' is not a problem anymore. It is more a feeling of having an 'empty belly' but without the craving for foods and without the inability to concentrate and the irritability, that normally come with hunger.

One caveat, though: one has to be very careful not to end up with an eating disorder: orthorexia, anorexia, or other conditions where the body does not get enough nutrients, first of all, but enough calories as well. There are some who claim that calorie-restriction is the ultimate road to longevity but - if it is true - this is not an easy route to travel while ensuring a wholesome, healthy diet. It takes a lot of work to get it right and I suspect that high nutrient intake (micronutrients) plays a crucial role in that.

Having said that, many also proclaim that eating too much is one of the worst things to do for one's health and that some feeling of hunger is natural and good for you. For example, "Dr. Hiromi Shinya" writes ( Enzymefactor.com/biozyme.php ):

"Most Important is to learn to enjoy a sense of feeling hungry. Feeling hunger is an indication of intracellular detoxification."

I guess fasting is based on the same idea. I support the idea of juice fast, where very high amounts of micronutrients are taken in, but would warn against water fasting. IF water fasting is, in fact, healthful, it is an advanced nutritional technique and to be undertaken only by those who have already achieved an advanced level of health through correcting imbalances in the body and mind, detoxifying the cells, removing stagnations in the body and being comfortable with incorporating a high level of movement in the daily life.

So back to budgeting... During this raw food trial, I could have days where I would comfortably spend only £3-5 per day in total ($4.74-$7.85, €5.72-€7.89) on 3 meals. It is possible to spend very little money while sticking to raw food. Whether it is advisable, however, to eat this little, is a question.

There are convincing proponents of both camps in the raw food community. Tonya Zavasta's 'Quantum Eating' holds reducing the quantity we eat as key to an 'advanced raw lifestyle', beauty and longevity. She says, for example, that not eating is ultimately more enjoyable than eating. But she does also advice not to apply her principles before one has practised a raw lifestyle for some years and undergone various fasts to cleanse the body and increase the digestive strength. The reason she gives for why we can survive on so little food (she eats only between 7am and 2pm) is that our digestion gradually becomes more and more efficient at utilising food as our bodies are purified.

On the other side is equally respected and followed Dr. Douglas Graham, the inventor of the 80/10/10 diet, who maintains that a high-calorie lifestyle is a high-energy lifestyle, as long as the calories come from fruit. He coaches athletes who - quite obviously, it would seem - need plenty of calories during the day to fuel their bodies. Thus the '80/10/10 raw vegans' train their stomachs to be able to take in larger quantities of fruit than usual; a meal for them often consisting of something like one large watermelon or a 12-banana-smoothie.

Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between. I will definitely try to eat more during the 100-day challenge (more fruit) than I did during the trial, in an attempt to keep my energy levels up and also to keep me from losing too much weight. Especially for a woman it can be dangerous if one's body fat percentage falls too low, causing an imbalance in hormones.

Also, in true spirit of 'raw food on a budget' I will try my best to not eat out at raw restaurants during the 100-day challenge, as during the trial one meal at £23 distorted the figures quite effectively!

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