Last edited: 23rd February, 2014
How to eat a raw food on a budget? This is a key question for me not only because I am on a small budget myself but also, because I think it is important that everyone should have an equal opportunity to benefit from the good health raw foods can offer. Eating raw can be extremely expensive if you make it so, after all it means using the freshest and cleanest food ingredients in the world.
It can also be extremely cheap. Perhaps not as cheap as eating beans on toast all day and every day but not much more expensive. And - in addition - the health benefits are worth gold, unlike on a beans-on-toast -diet!
I have to be honest, though. I have lived on a very cheap raw food diet and it is possible - as you will see in the diaries below. And I have experienced many health benefits, but challenges as well. You can read my diaries below and please comment - I am still searching for the cheapest healthy raw food diet and am making some progress. Hopefully these diaries will provide some ideas for you - and perhaps also information about the pitfalls to avoid. One of the reasons I definitely think makes it cheaper to live on raw foods is having plenty of micronutrients, which can make your calorie-needs less - at least it has done in my experience. And calorie-rich foods are generally the more expensive ones in our society. Check out my green juice fast experiment for more reflection on this and also Dr. Fuhrman's book.
I did a 100-day raw food experiment, where I ate 100% raw for a little over 3 months and logged every day's meals and how much they cost. On week 2, for example, I spent £6.42 per day on average (British Pounds). I set a goal to spend £5.47 per day but didn't quite achieve it...
In conclusion, I think it is fairly easily - and comfortably - possible to eat with as little as £3.50 per day while 100% raw BUT it will not satisfy the calorie needs of your body which may make you tired either straight away or in the long run. My 100-day challenge was to eat a healthy and balanced 100% raw food diet, while being comfortable and even indulging on pricier raw treats sometimes. The main objective was to strive for ultimate health and energy, the secondary one was to do so cheaply.
Why do I say one can comfortably eat with as little as £3.50 a day, even if it is too little food to stay healthy?
It is not that your appetite on raw foods goes down, although many may think so. It is because the cravings for foods that you are addicted to lessen and in fact, quickly disappear.
We tend to overeat low-nutrient foods, especially things like white pasta and white bread, because they provide processed sugars (fast releasing carbohydrates), which quickly spike up the blood-sugar levels, producing a feeling which many find enjoyable (a sugar-high).
Addiction to coffee and carbohydrates go hand in hand because both allow us to have several spikes of energy and focus throughout the day. Unfortunately this type of 'borrowed' energy also produces stress hormones and brings the body out of balance, leaving us exhausted at the end of the day, and ill in the long term.
And other stimulants, such as sodas, alcohol and cigarettes, which also provide 'borrowed-energy', add to the problem.
So certain cooked foods are addictive for various reasons and the normal symptoms of hunger: belly ache, light-headedness and weakness, irritability, inability to concentrate, etc., have to do with these various addictions and typically caused by, for example, sudden drop in blood sugar (caused by the sudden spike), caffeine slump, and body toxicity. Not to mention anything of additives, for example MSG which makes you want to eat more.
In my case, after about one week on raw foods (while drinking green juices, which help) these symptoms of addiction disappear and you get a feeling of real hunger instead. And real hunger is quite manageable. It is not an unpleasant feeling and it does not make you weak (in the short term). It is just a gentle reminder by your body (which is used to a daily routine you have trained it to follow) that it is time to eat.
Read my book review on Dr. Joel Fuhrman, where he talks more about 'real hunger'.
So to answer my earlier question: that is why it is possible to eat very little, in fact it is easy to eat too little, while being quite comfortable.
But there is a second reason too: In the modern world we typically eat nutritionally weak foods. But, when you eat nutritionally dense foods instead, it seems your body actually gets satisfied quicker - it recognises that its nutritional needs have been met - and you get a feeling of fullness, your body signals that it is satisfied.
Important to keep in mind, however, is that you have to eat huge amounts of nutritionally dense foods - a small salad with your normal meal won't make a difference in terms of your hunger!
[Later note: I noticed the reduced hunger during my green juice fast again. But as a general rule, I would say try two large bunches of greens (i.e. about a pint of green juice, which is mostly green but can include some apples or lemons) twice a day and see how that affects your calorie needs. Best to have this before meals, otherwise you will end up feeling too full and bloated.]
What is the right amount to eat, then, and should it be counted in calories or judged by feeling, or in some other way? I begun testing this idea during the 100-day raw food challenge and have been working on a clear answer since - this website will give you my full journey and conclusions as I find them.
Check the latest progress on ALL my trials here:
"My Raw Food Journey - How I Came to Know the Good Life"
What is the best, healthiest way to eat raw food on a budget? I will explain everything in detail once I have managed to make raw foods a permanent part of my lifestyle. I am currently learning and transitioning, and it may take a year or two before everything is clear. But I have already made lots of realizations, which I write about in my raw food diaries:
I provide my initial ideas on how to save money on a raw food diet here:
100-Day Raw Food Challenge, Raw Food on a Budget
For other ways to cheap and effective health, keep an eye on the Revolutionary Health page (30-day trials of various practices).
The natural health book summaries may be of interest too...