July 22

How to Save Money on Raw Foods

Filed under Raw Vegan Lifestyle by Frederic Patenaude

The following is a short excerpt of my monthly Raw Vegan Mentor Club newsletter available in full for my members only. The full newsletter contains detailed charts on how to know exactly which raw foods are the best bang for the buck, and more tips to save you literally hundreds of dollars each month on your food bill. To sign up and immediately download the newsletter, along with over $1200 of bonus gifts (yours to keep no matter what), click here.

My first point is simple: there is no doubt whatsoever that a raw food diet costs more money than a cooked vegan diet, or even an unhealthy SAD.

You heard me correctly:

Eating a raw food diet does cost more money!

Before we get into the details of a very simple simple designed to save you a ton of money while eating raw foods, let’s examine why a raw food diet costs more money.

At first, it would make more sense to think that eating fruits and vegetables would save you money, because these foods are so easy to grow compared to the labor-intensive animal products.

The main difference that makes a raw food diet more expensive is calorie density. Fruits and vegetables are extremely nutritious, but have a low caloric density. That means that to get a certain number of calories you might need in a day, you need to eat more volume.

Every human being needs a certain number of calories every day to maintain his or her weight and energy. If you eat below that amount, you will lose body fat. If you eat above that amount, you will gain body fat. It’s a simple equation that works extremely well for weight loss, but is often underestimated.

Let’s say you need to eat 2000 calories a day (to pick an average number that’s easy to calculate). How much would it cost you to get those calories from typical foods?

As you know, rice, beans and potatoes are very cheap, especially if you buy them in bulk.

For example, a 50 pound bag of long-grain rice at Costco costs around $18. Once cooked, that will yield over 100 pounds of cooked rice.

Each pound of cooked rice will give you about 590 calories, so your big bag of rice for $18 will be enough for 59,000 calories, or enough for 29 and half days. So for less than $20, you can eat for an entire month.

Now you could say that no one could live on just rice. Point taken. How about adding some beans to the equation?

A 25 pound bag of pinto beans might cost around $14, if you know where to shop. Once cooked those beans will probably double in weight, at least. But let’s be conservative and double that to 50 pounds of cooked beans for that bag.

Each pound of cooked pinto beans will give you 650 calories, so your bag of pinto beans will give you 32,500 calories, or enough for over 16 days of eating, for just under $15. Combine half rice, half beans and you’ve got a diet that costs you less than $30 a month, or about $1 a day.

What about potatoes if you buy in bulk? Same deal. Your monthly cost of living only on potatoes will be just over $1 a day.

I know, I know, at this point you’ll argue that no vegan actually just lives on rice and beans, or potatoes.

But my point is that if you made the bulk of your calories these foods, you could get by pretty cheap, even if you added some extras like vegetables, salads and fruit.

Why do you think the rest of the world lives on staples such as rice and beans (Latin America), rice (Asia), potatoes (Peru) or millet and corn (Africa)? Because they are cheap, reliable, easy and relatively healthy sources of calories and nutrients!

Even if you didn’t buy in bulk, you could still get buy pretty cheap eating those foods.

Why a Raw Food Diet Costs More

A raw food diet costs more because most of the calories will come from fruit, or fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds. Greens must also be consumed, but they provide negligible calories.

As we’ve seen, a person still needs to get their calories. And if you’ve been following what we’ve been doing here at Raw Vegan, you know that the best source of calories in the raw food diet is fruit.

Now even if you got cheap bananas at 66 cents a pound, your daily cost for 2000 calories would still be $6.43 a day. That’s just under $200 a month.

That’s certainly not as cheap as the $30 a month it would cost you to live on rice and beans, but it’s not bad either.

If you decided to get lazy and get your bananas at Whole Foods, or live somewhere where bananas are expensive, and ended up paying $1.49 a pound for organic bananas, your cost for 2000 calories would be $12.78 a day, or $383 a month. Again, not too bad for a raw food diet.

However, nobody lives on just bananas! Raw-foodists also consume foods such as romaine lettuce, celery, nuts and seeds, exotic fruits, organic apples, seasonings, superfoods… which are all very expensive ways to get your calories.

Focus on Inexpensive Sources of Calories

The greatest way to save money on the raw food diet is to focus on inexpensive sources of calories.

In our examples, we’ll stick with a 2000 calorie diet.

First, we must acknowledge that variety is important, both for nutritional variety and the psychological satisfaction we get out of eating.

However, if you try to simply divide everything you eat in a certain number of fruits and vegetables, your bills are going to add up.

For example, cherries are great. In the summer, there’s nothing better than feasting on Rainier cherries.

However, they tend to be expensive, and $5 a pound for those cherries is usually a good deal.

A pound of cherries, once you take in account the pits, will give you around 250 calories. Your cost per calorie will be relatively high, as it would cost you $40 a day to eat only those cherries if you wanted to get 2000 calories.

Let’s also consider blueberries, which yield only 230 calories per pound. If you get them at $3 a pound (good deal), it will cost you $26 to feed yourself.

But as we’ve seen, cheap bananas — when they’re not even at rock-bottom prices, will cost you only $6.43 for 2000 calories.

If you buy oranges at Costco in bulk, it will cost you around $9.81 to feed yourself for the day, eating only oranges.

Avocados are usually $1.99 per avocado. You will need 7.22 avocados to get 2000 calories, so it will cost you $14.36 a day eating only avocados! (Note: This is NOT recommended!)

We could keep going but I think you’re starting to get the point.

Once you know which fruits are low in calories, and which fruits are high in calories, and which fruits are a great deal — you can focus on eating mainly those fruits that give you a great cost per calorie, and then supplement with other fruits for variety.

Don’t just blindly pick fruits at the supermarket. Look for the right deals, and know what’s going to bring you the most for the buck.

This was a short excerpt of my monthly Raw Vegan Mentor Club newsletter available in full for my members only. The full newsletter contains detailed charts on how to know exactly which raw foods are the best bang for the buck, and more tips to save you literally hundreds of dollars each month on your food bill. To sign up and immediately download the newsletter, along with over $1200 of bonus gifts (yours to keep no matter what), click here.

11 Responses to “How to Save Money on Raw Foods”

  1. Swayze says:

    Excellent point! Many people new to a low fat raw vegan diet just look at the price per pound of the fruit and don’t factor in the calories.

    For instance, most people would choose a pound of strawberries for $1.45 over just one ataulfo mango for $.91, thinking they are getting the better deal. However, the mangoes would actually be a better choice because one pound of strawberries is only about 145 calories (not including the inedible portions you’ll be throwing away) while one medium-sized ataulfo mango is about 100 calories.

    For a 500 calorie meal, you would have to buy 5 mangoes at $4.55 and 3.5 pounds of strawberries at just over $5. The amount would actually be a bit higher for the strawberries if you include the stems.


  2. Valerie Hernandez says:

    I can see now that I don’t have the income as a senior on a fixed income to follow an all raw food diet and get the needed calories to maintain me at 4’11” and 98 lbs. I don’t know the alternative. I don’t really want to rely on a lot of fats with cooked starches) beans, rice, etc., but what am I to do? I love fruit and would stick to it and greens, but I can’t afford it. I am a vegan, so calorie rich meat and dairy are out.

  3. Alex says:

    I was just thinking yesterday that this raw food diet I started 2-3 months ago is getting pretty expensive. I think my grocery bills doubled or more (from around $200-300 to $600-700). Just as I was thinking what to do, I saw the email linking to this article on my inbox. I think one reason of the cost is organic and buying at Whole Foods. Maybe, you can comment on that. Also, I noticed some typos in the article: “get buy” should be “get by”

  4. Luis Medrano says:

    Great point, getting to know the calories in your fruits and veggies is a great way to be more aware when purchasing from the markets. Also, using a tool like fitday.com for a while will give you insight into the caloric value of the raw food you are eating. Here’s another way to eat raw on less dough….grow it yourself! 🙂

  5. Katja says:

    Hi Valerie,
    try to be creative: if you have the opportunities, grow some yourself. Tomatoes, salads, also small fruit-trees can be grown in simple buckets/containers… if there is no garden/open soil.
    If you can not even find the space for this right where you live, try to find someone to share a garden with = someone who has no time /opportunity to farm the land he owns and is happy to have someone who does by sharing the harvest.

    Good Luck and Health, Katja

  6. Sparrow says:

    To add to what Katja said, you can grow about 7 pounds of greens in a cafeteria tray in your kitchen in 7 days. Start reading about microgreens and look at materials from the Ann Wigmore Institute (most of her books are given away for free on the internet by the Institute if you look around) and see if you can’t devote a corner of your kitchen to sprouting and growing greens. If you set it up well, you will never need to buy greens in the supermarket again (and greens are one of the most expensive parts of eating raw!) and can instead buy much cheaper seeds and grow them yourself, even in the dead of winter.

    I live below the poverty line (I’m on SSI and going to graduate school and taking care of a disabled man who doesn’t get government assistance and can only work a few hours per week) but manage to stay all raw because I grow what I can (and I don’t have a yard!) and look for the stores that sell bananas that are “going bad” for 19 to 23 cents per pound (they’re actually not going bad — they’re just beginning to fully ripen and be ready to eat! People are so silly about not wanting bananas with any brown on them because they’re not best to eat *until* they have brown on them!) I’ve gotten 23 pounds of bananas for $5 before when the grocery puts a lot of the older ones out. If I see a bargain, I grab them all up and peel and freeze (in glass jars or saran wrap) what I can’t eat before they go bad and then use the frozen bananas to make ice cream or let a few thaw and put them in a smoothie.

    I get a few other types of fruit to get some variety and buy my berries frozen (and still watch the price because I’ve learned that the prices on frozen fruit fluctuate seasonally just like the prices of fresh fruit.) I also drop by my local co-op to check the discount produce section because unlike the grocery stores that (except for banananas) put all their older produce in the dumpster in back (and immediately crush it with a compressor, or else I’d be back there pulling them right out of the dumpster again!) the co-op moves older produce to a discount section where I can often get organic produce for less than the conventionally-grown versions in the supermarket.

    I also sit on my local freecycle list (go to http://www.freecycle.com to look for yours) and watch for people asking others to come take extra produce from their garden or pick fruit from their trees. I watch for fruit trees when I go for my walks and sometimes people will put a sign out saying “free fruit” and sometimes you can see that the fruit is ripe and starting to fall off the tree and make a mess on someone’s lawn and you can just go knock on their door and ask them if they would like for you to remove the fruit for them. (it helps to be spry, so this might not help a senior citizen unless they were still in very good health. It also helps to have your own ladder.)

    One tip I haven’t tried yet but would like to soon is to find someone local who is familiar with edible plants and pay them to give you a foraging tour. Pay close attention to know which plants are safe to forage and which are too similar to poisonous varieties to trust yourself to identify. If you live somewhere with open land nearby that is legal to forage on (I do, but haven’t taken a foraging tour yet) then you can supplement your food during part of the year and get some good exercise at the same time.

    Hang in there and keep looking at your options and you will find there are more ways to get healthy food than you might have thought. For instance, have you considered looking for ways to barter for produce? Do you have a special skill you can use or teach in exchange for fruit and vegetables from someone’s garden? Barters like that can make winners out of both people!

  7. Laurie says:

    Sparrow – great post!

  8. Xenia says:

    Great Article Fred…

    Also wanted to add the living on just bananas and oranges ( theoretically), while about 10 times or so more expensive than living on just rice and beans, as you pointed out, is actually much tastier and more do-able than living on just rice and beans! ( unless one started adding spices, oil, onions etc to the rice and beans… )

    Sparrow, wow, you are a wealth of information and a very good writer… you should set up your own website! ( not kidding… )


  9. Greetings from Sunny Perth/Western Australia – the Lucky Country indeed when it comes to raw fruits& veggies! Thanks mainly to the Vietnamese market gardeners ( who came here as post-war migrants), we can buy very ripe fruits for a song! At the moment, it’s so-called winter ( plus 5-17 degrees Celsius), which means, fresh citrus galore, plus softest avocado, at 50 cents a piece, apples & pears, going for half a dollar per kilo..
    We developed the Yanchep Diet ( Youthevity.com) along the West Australian Government Health Department recommendations of “Eat Two & Five” a day, say:
    ‘tomAto’, ‘celery’, ‘carrot’,corn cob’, ‘cabbage’, ‘orange’, and ‘she’ll be APPLES’-
    which amounts to around ten dollars for a carton of seven kilos per week…
    Our main delights are Green Dream smoothies, made with simple clover , fennel or nasturtium leaves, or just the green, green grass of HOME!- literally- from the wild & therefore ‘fully automatic’garden – and we go ‘bananas’…Fruit- Paradise on Earth: PERTH! ( Hoping for Frederic’s visit, come Summertime, February!)

  10. louise says:

    hey sunny, I am from Perth where do you get your cheep stuff from?

  11. Hi Louise,
    Station Street Market, next to Subiaco train station, North of the tracks, seems to be frequented mainly by migrant customers; it’s the best- kept secret in Perth! Opens from Friday until Sunday ; welcome! The stalls with the 99cent special rripe fruit bags are opposite the baker’s, next to the little restaurant… It’s a small world, when it comes to finding raw food heavens on earth, thanks to Frederic!

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