If you are on a budget and want to follow a raw-food diet, ask your local supermarket for free greens, grow your own herbs and use a lot of sprouted legumes
According to Victoria Boutenko, leading raw-food coach and author of Green for Life, 115 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which some vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients begin to disintegrate or wash out of the food. So, by staying below that temperature, your food retains its healthy compounds and contributes to your overall health. The drawback is that raw food can be very expensive – too expensive for many people. There are, however, ways to eat raw food without spending a fortune.
Buy Cheap Ingredients
The most expensive raw-food ingredients next to high-quality fish and meat are organic, tropical and out-of-season fruits and vegetables. In-season local fruits and vegetables are less expensive. Inexpensive food includes cabbage, non-exotic roots, melon, and legumes like lentils, beans and chickpeas.
Green cabbage goes a long way for very little money, and it is delicious when shredded and mixed with shredded carrot and raisins. Melon is usually cheap relative to the quantity of fruit you can get for the same price, and can be used in smoothies and fruit salad, and, if you add a slice of cured ham, as an extravagant appetizer.
Like meats and fish, legumes are rich in protein. However, legumes are not digestible if left unprepared. One of the best ways to prepare legumes raw is to sprout them. To do this, pour them into a ventilated jar and keep them damp. Rinse frequently to prevent them from getting moldy. Sprouting time is between one and five days. Going to local farmers is another way to find cheap produce. Some farmers allow you to pick your own fruits or vegetables at a highly reduced price.
Buy in Bulk and Share or Store
Vegetables and fruits quickly lose their freshness and nutritional value. So buying vegetables and fruits in bulk from wholesalers or at local markets may not seem like a good idea. However, you can avoid food going to waste by sharing with other raw-food eaters or by finding good ways to store food that you cannot use immediately.
Karen Knowler suggests freezing vegetables and fruits like speckled bananas. Many stores sell speckled bananas at a greatly reduced price because they need to get rid of them. Buy them and freeze them. Frozen fruits are easy starting points for cold smoothies and sorbets, as you don’t need to add ice.
Another way to store food for later is to dehydrate it. Use a dehydrator, which blows low-temperature air on the food. You can also cut the food into small pieces and spread it out on a plate. Place the plate in the sun for several hours. Pickling or curing is another good way to make food last. Curing vegetables for a few hours in vinegar, spices and seasoning can make them last for months in the refrigerator.
Grow Your Own Herbs
The cheapest way to get raw herbs like mint, basil, thyme, chives, lavender and parsley is to grow them in your own garden or inside on your windowsill. For growing indoors, buy small herb plants from a nursery. Plant them in a large container in soilless potting mix. Don’t water them too often, and don’t trim them too much. Some trimming is necessary, or they will become flowery and bushy.
Get Free Greens From Your Local Supermarket
Boutenko shares many tips for reducing the price of raw food in her book Green for Life. She recommends that you ask a local supermarket that sells fresh produce if you can select some of the greens that they throw away when they prepare their vegetables for sale.
These include the greens of carrots and other roots, and the thick stalks of broccoli. The greens of roots can be used in green smoothies and dips. The thick stalks of broccoli are edible if you cut off the outer layer. The inside of the stalk tastes a bit like raw green asparagus, and can be used for dipping or blended with other greens.
Look for Free Foods in Nature and Your Neighbors’ Gardens
Depending on where you live, you can sometimes find raw food in nature. Herbs like rosemary and mint often grow wild in grassy areas. Edible mushrooms and berries can be found in forests. Some wild flowers are edible and delicious in smoothies and deserts. Educate yourself on poisonous things found in nature, and avoid them.
If you are not an expert on living food, you may be able to collect free fruit from people’s gardens in your neighborhood. Most people with apple, pear or plum trees will be thrilled to have you pick up the fruits that have fallen to the ground for free. They may even pay you to do it. Sort them later. Some of them will be ripe and edible.