Everyone is always yakking on about how expensive it is to eat healthy, most of the time its people who use it as an excuse. I would know, I used to! I think that really, if anyone, at any income level, wants to commit to a healthy lifestyle, they can. I know this because, as a student, I've lived with a very restricted budget and have been able to eat a high crab raw vegan lifestyle with good planning.
So what exactly is it that I do?
First and foremost, set a budget. Knowing exactly how much you can and want to spend on food is really important so that you can plan out your week's worth of food. I've set this as low as $50.00 a week and had more than food t satisfy my minimum of 2500 calories a day. Was it difficult? You could say that is just required much more planning, and more mono eating. But in reality, mono eating is ideal, so that didn't bother me one bit! I would say that my average spending for food would be $50-$100 a week at conventional grocery stores.
Second, do some research. Nowadays electronic sales flyers are really popular and you can get them directly sent to your email every week. With a limited budget, the best way is to buy the fruit that is on sale. Also, on't forget to check the discount rack! I've found masses of perfectly ripe bananas and other fruit and veggies for a fraction of the price. Another good idea that makes living on the cheap even easier is finding a wholesaler, which I hadn't been able to do at the time. Don't forget farmers markets in the warmer months!
Bananas will be your staple, at under $20.00 a case, they are usually the cheapest and most accessible calorie source you will find. Dates, when in season, are also a great idea. This also means that you will be eating with the seasons, since what's in season and abundant, is usually cheaper. As an example, I literally lived on citrus this past winter, it was amazing quality and super affordable.
Living on the cheap also means that unless you find a good wholesaler or farmers market, you will probably have to stick with conventional produce depending where you live and whats available. A great thing to look up for this purpose, are food co-ops. They have great buying power and can usually get you amazing prices if there is one in your area. You could even start up one if there aren't any already!
I also find that when I ate basically the same every other day I could still have variety every week while buying in bulk which saved money. So I'd have a simple salad every night that has almost all the same ingredients, but changing it up with spices or herbs (if you choose). Personally I can eat the same salad for a week and just change it up after wards. As for fruit meals, the bananas usually are always there, unless I'm feeling something else that week, and those are easy to keep interesting. You just have to prepare them in different ways: whole, smoothie, mashed, nice cream... The frozen fruit plays a vital role here as well, providing different flavor combinations. I like having at least 3 types of fruit for the week, always the best quality ones I can find, in season of course! This means oranges, persimmons, dates, pomegranates and other citrus in the winter. Mangoes, pineapples and the last of the citrus in the spring. Melons, stone fruit, berries and cherries in the summer. Grapes, apples, figs, dates and pears in the fall. With some fruit crossing over seasons, transition time is usually easy as well. This isn't even getting into greens and veggies which are amazing and are also something to cycle.
One thing that did take me time to get to this point is knowing how to cycle your fruit to always have ripe fruit ready to eat while avoiding any waste. I very rarely have any fruit go bad so no throwing money to the compost bin. This is something that you have to figure out for yourself, to see what works for you as an individual or a household.
This is an example of what I would buy for a week's worth of food in the winter/spring:
- One case bananas, $18.
- Small case oranges, $12.
- 2 cases Ataulfo mangoes, $14.
- 6 pack romaine hearts, $5.
- 2x 11 oz baby greens, $5.
- Case tomatoes, $10.
- Assorted frozen fruit, $10.
- 4 avocados, $4.
- Lemon, limes, ginger, assorted, $7.
I also always have backup dates or raisins, which I buy about once a month (about $20 worth) so that I always have available calories around. I always eat at least 2500 calories a day with this, looks like something like this:
Breakfast: 10 large bananas with 2 cups frozen strawberries (1300 cals)
Lunch: 1L OJ with 4 mangoes, blended. (900 cals)
Dinner: Large Salad (500cals)
TOTAL: 2700 calories
Basically, if you really want to do this, you can. There are very little barriers to it. Even transitioning in with rice and potatoes as evening staples keeps it very inexpensive. I spend MUCH less money now eating raw than I used to being a cooked vegan before I found 80/10/10. I'd say that high carb cooked raw vegan is comparable though and depending on what you eat, can even be more inexpensive.
People who spend a ton of money being "healthy" are usually the ones going after super-foods and supplements including specialty foods. These things can run up your grocery bill in no time at all and quite frankly, for most people, they are not essentials. All fruits and veggies are super foods in their own right, labeling one as such and selling it for high prices is nothing but marketing ploys from corporations looking for profit. That being said, if you want to live off expensive imported fruit, then yes, it makes for a more expensive lifestyle.
Keep in mind, this is also in Canada. In the summer, I spend less. In countries that grow their own fruit, this lifestyle can be even easier to live on with a restricted budget including the US.
This is just a guideline. Those who need to eat more or have a bit more to spend can definitely find more variety. Buying with others is also a great idea because you can get half cases of different fruit, if that's what you need to succeed. The bottom line, it doesn't take much to be able to do this. Period. You just have to want it badly enough to commit to planning.
Keep it fruity!