Raw Vegan On A Budget

One thing I hear a lot of people say is that being raw is too expensive. Wait– I hear people say being VEGAN is too expensive! That last one is ridiculous, people, and you have to know it. In college way back in 2000, I ate a normal vegan diet and lived off of $25 a week. NO LIE. How? Because I just ate vegetables, rice, and beans. And before you scoff at those ingredients as boring, know that I made them into awesome soups, pastas, wraps, and other yummy dishes. All whole foods. Cheap.

People look at all these packaged vegan products like veggie burgers and veggie cheese and of course that stuff adds up. Just like an omnivore diet, the costs can get high. But when you eat whole foods, and you shop at the right places, it can be super cheap!

Now raw vegan is another thing. Yes it can be expensive. Especially when you shop at Whole Foods. Jesus, have you been there lately?! Those prices are down right criminal. I just can’t anymore. I always feel angry after I check out.

Maybe you don’t have a Whole Foods, but you probably have another market that charges $6 for cauliflower. You must not shop there if you want to save money! There are other ways.

As I mentioned before, I lived very cheap in college. Well, it didn’t stop after I graduated. When I finished school, I moved to L.A. where the rent is double what I was paying back home. I was so broke for several years, so I had to get creative in another city all over again, keeping my food budget very low in order to pay what we call “the weather tax” that is the high expense of living in Los Angeles.

Now my life is pretty secure. I’m not struggling financially, but I do save most of my money for travel. I take about four trips a year and I have to budget accordingly. I can’t be spending $400 a month on food, so thankfully, I’ve carried all my money saving skills into the present era. Let me break down what I do so you can stop using this lame excuse to eat garbage.

Go where the restaurants go…

Shop at ethnic markets. 

Every city has them, even the small ones. In Los Angeles, we have a ton. Korean, Mexican, Jewish. I was so happy when I moved here, because unlike Jacksonville, there were several options. But even in that smaller city I once lived in, we had a Vietnamese market and a Middle Eastern market.

Ethnic markets often have the cheapest prices in town. They don’t typically have organic, but if you’re trying to save money, organic isn’t always an option anyway. Just make a wash of water and vinegar and give them a good scrub. Maybe avoid the dirty dozen fruits if you can.

Shop where the restaurants shop. 

In college, I found out about this “farmers market” that ran 7 days a week downtown under a bridge (seriously). It wasn’t a fancy farmers market where you get all dressed up and take selfies while holding a basket of flowers. This was a real farmers market where all the restaurants in town got their goods. And the prices were C H E A P. This place saved my vegan ass all through college!

There was even an Asian market where I could get cool things like lemongrass. Do a search and find out where the restaurants go and then see if you can shop there too. You’re bound to save a lot of money.

Ethnic markets also sell interesting produce!

Shop at bulk stores. 

When you go raw, you tend to make big smoothies, giant juices, and humongous salads. Buy bulk! You save so much money!

Some bulk stores that come to mind in the States are Costco, Sams, and Smart and Final. The best part about these places is they usually have an organic section.

Plan your recipes ahead of time. 

This is so important when you’re on a budget. What happens when you go shopping without a plan? Ever go to Target for mascara? Has anyone ever NOT spent $100 at Target when all they wanted was a tube of mascara??? It can’t be just me.

So take a few moments and decide what you’ll eat this week. Smoothies? Salads? Zoodles? Do you want to try a new recipe? Buy the ingredients and write them down on a list. ONLY BUY THOSE INGREDIENTS.

Homemade crackers with almond pulp

Simplify your meal plan. 

This has been the best thing for me. My daily diet typically revolves around three things: smoothies, juices, salads. I don’t do fancy dishes unless it’s the weekend. I’m too busy with other things during the week and I don’t want to spend time making a fancy dinner. So I figure out what ingredients are needed for those three things and I buy enough to get me through most of the week. I say most of the week, because with raw food you want it fresh, so I usually have to go back to the store once more. Hey- this is just part of the lifestyle. Better to accept it 🙂

Try having your groceries delivered.

If you find it way too hard to control yourself for buying extras, why not do your meal planning and let someone else shop for you? We use Instacart where I live, but these services are popping up everywhere now. There’s usually a delivery fee, but it may help you save money in the long run since there’s no temptation to buy extra things. Just make sure to leave notes for your shopper about substitutions. Sometimes they end up getting something that’s more expensive than the item on the list and that just defeats the whole purpose here…

Homemade wraps are waaaayyyy cheaper

Make your own crackers and breads. 

Have you seen the prices of those pre made raw wraps and crackers? Holy moly! They don’t even taste as good as homemade. So ridiculously expensive! Invest in a dehydrator. Yeah, you’ll spend money at first, but do you really want to spend $10 for a pack of 2 wraps that taste like cardboard? No. Me neither. Here’s a good one I love.

Make your own cheese and chocolate. 

While we’re on the subject, make your own cheese and chocolate too. It’s really not that hard. You can do the whole fermenting method if you want, but the quick versions are just as good. Here’s my recipe for ricotta that works as a spread on crackers too.

Chocolate is easy to make. You have to invest in some raw cacao butter, but it’s worth it because it lasts a long time. Here’s my favorite brand. A google search will get you lots of recipes.

Grow your own sprouts. 

Here’s another item that’s SO beneficial and SO DAMN EXPENSIVE. Really Whole Foods? $6 for some alfalfa sprouts? It’s really so easy to grow your own! My favorite kind to grow is lentil sprouts. Alfafa is really easy too. All you need is a mason jar and one of these mesh lids.

Homemade cheese

Make your own nut milk. 

You should do this anyway, because what the heck are those weird ingredients listed on the commercial brands? And it’s so easy. One bag of raw almonds is one pound and costs no more than $7. I soak 1/2 a cup over night, blend in a blender with four cups water, strain through a nut milk bag, and voila. Homemade nut milk. You can sweeten it if you like or add a pinch of salt. It’s great!!

Juice with the same nut milk bag. 

You’ll make way more juice if you make it the same way as nut milk, minus the soaking. Here’s a video I made to show you how. Using a juicer wastes so much food. When you’re saving money, you’ll want to cry when you see all that wet pulp still sitting in the juicer bin. This nut milk method gets you a ton of juice. Try it and see.

Soak ’em, then sprout ’em.


So there you go. Those are my secrets to eating well on a tight budget. If you have any other tips, I would really love to hear! It’s always helpful to learn ways to save money. Also, if you haven’t downloaded my free 3-day meal plan, you can get it here.

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I've been a vegetarian since I was 16 years old. Vegan on and off for about 15 years. I committed to make the switch to Raw Vegan about 4 years ago when I was 34. I want to live the rest of my life easily, healthily, youthfully, and PAIN FREE! I hope I can inspire you to do the same.

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