FRUGAL CHOICES: Raw Food Lifestyle

You have to eat, right?  And you want to keep raw, or as raw as possible.  And, you’re on unemployment? In grad school? In New York City?  Sheez!  It can be difficult to get food to eat, especially if you are among the working (I just checked out food stamp guidelines, and  –in New York City– you have to make less than $30,000 for a family of four to get food stamps.  I’m wondering if they think we are all living in boxes under the bridge – at $30,000, even if you live in a relatively low-rent neighborhood, you can barely pay the rent, much less buy food, and forget about clothes to wear to that job you’re doing.  For sure, you cannot afford drink anything other than water, and it’s a good thing you quit smoking – there’s no way you could budget that.)

So, you’re on a budget, and you still want to stay raw.  What options are there.

Food Pantries exist, and they are free, and they might not ask you for credentials from God, but…. they rarely have raw vegetables.  They usually offer the kind of things you might find in a “pantry”, i.e., staples like pasta, and canned foods.

CSAs are appearing in communities all over the country.  In my experience, they offer fresh, local, organic vegetables and fruit for a highly reasonable price – my CSA delivers for 6 months (24 weeks), and, if I get both vegetables and fruit, it costs a little under $700.  That is a hefty one time sum, and, unfortunately, it has to be completely paid before the season starts.  Still, over 6 months, the cost-per-week works out to about $25 – for a goodly supply of *organic* vegetables– and I only have to supplement nuts and seeds and beans if I want to make sprouts or cheezes, and, the occasional avocado, and cabbages to make my sauerkraut.  (I’m saving right now so that I can get my share paid before May.)

Greenmarkets are all over New York City.  (I would imagine that they are available in other cities, too.)  It is like having a country roadside farmer’s market right here in the city.  The prices are usually much better than those in supermarkets, the vegetables and fruit are local, , and you can often find things that never make it into either supermarkets or organic food stores.  (My link is for year-round greenmarkets, but there are others in the city which are open only for the summer fall season – google greenmarkets nyc)aveat: greenmarkets are generally cash only.

Food coops are often cheaper than regular organic markets, and even cheaper than supermarkets, sometimes.  If you become a member of a food coop, you must pay a membership fee, and then volunteer a few hours a week as part of your membership responsibility.  In exchange, you get steep discounts on the products  sell.

Then, too, there is comparison shopping.  Look at the organic markets you know of  and are willing to go to, and begin to compare their prices.  If it is worth it to you, i.e., you have the time and are willing to put out the effort, shop at several different stores to get the best-priced items.  (there is one organic store I always check because they put slightly old vegetables and fruit on sale at good prices – you cannot anticipate, but just check in every so often.)

Beyond all this, I suggest that you make a shopping list and stick to it.  Wherever you go, just get those things (unless, of course, you see something you almost never see and really love – my downfall is a particular mushroom – I can’t remember the name, but I know what it looks like, and, if I see it, if I have enough money, I know I am going to get it.)

When you make your list, figure out the things that you really must have to feed you and your family, and get those.  Take note of seasonal vegetables (which are usually cheaper), and get those when they are in season.  If your finances allow, then you get things that are nice to have.  Make a separate list of those, and get them if your finances will allow. (i.e., I dearly love mushrooms, and I make all sorts of dishes with them, but the ones I want are generally sort of expensive, so I don’t get them often.)

Try to get things that you can use several times in the week, or that  you can make into dishes that you can eat the next day as well.

I’m lucky because, years ago, I saved up and bought a dehydrator, so, when I have food that I cannot eat before it goes bad, I dehydrate it, and remember to use it again soon in another dish.  My dehydrator also helps me take advantage of seasonal vegetables– for example, when tomatoes come in in the summer, I can get a lot of

them and dehydrate them to have sun-dried tomatoes all year.

If you cannot find a good inexpensive source of organic vegetables, then go with non-organic vegetables, to stay raw.  Observe, if you can, the list of vegetables and fruit which you should eat only if organic .

The last suggestion I have is to use more sea vegetables (seaweed).  In organic markets, you can often find it in bulk, which  is good because the dried product does not weigh much.  I’m very fond of “wakame”, because it swells up  to about 5 times the original volume when you soak it, and it makes a nice salad, and can be combined in other dishes, stays well in the cabinet, and, most importantly, it is  really good for you.  Arame and hijiki are also good (they look a little like pasta), and they can be soaked and eaten uncooked.

These are some of the things I have learned in the past, and found myself having to apply in the past few months.  I hope they will help you find your way.
If,  by some chance, you lose track of this post, all of the links are also in the heading of my blog.


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