Trying a raw food diet will definitely cut your electric and gas bills as the oven and stovetop gather dust, but it’s not a surefire money saver. You’re typically using a large quantity of vegetables, fruit and nuts for each meal.
It might not be a time-saver, either — raw food recipes can be heavy on prep and require pre-soaking ingredients or using a dehydrator.
That’s not to say trying a raw food diet, which is based around uncooked and unprocessed plant foods, can’t be done cheaply. “I was spending so much money on produce, I finally decided to start my own garden,” says foodie Cyndi Monahan. “It’s been an incredible money saver.”
Farmers markets for produce and bulk bins for nuts can also be big cost-savers. Having an organized kitchen can help, too.
“Planning ahead and monitoring food in your fridge so it doesn’t spoil or get thrown out is an easy way to save money,” says Melanie Angelis, owner of TheGrecianGarden.com.
Eating more salads and experimenting with juicing are easy ways to increase your raw food intake, but sometimes it’s nice to have a heartier meal. So we also asked raw food fans for some of their favorite recipes for newbies to taste.
Here are 6 to try:
Superfood Tomato Soup
Jacqueline Fisch of BarefootEssence.com makes this soup in a Vitamix blender to gently warm it.
Cashews and chocolate make for a creamy filling in this recipe from nutritionist Valerie Orsoni, founder of LeBootCamp.com.
To make it, soak a pound and a half of cashews in water. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade, process one pound of almonds, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/8 teaspoon salt into a powder.
Gradually add ¾ cup chopped, pitted dates to form a paste. Press the paste onto the bottom of a greased spring-form pan for the crust.
In a small pot, mix two tablespoons agar-agar or unflavored gelatin with a bit of cold almond milk and bring to a boil for just a minute. Then set aside to cool down.
Strain the cashews and then blend together with one and a half cups almond milk, three tablespoons cocoa or raw chocolate, a half cup agave nectar, a teaspoon vanilla extract and two pinches of salt to obtain a smooth consistency.
Add three tablespoons soy lecithin, one cup coconut butter and the cooled agar-agar, blending until well incorporated. Pour mix into the prepared crust and refrigerate for about an hour, or until firm.
Carefully release the cheesecake from the pan. Garnish with grated chocolate or powdered cocoa.
“I love to make raw power bars I can bring with me as a snack on the go,” Monahan says. Blend dates, nuts, honey, and raw protein powder in a food processor, press into a glass dish and store in the freezer for about an hour. Cut into squares.
Zucchini Noodles with Chunky Tomato Sauce
Cutting the zucchini into strips creates a healthier take on a typical pasta dish, says Fisch.
Burger With Sunflower Seeds
They take more than four hours to prepare, but it’s the rare healthy burger, says Orsoni. Sunflower seeds’ unsaturated fatty acids “can reduce bad cholesterol in the blood, and increase good cholesterol,” she says.
In advance, soak seven sundried tomatoes, and in a separate bowl, one cup walnuts and one cup sunflower seeds, for four hours. Rinse and drain the walnuts and sunflower seeds. Drain the sundried tomatoes, reserving the liquid.
Place in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade, along with two-thirds cup mushrooms, two tablespoons shoyu, ¼ teaspoon salt, a third of a grated carrot, a teaspoon each of chili powder and Italian herbs, ½ teaspoon chopped garlic and three tablespoons olive oil.
Add a half cup of the liquid from the tomatoes and purée. Scrape the mixture down the sides as you puree, and add more liquid if necessary to form a paste. The mixture should be of a consistency to form into patties.
Measure out the mixture in quarter-cup increments and pat each portion down into a patty. Place onto a prepared dehydrator tray. Dehydrate at 145ºF for one hour and then reduce temperature to 115ºF until half dry. These hamburgers can be refrigerated for a few days.
Banana Ice Cream
“Many of my clients found the absence of sweets to be difficult when trying raw foods,” says Angelis.
The solution? An ice cream made of little more than frozen bananas, although you could also add chocolate chunks or cherries if desired, she says.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.