How-to Raw Vegan on a Budget

I often get asked where I shop and how I find good deals on quality fruits and vegetables. Where I shop and what I buy depends on where I’m living or visiting at any given time. Availability, variety and cost varies depending on location. But here are a few of the methods and tips I use: ⁣

1) Discount grocery stores. These don’t exist everywhere, but here in central PA there’s a whole bunch of them—basically stores that sell the overflow or abundance they receive from chain grocers. Think a second hand clothing store--but for food. 

2) If you don't have a discount grocery store near you, the next best option is somewhere like Aldi, or a Grocery outlet--even somewhere like Walmart--these are places where you can get cheaper-than-Whole Foods-options. If I'm on a budget (which I always am to one degree or another) I never buy all my produce at Whole Foods. I use Whole Foods to supplement--to get those items I can't get at other, more affordable stores. If I do shop at Whole Foods, its always my second stop, never my first. Seriously, consider this! I know some people that are too proud to shop at Walmart or even Aldi's (or whatever the equivalent of those stores are where you live). Don't be like those people. What do you ultimately want--extraordinary health without spending your entire paycheck on food, OR to be seen as whatever type of person it is that shops at Whole Foods? Honestly, one time I got some of the best mangos I've ever had in my life at Walmart. Don't underestimate it! 

3) Farmers markets. Not all farmers markets are created equal. Some are ritzy and fancy and not where the good deals are at all (though I do love a bougie farmers market too!), but some farmers markets have an absolute abundance of fruits and vegetables for incredible prices! ⁣Seek out those markets that might be lesser known, maybe on the outskirts of your town or city. There might just be a hidden gem out there! When you do find a great farmers market try one (or both) of these tactics:

A. Shopping late. So one of my strategies for good deals is to go to the farmers market near closing time. Most farmers or stand owners don't want to pack up all the produce they didn't sell and are sometimes inclined to offer some great deals towards the end of the day. 

B. Buy A LOT. Like a wholesaler, farmers market stands are often inclined to offer discounts or deals when you buy bulk. So I will ask the stand who has, say boxes of bananas available for $17, "what kind of a deal could you give me if I bought 5 boxes of bananas?" (This is also fun to do because the looks on peoples faces when you ask to buy an absurd amount of fruit is hilarious. Lol). Sometimes they won't offer a deal if they think they are going to sell all their boxes of bananas at the current asking price. BUT if they doubt they're going to unload all their fruit AND it's later in the day (making it less likely they'll sell out) they just might cut you a deal. It's certainly worked for me many times--don't be afraid to ask (in a friendly manner of course!). 

C. Making a deal as a repeat customer. There's been times where I've befriended a favorite farmers market stand and asked: "If I show up here every week, this same time, for this exact quantity of (whatever it is), what kind of a deal could we make?" A guaranteed sale--especially a substantial sale--will often sway someone into cutting you a deal. Again--it can't hurt to ask! 

4) Befriend your local farmers. You can do this at farmers markets or post on community groups in your area (Facebook is great for finding these groups!) asking about prices for large quantities of fruit/veg. You can often get amazing deals when you work directly with the farmer and buy large amounts of food! ⁣Seriously; just approach someone at a stand at your local farmers market and ask them what it would cost for you to go to them directly and buy a case of tomatoes on a weekly basis (or whatever they sell and you want). It never hurts to ask! 

5) Shop discount racks at your local grocery stores. They are often hidden in the back corners of produce departments but can be hidden gems when you find them! Often the fruit is discounted because it’s “too ripe” but really it’s perfectly ripe and half price! Go on a hunt for them in your local grocery stores. They're worth seeking out. 

6) Seek out a wholesaler in your area. You can get cases of bananas, greens, mangos, etc at wholesale prices. If a whole case of bananas seems like too much just throw what you can’t eat fast enough in the freezer and you’ll have frozen bananas for smoothies for a long time. If you can't eat an entire case of whatever-it-is, maybe find a friend who will split a case with you. You can't beat wholesale prices, so it's well worth at least trying to find a wholesale dealer in your hometown. 

6) Grow a garden! Even just a few potted plants of tomatoes or fresh herbs can save you a lot of money! ⁣Most sprouts are so easy to grow, and only require a few seeds and a jar to grow in. Microgreens are also mostly simple to set up and grow and also save a lot of money as well! Not to mention the quality and taste of homegrown is always better! 

7) There are apps like "Flashfood" that sell heavily discounted fruits, vegetables, and other food that is nearing its sell-buy date. Their mission is to help combat food waste. I've used Flashfood to get entire boxes of fruits and veggies for just a couple dollars! This company isn't everywhere. They originated in Canada and have been spreading across US grocery stores for the last couple years. You can look it up and see if there's a Flashfood fridge in a grocery store near you. And if not, do some research and see if there's a similar company doing something like this near you. :)

8) Consider moving! Ok don't shut down--hear me out! There's no way around the fact that certain cities/states/places in the world are more expensive to live in than others, and offer certain benefits and other....not benefits. There are pros and cons to everywhere. If one of your top priorities is access to an abundance of fresh foods and where you live doesn't prioritize that, then a move might be the best option. We should all choose to live where we live based off our priorities: a person who loves snowboarding should live where there's snow. A person who loves surfing should live where there's great surf. A person who loves tech should probably live in Silicon Valley. AND a person who loves eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (and doesn't want to pay an outrageous amount for them) should probably live where they can get affordable fruits and vegetables. The bottom line is: what are your priorities? I currently live in Amish country, Pennsylvania. There are farms every direction I look. In the summer months I get the biggest seeded watermelons for sometimes just $3. I regularly spend less than $80 on my weekly groceries for myself and my husband. I'm living where it makes sense for my priorities. So, something to consider. :) 

So those are just a few of the things I do to afford eating a TON of fresh food at reasonable prices. ⁣Of course there are infinite options and possibilities. I just named a few of the main methods I've used over the years. If these options don't work for you, don't get defeated or discouraged. Continue exploring, researching, asking for help, and trusting there IS a way for you. 

Remember—where there’s a will there is ALWAYS a way. We don’t let obstacles or challenges derail us—we find a way to get what we want and need no matter what! 

Hope this helps! Stay healthy, all. ~Olivia 


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