Sushi is probably my favorite food, hands down. If I could eat it every day, I would. But there's something that stops me (other than the health risks of eating raw fish every day)—the cost. If you're a sushi-lover like me, you know the unique struggle of getting a quality spicy tuna roll for a decent price, especially as a college student.

Now, we all know that sushi hails from Asian cuisine (as far back as the 2nd century), and is most popularly associated with Japan. But did you know that sushi was only introduced to America in 1970? That's right, sushi has been in our country for less than 50 years, with California being the first state to embrace it (no surprise there). With this in mind, the ever-increasing cost of sushi in the US is that much more dramatic. According to the 2017 Bloomberg Sushinomics Index, sushi prices increased by 2.3 percent last year, compared to a general inflation of 0.9 percent. While it's nice to know that someone's keeping track of these ever-increasing prices, the real question is, why is sushi so expensive in the first place? 

There's no one answer to this question, nor is there any "official" answer, but here are some various probabilities. 

1. Location

beer, wine
Rachael Marks

Unfortunately, your sushi may be pricier just because of where you live. It's important to note that there is no set sushi price and costs fluctuate all throughout the country. The Sushinomics Index indicates that 2017's steepest price hikes were in Florida, Silicon Valley, and Washington DC, while New York holds the crown for most expensive basic sushi roll (consisting of 6 pieces) at an average of $8.72. Yikes.

2. Seafood Prices

salmon, seafood, fish, salmon fillet, Protein
Jocelyn Hsu

In Japan, sushi is made from local fish, while in the US, restaurants are more likely to import fish, which can get costly, meaning your sushi is more expensive in the end. Bummer.

3. Ambiance

If you've been to a sushi restaurant, you know that in many cases, it's about the experience rather than the food. As a result, you often end up paying for that said experience. Masa, located in NYC, is currently the country's most expensive sushi restaurant. This exclusive dining experience is not easy to attain, as the main location only seats 26 people (reservation only) and will cost you a whopping $595 for dinner (not including beverages and tax). But, you'll be happy to hear that Masa does not accept gratuity as it does not reflect Japanese culture. 

4. Quality

Have you ever seen a sushi chef at work? My homemade sushi would look like a chunky, uneven mess in comparison. Making sushi requires skill, precision, and time. In fact, in Japan, being a sushi chef is an honor and takes years to master the skills necessary. I love restaurants that have their sushi chefs in view of the customers so I can watch them do their thang. Because of the skill and patience required, restaurants can charge more for the service. 

5. The Market Allows for it

From personal observation, it seems to be that at least in the US, sushi continues to grow more and more expensive simply because the market allows it. Yes, there are justifiable reasons for sushi to be pricey, but let's be honest, any real sushi-lover will continue to buy sushi even with a price hike. Sushi has taken the United States by storm since its debut back in the '70s, and there's no going back. So, up with the prices.

Now that you've explored why sushi is as pricey as it is, let's look at ways to get around that. It can be tricky to find good sushi for an even better price. It's not as simple as opting for cheap supermarket sushi instead of dining out. You don't want to sacrifice quality just to save a buck, especially when dealing with raw fish. Here are some ways you can get sushi for cheaper without necessarily sacrificing the quality.

1. Look for Lunch Specials

sushi, seafood, avocado, rice, salmon, wasabi, fish, shrimp, tuna, eel, nori, cucumber, ginger, crab, roll, sushi roll, California roll, Take Out
Caroline Ingalls

There are many sushi restaurants that offer some form of lunch special during the week and make a big difference in how much you're spending. I'm from the Bronx and a local spot I like to visit is Sushi Q because of their amazing lunch special. I usually get the three-roll combination which comes with three rolls of your choosing and a soup or salad, all for $10.95. What a steal!

#SpoonTip: Check the restaurant's menu or call beforehand to know exactly when the lunch special is available. It's common for restaurants to not offer lunch specials during the weekend as well. 

2. Check out local eats

tea, beer, coffee, pizza
Sheon Han

Now, this may not be an exact solution depending on where you may live, but in many cases, you don't have to travel far for good sushi. In my case, I live in New York, where there are so many good sushi spots in Manhattan. But as Masa demonstrated, New York is also home to many sushi spots that will break your bank, so I often opt for places nearer to where I live, and I always save more money.

#SpoonTip: Google Maps, Yelp, and other review sites are a great help in finding local sushi spots that are of good quality and affordable at the same time. 

3. "All-You-Can-Eat" has a whole new meaning

sushi, platter, seafood, shrimp, tuna, rice
Megan Tang

All-you-can-eat sushi is the best thing ever invented. For a flat rate, you have access to a menu where you can order as much as you want, and it is glorious. Salmon rolls, spicy tuna, and California roll galore. I love these types of sushi spots. My local all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant Shangerila charges $22.99 Monday-Thursday and $24.99 Friday-Saturday, which is an amazing deal for all you can eat.

#SpoonTip: Be mindful not to eat with your eyes at these restaurants as they may charge a fee for excessive waste. Shangerila charges $13.95 per pound of food wasted. Just remember, it's all you can eat. Start small, you can always order more later.

4. Balance is key

Kimberly Kao

You don't have to ball out on the bougiest sushi spot in town, but you also don't need to settle all the time either. You may actually find yourself spending more if you continually buy cheaper sushi just to satisfy your cravings. Try splurging a little on a moderately priced sushi spot and cut out the cheap, unsatisfying sushi all together. You'll be happier and your bank account will thank you.

5. D.I.Y

rice, sushi, wasabi, fish
Katie Huang

If you're the kind of sushi aficionado who just has to eat sushi multiple times throughout the week, try making it yourself for a change. There are plenty of kits and recipes to make it as easy as possible. It will save you money, so you can splurge on the professionally made stuff. Learn to make your own cucumber avocado sushi in 15 minutes or learn to make this tuna roll if you have more time.

6. Consider Alternatives

sushi, rice, fish, seafood, salmon, tuna
Spoon University
vegetable, rice, meat, sauce, pepper, chili
Allie Yamashiro

Modern sushi has taken many forms today, so try shaking things up when you want to satisfy your cravings. Sushi Burritos have taken well to the sushi market because of their convenience and price, usually ranging from $8-$15. Poke bowls are also a great option. Think of it as deconstructed sushi, just with more seaweed. Depending on the location and your exact order, poke bowls can range from $8-$15+. There are also a few other creative ones, but they haven't taken to the whole country just yet.

Sushi is without a doubt a unique experience, but we don't always have stretch our budget to enjoy it. Cheap and sushi CAN go together, you just need to weigh your options. 

#SpoonTip: Check out "The History of Sushi May Go Back Further Than You'd Think" to learn more about how modern sushi came about.