Tips for Living Healthy on the Cheap

After coming clean about the $11,000 of credit card debt I racked up without really trying, I did a follow up post with some tips on starting to gain financial control. These two posts have been some of the most popular posts on Beth’s Journey, so perhaps I should switch to a debt blog instead of a weight loss one?! =)

Juuuuuust kidding.

It’s just funny because I think I am probably the last person on earth you want to take financial advice from, but because there’s been so much interest, it’s time for the next post of this series – a list of tips on saving money while still leading a healthy life.

It’s very easy to assume that eating well and exercising costs a lot much money, and if you don’t put a little time in, you shop at expensive health stores without a list, and you buy every new gadget for working out that you see on the internet, then yes, it can be expensive. However, with just a little thought and planning, you can still live a really healthy life and do it on the cheap. Here’s my top ten tips!

1.) Meal Plan.

I know. You don’t want to hear it, but I promise you – planning your meals will save you SO much money. And you don’t have to be as obsessive as I am with meal planning, you can just plan out 2-3 dinners a week to start and make enough for leftovers for lunch. Planning your meals will save you tons because you won’t be buying things you don’t need, you won’t be letting food go bad and throwing it away, and you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch… which brings me to tip #2.

2.) Bring your lunch to work. Every day.

Just do it. I’ve heard so many people complain about having no money, yet each day I watch them go out and buy their lunch. If you don’t feel like packing your lunch each day, bring in a loaf of wheat bread, a bag of salad, a pack of turkey or other deli meat, and you can eat that all week for lunch. Keep some whole fruit, a few cans of soup, and a bag of almonds at your desk for snacks. If bringing your lunch to work every single day is unreasonable for you, bring it 3-4 days a week and treat yourself to lunch out once or twice a week at the most. This one will add up big.

3.) Make coffee at home!

I used to buy my coffee out each day. Two coffees x $2 each = $4/day = $20/week = $80/month. Yikes! After I realized how much of a money suck this was, I bought this mug that I highly highly recommend. It keeps things hot or cold for HOURS, which is better than the Styrofoam cups you get from coffee places! It also saves me a lot of money each month (and allows me to control how much milk/cream is going in!)

4.) Take advantage of living social, groupon, and buywithme, but have your limits.

I found a really cool one recently called Zozi, which focuses on fitness/outdoor adventure deals for active people. Just be careful you’re not overbuying these things and purchasing deals you wouldn’t otherwise. I get lots of healthy restaurant deals, running store gift certificates, and other fitness deals to places I’d go anyways or exercises I’d purchase at full price. The best one I’ve gotten lately was $20 for 6 yoga classes right in my neighborhood! I’ve already been twice, have signed up for the other four, and am LOVING it. If you hate getting these emails, there are sites that aggregate all the deals for your area so you just have one email in your inbox with everything (like this one).

5.) Make healthy dates with friends!

Instead of going out to the bar for happy hour, invite one (or a few) friend over for a healthy date. Go for a power walk, a run, or work out in the gym if you have one, and then make a healthy dinner together. If it’s several friends, do a potluck and put each person in charge of one thing while you make the main dish (salad, veggie, WINE). You get to hang out with friends, be healthier, and save money. Check, check, check!

6.) Eat less meat.

I am not preaching here, I’m just saying – non meat sources of protein are WAY cheaper than meat, especially if you’re going for organic, free-range, or local meat. You can get a pack of organic tofu for under $2 which has 4-5 servings, whereas organic chicken will cost you closer to $8-$10 a pound. Beans cost around $1 for a pound and under $1 for a can if you’re not up for soaking them. Lentils are also a great meat replacer. If you’re a big meat eater now, just try doing a meatless dinner 1-2 nights. My Mexican Casserole or Lentil Loaf are two great examples of meat-free dishes where you won’t miss it!

7.) Check out your Local Parks and Rec.

This is pretty new to me, but a lot of cities and towns offer adult classes through their local Parks and Rec. I always thought most of the offerings were for kids, but they have a ton of things for adults too. The link to my local P&R is here (Arlington, VA) and they offer things like Zumba, Yoga, Swimming, Aerobics, and a variety of other classes for a fraction of the price as taking these classes elsewhere.

8.) Buy things in bulk.

Don’t skip these when you come across them at a store even though they can be intimidating! There are tons of organic products you can buy for under $2 or $3 per pound, and you can get just how much you need rather than a huge package to limit your spending. Some of the best deals I’ve found include quinoa, wheat berries, raisins, almonds, walnuts, steel cut oats, rolled oats, brown rice, lentils, black beans and kidney beans.

9.) Never go somewhere without a list.

Target, Whole Foods, TJ Maxx, any grocery store. Just don’t do it. Even if you don’t 100% stick to the list, don’t wander into a store without a plan or you’ll be buying things you don’t need slash maybe can’t afford.

10.) Ask for fitness/health related gifts for your birthday/holidays!

I don’t know about you, but my family ALWAYS asks me for ideas for things I want for my birthday or Christmas and I can never think of anything good to tell them. Ask for fitness related things you want rather than saying “I don’t know..” or picking things you won’t use!  Last year my sisters bought me some amazing yoga pants from Lululemon that I would never have bought for myself, but they are my absolute favorite pair of bottoms to workout in. I’ve also gotten a water belt, CamelBak, sports bras, dry wick tops, and various other fitness related items for birthdays/holidays. I’m always happy to have those things rather than other random items I come up with to ask for.

What’s your #1 tip for living well on a budget?

24 Comments on Tips for Living Healthy on the Cheap

  1. beyondbananas
    May 18, 2011 at 8:47 am (9 years ago)

    I follow so many of these tips.. and I think one of the best things I do.. is bring my lunch every day. Justin will bring his lunch some weeks.. and buy it others. On weeks that he buys.. he spends like over 75$ on lunches alone. That right there.. is 3/4 of what we aim to spend on groceries. Plus..whenyou pack your lunch – you have TOTAL control over what you are eating!

  2. goodtastehealthyme
    May 18, 2011 at 8:48 am (9 years ago)

    Great tips! I totally agree on all of them! I used to get coffee and buy lunch as well but now I never do. It’s crazy how much you save!

  3. Holly @ The Runny Egg
    May 18, 2011 at 8:54 am (9 years ago)

    Meal planning and making grocery lists has saved me — when I don’t meal plan I end up with such random food ingredients and I end up spending more money on making them into meals.

  4. Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle
    May 18, 2011 at 9:15 am (9 years ago)

    +1 on packing lunches. Eating out (lunch AND dinner) are my number 1 money suck. I have made the change recently to committing to one nice “date night” meal for my BF and I every two weeks and once a week casual dining dinner. I can already see the savings!

  5. Jennifer
    May 18, 2011 at 9:35 am (9 years ago)

    I strongly agree with the bring your own lunch tip. For me, it’s not only cheaper, but my food tastes better than our cafeteria. I love when I make something great for dinner and get to enjoy it again for lunch! 🙂 I probably only eat out 1-2x per month.

    I’ve cut down on the coffee drinks. I have to have foo-foo coffee because, well, I don’t really like coffee, LOL, and I instead look at it as a way to get a milk serving in. Anyway, those things were $4+ a pop x 5 and you see it add’s up quickly. Now I look at it as more of a treat and get it 1x per week.

  6. Stacy @ Every Little Thing
    May 18, 2011 at 9:35 am (9 years ago)

    I def agree with lunches! I pack four days, then buy one day and try and keep that one day aroun $5. I figure $5 a week isn’t bad.

    Bulk bins are key too! I save so much money that way on things like flour, cornmeal, granola, nuts, seeds, quinoa, lentils…AND you’re helping our environment!

    The meat thing is true too. We were on a tight grocery budget this week (I didn’t get a full paycheck with my new job this month) so I planned three veggie meals this week – beans are cheap!

    My only other advice is to match coupons with sales. I know we’ve talked about this before, haha. It really can help though, and minor couponing doesn’t take too much time!

    And DEFINITELY MEAL PLAN! Saves money AND saves you from wasting food 🙂

  7. kath
    May 18, 2011 at 9:54 am (9 years ago)

    I would have to agree with a lot of your points. I always make a menu and a grocery list. The only proboblem I have is when I get to the grocery I want to buy stuff not on the list. What can I say I am truly foodie. But I am working on it. I don’t eat meat and try to limit the amount of meat meals my husband eats. I am a vegan but have not yet convinced him to follow.

    • Beth
      May 18, 2011 at 9:58 am (9 years ago)

      I am the SAME way. I love grocery shopping so much and could spend hours browsing the aisles and checking out new-to-me foods! What I try to do is limit myself to 2-3 things off the list each time I go. This way I still have a little freedom to get drawn into buying some of the things that catch my eye, but I don’t go too overboard.

  8. Jen@jensdaily
    May 18, 2011 at 9:58 am (9 years ago)

    Great tips! I always make a meal plan and base my list off of that, saves TONS of money!!!

  9. Bridget
    May 18, 2011 at 10:16 am (9 years ago)

    These are great tips! They’re all pretty simple, but really do make a difference!

  10. Amy @ Second City Randomness
    May 18, 2011 at 10:28 am (9 years ago)

    I agree with all of these things fo’ sho!

    And cannot stress enough to pack lunches. Because it’s healthy and super cheap. One time I figured a salad at the salad bar at work is about $4-5 more expensive than the equivalent I bring from home. Nuts, right?

    I even go so far as to bring my lunch still when my boss plans a staff outting. Because he sucks at keeping to plans and it has gotten cancelled more often than I’d care to say. So then I have backup vs having to impulsively buy something twice as expensive from the cafeteria…

  11. Kristi
    May 18, 2011 at 11:39 am (9 years ago)

    I think using coupons for the things that you need is a big help money wise. I’ve learned though not to cut out all the coupons, cause some of them are for things that I don’t need and aren’t good for me. If I can save a few dollars then that’s a few dollars I have for something else.

    • Beth
      May 18, 2011 at 11:42 am (9 years ago)

      Yes that is very true! I also have found that by “Liking” companies on facebook or following them on Twitter, you can get some really great coupons that aren’t available elsewhere!

  12. Beth
    May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am (9 years ago)

    These are great tips!! I think I clicked on every link in your post, I’m always looking for good deals on fitness equipment and classes!

  13. Lisa
    May 18, 2011 at 12:14 pm (9 years ago)

    January 1st I started making my coffee at work in a French Press. I calculated that I will save over $300 this year by doing that! I LOVE it!

  14. Christine
    May 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm (9 years ago)

    I could not agree more with #’s 2 & 3! It’s the little things that really add up. I also go on hiatus from shopping every now and then when ibferl like life is getting out of control. It’s easy to allow Ann Taylor or banana republic help you deal with stress. Who doesn’t love a new dress? Or a pair of shoes? Make it a treat only and earn your splurges. Next time youre thinking about how good the makeup counter or shoe Dept at nordstrom might feel, just list out in your head all the bills you have to pay and the temporary retail fix won’t seem so necessary in the grand scheme. I graduated with 60k in debt and down to 22k! Debt free by 2012!!! They say healthy weight and finances go hand in hand. Suze Orman has been able to successfully predict who will be the biggest loser simply by looking at the contestant’s credit scores… Weird huh?

  15. Amy @ Conquering Self
    May 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm (9 years ago)

    We are totally on the same wavelength! My hubs and I do all of those same things and have for awhile now. It makes such a huuuuge difference. We even were able to live off of just his paycheck for 2 years and put mine 100% into a money market account as we planned ahead for me to be able to stay home with our new baby for a year or two. Some of these things can feel like a sacrifice at first, but at he same time, they aren’t HUGE changes, just little things…and they allow you more freedom and choice in life when you have money left over. A lot of people tell me how lucky I am that I get to stay home with my daughter, but I always let them know how much planning and saving went into it and that it wasn’t just luck!
    Great tips to share, Beth!

  16. cindylu
    May 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm (9 years ago)

    Get on a family plan at the gym. I don’t even live with my sister, but somehow was able to get on her family plan and only pay $15 a month for the gym.

    I’d also consider running/walking/biking to work, if it’s within reasonable distance. It’s much cheaper than driving and less than public transportation. I know this takes some planning and will take longer, but saving money usually does. That could be done for errands too. Jog to the grocery store and walk/bus it back.

    I’m lucky to have a TJ’s within walking distance from work. So even if I forget my lunch, I can take a quick walk and pick up something from there. I feel out of sorts if I don’t take my own lunch to work.

    I’d also try small ethnic grocery stores for fruit, veggies and herbs. You can typically get some great deals and find a greater variety of ethnic ingredients at a much lower price than chain grocery stores.

  17. Jacqueline Lewis-Lyons
    May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm (9 years ago)

    Great tips! As I was reading I made coffee in the office instead of going over to Starbucks. I love the suggestion to pack lunches – best way to save money.

  18. Lili
    May 18, 2011 at 5:13 pm (9 years ago)

    These are great tips! I also try to bring my lunch, breakfast and coffee everyday. Not only I save $, but I get the right amount of carbs/veggies/ protein that I need ( I get pretty hungry on lunch!!)

  19. Lisa (bakebikeblog)
    May 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm (9 years ago)

    Great tips! I find that having a good meal plan really helps!

  20. Marci
    May 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm (9 years ago)

    I agree with all your tips! I really like the “eat less meat” one. I still eat meat, but I think it complicates the week’s plan. I always have beans or tofu or quinoa in the pantry/fridge, and it’s easier to sub that than buy a pack of chicken. Fish must be used fast, etc. And I roll my eyes at daily Starbucks drinkers. It’s at least $2 everyday!

  21. Amy @ What Jew Wanna Eat
    May 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm (9 years ago)

    Thanks for the great tips! I quit coffee and always bring my lunch and save so much $$


1Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Tips for Living Healthy on the Cheap

Leave a Reply