Great article on saving money and saving money below…
By Abby Hayes, US News and World Report, Jan. 18, 2015 | 9:00 a.m. EST
If you’re like most Americans, “get healthy” and “save money” are somewhere among your New Year’s resolutions. When you start looking at the cost of a gym membership and organics, though, these resolutions may seem mutually exclusive.
Luckily, you can actually improve your health – without going broke. Here are some tips to help you do it:
1. Choose the cheapest workout (that you’ll actually do).
Some financial gurus will tell you, unequivocally, to skip the gym membership altogether. But this doesn’t work for everyone. Some people need the motivation of paid-for classes or a workout buddy at the gym to stick to an exercise plan.
If this is you, do some research on local gym options. Skip the swanky gym with the juice bar, and opt for a gym with the cheaper monthly fee. Look into YMCA facilities, which usually offer sliding-scale fees, and community centers. They may not offer all the amenities of a high-class gym, but chances are you can forgo the sauna in favor of saving $100 or more per year.
There are also affordable options for exercising outside the gym. Check out the used DVD section at a local store, and buy a few cheap exercise DVDs. If you’d like to try a workout plan, such as P90X or Insanity, search on eBay or Craigslist for low-cost DVDs.
Other options include subscription-based online programs, such as barre3 ($15 per month), YogaGlo($18 per month) or Zuzka Light ($9.99 per month). If you have an Amazon Prime or Hulu membership, both services also offer a variety of exercise videos you can stream.
Of course, you can always just invest $75 in a new pair of walking or running shoes, and hit the sidewalk – especially if you live in a warm area of the country.
The key here is to find a balance of cost and usefulness. You’ll only get healthier if you actually useyour gym membership, DVDs, online classes or running shoes.
2. Plan your meals.
If you’re in the habit of eating fast food on a regular basis, it’s probably not just because you love double cheeseburgers and greasy french fries. Most people who swing through the drive-thru are simply hungry and lacking a healthy meal plan.
Even if you already eat at home most days, a meal plan can help ensure you get the proper nutrients at each meal and throughout the week. A meal plan can also help you save money by ensuring you actually use the groceries you buy, and you have food on hand when you’re hungry.
Not sure how to make a meal plan? Here’s a start:
- List weekly meals. To begin, make a list of meals – at least 10 to 15 – that you and your family enjoy, and include budget-friendly ingredients. Need ideas? Just search Google or, better yet, Pinterest for “cheap healthy meals.” The sheer number of results is astounding.
- Write down recipes. Some people like writing recipes on index cards. Others use a notebook, and still others use a Pinterest board.
- Plan for a week. Many meal planners set meals for the entire month, which is great. But if you’ve never done this before, planning for a week is a good start. Simply decide which recipes you’ll use that week, make a shopping list of the ingredients and stock up on what you need for those meals.
3. Be boring.
Variety is the spice of life, and you should try new recipes – particularly those based on healthy, cheap ingredients – regularly. But having a few staple, go-to meals can be helpful, too.
This is especially true if you’re always in a rush for breakfast, or if you pack lunches to take to the office (which you should do rather than eat greasy, expensive takeout for lunch each day.) Need a few ideas? This veggie-packed crustless quiche is a great go-to breakfast you can make on the weekend and eat all week. And Mason jar salads are a terrific way to pack a nutrient-rich, low-calorie, affordable lunch.
Find several quick, cheap and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and keep those ingredients around all the time.
4. Get to know your grocery stores.
If you only shop at the local big-box store for groceries, you’re missing out. Chances are, there are cheaper places to buy ingredients for your favorite healthy meals. Aldi, a German grocery store that’s expanding across the country, is a fabulous place to get organics at a low price. You can also get everyday ingredients, such as like rice and dried beans, in bulk for a great price at local ethnic grocery stores.
5. Make freezer meals.
In spite of all your good intentions to have a healthy wallet and a healthy waistline, there will be evenings when you just cannot bring yourself to cook after a long day. These are the days when you need to have something easy to pop in the oven or microwave.
Enter freezer meals. Again, a quick Google or Pinterest search will give you loads of great ideas. Preparing meals beforehand – especially if you can use on-sale or leftover ingredients – can save you a lot of time and money. And freezer meals can be your salvation if your goal is to avoid that drive-thru.
Bettering your health doesn’t have to be expensive. Some of these suggestions should even save you money, so you can hit two of your New Year’s resolutions with one fell swoop.