Losing Weight on a Budget

When budgets are tight and finances are top of mind, habits for a healthy lifestyle can fall by the weigh-side (pardon the pun).  Is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight only for the rich and famous?  Not at all. 

Here are some great tips, resources and reminders on how to shed the pounds and get active without busting your wallet or pants at the seams.

Shopping for Healthy Food
All too-often we read about people complaining healthy foods are more expensive than fast-food or junk foods.  Really?  Since our family has gone on a budget diet, we’ve found exactly the opposite. 

Healthy foods – whole wheat breads, fruits, vegetables, non-processed meats – are more filling and less-expensive than the processed foods.  Yes, you spend a little more time cooking but you can feed a family a healthy meal.  I’ve been buying fresh whole chickens for less than $1.00/lb.  A whole roasted chicken for $4 with some veggies provides our family with two meals.  That’s less than a McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal that would feed one person for one meal.

There are a number of weight-loss programs out there that provide pre-packaged meals for less than $10/day.  That may be a great option if you are single, but if you are in a family situation like mine, it’s doubling my monthly grocery budget.

Tracking Your Food
Studies show that people who keep a food journal lose more weight than those who do not.  In fact, in the study, those who kept a food journal lost double the amount of weight than those who did not.

By writing down every morsel you eat, you are much more likely to question that next bite.   Your cost can be as little as a pen and paper.  There are also a number of sites that are easy to use and in many cases, free that will help you track.  

My favorite is The Daily Plate.  I’ve been a member since they launched and find the tracking tools to be great along with fun and supportive groups.  Having online support from others in the same situation helps with the motivation and discipline.  The Daily Plate is free for use of most features or you can upgrade to Gold for $29.95/year. 

A friend of mine uses Weight Watchers with monthly meetings and online tools for around $30-$40/mo.  She’s been quite successful and likes the in-person meetings coupled with the online tracking tools.

I also started on Wellness360 where you get paid for planning and tracking your healthier lifestyle.  Get friends and family to start tracking and you earn bonuses as well.  Now that’s improved healthcare… getting paid to be healthier.

Exercise
If you have a gym membership – use it!   Check with your employer and healthcare provider for discounts or reimbursements on memberships.  For those of us on a budget looking to cut expenses and ditching the monthly dues, there are still plenty of options for keeping active including:

  • Take a walk!  For the investment of a decent pair of walking shoes you can walk away the pounds.  Give yourself 30 minutes a day to decrease stress and increase oxygen.  Ask family, friends or neighbors to join you.  Walking with a friend will keep you motivated and less likely to skip a day.
  • Used exercise equipment – If you have room in your home, look on Craigslist for a stationary bike, treadmill or pilates machine.   
  • Used exercise tapes/DVD’s – your local library, thrift shop, Craiglist or even eBay are great places to look for exercise tapes or DVD’s.  Ask around to see if anyone has a stack collecting dust.

Need More Support?
Long-term healthcare costs are rising and staying healthy is an investment.  Insurance companies and HMO’s realize this and are starting to offer free services to help you evaluate, plan and track your way to a healthier lifestyle.  Check with your employer or your insurer’s web site about services they may offer.