Stay Healthy Without Breaking the Bank

Health Professional, Medical Reviewer
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Americans spend more money on eating out each week than they spend at the grocery store. Many of us have a costly gym membership that we may not get to use as often as we’d like. If you are looking for ways to cut costs but stay fit, here are a few tips that can save you money without sacrificing healthy habits.

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If you aren’t able to get to the gym as often as you’d like, consider setting up a gym in your home. With a simple piece of cardio equipment like an elliptical machine, stair climber, or treadmill, you will never have an excuse not to exercise, no matter what the weather is or how late you have to work. Add some free weights, resistance bands, and a mat to do stretching or abdominal exercises and you have your own personal gym right in your own home.

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To vary your workout routine, invest in a few workout DVDs. You can also download workouts on demand through cable TV, Netflix, or Amazon, making it easy to work out at home or when on the road from your laptop. This is a great way to try a new type of exercise such as Pilates, yoga, or resistance band training. You can choose a new workout each day to prevent boredom.

Meal delivery services

Companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh have gained popularity over the last few years, combining the convenience of food delivered to your door with the freshness of a local supermarket. While some of these programs can be expensive if used daily, the cost is often less than eating out, and usually a lot more nutritious. If you’re on a special diet, the meals can be tailored to your nutritional needs. Take advantage of first-time buyer programs which can give you up to 50 percent off your first delivery.

Host a food swap

Invite a group of six to 10 friends or coworkers to choose their favorite healthy meal to prepare. Pick something that freezes well (flat in a gallon-sized plastic bag or in an aluminum foil pan). Prep your meal at home for everyone. (Yes, that’s eight chicken dishes if you have eight participants!) Meet at someone’s home with your coolers, and swap dishes with everyone. You go home with eight healthy meals that you can freeze, while only prepping one large meal. It’s also a lot of fun!

Invest in a wholesale club membership

Buying food in bulk saves money, but if you’re purchasing perishable items like produce, you often have to buy more than you need at a wholesale clubs like Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJs. Try freezing leftover fresh fruit like blueberries and strawberries to make smoothies. Consider splitting the cost of bulk produce with a neighbor so that you both can save money without wasting leftover food. Check out the frozen aisle for vegetables and fruit; they are often cheaper than fresh produce.

Online programs and support groups

If you are someone who knows they need support to stay motivated but don’t have the time or money to meet with someone one-on-one on a weekly basis, consider joining an online program (such as Weight Watchers®) or online weight loss support group. These programs have minimal to no cost and are highly effective at helping you stay motivated. Many have smart phone apps that give you daily reminders to help you stick to your weight loss, fitness, and health goals.

Check your health insurance or employee wellness benefits

Some health insurance carriers are now reimbursing for wellness costs, including the cost of a gym membership or for the purchase of home fitness equipment. Wellness services such as nutrition counseling, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, and nutritional products and supplements are often covered under most insurance carriers. Take a close look at both your health insurance and employee benefits to see what health services are covered.

Share your health costs with a friend or coworker

If you don’t have money for one-on-one counseling but crave an individualized approach, consider sharing the costs with a friend. As a dietitian, I have counseled co-workers who wanted to lose weight in the same session, allowing them to split the cost. I also know personal trainers who do group training (i.e., $60 per hour split between four people). Not only will this save you money, but you have the added motivation of working with friends to achieve the same goals.

The bottom line

Working out, eating healthy, and staying motivated doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a little creativity, you can save time and money while achieving your health goals.