So, when I asked what you guys wanted to see more of here, a reader left me the following:
A POOR GIRLS GUIDE TO WEIGHT LOSS…Most of us cant afford organic foods, go to the gym and such…Some of us needs that extra push, when we lack the extra bucks. What can we buy thats super affordable, healthy, how to exercise @ home…I know a lot of us talk about that and when you dont have that support system to help you it makes it harder….
So, let’s talk about money.
The assumption is that the more money you have, the healthier you can live. And, while there are tons of companies that are financially invested in marketing “healthy living” as “something that requires you to spend all your precious pennies,” that isn’t entirely accurate.
Let me be real for a second. I’m po’. I’m “can’t afford the ‘-or’ in ‘poor'” “poor.” I was a single parent when I first started my journey and, while it is great to have a partner now – yay, dual incomes! – we still have to save every ding dang penny we’ve got for our wedding, for our first house, the child’s now in school, and… all my money’s flying out the window faster than I can count it. As I used to say back when it was just the little one and I, “Even when I have the money, I don’t have the money.”
Besides, it’s just not financially sensible to waste money unnecessarily. If I can do it on my own, why would I waste money on someone else doing it for me?
What am I getting at? Simply. You can be “so poor you can’t afford the -or” and still live healthily.
There are tons of tips all across this blog to help you get to where you want to be, but in the interest of time, I’m going to curate some of the best ones for you here. If any more good questions pop up in the comments section, I’ll be more than happy to update this post with answers.
On buying organic
Lastly, buying organic doesn’t have to equate to buying something – or anything – high priced. As I did my best to illustrate in the #surviveon35 campaign from this summer, you can do so and do it both inexpensively and honestly. I’m a huge fan of Whole Foods’ frozen organic fruits and veggies, and their bulk section has tons of organic staples and…you’ve already heard all this before. Lots of food co-ops and CSAs will trade great deals and even “free” food for a little bit of your time on a regular basis. If you’re on food stamps/SNAP (or considering it), lots of CSAs will offer you a sharply discounted rate, payable in monthly installments (so you don’t have to do the bulk payment, which can be pretty steep) instead of going full price. (And, even more, farmer’s markets across the country are now offering $20 in tokens for $10 in food stamps, to make it easier to buy organic. You didn’t know about the tokens, did you?)
“Organic” is not always inherently healthier for you. I find that so many people believe the choices are “organic” or “dying in a fiery blaze of diabetes and high blood pressure,” but that just isn’t true. The reality is that there is a spectrum, and while “organic, fresh picked on a sunny farm with happy soil and rain water” is on one end with “processed to the nth degree and sold for $0.25 at a bodega on the corner” on the other, there’s still a healthy and bountiful middle ground where you can rest happily and reclaim your health.
Fresh, frozen, and canned are all options worth considering and, with a cursory glance at the ingredients list, you can ensure that you’re buying something with minimal processing and light on the chemicals. I’m a huge proponent of frozen veggies, which leads my to my next point…
On saving money on groceries
So, let’s talk basic shopping tips:
Many of the national brands actually produce store brand products, so besides the packaging, you may not even notice a difference between generics and their brand name counterparts. For example, Alcoa, the maker of Reynolds Wrap Aluminum foil, produces store brand foil. McCormick produces herbs and spices without its signature label, and Birds Eye, known for its frozen vegetables, produces a number of frozen and canned vegetable products, according to Consumer Reports.
One major reason for the deep discount on store brands is they “don’t carry heavy product development, advertising and promotion costs,” says Tod Marks, a Consumer Reports researcher who blogs by the name “Tightwad Tod” on ConsumerReports.org.
…pick one day – usually a nice, lazy, comfy Sunday – and go grocery shopping. Wake up that morning, spend a good 15 minutes thinking about what you’ll eat this week, what you’ll need, sketch out a list, scratch out the [processed foods and] stuff you’ve already got plenty of in your fridge already and get moving!Why weekly?
For starters, it allows you to avoid your produce rotting. If you dedicate one day to grocery shopping and food prep, you can spend the rest of the week cooking from your fridge, your cabinets and your pantry. It allows you to “shop” from your own reserves. This way, you prevent wasting your money on stuff you “can’t eat” because it doesn’t look quite as fresh as it did when you got it.
Secondly, you have to make a list. How is it that we go grocery shopping, spend an arm/a leg/a first born and still… wind up staring at the fridge for five minutes repeating to ourselves, “I have nothing to cook.” Oh, no. Not only do you have plenty of ingredients and not pre-prepared foods that you may or may not have a taste for – for example, instead of buying garlic cheese bread in a box, why not pick up a baguette from the grocery bakery, some garlic powder, cheese and use your butter/oil? – but you have options. A pre-packaged box doesn’t give you options. At all. Ever. That same garlic powder, cheese and oil could be used on bread, macaroni, leafy greens and rice. Options.
…and a ton of other tips to help you figure out how to save money and eat healthily:
- Save Money On Groceries: Buy It In Bulk
- Save Money On Groceries: Buy It In Season
- Save Money On Groceries: Go Weekly
- Save Money On Groceries: Buy The Private Label (Go Generic!)
- Save Money On Groceries: Go Frozen!
- Q&A Wednesday: The $50 Challenge
- Save Money on Groceries: Go… Smaller?
- Save Money On Groceries: The Readers Share Their Tips!
If you’re low on cash, consider cutting back on the meat products, a bit. I know many of us grew up believing that a plate isn’t “a meal” unless it has meat on it, but that was actually a marketing campaign. Not nutritional policy. There are tons of sources for protein that don’t consist of a pricey-but-high-quality, well-fed meat. Don’t want to go full on vegetarian? Not to worry. You have options. (Before you ask about protein…)
On making government assistance work for you
And, if you’ve got a little bit of time, you can use these tips for eating clean while on SNAP.
On at-home exercising
As someone who was originally an at-home exerciser, I’m all for it. I’m a huge supporter of being able to just whip out some weights and a mat and going to work. As I’ve said, before:
When I first started out with exercise, I would take my daughter to the gym in our apartment complex during the hours when most people were expected to be at work. However… during certain seasons, the gym becomes a 24-hour pick-up spot. No matter the hour, it was always full of people. It became less and less sensible for me to bring my little one in there. It was starting to feel like I was developing an excuse to not workout – “I can’t go to the gym because the fellas are going to trample all over my daughter in her stroller.. she’ll be in the way. They’re going to put me out. I can’t go!” – and I had to do something.
So, my little one and I spent a good amount of time at home. Sad that I couldn’t use the gym equipment – and unwilling to spend money (in a recession, no less) on my own – I had to come up with an effective manner of getting in my exercise. My desire to not spend money on getting fit had only a little to do with the fact that I’m cheap (painfully cheap.) It had much more to do with the fact that I needed to know that the effort I was putting forth wouldn’t be dependent upon how much money I could spend to get it. I needed to know that my business could fail, I could go broke and poor and be homeless living with a friend and that I’d still be able to maintain my health on my own. That I could innovate ways to get it done, and that I was devoted enough to my cause to continue to innovate.
And, even when the gym membership is only $10/month (for 10 years, but still), there are legitimate reasons to consider getting it (or not).
So, have you decided to build your gym at home?
When it comes down to equipment to buy, think about what you enjoy – because that’s the final deciding factor in whether or not you’ll commit to it. So, if the program you choose comes from Wii, then make it happen. If it’s a PS23487453 (whichever one they’re on, now), then go for it. (Couldn’t be me, though – I’d be too busy trying to play some form of Grand Theft Auto… but I digress.)
All in all, I can’t tell you or recommend anything in particular simply because a) I’m cheap, b) I’m such a huge proponent of calisthenics and c) I find a lot of the major systems to be a load of bunk, anyway. If I had to recommend a purchase for anything, it’d be a workout mat and a pair of weights. (weights, obviously, dependent upon your own ability level – don’t get those fifteens if you can barely carry them out of the store.) Spend that money creating a space where you can feel comfortable working out, buying a new pair of workout shoes, and maybe a nice progress dress. You can do everything else from there with just those two, and you’ll be golden.
What am I missing? What should I add?