A common statement I hear about eating healthy and losing weight is: “it’s too expensive.” While it’s true that you can rack up a huge bill shopping at a whole foods store and paying for a gym membership, there are still ways you can get fit and lose weight on a budget. From creating a food journal and preparing meals to exercising at home and taking advantage of free local boot camps, there are a variety of things you can do to burn fat without burning a hole in your wallet.
A lot of expensive diet programs start with an assessment of your eating habits. You can take inventory on your own by keeping a food journal. Carry a small notebook in your briefcase or purse and jot down everything you eat, the time and your mood. After two weeks, review the journal and look for trends. Do you eat a lot at meals or consume most of your calories in snacks? Are you a stress eater or do you follow predictable patterns? Set goals based on the journal findings. For instance, you might decide to limit yourself to one serving at meals and only have two snacks each day.
If you rely on prepackaged diet meals and individually portioned snack packs, you’ll spend a lot of money at the grocery store. Instead, sit down and make a menu that includes simple but nutritious meals you can cook at home. You may want to include slow-cooker recipes so you can mix up the ingredients in the morning and come home to a hot meal in the evening. Write down a grocery list based on your menu so you won’t be tempted to make impulse buys at the store.
One of the easiest ways to curb your grocery spending is to restrict yourself to the perimeter of the store, where you’ll find produce, bread, meat, poultry and dairy. Look for fruits and vegetables that are in season as they will be less expensive. Another budget-friendly option is frozen produce. Meat can be pricey, so consider going vegetarian a few nights each week. Stock up on bulk dry beans to use in flavorful casseroles or soups. Pasta and rice are both inexpensive carbohydrates, but purchase whole-grain noodles and brown rice, which are high in fiber.
Regular exercise is an integral part of successful, sustainable weight loss. You don’t have to spend money on a gym membership, though. Gardening, walking, jogging, even playing with your kids at the park, are all activities that burn calories and boost your heart rate. Ask if any free fitness classes are offered at the local hospital, too.