Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stretching Every Dollar

Buys food on sale and in bulk. When she gets home she divides it up into healthy portions and freezes it, so it's ready to cook when she gets home from work.

When she cooks a dish, she doubles or even triples the recipe. Then, she'll divide the leftovers to use as lunches and she'll freeze some leftovers for later dinners.

Soup is one of the healthiest and cheapest meals. We made a delicious vegetable beef soup that costs only fifty cents a serving. Stir-fry and casseroles are other dishes that stretch a buck.

Frozen, Not Fresh

Feel free to use lots of frozen vegetables in your cooking. They're full of nutrients and are inexpensive. You may be surprised to learn that frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh, sometimes even more. Says, Toni House Author of Save Your Money, Save Your Family

Frozen produce is picked when it's ripe and nutrients are at their peak, while fresh food is often picked before it's ripe, causing it to lose more nutrients when exposed to light, heat and air.

Although frozen produce is a good buy, you can still find deals on fresh produce too. Make sure you chop your fruits and veggies yourself, because the pre-cut ones are expensive. And even when you buy whole fruits and vegetables, bagged are cheaper than loose.

Low Cost Exercise

When it comes to exercise, shop around for low-cost gym memberships. The YMCA has discounted memberships through its Open Doors program.

"It's really important for me, from our perspective, that they're treated like everyone else," said Dean Mattix, director of the Ablemarle, N.C., YMCA. "I was a recipient of the program and it's just the right thing to do. We just want to make the Y available to as many people as possible."

Mary Jones lost 40 pounds after joining the YMCA through its Open Doors program. She pays just $5 a month and considers the YMCA her sanctuary.

"Since it's such a Christian-based atmosphere here, it's so easy just to come," she said. "I don't have to be intimidated by cutesy girls or buff guys and all the language. I can come and feel comfortable."

Jones credits her success to the encouraging YMCA staff members, particularly her fitness coach Rick who designed an exercise and weight-lifting program that was custom-made for her-- a service that is complimentary with a YMCA membership.

She also credits the "Y Change" support group, where she and a handful of other members meet regularly to learn about nutrition and exercise as a group.

In addition to the YMCA, there are other fitness facilities that offer low cost or free memberships. Check with your local government about recreation centers or senior centers or exercise classes such as dance or swimming lessons.

Back to Basics

Don't forget about walking-- it's all the exercise you need.

"You have to make it fun. Listen to music you like," said Penny Price, a woman who lost 50 pounds by walking.

"Walk with a friend. That way if you don't feel like walking, your friend will encourage you to go, and vice-versa," she added.

As a nurse, Price counsels her patients about starting off slowly and working up to 10,000 steps a day. She recommends buying a $5 pedometer to keep track of how many steps you take each day. She also recommends buying a reflective vest to wear when it's dark outside or when you're walking on the side of a road.

If you want to walk, but have issues with safety or weather, walk at your nearest shopping mall. Most malls open their doors before the stores do.

Some shopping centers, like the Greenbriar Mall in Chesapeake, Va., even have a "Mall Walkers" organization that fosters friendships.

The group "Stroller Striders" uses the mall during inclement weather. Moms with their babies in strollers not only walk together, they even stop occasionally to do strength training exercises.

"It's a great place for me to meet my friends, said Rachel McHale of the Chesapeake Stroller Striders. "We can come together, be social, we have the space we need and we set a good example of exercising for our kids."

So whether you're eating or exercising, if you use your head you can live a healthy life without breaking the bank.

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