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Healthy on a budget

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A few months ago, I was very ill and hospitalized for about two weeks in the ICU. Before and after I had to take time off of work because I was fighting extreme headaches and fevers. Needless to say, it did a number on my savings and I am having a really hard time catching back up. Not to mention the bill collectors from the doctors who want their money because my insurance sucks.

So here I am trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle for me and my family on a budget. There are many complications I am running into and I am stuck in trying to figure out alternatives.

1. Groceries: I have always been a relatively healthy person. I have been a vegetarian for over twenty years and have learned to find protein and balance healthy meat alternatives with whole grains and vegetables. We have recently added fish to our diets because my hemoglobin dropped dangerously low when I was sick and I am having trouble getting it back to where it should be. I don't know if the fish is helping, but at least it increases my protein intake. Unfortunately, it is very expensive. I have always shopped at Whole Foods and Coops. I steer clear of Cub and Rainbow because the majority of their vegetables are sprayed down with pesticides and preservatives. The small organic section they do have seems to keep the wilted and old vegetables that most shoppers pass over because they are more expensive. When I do try to shop there and spend literally hours reading labels as I try to find the healthier options, I end up spending just as much because they are considered premium items. I know Trader Joe's has some stuff, but not all and to be honest it just never seems to taste very good. So I easily spend $3-400 per week feeding a family of four.

2. Eating out: There's a reason McDonalds has a $1 menu - because the food is crap! Sometimes it seems that by the time I buy all my healthy organic groceries, I am spending just as much as if we went to a decent restaurant. So, while I know to quit eating out is probably the best way to save money on food, we do it occasionally, but we are trying to cut down. Again I run into the issue of the healthier the food is, the more expensive it is.

3. Activities: My son is in a lot of extracurricular activities and most of them aren't cheap. He has offered to cut down on some of them, but it breaks my heart to take him out of things that he has worked so hard getting good at. Plus he's a little on the shy side so he has trouble making friends outside of these activities. This is the last place I want to cut into.

4. Exercise, gear and races: My gym membership costs money but probably holds my sanity together. Races are usually my biggest form of motivation to keep running and training, but when I can't afford the entry fees, I can feel myself starting to slack off. In the past if I am not training for something, I find it hard to get up and run for no end. Gear is another problem because even new running shoes are expensive let alone a new bike.

I actually have a very good job and up until now has afforded me the healthy lifestyle I have become accustomed to. I am trying to find a second job to get back on my feet, but in this economy, that isn't easy. For now, I need a way to cut corners and budget more effectively without compromising our health.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks everyone. I will definitely look into options at the gym. That is a good idea. I already only use my cell and don't have cable except for internet though.

    I was just feeling extra sorry for myself yesterday. I'll figure it out and get back on track eventually :)
    3070 days ago
  • OPTIMIST1948
    Echo HealthyOtter: I know someone who became a lifeguard at her gym so that she could use the facilities without cost.

    Food: Research "Dirty Dozen" there are some fruits and veggies that are heavily sprayed so its worth buying organic (strawberries come to mind). There are others that you can easily sub conventional grown without loss of quality. Also, dont forget frozen. Not as nice as fresh, but cheaper, and frequently equivalent to fresh in nutritional value.

    Tough love: clearly something has to give. I think the easiest place is groceries, but there's always something else. Ditch the cable subscription? Knock out the housephone for cells? Yes, these are hard choices for hard times. I understand #4 the most and next year I am going to limit myself to once per month. That way there is always something to work for.

    Big hug!
    3071 days ago
  • no profile photo CD12810647
    It's tough to do - but sounds like you are taking good steps to do it. Good luck.
    3071 days ago
    Would there be any job options at your gym? Getting the healthy food and cooking at home is probably cheaper than eating at a nicer restaurant, esp when you factor in tips, etc. Plus, you know what you're putting into your body. I feel for you. Money stress is such an energy drain! Anything around the household expenses that can be cut back? Drying clothes outside instead of the dryer, maybe? Other electricity savers?
    3071 days ago
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