How to Live Healthy for Cheap

Eat Healthy for Cheap

Cooking at home is one way to save money and eat healthier.

One of my goals for this year is to “continue to work out regularly (five times a week) and improve my diet (eat more fruits and vegetables and smaller portions).” Put in a broader sense, my goal is to be healthier.

Granted, I have not been exercising as much lately, but I have been sleeping more, which has been wonderful. I also think the extra sleep is what is keeping my weight stable when, in theory, it should be increasing. (This is also known as “the sleep diet.” Read more about it here.)

Anyhow, I know I am not alone in the quest to improve my health. I also know that in our current economy, it’s difficult to justify spending money on organic foods and gym memberships.


But living healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. It can actually be simple and cheap. Here’s how:

  • Cook more homemade meals.
    When you make your meals at home, you get the benefit of knowing exactly what is going into your food. Plus, cooking at home saves you from going out to eat or buying pre-packaged foods, which tend to be more expensive.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time, and always take a list with you when you go grocery shopping.
    Yes, planning your meals for the week takes a little extra time, but it helps you stick to your diet and keeps your budget in check.
  • Shop at your local farmers market.
    When you buy your groceries from your local farmers market, you get healthy in-season produce. It’s also an easy way to “go green” because you’re supporting local businesses and eating organically. Don’t have time to go to the farmers market or grocery shopping in general? Have fresh, organic food delivered to you through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. Learn more about CSA farms, and find one near you. (Note that this isn’t necessarily a less expensive option, but it can save you time shopping, and as the expression goes, “time is money.”)
  • Buy canned goods.
    It’s OK to buy canned fruits and vegetables, especially if you’re only cooking for one or if you’re worried about fresh produce’s short shelf life. Beans are another non-perishable item that tend to be cheap, are healthy and versatile.
  • Walk or run outside.
    Take advantage of the summer weather and go on an evening walk or run. When the weather turns cold, use free full-length workouts from Exercise TV.
  • Buy a jump rope.
    When is the last time you jumped rope? If you’re like me, it was probably junior high or high school. In the shadow boxing gym class I go to, one of our drills is to jump rope for 30-second intervals. I assure you, it’s way more challenging than it was when I was a teenager. It’s astounding how exhausted you can be in less than five minutes. A standard jump rope costs $4.99 at Target. Just think: For less than $5, you get one of the most efficient cardio exercises ever invented.
  • Use your body weight for strength-training.
    Nothing beats some good old-fashioned push-ups, sit-ups or crunches and squats for tone and strengthening exercises. If you want to add weights, use some of the canned fruits and vegetables you bought.
  • Do yoga and Pilates at home.
    Incorporate yoga and/or Pilates into your workout routine to improve your posture, balance, and core strength, which will round out your overall fitness. Again, you can find free videos on the Internet. Here’s a 20-minute yoga video for beginners and a 20-minute Pilates video for beginners on Joost.

For more tips on how to live healthier for less, check out Dennis Thompson’s article, “Living Healthily for Less” on HealthDay.

For me, my $32-per-month gym membership is worth keeping during these penny-pinching times. My membership allows me access to two local gyms, which doubles my choices of gym classes.

I tend to work out better and harder when I use the gym classes, although it definitely depends on the instructor. I generally do more when I have an instructor pushing me as opposed to relying on myself to be the drill sergeant. I tend to let myself off the hook the instant I start to feel too tired. 

When money is tight, how does it affect your diet and exercise habits?

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11 Responses to How to Live Healthy for Cheap

  1. I love the suggestions in this post! You’ve listed a lot of great ideas here and I’m definitely going to put some of them to use. Thanks!

  2. liza says:

    You can save up to 40 to 60% on your weekly grocery shopping by using grocery coupons at

  3. at276601 says:

    Actually, having less money doesn’t make me spend less money on healthy foods or the gym — the gym only costs 30 bucks a month and healthy food from Trader Joe’s or the farmer’s market is usually cheaper, anyway.
    It’s just that when your career goes downhill and they start cutting you hours or wages, or worse yet, you get laid off, it’s depressing. You don’t want to do anything but hang out and drink beer.
    Another thing, too — so many guys especially focus on weight training. They may look all bulky in their biceps and pecks (because those are the only ones they can see in the mirror, and hence, the only muscles they focus on), but they can’t perform when it comes to doing something athletic.
    That’s why stuff like Yoga is so important. It teaches your body how to use all that newfound strength you gain by lifting weights and all the newfound endurance you gain by doing tons of cardio.
    And all that stuff may not be more fun while you’re doing it, but it’ll make you feel better afterward than drinking beer, eating twinkies and watching “The Simpsons.”

  4. at276601 says:

    Although, “The Simpsons” are pretty effing sweet.

  5. great post! lots of awesome ideas. i already do most of them, but it’s always a good reminder. i’ve been thinking a lot about jump roping lately, so i think i’m going to try it!

  6. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Glad I could provide some inspiration — thanks, P!

  7. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Thanks for this tip, Liza! I have to admit that I am terrible about using coupons though. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel as if a dollar off something makes that much of a difference. I know that’s just poor logic on my part.

  8. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Yeah, I agree it can be hard to stay motivated to exercise and keep a healthy diet when your ego is taking a beating from reduced hours at work, or worse, being laid off, as you said. You just have to keep reminding yourself the lay-offs and reduced hours have nothing to do with you personally or your abilities, but it was everything to do with the awful economy in general.

    You’re right too that you’ll feel a lot better exercising with all your extra free time instead of drinking beer, eating junk food, and watching TV, but just because you know something is good for you doesn’t motivate you to go do it. It’s much easier to take the path of least resistance (and stay on the couch). You just have to keep reminding yourself of all the benefits working out and eating right gives you.

    And yes, “The Simpsons” are pretty effing sweet.

  9. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Good luck with the jumping rope! I’m eager to hear how it goes. After just a few short rounds I feel as if I just ran hill sprints up a mountain!

  10. Crys says:

    I too suck at using coupons, but since we have such a large family that consumes food like it grows in our backyard we’ve really been getting the bang for our buck at warehouse stores like Costco. We also have been planning out our meals, and we have a list of our favorites so that we can re-create them. We also run into a time of the month where we’re just damn broke so we look to see what we have and see what we can make without having to do a lot of grocery shopping. That is for sure when rice, pasta and frozen/canned veggies come in really handy.

  11. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Yeah, Costco is awesome for when you have a family — especially four boys! I can imagine how fast you all go through food! I like the idea of having a list of favorites that you can always make on short notice — I’ll have to do that. And I totally feel you on the being totally damn broke at the end of the month and having to dig through the pantry to see what’s left.

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