The economic forecast has been a little daunting and looking into the future is truly unpredictable. We don’t know how big of an effect this recession will have long term, or whether things will turn around quicker then expected. At times of economic downturns, whether you are directly effected or not, it sets off alarms for us all to pinch our pennies. With the cost of living rising, food costs at an all time high, stagnant or decreased wages, and job losses, how can we cut costs without compromising our health and wellbeing? These 5 simple tips are a few things that my family has adopted that have made a BIG difference in our spending.
#1) Ditch your Unused Gym Membership.
Gym memberships can be a great deal, IF you are actually taking advantage of them. Statistically though, approximately 80% of gym memberships go unused. Instead of purchasing a gym membership, there are TONS of ways you can workout for free at home. Since the birth of my 2nd daughter, getting to the gym between childrearing and running my business has been a dream of the past, so to stay in shape, I have been throwing on my runners and taking in our beautiful river valley, jogging and walking as much as possible. There are also so many free online workouts and yoga classes, that I have been taking advantage of to stay motivated. Body weight, some soup cans or resistance bands, a yoga mat, and your runners can go a LONG way without breaking the bank, saving you HUNDREDS of dollars every year.
#2) Plan Your Meals.
At the end of each month, I survey my family for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas. I jot them all down and make a meal calendar for the upcoming month. With a meal plan in place, we have been able to cut down our big shopping trips to twice a month, with a few small trips to pick up some more perishable goods, like bananas and other produce. By planning our meals, I am able to buy things that we can use in multiple meals throughout the week. For example. This weeks dinners included, Rainbow Summer Rolls, temake cones, GF pasta with Cabbage Slaw on the side, Moroccan Lamb Soup, and Corn Tacos with black beans, slaw, and brown rice. The same produce ingredients were used in all of the recipes, so there was no waste and I was able to completely change the dish, by making different sauces or adjusting just a couple ingredients. Cabbage, carrots, cucumber, and bell peppers, make every meal nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive. We have been able to feed a family of 4 on less then $600/month! Not an easy feat, but a rewarding one.
#3) Cut down on Meat.
Instead of meatless mondays, we have adopted meat mondays. Our family eats vegetarian, at least 95% of the time. This is likely the biggest money saver of all. According to MoneySense magazine, meat prices have risen 4% this year and are projected to rise another 2.5%-4.5% before the end of 2016. We usually buy just one large pack of hormone free, antibiotic free chicken thighs and divide it up into multiple freezer packs to use throughout the month. I buy my lamb and chicken bones at the farmers market, for just a couple dollars to make broths and I scrape out the nourishing marrow and any excess meat to use in my homemade soups. By reducing your meat intake you can save a lot of money and help the environment. And as a bonus, I find eating less meat, not only helps my wallet, but my waistline too.
#4) Adopt traditional diets from around the world.
Rice and beans are a traditional staple in MANY cultures. The low cost, nutritional value, and versatility of rice and bean combos make it the perfect meal. In Central America, you will see rice and beans served with every meal of the day. In India, varieties of vegetarian curries are a staple. Many other countries around the world in places like Africa, Spain, Portugal, and throughout the middle east all have traditional rice and bean dishes too. The combination of rice and beans, provides all the essential amino acids needed for optimal protein requirements for just pennies a day. Check out my dhal recipe, for a delicious traditional South African Indian dish to have tonight.
#5) Grow Your Own Food.
Edmonton has a very short growing season, but each year I take advantage of the opportunity to grow my own garden. We have a massive lawn, that I can’t wait to take over with more garden beds and fruit bearing trees in the near future, but am making due with the 3 I already have and LOTS of potted plants and herbs too. Growing your own food is not only a great way to save money, but I find it so rewarding, meditative, and magical too. I love waking up each day and walking outside bare-footed in the morning dew and “checking on my garden”. My kids love picking and chomping on veggies during the summer months and we always have plenty left over in the fall to enjoy throughout the harvest season with friends and family or to blanch and freeze, ferment, or preserve to enjoy further into the winter months.
These five easy tips have helped grow our wallets and improve our health throughout these tighter budget months and I hope they help yours too. Let me know how it goes trying out these tips or post your own tips in the comments below! Lets help each other stay healthy, happy, and financially fit too!