Note from Lisa: I’m excited to introduce Kelly Turbett, health & fitness contributor to TwinCitiesFrugalMom.com! Kelly is a Twin Cities mom of two who owns The Living Fit Blog, and will be sharing tips on how to stay Healthy and Fit on a budget! (More about Kelly here.)
A Guide to Living Healthy & Fit on a Budget
Frequently Asked Questions & Fitness Tips – by Kelly Turbett
How do I save money on my gym bill?
Before you sign up at a gym/fitness center, be sure to ask the right questions to the sales team. One question you should always ask is “Can I have your gym reimbursement information?” They will then hand you a form or send you to their website. Once you receive the right information, you can give it to your health insurance company. You can ask for this form at your convenience. There is not a deadline to enroll/unenroll.
Most health insurance companies offer a gym or exercise reimbursement plan that can be applied toward your monthly bill at most gyms/fitness centers. Most reimbursement plans will take a certain percentage off your monthly gym bill – only if you attend a certain number of days per week/month. If your gym doesn’t offer one, maybe it’s time to switch gyms that can help save you money long-term.
Is it expensive to eat healthy?
People tend to think that eating healthier is more expensive than eating processed foods. If you plan accordingly, it actually should cost you about the same as what you are spending now. The best way to eat healthy long-term is to make sure you can comfortably afford your choices. This means that you shouldn’t purchase items that you can’t afford. You also should never add healthier food purchases on top of your regular food purchases.
The truth is that it all comes down to taking a closer look at your grocery budget. What you are currently spending? What can you afford? Be real with yourself and your budget. Then reallocate those dollars toward some healthier food options. This means giving up the old for the new. For example, swap out real potatoes instead of buying frozen french fries. Better yet, just buy the small bag of potatoes until you realize you need a bigger bag. The key is to avoid wasting fresh foods. You should never spend MORE money on healthy foods. Only spend what you can afford. For example, if you can’t afford to buy all organic food, don’t. You will still be just as healthy if you eat regular broccoli because regular broccoli is actually healthier than organic broccoli cheddar bites.
What is the cheapest/most expensive diet?
The cheapest diet is simply cooking healthy food in your own kitchen. Stay away from fast food places and restaurants because they are always more expensive. Save eating out for a special occasion and/or a good cheat day.
Joining pre-cooked meal planning services can be the most expensive. Companies like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or Nutrisystem are more like “clubs” so you will pay more because they are offering more services.
Now let’s compare apples to apples with some home-cooked diet plans and see about how much they actually cost.
The Mediterranean Diet (average spending). It’s made up from whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, veggies, legumes, fish/seafood and dairy. What makes the Mediterranean diet so great is that it is less restrictive than most other diets.
As you can see by the Mediterranean diet food pyramid (below), the foods consumed daily are relatively cheap. One of the largest costs of the Mediterranean diet is purchasing fish and seafood, but you can find these items on sale frequently or in the frozen section, which is often cheaper than fresh. Nuts are also expensive and are packed with calories, so use them sparingly. Over all – this diet is pretty comparable to a regular grocery bill and lets you drink wine!
The Paleo Diet (slightly more expensive). This diet is made up of a large amount of meats, poultry and seafood – along with lots of certain types of fruits and many vegetables. While on this diet, you are not allowed to consume any grains, legumes, soy, dairy, corn or nonnutritive sweeteners.
As we all know, meats and other proteins generally rack up the grocery bill, so watch out with how much you spend on this diet. Eating paleo also recommends purchasing more high quality meats (like grass-fed beef or organic free-range chicken) but isn’t necessary. Do what you can afford to cut costs. The plus side? Small amounts of wine are okay!
A cost-effective benefit of this diet is that since there are many food restrictions, so you can swap out what you would normally spend on dairy, grains and spend it on more protein, like fish or nuts. The good news? Protein keeps you fuller, longer! If you learn to eat less, you should be able to make this diet fit the budget.
The keto diet (slightly more expensive). This diet is somewhat similar to the paleo diet because it is centered around a large amount of protein and meats, but it is more fat-based than most other diets. As we learned with the paleo diet, meat is generally the most expensive part of the grocery bill, so watch how much you spend. By limiting your spending on the diets restriction items, like bread, milk, sugary treats and alcohol, you can afford to spend more on fattier meats and oils. Think about how much money you can save if you don’t drink?!
The Vegan Diet (average spending). Vegans survive on mainly on beans, rice, pasta, fruits and vegetables – which are essentially some of the cheapest foods at the grocery store. While plants are often cheaper, they still can go bad pretty fast. Make sure to utilize a good freezing system to help keep all of your vegetables from going bad. We also know that most vegan specialty processed foods can be very expensive in the grocery store, so try and limit these purchases as often as possible.
The Gluten-Free Diet (average spending). This diet is more than just not eating gluten. People who are gluten-free eat fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, beans, legumes and nuts. The trouble many people have on this diet is that there are plenty of processed “snack” foods that do not contain gluten, so be careful not to over indulge on these unhealthy items just because they are “gluten free.”
So, what common grocery store items actually contain gluten? The following foods often contain gluten: malt flavoring, soups, cold cuts, french fries, processed cheese, mayonnaise, soy sauce, dressings, egg substitutes, sausage, non-dairy creamer, fried food, gravy, canned baked beans, cereals, breaded foods, puddings, hot dogs, ice cream, root beer, energy bars, instant hot drinks, veggie burgers, oats (and more).
The ‘Organic Only’ Diet (the most expensive). Organic food is generally the safest and most nutritious, but it is also the most expensive. The markup is generally anywhere between 10-50% percent, depending on what sales/coupons are available and also where you shop. If you are looking for cheaper organic food, head straight to the growers or shop elsewhere and search their prices. Most stores now have an organic section so shop around to help save money. Even places like Aldi offer quality organic products for cheaper prices.
Is there a big difference between expensive and cheap fitness centers?
There are many different types of fitness centers – big, small, fancy and basic. Pick a fitness center that best serves you and fits in your budget. Don’t over invest in your center until you are fully committed to exercising. You don’t want to over pay for something that you never use.
Let’s break it down to see how much each center costs versus what they actually offer.
Luxury gyms ($60-$100/person/month). They often have a more state-of-the-art facility with more equipment and amenities. They also have more all-inclusive services. Which means, they have all different kinds of equipment, classes, pools, hot-tubs, locker rooms and other products/services for their members.
While these places are nice, you shouldn’t pay for them if you are only going to be hitting up the steam room. Be real, you should join a gym to exercise. They can actually be a cheaper option than most smaller, personalized fitness centers (yoga, cycle, Pilates or kickboxing studios) because they also offer most of the same classes as most smaller boutiques – but their classes might not be as amazing as a studio who only specializes in one type of exercise.
Other Large Gyms ($10-$50/person/month). These places have everything you need, including cardio equipment, cable machines, pools, weights, cycle studios, and classes. I would definitely recommend starting your fitness journey with something you can afford so you don’t throw in the towel because of how expensive it is.
Smaller Gyms ($20-$60/person/month). A lot of the smaller gym franchises, like Snap or Anytime Fitness don’t ever close their doors, so you can workout whenever you would like, which is a benefit to some. The downside to these places is that they don’t offer many (or any) classes – just the basic equipment and a lot of time, you will fight over machines or space. But if you need a place to just run, lift or just to exercise, start here.
Individualized Fitness Studios ($70-$140/person/month). You drive by them every day – cycle studios, CrossFit garages, yoga and Pilates studios, kickboxing centers, etc. These places are going to deliver a better experience. They have higher quality equipment, better classes and instructors and a general overall atmosphere. It is almost like you have your own personal trainer every time you go in and you get to hang out with a group of like-minded people to connect with. It’s awesome!
Most facilities will even allow you to try it out for free and you can decide if it is for you, before having to pay anything. Plus, they usually will offer great deals throughout the year to help make it more cost effective. If you can afford to spend a little bit more per month, these are great places to try something new and to connect deeper with other people while you work out.
Are social media influencer workout plans cheaper and effective?
Social Media influencers are people who live life sharing their successes and experiences so you can follow along with their journey. Many influencers will also provide their followers with life-changing tips and “their best kept secrets” to accomplishing a body much like their own, which is VERY powerful.
Of course you can learn the basics from a personal trainer, but a lot of the time, most fitness social media influencers have tried many different methods over time. Plus, you get to see more into their world – how they eat and what goals they are trying to achieve. They simply know what works best! Many social media influencers end up developing their own more personalized workout program that fits more with their followers needs. Are you looking to connect with another mom who overcame diastasis recti? Are you looking to join a mom fitness group to take a break from your kids and make new friends? Do you just want an amazing home workout routine for cheap? Social media influencers got your back, always! And most of them are driven by their passions, not just to make a profit.
Overall, their workouts are extremely effective because they are more personalized to your specific needs, easily accessible from your phone and are available to you 24/7. They also usually cost about 25-50% less than what you would pay at a fitness center too!
What are the best free opportunities to workout?
There are unlimited free opportunities to workout. Even if you currently workout at a gym, still try and get outside to workout once and a while because it is excellent for the body and mind. Here is a list of free opportunities to start moving:
- Start walking
- Download a free workout app
- Go for a run
- Follow along with a fitness influencer
- Go for a bike ride
- Go hiking
- Join a free fitness support group
- Try out a free class at a fitness center
- Join a free run club
- Play a sport outside/inside
- Walk your dog
- Do exercises that don’t require equipment (push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, ice skaters, planks, lunges, box jumps, burpees, crunches, tricep push-ups, yoga stretches, jackknifes, etc.)
- Do workouts at the park
- Swim in a pool or lake
- Do workouts with a friend
- Do yardwork