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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Think Healthy Equals Expensive? Think Again!

It's tax matter how much we wish it wasn't. We are faced with our income or lack thereof in stark black and white and we start thinking about earning more money in the future or how to pay those stinkin' taxes!

I am in the category of thinking about how to increase my earnings and because of that, I live extremely frugally. I am also kind of a health nut unless I eat something sugary and then I become a voracious eating machine, but that is the subject of a different post! Can being frugal and healthy co-exist?

Many folks think that living a healthy life is expensive. They are sure that eating healthy food is pricey. They are sure that they can't get in or stay in shape without a membership at a fancy (meaning costly) gym. With those assumptions, a lot of people just give up or they blow their budget at the grocery store and don't have money for much else.

When I am faced with prevailing thinking such as, "It costs a lot of money to be healthy," I take it as a personal challenge to see if that school of thought is true or not. Let me encourage you that giving up a large portion of your budget to groceries to have quality food is not necessary if you are willing to change your mindset just a bit. Isn't that good news?

What do I mean by changing your mindset? You have to be willing to buy marked down items at the grocery store. These items are marked down because the packaging has been damaged, the item is about to go past its sell-by date (which isn't its expiration date, by the way), or the store is clearing out the item because it wasn't a good seller. Generally, these items will have large orange stickers on them showing the original price and the new, reduced price and the savings is anywhere from 25-80% off of the regular price. I also use coupons and oftentimes I can use a coupon on a marked down item for the maximum savings possible.
This nice California mix made a delicious
addition to our healthy stir-fry. 

I don't know about you, but I would rather get the best and most items I can for the least amount of money and have some funds left to put towards other items I have to buy.

Recently I made a nice pot of vegetarian chili. It made 7 1/2 cups of chili, which was about seven 1-cup servings. I often serve my chili over rice so we don't need huge portions of chili that way. This pot of chili cost me a shade under $2.00 to make and I got two dinners and a lunch out of it. Right now, you are thinking that can't possibly be correct. I can feel your skepticism coming through the computer. I will explain so you can do similar feats of financial alchemy yourself.

My husband, who wasn't frugal when we married but has been a good student, purchased two cans of pinto beans that were marked down because the cans had been dropped and dented. The regular price of these beans is 72 cents per can, but in this instance, one was reduced to 36 cents and the other to 18 cents.
He also bought a bag of black beans that had been torn open and re-closed with tape that had been $3.00 but was reduced to 25 cents. I had some Northern beans in the cabinet from an earlier purchase to add to the mix of beans and I had a can of diced tomatoes. I had purchased some cans of seasoned tomato sauce that was originally intended to make meatloaf the store was clearing out because it hadn't been selling (I am always thinking of multiple ways to use items). Each can was marked to 24 cents and I bought a dozen cans (when you see a great deal, buy as much as you can). I had onions and the seasonings for chili already on hand that I had used for other dishes so the cost of these ingredients had already been paid. The total of all items used in the chili was $1.77! And it was no-meat chili which is healthier.

It may say Dinner Starters for Meatloaf
but the way I think, that is merely a suggestion.
We scour every store where we shop for clearance items or hugely discounted items. Because of this unique acquisition method, I do not make a menu prior to going shopping. Once we get our goodies home, then I proceed to create a menu and see if I will need to buy any additional items. We eat a good variety of foods due to this creative way of procuring groceries.

I carry this way of thinking to just about every budget category as much as possible. Anytime I have to spend money, I see if I can reduce the expense somehow. I pretty much live in hyper-frugal mode. 

 Because I am interested in living a healthy lifestyle, I also am into exercising. Exercise equipment, workout clothes, and gym memberships can really take a big bite of a budget if you allow it. I work out at least three times a week and I can safely say that I haven't spent more than $50.00 in the past two years on anything fitness related.  

I have purchased my gym clothes at the thrift store or found them at retail stores deeply discounted. I received an exercise bike from my brother-in-law for free because he was tired of it and all my free weights were given to me by people who no longer wanted them. My yoga mats were gifts as were many of my exercise videos. Some videos I purchased I found at the dollar store. I also found great exercise programs on my local PBS station. Working out doesn't have to be expensive any more than eating healthy does, especially if you work out at home.

Perhaps you don't need to watch your spending as much as I do. But, what if you did anyway and you saved the difference? What could you do with those saved dollars? Travel? Fund a retirement account? Buy a vacation home? 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spa Week Continues with Healthy Eating on a Tight Budget

Taking good care of oneself has a lot of components: getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, exercising, good skin care, filling one's mind with uplifting music and reading, prayer, and so on.

During this week, which I have designated as Spa Week, I am focusing on eating well. Those of you who are regular readers know that in this area, as in all the areas of my life, I work from a tight budget. A lot of people are fond of using the government's qualifications on how much money should be spent to feed ourselves. Even on the thrifty plan, I find that if I am observant and careful, I can do pretty well on a lot less money. If you are curious about these figures, check out USDA Food Plans.

Here are some of my real life examples and by the way, I have to eat gluten and dairy-free, which can be a bit of a hit to the food budget. I make it a habit to be as flexible as possible in what I eat and drink to get the best available deals. This means that sometimes I am drinking almond milk and sometimes I am drinking coconut milk. It all depends on what I can get at the lowest price. If almond milk has a $1.00 off coupon and that is the best deal going, that is what I will have that week.

About a year ago, my local grocery store was clearing out some Bob's Red Mill gluten-free products, which normally run about $5.00 per bag, down to $1.00 per bag. I purchased several bags of creamy rice and creamy buckwheat and popped them into my freezer. Note, that I paid 20% of the regular cost and even that is much less than a gluten filled hot cereal. The creamy rice costs me 5 cents a serving before I add fruit to it and the creamy buckwheat costs 8 cents a serving!
I bought these a year ago and
put them in the freezer. 

My favorite way to eat creamy
rice is by adding strawberries
and bananas with a sprinkle
of stevia to sweeten it. 
The fruit I add to my breakfast is usually purchased on sale or when it is marked down to move it out of the store quickly. Again, I am flexible on what I eat so I get the most out of the money I have budgeted for groceries. A plus to this philosophy is that I also have great variety.
My bargain purchase of almond
milk plus protein shake mix and
fruit make for a filling, nutritious breakfast. 

Another philosophy I employ is to accept whatever people want to give me. In this case, I was given five packages of protein shake mix by my father-in-law. He had been sent them by a cousin and he was not at all interested in using them. I was thrilled because these are gluten and dairy free and I am always looking for ways to get low-calorie protein into my diet. Once people know that you are a person who is happy to receive items, you will be blessed with a lot of different things coming your way. I have been given meats of all types, all kinds of produce, lots of dry beans, furniture, clothing, even a car or two!

Another example of eating healthfully on a budget was finding a Kale Vegetable soup mix marked down at the grocery store. I would normally make my food at home from scratch but on this day I was having a busy day and so I was thrilled to find this soup kit for $4.00! Another plus on this was that I got two days worth of meals out of it so it was pretty cost efficient.
I wouldn't normally buy a
kit but this was healthy and
fairly inexpensive. 

All this healthy eating doesn't mean that there aren't any treats to enjoy. I recently discovered the joys of using frozen bananas to make "ice cream".
No sugar, no dairy, no guilt in this treat! Just slice fairly ripe bananas and pop into the freezer. Once they are frozen solid, just pop into your food processor and add a bit of whatever milk you like using for a plain version of banana "ice cream". I made a chocolate version for me and my youngest son by adding some cocoa powder to the mixture. You can add all sorts of tasty things to this for variety's sake. This is a good use of those really inexpensive markdown bananas we all see at the grocery store from time to time.

And there you have it, healthy eats on a budget! Just the kind of food that is called for during Spa Week!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spa Week

It is spring break here in my part of the country which means that the school where I work is not in session this week. So, I have some free time and decided to spend some of it on myself. I have designated this week as Spa Week!

Even here in the South, it has been a long, hard winter. Cold weather and dark, dreary days have had an effect on both my body and my psyche! If you are in the same boat, join me in undoing the ravages of Old Man Winter.

I am going to be spending this week exercising, doing beauty treatments, eating indulgently in a healthful way, and relaxing.

I began my day with a weigh-in followed by a Classical Stretch exercise session. Then I took my three
dogs out one by one for their morning walk. I ran through my yard with the two big dogs, Emmie, and Kiah, and did lunge walks around my yard with my sweet little Shih Tzu, Watson.

As I write this blog entry, I am soaking my feet in preparation for giving myself a pedicure. I am all about multi-tasking folks!

I put some lovely light pink OPI polish on my now smooth tootsies. I had purchased the polish on a markdown at my local grocery store. Looking good doesn't have to be expensive!

I also gave myself a mud mask facial this morning. Can you tell it's on over here at my house?

This is as real as it gets folks-
there is no  makeup on my face!

I used Arbonne's Sea Mud Mask
but you can actually make your
own beauty products if you are
up to doing so. 
Spa week can be as inexpensive as the ingredients in your kitchen or as expensive as a trip to the beauty counter. I will be sharing lots of recipes, URLs, and exercises this week. I hope you will share your beauty tips and tricks too! More info to come tomorrow!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Was the Oscar Buzz Deserved?

It has been a BUSY couple of weeks at my house. My younger daughter got engaged, my husband, older daughter, and grandson took a long road trip together, younger daughter and fiance came for a visit over Oscar weekend, and things were hectic!
 All of this activity caused our Academy Awards party to end up being a bit slapdash but my youngest son and I still had a lot of fun. We decided to eliminate some of the voting categories from the ballot because there were areas with which we weren't familiar. At the end of the night, I had predicted 9 winners correctly and my son (an aspiring filmmaker) had predicted 11 winners! His prize was a bag of Skittles as he loves candy. If you don't know what I do each year for the Oscars, take a moment and read And the Oscar Goes To.

I bought this clapboard years ago for a
movie themed birthday party and have
definitely gotten my $5.00 from it!

Just prior to watching the Oscars, we rented Nebraska, Blue Jasmine, and All Is Lost. I found something enjoyable in each film, which especially surprised me with Blue Jasmine as I am not a Woody Allen fan at all.

Following the Oscars, we rented Dallas Buyers Club and went to see American Hustle. Let me just say that if you haven't seen either of these films, you owe it to yourself to see what all the Oscar buzz was about. Both films have a lot of profanity and sex scenes but they are true to the characters and not at all just thrown in gratuitously.

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto turned in amazing performances in Dallas Buyers Club. They richly deserved their Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.

The two of us had such fun that I have decided next year to have a real Academy Awards night party and invite other movie loving folks to join us. I got some great decorating ideas from several television shows I watched prior to the Oscars that I can't wait to try. I think I may even start a new Pinterest board to help me in my preparations.

What did you think of the Academy Awards? Did you think that the best movies, actors, and other categories were fairly awarded? Who do you think should have gotten Best Picture, Actor, Actress, etc.?