With the new year in full swing, now is the prime time to get a gym membership. Whether your goal is to lose weight and gain muscle or improve your endurance, there are plenty of reasons to give in. Here are some reasons to join a gym.
4 Reasons to Join a Gym Today
1. HELPS WITH CONSISTENCY
No matter what your fitness goals entail, consistency is key to reaching them and in order to maintain consistency, we need structure, which is exactly what a gym provides. When all of the equipment you could ever need is conveniently in one place, you’re more likely to stick with your goals, and more importantly, reach them.
2. OFFERS VARIETY
The beauty of a fitness club is that there is a little something for everyone and a variety of ways to use equipment. From free weights to cardio machines to swimming and Zumba classes, gyms offer members variety, which is crucial for maintaining motivation and preventing stale workouts. With an abundance of equipment, you’re always able to mix up your routine so you’re never bored, and you actually enjoy working out.
3. PERSONALIZED SUPPORT & POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Personal trainers and class instructors are there to help you reach your fitness goals by offering expert advice and hands-on guidance to ensure proper form and a healthy diet. It’s especially important for those who feel intimidated by the gym and are insecure about what they’re doing.
Group classes and training are also effective for reaching your goals and receiving extra help. A group setting might seem intimidating initially, but rather than focusing on how you look to other people, confide in other attendees as well as your instructors to learn new exercises and expand your fitness knowledge.
4. MEMBERSHIP & MERCHANDISE DEALS
The beginning of a new year is a peak time for receiving special discounts on memberships along with various fitness items like water bottles, protein powder, workout gear and even deals on personal training, so take advantage of any and all deals your gym might be offering. These offers will be kind to your wallet and your health.
NEVER GO TO A PARTY HUNGRYGoing to a party in starvation mode is basically a recipe for disaster because it’s one of the many ways people go downhill with their fitness goals. Eat a healthy meal before attending a holiday party so that you only indulge a little, and reach for the vegetables first before chowing down on the unhealthy options.
BRING A HEALTHY DISH TO THE PARTYGood news is that you can have control over what’s being served at a party if you bring a healthier dish to share. Not only does this align with your weight loss and fitness goals, but it’s a courteous gesture, which is a bonus.
DON’T WAIT FOR THE NEW YEAR TO EXERCISENot only does this mentality lead to overall laziness, but it goes hand and hand with an “all or nothing” mindset, which is typically not effective in terms of long-term fitness. Try staying as healthy as possible and up to par with your fitness goals by moving more during the holidays.
INVEST IN FITNESSThere’s nothing wrong with buying yourself an early holiday gift. If you don’t already have one, treat yourself to a gym membership, a personal trainer or invest in new workout gear. This sets you up for success for a healthy holiday season and prepares you for the new year.
EAT ON SMALLER PLATESWe tend to eat what we see in front of us, so naturally watch your portions with minimal effort by simply eating your food on smaller plates at parties and family dinners.
PARTICIPATE IN ACTIVE HOLIDAY FESTIVITIESAs tempting as it is to nestle under a blanket the entire holiday season, there are plenty of festive physical activities to do. Go ice skating, sledding, skiing or snowboarding. Even something as simple as walking around to see Christmas lights can do the trick, as long as you’re staying on your feet. Exercising in the cold also boosts your immune system and helps convert some of the body’s fat cells from unhealthy “white” fat to heat-producing metabolically active “beige” fat, which ultimately burns more calories and aids in weight loss according to Tree Hugger.
COOK AND BAKE WITH HEALTHIER INGREDIENTSTraditional holiday treats are some of the main culprits to over-indulgence and weight gain. Replace common baking and cooking ingredients like flour, sugar and butter with applesauce, canned pumpkin, whole wheat flour, Greek yogurt, cinnamon, oats, black beans, honey and avocado. Check out more healthy ingredient swaps here.
DON’T RESTRICT YOURSELFWhen we restrict ourselves to certain foods, especially during the holidays when there’s an abundance of special treats, we naturally want them more. Not only is it perfectly normal to let yourself indulge, but it’s actually important if you’re focused on weight loss or weight maintenance. The more realistic you are, the more mindful you’ll be, and you’ll naturally indulge less.
Many of us have either tried to lose weight or have at least
wanted to lose weight and it’s easy to be misinformed or to waste time by
relying on the wrong solutions. Here are some of the most common weight loss mistakes.
Solutions for Weight Loss: Common Mistakes You’re Making
1. RELYING ON THE SCALE
One of the most common weight loss mistakes majority of us
are guilty of is relying on the scale to detect our progress. Although it can
be a helpful tool, especially for those looking to lose an excess amount of
weight, it can actually hinder weight loss. First off, this is because most of
us don’t understand that there is a difference between weight loss and fat
loss. We use the phrase, “weight loss” to describe wanting to lose fat.
Second, the scale doesn’t know the difference between muscle and fat, so even though you might be exercising and eating clean, the number might not go down because while you’re losing fat, you may also be gaining muscle in the process. Be mindful of this the next time you look down at that pesky number, because it typically does more harm than good and isn’t always accurate like you think. Learn more about the scale here.
2. DOING TOO MUCH CARDIO AND NOT ENOUGH WEIGHTLIFTING
One common myth we are told is to run for weight loss. Too much cardio can actually do the opposite and cause weight gain because your body will eventually burn muscle instead of fat. According to Health Magazine, too much cardio can cause the body to store energy as fat and increase your appetite, making you more inclined to overeat. A pound of muscle burns three times more calories than a pound of fat, so that’s why it’s advised to strength train if you’re looking to lose fat.
3. EATING TOO MANY HEALTHY FOODS
Yes, you can gain weight from healthy food. This is because eating too much of anything is not good. Fat loss takes place with a calorie deficit when you burn more calories than you consume, which is why it’s imperative to practice portion control if you’re trying to achieve weight loss.
4. EATING LESS BUT NOT HEALTHIER
Eating too little and too much both hinder weight loss,
especially if your diet is small amounts of processed junk food. Not only is it
not enough food to satisfy hunger cues, but junk food lacks nutrients, which
leads to deprivation, overeating and ultimately, weight gain. In order to reach
your weight loss goals, you need to eat more healthy foods like vegetables,
lean meats and whole grains and indulge in moderation.
5. BEING IMPATIENT
Weight loss takes time, and this isn’t just because it feels
like forever to see results, it’s actually scientific. It takes 12 weeks of
consistency to see measurable changes in your body and often times, most people
fail to lose weight because they aren’t patient.
So, the next time you see something online or on television
that promises to help you lose weight fast, it’s safe to say that you won’t
keep the weight off. Keep in mind that even though it might take some time to
lose weight, the good news is that it also takes time to pack on the pounds.
One good meal won’t make you fit or thin just like how one bad meal won’t make
6. EATING “DIET” FOOD
We are convinced that something is better for us or will help us lose weight if the label says “diet” or “low-fat.” Take something that is fat-free for instance.The product has been stripped of fat but replaced with added sugars to make it taste better. According to Healthline, low-fat or fat-free foods contain higher amounts of sugar, which increase hunger signals and cause you to actually consume more calories.
Rather than focusing on labels, maintain a balanced diet of
nutrient-rich foods like fresh vegetables, protein and whole grains. You’ll
have a lot better luck at losing weight this way than relying on diet foods
that contain hidden ingredients and added sugars.
7. RELYING ON OUTLETS OTHER THAN DIET AND EXERCISE
Like it or not, there is no “magic pill” for weight loss–at
least not for long-term results. There are “fat burners” and crash diets out
there that might help you shed a few pounds initially, but the cold truth is
simple–you have to eat right and work out to lose weight, and to keep it off,
stay away from dieting. It’s not a realistic weight loss approach because
people typically don’t maintain it.
8. REWARDING YOUR WORKOUTS WITH FOOD
It’s perfectly fine to treat yourself sometimes, but it’s also easy to get carried away and set yourself back if you aren’t mindful. According to Reader’s Digest, a study found that people claimed to have burned more calories than they actually did during a workout and then consumed more food than usual as a reward for exercising. Having that mentality can sabotage your weight loss goals because you can’t out-train a poor diet, so instead, eat clean 80 percent of the time and reward yourself 20 percent.
9. CUTTING OUT TREATS
On the contrary, it’s also a common mistake and habit to
feel like we have to deprive ourselves of our favorite guilty pleasures. Once
this happens, we immediately crave them more because it’s not realistic or sustainable
to quit something we love cold turkey. Just like with rewarding yourself,
practice everything in moderation instead of restricting yourself to the
10. DRINKING YOUR CALORIES
This includes alcoholic beverages and “healthy” smoothies
that many dieters drink as meal replacements. It’s easy to ignore liquid
calories or not count them, but these calories definitely matter and can easily
skyrocket your daily intake. “Healthy” smoothies or shakes often contain hidden
ingredients and added sugars that spike your hunger cues, leaving you hungrier
and reaching for more food, according to Reader’s Digest.
11. COPYING SOMEONE ELSE’S DIET AND EXERCISE PLAN
Although clean eating and consistent exercise is better than
a poor diet and no exercise, what works for someone else might not work for you.
Everyone has different lifestyles, body types and habits, and some even have
medical conditions that hinder weight loss. If you’re unsure about what works
for you, get with a personal trainer that will push you harder during workouts
and help your form custom meal plans.
12. DINING OUT TOO OFTEN
Even if you order on the lighter menu or you order something
that’s supposed to be “healthy,” there’s definitely a good chance it’s actually
not good for you. Sure, some restaurant items are worse than others and it’s
important to be mindful when you go out, but many dishes have hidden
ingredients and are packed with excess sugar and fat. Limit dining out to once a
week and cook healthy meals for the remaining days.
13. LETTING GO ON THE WEEKENDS
You eat clean and exercise Monday through Thursday but once
the weekend rolls around you dive head first into greasy food, alcohol and skip
the gym. This probably sounds familiar to you since it’s a very common weight
loss mistake and is typically the main culprit for stubborn fat that sticks
around. By over-indulging on the weekends, you’re taking two steps forward and
one step back. Avoid this by limiting alcohol intake and being mindful when you
dine out. Moderation is key to realistic and healthy weight loss.
LOW HEART RATEAccording to Insider, people who are in good physical shape have lower heart rates at 60-100 beats per minute. Their hearts pump harder with stronger beats. A number higher than that given range might indicate heart disease or high blood pressure.
QUICK RECOVERY TIMEIf you can bounce back quickly after a tough workout, that usually is good indicator that you’re in shape. Take your pulse right after you’ve finished exercising, testing every minute after that to detect how fast it goes down. If it drops back to normal within about five minutes after your workout, then you are in good shape.
YOU CAN EASILY WALK UP A FLIGHT OF STAIRSThis is a simple cardio test. If you’re able to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling winded, you’re in good shape. Keep in mind that factors like higher elevation and asthma can be deceiving. If you’re somewhere with high elevation that you’re not acclimated to, you might be gasping for air more frequently, but it doesn’t mean you’re out of shape.
YOU CAN EASILY RUN TWO MILES OR A 10-MINUTE MILERunning a mile in 10 minutes or less and being able to run two miles without your heart pumping out of your chest are effective ways to test your cardiovascular health. If you’re slacking in this area, try jogging at a slow and consistent pace, gradually increasing your speed, or fast walk on a treadmill for 1-minute increments, followed by 30-second sprints to keep your heart rate up.
YOU CAN RISE FROM THE GROUND WITHOUT ASSISTANCEThis might be one of the most ignored fitness tests but is extremely helpful in determining whether or not you’re physically fit. According to Health and Fitness Cheat Sheet, sitting down then getting up without using your arms, knees or other body parts for assistance tests your muscular strength, flexibility and balance. If this is difficult for you, practice balancing exercises like single-leg deadlifts, walking lunges and planking while lifting one leg or arm. The more you practice this, the better your overall coordination will be.
YOU CAN DO 10 OR MORE FULL PUSH-UPSThere’s a reason many people dread push-ups–they’re not easy and certainly take practice to master, however, they’re an effective way to test your fitness levels because they use full body weight. If you can do 10 or more full push-ups, you’re on the right track.
YOU CAN EASILY HOLD A 60-SECOND PLANKJust like with push-ups, planks use your full bodyweight, which is why they are great indicators of being physically fit. If you are able to hold a plank for 60 seconds or more without giving up, this is a sign that you have a strong core and lower back.
YOU CAN DO A FULL PULL-UPPull-ups are arguably one of the hardest exercises to perform, and majority of people cannot do a full one, so if you’re in that small pool of people who are able to, your upper body strength is not only top notch, but your overall fitness levels are too.
YOU CAN EASILY SWITCH THINGS UPThere’s something to be said about being able to do a variety of workouts. The next time you hit the gym, pay attention to how many different types of exercises you can do. Do you lift weights, do push-ups then sprint on a treadmill? Can you do a HIIT workout one day and get through a spin class another day? If your answer is yes, you’re in excellent shape. This is because being able to do many different types of exercises tests all areas of your fitness levels, not just one.
BOTTOM LINEWhen it comes to being “in shape,” it’s important to focus on your goals and health rather than looking and being the skinniest. Goals matter because even if you can easily run two miles doesn’t mean you need to be in shape to run an entire marathon. If you focus on how you feel and what works best for you in your daily life, your version of being “in shape” will come with the package deal.
We’ve all been there and done that–looked down at that pesky number and felt ashamed about what we saw, then immediately started thinking about how we were going to lower the number, eventually spiraling into vicious cycles of crash diets, different weight loss plans and frustration to see the number either stay the same or increase. As difficult as it might be to steer away from it, the scale is not a true reflection of your weight loss journey or fitness level. Here’s why.
IT CAN HINDER YOUR PROGRESS
Let’s face it–the scale does a lot more harm than good for many of us. This is because we don’t truly understand how weight loss works and we rely on a number to tell us that we are doing better or worse. The scale unfortunately goes hand and hand with yo-yo dieting, short-term weight loss and the people who have the misconception that results come quick. These same people often will turn to the scale, see a lower number, but will feel defeated shortly after when that number goes back up, causing their progress to suffer and the whole process to take way longer than it should.
IT CAN BE MISLEADING
Weight fluctuates too much
Although it’s usually safe to say that the number you see on the scale is fairly accurate, it’s not your true weight. So many factors fluctuate your actual weight like water intake, bloating, hormones and sodium levels, according to Fight to Fitness. People who aren’t losing weight “correctly” will often find the number on the scale decrease from loss of water weight, but their clothes fit the same and they haven’t lost inches.
Fat loss is different than weight loss
This is possibly the biggest weight loss misconception. When people say they want to lose weight, they typically mean they want to slim down and trim fat but make the mistake of relying on the scale to track their progress. Someone may lose inches and slim down but the number on the scale either increases or stays the same. This is because fat loss and muscle gain are taking place at the same time. Muscle mass is also denser and leaner than fat. This explains why someone might see an increase on the scale, but their pants are looser. According to Very Well Fit, the scale can’t tell the difference between fat and muscle, which is why stepping on one can be confusing and deceiving.
Weight looks different on everyone
A tall person will carry weight a lot differently than someone who is short. Take for instance someone who appears thin. This person may be satisfied when they look at the scale but could be out of shape and have unhealthy levels of body fat, while another person with better endurance weighs exactly the same is made up mostly of muscle.
THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS
Although the scale can be helpful, especially for people who are looking to lose a lot of weight, the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Here are other ways to measure fitness progress:
How your clothes fit:
The way your clothes fit will tell you a lot more than a scale will. Whether that means pants feel looser or you can finally button old jeans again, how your clothes fit is a direct result of losing inches and fat, and once again, this is because muscle is leaner than fat. Plus, this method focuses on how you feel rather than placing a number on your progress. Although some might see both a drop in the scale and looser jeans, many people would surprisingly see no difference in their weight, but they can fit into smaller sizes.
Better endurance and fitness levels:
According to Health Magazine, the scale will not tell you how fit you are. How much weight you can lift and how fast you can run matters. If you can run a mile faster now than you could four months ago or you can lift 10 pounds heavier than you could a few weeks ago, you’re in better shape. Endurance and strength training are key to a healthy fitness journey that the scale doesn’t measure.
If you want to lose weight, focus more on non-scale victories like improving your endurance. Instead of making it a goal to lose 20 pounds, make it a goal to be able to do a full push-up or pull-up. The weight loss part will naturally come in time as your endurance improves and you won’t beat yourself up in the process.
How you feel:
Do you have more energy? Do you feel more confident? Has your perspective on living a healthy lifestyle changed in a positive way? All of these components are key to healthy weight loss and cannot be measured on a scale. The issue with weight loss is that we focus so much on the way we look rather than how we actually feel inside. Not only is that an unhealthy approach that typically leads to confidence issues, crash diets and a bad relationship with the scale, but effective and long-term weight loss actually works in reverse of the status-quo. Since the way we see ourselves is very mental, healthy weight loss begins in the mind. Practice altering your mindset by taking baby steps, making subtle changes to unhealthy habits and focusing less on numbers. The better you feel, the more results you will see, and the healthier you will be overall.
The scale should be used as a tool to know basic numbers about yourself, but it’s not always correct. If you’re someone who feels more at ease when you know your weight, avoid obsessing over it and letting it dictate the way you see yourself. If you’re someone who prefers not to know, that’s perfectly okay too. Besides, at the end of the day, it is just a number.
Mistakes made at the gym are a part of any fitness journey initially, and most of the time, owners and club staff are not even aware of what areas their members struggle in. This is 100 percent preventable, but typically results in lower retention, so it’s crucial for owners to understand common gym mistakes and what warning signs to watch out for. Here are some of the most common ones and how to help your members avoid making these mistakes.
Common Gym Mistakes You Can Help Your Members Overcome
THE MISTAKE: NOT UNDERSTANDING THEIR BODIES AND GOALS
How you can help:
Talk with your members at sign up about their goals. Give diet tips or suggest personal training based on what you think could best benefit them. Do your research about different body types and post these facts on your club’s social media. Fitness is very visual, which is usually what members are missing when it comes to understanding the way their own bodies work. If they don’t understand their bodies, they can’t address their goals. Post diagrams, videos and other images to help them, especially new members who are just starting out.
THE MISTAKE: NOT HAVING A PLAN
How you can help:
It’s pretty simple to detect if someone doesn’t have a plan when they’re at the gym. They’re typically wandering around or getting on and off equipment very quickly. Lack of structure is one of the biggest culprits to gym attrition. Boost your retention by addressing these warning signs. Talk with new members at sign up and actually help them form a plan.
THE MISTAKE: INCORRECT FORM
How you can help:
You can always simply talk with members about what questions they have about different exercises, but many people are embarrassed to admit that they don’t know how to do a push-up correctly. An easy fix to this issue is offering a group class that demonstrates how to perform basic exercises like push-ups, planks, squats and lunges. Offer this as a free group class to new members and prospects as a way of saying “thank you” for signing up with us or trying out our facility. For individuals that prefer digital demonstrations, create quick social media how-to videos showing basic movements. This will add value to your brand and up your retention.
THE MISTAKE: NOT WARMING UP AND COOLING DOWN
How you can help:
Dedicate an area of your gym that is solely for stretching and relaxing. Members will often get the memo during a personal training session and group class that warming up and cooling down are part of the process. Just make sure trainers and instructors are informing them just how important they are to successful workouts and seeing quality results.
THE MISTAKE: DOING TOO MUCH CARDIO AND NOT ENOUGH WEIGHTLIFTING
How you can help:
Start by simply educating your members, because chances are, even long-time members have probably been doing everything backwards. Depending on their goals, suggest personal training or group classes that are strength training-focused. Post different cardio workouts on your social media to offer your members variety so they aren’t running just to run.
Focus especially on members who are looking to lose weight. These people usually have backwards thinking that doing hours of cardio is how they will lose weight, when in fact weight loss derives from a clean diet, a lot of strength training and a little bit of cardio every week. Although weight loss is relative and depends on a person’s body and goals, the general rule of thumb is usually the opposite of what people initially think.
THE MISTAKE: DOING CARDIO BEFORE STRENGTH TRAINING
How you can help:
Offer classes that include a mix of both cardio and strength training, beginning with weightlifting and ending with cardio, and make sure the instructor or trainer highlights why cardio comes before strength training.
THE MISTAKE: SPENDING HOURS AT THE GYM
How you can help:
Although you might think keeping your members at your gym for hours will magically boost your retention, it won’t. In fact, it will probably do the opposite because more time at the gym doesn’t equate to more results. Set a time limit on your group classes for about 45 minutes. Personal training sessions usually last about 30 minutes to an hour on average, so once a class or session is over, that’s an indicator that the workout itself is finished too. This should do the trick for members who aren’t very time-conscious.
THE MISTAKE: WAITING FOR EQUIPMENT
How you can help:
It’s always best to have more space, but because you can’t instantly increase your gym’s square footage, you can still create more space by expanding certain areas and eliminating less popular machines. Take notes on what areas are used up the least and fill those spaces accordingly with equipment that’s in higher demand. If this is a recurring issue, consider expanding your facility in general.
THE MISTAKE: BEING IMPATIENT
How you can help:
Being impatient goes hand and hand with ignorant members who think they’ll magically have flat abs after one sweat session. Although you can’t always control whether a someone is sprinting too fast on one of your treadmills or lifting way too heavy of weights, you can offer tips on social media about this information and suggest personal training, so misinformed members get the correct answers from trained professionals.
THE MISTAKE: USING THE SAME MACHINES AND DOING THE SAME REPS
How you can help:
Recommend personal training to members who need a little more guidance in this department and encourage them to try different classes. Don’t be afraid to recommend a class to a member just because you think they’re not going to like it. Most of the time, people have no idea what they like or don’t like and who knows, your recommendation could be a game-changer for someone. When you mix up what your gym offers and give a variety of fitness tips, members feel more inclined to mix up their routines as well.
THE MISTAKE: NEGLECTING A HEALTHY DIET
How you can help:
You may not be a registered dietician, but this is an area that gym owners don’t take enough advantage of and 90 percent of the time is why members aren’t seeing results and they don’t even realize it. Instead of keeping your members misinformed and frustrated with their progress, post healthy food and cooking tips on your social media.
Members don’t usually eat well because they have no structure or don’t know what to eat. Suggest personal training to those who are looking to lose weight and clean up their diet. Not only will a personal trainer offer structured workouts, but they will also help form meal plans. The last thing you want is your retention to suffer because of something as simple as this.
THE MISTAKE: NOT RECOVERING AND TAKING TOO LONG OF REST PERIODS
How you can help:
We cannot reiterate enough the value of personal training and group classes. Keep resting periods capped at 30 seconds during personal training sessions and group classes so members get the hint to keep their heart rates up. Inform your members from the get-go about the importance of taking a day off and alternating between legs and upper body workouts. Create online content about the value of recovery and how it will help them see faster results during their fitness journeys.
Healthy food and clean eating are just as important as hitting the gym on a regular basis and are the key ingredients to seeing results from your sweat sessions. The trickiest part that many people struggle with is balance. They find it challenging to maintain an overall healthy diet and a gym membership while still having extra spending money to enjoy life–and let’s face it, if you’re health-conscious in the first place, you’re not going to give up those things, so what should you do if you’re tight on money?
Many people have the misconception that eating healthy is expensive because of the misread labels and overpriced organic options. Although grocery bills can stack up, the bills at your favorite restaurants can too when you’re forking over $50 or more a meal with an average plate costing around $13. In a typical restaurant scenario, both your wallet and waistline take the hits, but if you strategize correctly and shop smart, your grocery bill will be way kinder to you both financially and physically. Besides, if you’re able to dine out that much anyway, there really is no excuse to start putting your money into the kitchen. Here are some tips to help you eat healthy while on a budget.
Here’s How to Eat Right on a Budget
HAVE A PLAN AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LEFTOVERS
Without structure, we turn to the quickest and easiest options because we don’t already have all of the ingredients right in front of us to cook something. In the long run, we actually end up spending more money and consuming more calories because we turn to takeout and fast food. To avoid this, plan out all of your meals for the week, including the days when you think you’re more likely to dine out or meet friends for happy hour. While you’re doing this, research healthy recipes on social media sites like Pinterest and different food apps.
Many healthy recipes will typically feed more than two people, so if you’re only cooking for one or two, you have a pretty high chance of scoring leftovers for future meals in the week. Once you find realistic and simple healthy recipes, write out your meals on a calendar. Sometimes people often find that their planned meals get pushed back because they have too many leftovers from a previous dish. This is normal and actually a good thing. Take advantage of all the leftovers you can and freeze whatever you are able to, so you can cook something new a different night and go back to the leftovers on a night that you may not feel like cooking. This way, you don’t get bored of the same dish, nothing goes to waste, and you get your money’s worth.
KNOW THE BASICS AND BUY THE BASICS
When we say the basics, we are talking about foods that are inexpensive, versatile and are items you want to have on hand to cook with. This includes things like whole grain bread, eggs, olive oil, spices and skim milk. You also don’t need a gourmet spice cabinet to cook delicious and healthy meals and most basic spices like salt, pepper and garlic powder are very inexpensive. Olive oil and some other specialty spices might seem a bit pricey at first, but your kitchen needs items like these for cooking. Plus, they last forever, so you’ll save money in the long run.
If you’re cooking for one or two people, it might seem difficult to use bread and milk before their expiration dates. In this case, downsize to just a half gallon of milk and get creative with both items. Try to incorporate them into every other meal as you plan for the week. For example, eggs and toast are healthy and cheap breakfast choices, but can also be used for lunch or dinner as BLT sandwiches. Or ditch the bread for a day and incorporate hard boiled eggs into a homemade salad. Buying the basics allows you to hit two birds with one stone.
STOCK UP ON CANNED FOODS
Canned goods sometimes get a bad rap because they contain a lot of salt being non-perishable, but in the grand scheme, you could simply not add anymore salt to your dish, incorporate a fairly healthy side into your meal and save money. Choose canned pinto and black beans along with canned peas and corn to add variety. These could be considered basic foods that you want to have on hand, and you luckily can buy a lot for very little.
COUPONS AND SALE ITEMS ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND
These might be the most important aspects to smart shopping, and you probably already figured that, but just trust us–your mother wasn’t crazy for using a coupon to spend 60 cents on something instead of a dollar because it all adds up to big savings. If you don’t already, download coupon apps like Groupon and Retail Me Not, and make sure to be informed about your grocery store’s sale items. If you notice the grocery bill is getting too high, look at your items and double check if you really need something and if you can cut back on it. Chances are, it’s a “luxury” item and you could probably save a few bucks if you ditch it or find a coupon.
THE FREEZER IS COOL
Pun intended, but for those on a budget, frozen vegetables without added butter and salt are your saving grace–just avoid the section with the frozen pizza. Although fresh produce is a wonderful added perk to your refrigerator, many people have trouble using it before it goes bad, so it usually goes to waste and money goes down the drain. If you’re someone that absolutely needs fresh produce in your life, stock up on items like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, and only buy what you will actually use in a week and incorporate into various meals. You can not only make salads out of these and use them in an assortment of dishes, but they can also be eaten as healthy snacks. Also, buy proteins like chicken breasts, ground turkey, lean ground beef and get in the habit of freezing them to increase their shelf life, which will also make cooking more convenient for you.
LIMIT TAKEOUT AND DINING OUT
As tough as this might seem, it actually becomes easier once you establish a healthy eating and cooking pattern. Limit your dining out to once a week or every other week, and completely restrict takeout for lunch. Pack all of your lunches for the work week, whether that’s a fresh salad with versatile vegetables that we’ve already mentioned or your leftover chicken from last night. You will save yourself a lot of money and calories this way and going to your favorite restaurant on a Saturday night will be something you look forward to after putting in all of that hard work toward your diet and workouts during the week.
SKIP THE SODA AND CANDY AISLES
You don’t need these things–plain and simple. Your body and your bank account will thank you later. Choose water instead of soda, add lemon or lime juice for flavor and choose light snacks like popcorn and snacks that are high in protein, like almonds. The great things about these options are that they trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more. Minus all of the butter and salt, you can usually eat a ton of popcorn, reduce calorie intake, feel satisfied longer and still have plenty left over as opposed to a bag of potato chips. Although almonds and many nuts are a bit pricier, they are packed with good fats and protein allowing you to eat less, feel fuller longer, satisfy a salty or crunchy craving and you end up needing to buy less, which as you probably can guess, is easier on your budget.
From the get-go this might seem daunting and unrealistic, and you might find other outlets or options that work better for you, but the ultimate goal is to live a balanced lifestyle where your wallet and workouts aren’t suffering from your food choices. As hard as it is to believe at first, you can eat healthy, save money, maintain a gym membership and still enjoy your life at the same time. It all comes down to moderation, consistency and compromise. Once you find how these strategies work best in your life, it will become a pattern and turn into a natural way of life where you won’t feel the need to document all of your meals on a calendar.