February 22, 2010

How Can a Cheapskate Lose Weight?

I've been meaning to mention that I am a cheapskate.   A pretty serious one.  For the past year, I worked hard to live on a low grocery budget ($60-$80 weekly budget for family of four).  I used coupons, read money saving blogs and resources, and I only bought what was on sale.

You can actually buy lots of healthy food for less if you use coupons and buy produce/meat/dairy that is on sale each week.  But the planning can take some time, and with a new baby and weight loss goals in mind, time is not something I've had a lot of.

So even though I am continuing to try to shop wisely and save money at the store, I am changing a few things up.  Here is this professed cheapskates strategy for spending less and losing weight:

1. Increase my Grocery/Household Budget -- In order to give myself more flexibility, I am increasing my buying budget by $40.  Though I don't want to spend more money, I think it's necessary if I am going to be successful.  Many weeks I can do the planning, shop smart with coupons, and save money, but some weeks, it just won't happen, so an increased grocery budget gives me the flexibility I need!

2. Don't Buy the Bad Stuff, Even If It's Cheaper -- I've decided that I am not going to buy foods that contain high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil as much as possible, even if items with those ingredients are cheaper!  This has been a focus for me in the past, but now I am committed to buying the better stuff! 

3. Pay Full Price -- I hate paying full price for anything!  Hate it!  But only buying sales items limits the variety of food I have in the house.  So to increase my success I am going to suck it up and buy some items--especially the fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, whole grains my family will eat!

4. Shop at Aldi and Trader Joes -- I love these two stores for the kinds of food you can buy and the prices.  I love Trader Joes'  raw almonds, soups, EVOO, frozen fruit/veggies, and brown rice.  I shop at Aldi for their great produce prices, and was recently surprised by all of the great "Fit & Active" items that I bought there. 

5. Go More Vegetarian -- We are definitely a "meat and potatoes" family, but I think we can make some changes here, even if they're slow.  If I introduce one vegetarian meal a week, I know that we will save on meat and eat more whole grains and legumes.

6. Eat Out Less -- We already do a pretty good job in this area.  The one thing that helps us limit our eating out is that we often have a pizza night and Chinese take-in.  I will often make a homemade pizza  or stir fry, but when I don't have the time, a "doctored up" frozen pizza is a treat.  We have recently started to buy a few Asian meals where you add chicken.  These along with a frozen egg roll give us the taste of take out without the price. 

Now I wouldn't eat these foods all of the time, but they provide a treat and convenience--with out the price tag of eating out!  And I can add better foods to the meal like a salad, veggies, fruit, and milk, that help us fill up on the good stuff and eat less of the others.  Works for us!

7. Planning -- I am not always perfect at planning, but I know that it will allow me more food options and give me a plan to succeed!  I like to plan our weekly menu (very flexible) at the same time that I make my grocery list.  Doing this one step can be a huge time saver when I am trying to figure out what I am going to feed myself and my family.  And if I feel like I need something to eat but nothing sounds good, I can go to my menu for ideas.  We've probably all heard the saying, "If you fail to plan you plan to fail."  So even though the planning take time, I'll keep trying to do it.

8. Free Activity -- I've already mentioned that I don't have a gym membership right now.  But there are so many activities I can do for free:  exercise videos and books that I own, or borrowed from the library or a friend.  I have a step, which I can use while I watch TV.  Our community also has a free walking track, and I can't wait to walk outside when it gets warmer and less slippery out.  There are lots of options!

So this is what I'm going to do to try to keep saving and losing.   I'd love to hear your strategies for spending less and losing more!  Thanks for reading!


  1. Interesting!

    Do you read The Simple Dollar? I like Trent's take on frugality, where it's not being cheap for the sake of being cheap. He has a few, well defined areas where in which he allows himself to spend more money on high quality stuff, but then for everything else he goes cheap.

    For me my weight-loss falls into one of those categories. If someone told me he could click his fingers and I'd lose 200lb, then I'd happily pay him thousands of dollars. I use that to justify spending money on the gym and not skimping on food.

    As a thought experiment, I also like comparing being obese to having some other serious health condition. If you had cancer, would you try and cure it on a budget?

    Congrats on the loss this week btw :)

  2. Jen, Great tips!!! We have a family of 5 and try to keep the groceries to around $80-$100 per week. It's tough, but you can do it if you try.

    I know some people that spend $600-900 per month on groceries! It's hard to believe, but it's true.


  3. That's great that you are able to do so well with groceries. We are a family of nine and I do spent a LOT more than I probably should. I like that you give yourself some flexibility with your budget and your new "rules" for shopping. Very wise!


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