Finance Your Budget Six ways to save money and get healthier
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Six ways to save money and get healthier

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Is it possible to make more healthy choices on a tight budget? Many people use the excuse that they “can’t afford” healthy food to justify their poor diet. In fact, you can save thousands of dollars and improve your heath and fitness with some simple lifestyle choices.

1. Ditch the gym

Expensive gym memberships chew up cash – and thousands of us don’t even use them. Instead, get walking and cycling. It’s a better mood booster than being indoors, and you’ll also get your dose of Vitamin D from the exposure to sunlight.

Annual savings (based on average gym membership costs): $960.

2. Take a water bottle

Soft drinks are bad for your teeth and weight, and bottled water is no safer or healthier than what comes out of the tap. Carry a water bottle with you when you go out, cut carbs and stay hydrated.  You can always use filtered tap water if you prefer, though it’s not necessary. Supercharge this saving by cutting out a coffee a day as well.

Annual savings (based on cutting out one soft drink and coffee per weekday): $1,690.

3. Get foraging

There’s tonnes of free bush tucker out there – even in urban areas – not to mention plenty of people letting fruit drop off their trees and rot. Gather tasty greens such as dandelions or nasturtium leaves for a free salad (don’t forget to wash any foraged plants in apple cider vinegar before you tuck in) and ask your neighbours for surplus citrus. Rosemary grows just about everywhere – so if you’re having roast lamb, there’s no need to buy your garnishes from the supermarket.

Annual savings (based on two free weekly servings of greens): $260.

4. Plan your meals

Food waste is a huge cash drain – Australians are estimated to throw out 20 per cent of the food that they purchase. Most food is wasted by people forgetting expiry dates, over-buying, and not using leftovers. Better meal planning means you’re less likely to grab takeaway food, because your vegetables have wilted and gone mouldy in the fridge.

Annual savings (based on the most conservative government estimates): at least $1,000.

5. Look east

As Tyler Cowen observes in An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies, Asian supermarkets are typically packed with fresh greens at a cheaper price than other grocery outlets. Bunches of herbs and leafy vegetables are much bigger and cost far less than in major supermarkets.

Annual savings (based on three cheaper purchases of greens each week): $256.

6. Get a lunch-box

It’s easy to spend $10 or more every day on a sandwich and drink in the city. Take food from home – better still, leftovers – even if it’s just for a couple of days a week, and you’ll quickly start shaving dollars off your food bill.  Packing your lunch also gives you more choice and control over what you’re eating.

Annual savings (based on saving two $10 lunches a week): $1,040.

So there you go: $5,206 saved through some fairly simple changes.  And that’s not to mention the extra gains you’ve made for your health, which could save you on healthcare costs in the long run.

Chloe Quin is wellness expert with online health insurance provider Health.com.au, whose mission is to help Australians access affordable healthcare that’s easy to understand. Also a qualified yoga instructor, Chloe is passionate about empowering women to boost their health and fitness in fun, family-friendly ways.

This article first appeared in Women in the Black.