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Living Healthy on a Budget...Yes, it Can Be Done!

I spoke in a previous post about our tight budget. I thought I would talk a little bit about how I manage to make healthy choices while still staying within that budget. It's not an easy task, but getting to stay at home with my kiddos makes pinching those pennies so worth it.

The first thing I did was go to a written budget. Seeing where everything is actually going is the first step to telling it where it should go!

Next, I began to batten down the hatches. Nothing was safe in my quest for extra dollars. Our home land line was the first thing to get the ax. We all already have cell phones, so why spend $50 MORE a month on a phone we never wanted to answer because it was a salesperson? Out that went. Our satellite plan went down to the bare bones (don't tell my fam, but I've considered cancelling that altogether). We don't buy DVDs very often now, we got Netflix. I only buy books I really want and utilize the library tons. I stopped magazine subscriptions I wasn't really reading. We cut out everything extra.

Next, I did everything possible to get our utility costs down. Energy saving light bulbs went in. They are more expensive, but they last forever and cut down our electric bill quite a bit. I just bought a few at a time each week; I found them cheapest at Home Depot (although this week there is a good deal at Target on them). I turn lights off when we're not in a room, unplug things not in use and shut computers down when they're being used. Made sure air wasn't getting out doors. You can search online for lots of ideas on energy savings. We also went to all wood heat and stopped buying propane. That was a little extreme for most people, but it works for us because hubby can cut wood at his family's ranch.

Grocery shopping can be a big expense for a family of 5 trying to make healthy choices. My system allows me to do that fairly cheaply. My grocery budget is $300 to $400 a month. That has to include all cleaning supplies, dog food, cat food, etc. What I do is clip coupons for things my family uses. I also look online for coupons and print them out. I have a little file that I then file them alphabetically in so I don't have coupon messes all over the house. Then, I watch the sales at Target, Safeway, and King Soopers. You can easily do this online; most sites let you make your grocery list and print it out. King Soopers you can even email it to yourself. When something we use goes on sale, I use my coupons and stock up. King Soopers and Safeway in my area even double coupons up to a $1. I never shop at Sam's, Costco, or Walmart anymore. I can do far better with my system. You may have a lot of one item one week and another the next when you first start out, but it will all even out and you'll have a full pantry of everything.

Check with your store, some have limits of 3 like coupons, etc. Most stores will allow you to use a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon together (combine with a sale and you get stuff dang cheap). I actually buy more than 1 paper if there's good coupons in it. I might be spending $1.50, but the coupons inside can be worth way more. If I want to stock up on something we use a lot, I'll go back more than once, or have hubby or someone else go too. Yes, I'm shameless at getting around limits. You'll find you will get things free sometimes too. For example if Crest toothpaste is 10 for $10 at King Soopers and you have a coupon for 50 cents off (that they will double to $1 off) you just got free toothpaste.

Now, you will find a lot of GREAT deals on junk food this way. That's why I only clip the coupons for healthy things that I want to buy for my family. That way I'm not even tempted when I can get Pop Tarts dirt cheap ;)

For fruits and veggies I stalk the good sales and load up. Now, these are perishable, so I can't go too crazy. If spinach is super cheap, I'll buy a couple packages and work it into a lot of meals that week. You can freeze some things. For instance, berries. When strawberries were $1 a pkg last year I bought tons and froze them. Search on the internet about freezing things (hopefully my sis will read and post the name of that book she has). It's a great way to extend the lifetime of sale things.
I always take cash shopping. It keeps me on my toes. If I know I have exactly $100 to spend I am way more mindful than if I'm just putting it on my debit card. We don't use credit cards at all.

Working out on the cheap is easier than I thought. I already have a treadmill and exercise bike from the days we weren't so careful with money. I bought a cheap set of hand weights and some workout DVDs. I always check a DVD out from Netflix first to be sure I'll like it. They even have ones you can watch instantly online. I also never spend more than $10 on a fitness DVD. I usually stalk the deals on Amazon for these. I always use the free super saver shipping.  I'll even wait a bit until I have $25 worth of things I need to order. Plus, with no sales tax, can't beat Amazon.

If you search a bit you can find lots of helpful websites on couponing and saving money. There's also lots of helpful peeps on Twitter. Two of my favorites: @DealSeekingMom (her website is awesome) and @SpringsBargains (more of a local thing I think). You will find sites you can pay for them to tell you all the deals, where to spend your coupons, etc. I skip these, think it's a waste.

Helpful books I've read: Shop, Save, and Share by Ellie Kay. I don't use her exact system, but it's a good place to start if you're new to all this. Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. Love me some Dave! He changed our lives. We cut up our credit cards and only have our mortage and second mortgage left to pay off thanks to him. If you have no payments that sure frees up a lot of cash! My bro in law says Total Money Makeover is good too.

Sorry, this is so long, I guess I can get windy when I'm up on my soap box! I'll add in the comment section if I think of things I left out.