It’s been almost two months since you made that new year’s resolution to follow a healthier lifestyle. How is it working out so far? Do you find yourself buying food you swore off, not exercising enough and wondering how to pay down your debt from the holidays?
You still have time to embrace your resolution before getting further into 2017. Revamp your eating habits and create a new, healthy lifestyle that benefits both your body and your bank balance.
Dump the diet
From low fat to high protein, diets don’t work, according to Traci Mann, a psychology teacher at the University of Minnesota who has spent 20 years studying dieting and eating habits. Even if you lose weight in the short term, she says, following a calorie-restricted diet long term is unsustainable. It’s also expensive buying special diet foods and it’s a pain keeping track of everything you eat, even with the multitude of mobile apps available to help you.
With both obesity and chronic disease on the rise in Canada, now can be a good time to ensure you don’t become a statistic in the future. Eat in moderation, avoid fad diets and expensive supplements, and keep the money you would have spent on these in your bank account to maintain your financial fitness.
Cut out junk food
Apart from being unhealthy, fast or junk food can “eat up” a sizeable chunk of your monthly budget. Compare the costs: the price of your average combo meal is around $10, which typically gives you a burger on a bun, a side and a drink; however, if you buy a pack of lean turkey burgers from Loblaws ($12.99 for 8), lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and avocado (approx. $12), you can produce 8 meals for around $3.12 each. That’s a savings of around $27.40 a month, or $328 a year.
This is especially useful when friends drop by unannounced and you would normally order pizza. You can improve both your health and your finances by cutting your spending on convenience foods.
Eat at home
StatsCanada reports Canadians paid 2.8 percent less for food purchased from stores during 2016 than they did in 2015, while food bought in restaurants went up by 2.3 percent during the same period. The drop in grocery spending was seen mostly in fresh vegetables, fruit, and cereal products, which are some of the foods needed to prepare healthy meals at home. Shopping carefully and preparing your own healthy meals at home instead of eating out could save you a substantial amount between now and year end.
Go veg or vegan
Cutting out meat, fish and poultry can reduce your annual grocery bill by a whopping 22.9 percent, based on StatsCanada’s average annual food expenditure for Canadian households.
If your grocery bill is roughly $50 per person per week, you can potentially save almost $600 a year by replacing meat with alternative protein sources such as beans, lentils and tofu. This percentage could increase in 2017, too, with the price of meats like Canadian beef potentially rising in response to greater export pressure from China and India.
This route is also worth considering for the health benefits of plant-based nutrition, such as improved gut health and a lower risk of colon cancer. If the option sounds attractive, join a forum such as the public Facebook group “What Broke Vegans Eat” for some excellent ideas on keep your food costs down.
Waste not, want not
The quantity of food wasted by households has become big news in Canada recently, with experts estimating the waste at $760 annually per person. Even if you’re only guilty of wasting half of that amount, it’s an extra $380 a year you can invest or save by reducing unused food.
Some tips for cutting back on wasted food include:
- Tweak portion sizes. If you are regularly leaving food on the plate, it’s time to consider leaving that food in the pot instead. Package it up for work or school lunch, or freeze it for a day when you don’t have time to cook.
- Avoid “over-buying.” This applies especially to perishables – that six-pack of Romaine lettuce at Costco might be cheaper than the 3-pack anywhere else, but if you end up ditching two-thirds, you haven’t benefited.
- Evaluate “best before” dates. There may not be a need to discard yoghurt within a day or two of a sell-by date, for example. Try to buy only what you think you will use in the time you have. If you can’t, make a point of using up whatever you can. Keep in mind the sell-by dates are assigned to be when the products are at their freshest. A day or two later won’t necessarily make them inedible, even if it means you have to cook them and then freeze them for later use.
Sharing food with others helps to cut waste and reduce costs, too, as well as making meal times more fun. Alternate with friends and neighbours to make dinner, or start a lunch club with some of your colleagues where you take turns to make brown-bag lunches for the group.
Fire up fitness options
Exactly how often have you used that gym membership this year? Or last year, for that matter? Gyms typically see 12 percent of their members sign up in January, according to the International Health, Racquet, & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), but attendance drops over the following two months. With an average monthly membership fee of $49.10, you can save almost $600 a year and still maintain your fitness. Try options such as:
- Look online for yoga videos to use at home in your living room.
- Support local charity 5K walks and runs – the costs are minimal, you raise money for a cause and take part in a group event. The Running Room publishes a schedule of events across Canada on their website.
- Invest in a good bicycle, canoe or kayak ahead of summer, so as soon as the temperature rises you can get out and about and have fitness-building fun.
- Join a local YMCA, where you can swim in their indoor pool winter and summer, work out on the circuit or take part in aerobics or yoga classes – all for one low monthly fee, or just pay per use.
- Sign up for the nearest Meetup hiking group, like these Toronto-based options. There’s usually no fee to sign up and members pay only the costs of getting to and from the events, which are held year-round in some parts of the country.
A healthy lifestyle doesn’t just have to benefit your physical fitness. Eating right and exercising can also stretch your budget in healthy ways, providing opportunities for investing, saving or even reducing debts you resolved to pay down this year.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.