Browsing articles in "Frugality"
Mar 5, 2013

10 Ways to Lose Weight Without Losing Money

Photo by Jasmine Kaloudis

I’ve been carrying around baby weight for far too long, and decided that this would be the year that I’d take it off.  But you know me — I won’t spend a dime more than necessary.  And as far as I’m concerned, food should be the only expense when one is looking to lose weight.  I don’t see a reason for any of the following:

~ exercise videos

~ gym memberships

~ weight loss groups

~ diet books

You get the drift.  Why would you spend money on this?  You know what is involved in losing weight — you burn more calories than you consume.  So I’m going to tell you how to lose weight without spending much (if any!) money.

It should go without saying that you should be in good health before attempting any form of weight loss.  But as a disclaimer, I will repeat that you should seek out the approval of your doctor before any change in diet, exercise and lifestyle.  Any advice portrayed here is to be used at your own risk and with approval from a licensed health practitioner.


1.  Don’t Buy Diet Books — Go Online.  If you go onto Amazon and search for “diet books” you’ll get over 69,000 results.  69,000!  69,000 books that tell you the same things over and over again:

  • eat more vegetables
  • eat fewer refined carbs
  • stay away from processed meats, cheese and sweets
  • reduce your salt intake
  • stay away from junk food
  • drink more water

You do not need to buy another book telling you the same thing over and over again.  You do not need these generic diets anymore.  Focus on what you already know.  If you need specific information (such as how much protein, calcium, fat, or salt you should consume in a day), look up reputable sites for such information.  Otherwise, stick to what you know to be the correct way to eat:

  • eat whole foods
  • eat mostly fruits and vegetables
  • eat whole grains (oats, brown rice, whole wheat flour, etc.)
  • eat less meat (you need half a pound per week.  That’s it.)
  • drink water
  • get rid of your junk foods and processed crap

There.  At $20 a book for 69,000 books, I just saved you $1,380,000.

The only time that I think a diet book is justifiable is when you need it for a particular dietary condition you have.  If you have celiac, diabetes, or hypothyroidism, then that is something deeper.  But the books you will be looking for are more of a lifestyle-based book to help you control your weight from a medical standpoint.  Find a book that will teach you how to avoid foods that trigger your nutritional problems, like a gluten free cookbook, or a book that is geared specifically towards diabetes.  Don’t worry about books that just tell you how to to lose weight or what foods you should or shouldn’t eat (I already gave you that list!).  Find books that are based around your specific condition and leave the rest on the shelves.

2.  Or Go To the Library.  And don’t buy these books!  Go to the library first.  Check them out, take it home, and read it for a week or two.  Once you’ve decided whether you enjoy it enough to pay for it, then go looking for it (at a secondhand book store or thrift store first).

I spent hours in the bookshop today being nerdy...was looking for Christmas pressies and wound up getting some for myself as well :) What are your favourite 'diet' books? My favourite right now is definitely 'It Starts With Food'

Photo by Crystal Fieldhouse

3.  Don’t Buy Workout Videos — Go To Youtube.  Thank God for Youtube!  You never need to buy another DVD again.  There are movies, documentaries, sermons, seminars, biographies (actually as I write this, I’m watching American Experience: Wyatt Earp on Youtube — yes, I am a history junkie).  So why would your workout videos be any different?  Who needs DVDs anymore when they’re freely accessible online?  You can find yoga, pilates, aerobics, weight lifting, and even (God forbid) Sweating to the Oldies!  Or if you’re looking for Jillian Michaels, Billy Blanks, Tony Horton, Denise Austin, or even Jane Fonda, they’re all there too!

Now, if you find something you thoroughly enjoy, and want to purchase a copy of it for yourself as a way to support your favorite fitness guru, by all means purchase it.  But don’t buy haphazard videos without first reviewing them to be sure you’re going to like and use them.

4.  Don’t Join Weight Loss Groups — Go to SparkPeople.  SparkPeople is a wonderful website that is perfect for those of us who need the extra motivation and encouragement.  This site is a wonderful way to track and maintain a healthy exercise and nutritional lifestyle without spending a cent.  You can track your weight, food, exercise time, and be encouraged by others in your different SparkTeams and participate on Message Boards.

5.  If You Must Join a Group, Start One Yourself!  Organize a Biggest Losers group at your workplace, or host a Weight Watchers style get together at your home once a week.  Email friends or post on Facebook an invitation for others in your circles to join you — you’ll be surprised at how many would be eager to join!  Ask everyone to bring a small snack to share, and do different challenges like “Eat 2 Fruits every day for a week” or “Drink your 8 glasses of water a day”.  Or organize a walking group four days a week.

Healthy food

Photo by Daniel Kulinski

6.  Or Join TOPS.  Finally, if you want to join a group without doing all the work yourself, seek out a Chapter of TOPS in your neighborhood.  I heard of them through an aunt who participates in TOPS regularly.  It turns out that TOPS is a great, and incredibly cheaper, weight loss group that meets once a week to support and encourage one another.  In my local Chapter, I pay $32 a year for membership, and $2 a week.  The money I put towards the group pays for our group’s meeting location (we meet in the community room of a local grocery store) , and I feel that is a good investment.  I really enjoy my membership and find it very motivational and encouraging.

7.  Don’t Join a Gym — Get Outside!  Go for walks.  Do a boot camp at the park.  Go biking with your kids.  Jump in rain puddles.  Garden.  Get a manual push mower.  Wash your car.  There are so many ways to get your workout outside.  Why go to a big building that smells of sweat and is full of grunting behemoths who make you uncomfortable?  Outside you get fresh air, plenty of space, no waiting in line, and no time restrictions!

MN days

Photo By melgupta

8.  Or Get Equipment for Free!  Go onto Craigslist, Kijiji, or Freecycle and look for treadmills, ellipticals, mini trampolines, free weights, exercise bikes, or cable machines.  Often people just want these things out of their basements so why not offer to go get it?  Even if you’re visiting a friend and see a treadmill being used as a coat rack, ask them if they use it.  If not, offer to take it off their hands.

9.  Or Buy It Secondhand.  If you strike out on finding a piece for free, why waste money buying a brand new one?  Go look on Craigslist or Kijiji again and find one that’s being sold secondhand.  People spend way too much money on these things early in January and then by April, they realize they’re never going to stick to it and try to sell it for half the price. That’s when you step in, snatch it up for cheap, and bring it home.

10.  Whatever You Do, Stick to It.  Whether you do or don’t spend any money on your weight loss plan, the important part is to find a program or plan that works for you.  Then stick to it.  Any and all weight loss plan will work, but only if you stick to it.  Find something you can live with, be it no sugar, vegan, or 2 hour a day workouts.  Whatever works for you, and is approved by your doctor, stick with it.

My own diet is based more on eating whole foods and several of the principles from Eat Right for Your Type, due to various dietary allgeries.  I love my new diet and I do feel great when I eat this way.

This post is a part of…

Tackle It Tuesdays at 5 Minutes for Mom
Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda!
Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family
Finer Things Friday at Amy’s Finer Things


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Mar 4, 2013
Comments Off on Top Ten Tools in My Frugal Arsenol

Top Ten Tools in My Frugal Arsenol


I wanted to find a nice picture of a toolbelt, but after seeing this cute little incarnation,
how could I possibly have chosen anything else?   

Photo Credit: Adam Rice


Everyone has a set of items they fall back on to complete almost any task that comes upon them.  What are your top ten tools in your frugal arsenol?  Here are my favorites:

1.  Baking Soda.  I have yet to come across a stain, spill or situation in which baking soda didn’t help somehow.  Whether it’s getting pencil marks off the bright yellow walls (oh yes, she did!), scrubbing soap scum off the tub or refreshing a load of laundry, baking soda does the trick every time.

2.  Vinegar.  Baking soda’s favorite partner in crime, vinegar is just as sneaky and versitile.  As a window cleaner, a dishwasher rinse, a fabric softener, a hair conditioner, or a deoderizer, vinegar does just about anything.  Combine it with baking soda and you have a cleaning powerhouse!

3.  The Crockpot.  I figured it out the other day — I have burned my way through eight crockpots in my lifetime.  Our current incarnation is a 6 quart gem we scored at a yard sale for $5!  I will never pay full price for a crockpot again — too many people don’t know how to use them and they are given away on Freecycle or at yard sales all the time!  And what a treasure a trusty crockpot can be!  Whether it’s cooking supper, simmering bone broth, dying yarn, melting wax or simmering potpourri, that wonderful little pot can do just about any kitchen task you can think of!

4.  Coconut Oil.  Have you had a chance to try coconut oil yet?  No?!  Coconut oil is brilliant.  It’s a lotion, a salve, a cooking oil, a diaper rash ointment, a toothpaste, a cosmetic, a makeup remover, a lubricant, a hunger deterent… is there anything coconut oil can’t do?

5.  Department Store Flyers.  I celebrate when the flyers come to my door.  Why?  Because they are the perfect way to keep your home clean without any effort!  What other product will collect vegetable peelings, catch crumbs that fall down from baby’s highchair onto the floor, be twisted into fire starters, make great craft and coloring paper, can be shredded into cat litter, be stuffed into wet shoes to absorb the moisture, and yet still be tossed into the compost bin (no garbage!) when your task is complete!

6.  The Internet.  Oh my beloved Internet.  My prime source of news, music, information, entertainment, education, communication, and finances.  Where would we be without you?

7.  The Radio.  Of course, before the Internet, our good friend radio did all those things too!  I love listening to interviews, comedy shows, radio dramas, audiobooks, history programs, and of course, music!

8.  Spinach.  Huh?  Spinach?!  How is spinach frugal?  Well, for one thing it’s a dietary powerhouse — chalk full of everything from Vitamin A and K, to magnesium, to manganese, to folate, to various cancer combatting flavonoids.  But besides that, spinach can be served in pretty much everything, in every way.  Fresh in a salad, minced in a smoothie, freeze dried in a soup, baked in a lasagna, pureed in a soup… if you have a family member who doesn’t like to eat vegetables, spinach is a great tool for sneaking a leavy green into their meal.

9.  A Heavy Duty Cooler.  We bought ours at a yard sale for $2.  It’s a metal Coleman one with a metal handle that flips over the lid and locks it into place.  When we bought it, Michael commented, “When would you ever use that?”  I smiled.  Little did he know that it would be used for storing not only picnic goodies, but snacks on road trips, frozen meats from the market, making yogurt, transporting freshly caught fish, saving precious ice cream, and as a secret hiding place for various little stuffed toys.

10.  A Food Processor.  If I choose a kitchen item, I’d have to go with my food processor.  My beloved food processor was purchased for $10 (before I learned to haggle) off Kijiji many moons ago.  It has since paid for itself time and time again.  Baby food, smoothies, blended soups, shredded cheese, bread crumbs, ground beef, sliced casalrrots, homemade coldslaw, salad dressings, fish cakes, chicken salad, onion rings, and various other kitchen creations have all been brought forth by it’s happy spinning blade.

What is in your Frugal Arsenol?  I’d love to hear about it!

Mar 12, 2012

Using Coupons in a Real Food Kitchen


Sanitary Napkins: Original Price: $5.99 each, or $29.95. Sale Price: $2.99 each. After coupons: $2.49 each. Total: $12.45. Savings: $17.50.

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for awhile.  After my last weekend’s excellent haul, I finally felt motivated to write it.

My latest fascination has been Extreme Couponing.  They make it look so easy — waltzing into a store and buying a ton of groceries for $0.62.  Of course, that’s not exactly true — the magic of television hides a lot of the planning, strategizing, dealing, stressing, and calculations.  And especially in Canada, where we don’t have double coupons, can’t stack coupons, and don’t have a lot of them provided.  What’s even more difficult is that when you eat mostly organic and whole foods (lots of produce, meats, dairy, etc.) and focus mainly on chemical-free, homemade cleaners and cosmetics, it’s tough to really get anything out of couponing.  Most people don’t even bother.

A lot of people give coupons a bad wrap, saying that “you only ever get coupons for junk food” and “products that harm the environment”.  I disagree with this statement and here’s why:

In a real food kitchen, don’t think of couponing as directly contributing to your grocery savings, but indirectly reducing other aspects of your budget.  In other words, it’s not so much buying real food with coupons as it is saving on other items with coupons that helps you purchase your produce, meats and dairy.  If you are able to save money from you grocery budget by buying toilet paper using coupons, that money saved can go towards buying more fruits and vegetables.  $12 saved is $12 saved, no matter how you went about it.  That’s just $12 to put toward a freezer full of locally raised organic ground beef!

I’ve been practicing it for about six months and I have to say that for us, it can be totally worth it.  Here’s how we practice couponing in our organic, semi-vegetarian, whole foods, nourishing household.

First off, we only use coupons for products we frequently use, or for items of equal quality in comparison to ones we frequently use.  This includes toilet paper, tissue, sanitary napkins, diapers (Naomi has been mainly using disposables since she started daycare), frozen pizzas (our trick to avoiding fast food places and delivery menus on nights when we’re too tired to cook), ice cream, toothbrushes, dry cereals (not necessarily for breakfast, but for use in play kitchens), dishwashing liquid, frozen vegetables, almond milk, and the very rare produce items.  We don’t collect coupons for things like chemical cleaners, toothpaste and soaps, junk foods, juice, yogurt (dairy intolerant!), or cookies.

We’re not brand loyal on most things, with few notable exceptions.  Naomi seems to do best with one certain brand of diapers, and so we pretty much only purchase that brand of diapers.  On the other hand, we don’t really worry about which type of ice cream or frozen pizza we collect — those are treats and not a common item that we come across, so when we get a coupon for it, we don’t really squabble about the brand.


These 10 (9 shown -- one got eaten!) pizzas were originally $5.67, or $56.70 total. On sale for $2.97 each. After coupons: $1.97 or $2.22. Final Total: $21.70. Savings: $35.00.

The prices of things are usually pretty consistent, but when there’s a sale, we stock up.  We save our coupons until the sale comes up and save even more money!  This week at our local discount grocery store, frozen pizzas were marked down from $5.67 to $2.97.  I had six coupons that ranged from $0.75 to $1.00.  So using my coupons and the deal, I was able to purchase 10 pizzas.  The total would have come to $56.70, but after the sale and my coupons, I paid  $21.70, or $2.17 per pizza.

Having said that, just because something is on sale and you have a coupon, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good deal.  Always check the alternative brands, and the store brand.  We’ve come across “great deals” before only to discover that the unit price of the store brand is even better, even after sale price and coupon price.  Most stores now feature the unit price on the tags on the shelves anyway, so it’s easy to check.

I also don’t go out of my way to use a coupon just because it’s going to expire.  Coupons expire — let them.  There will be more.  It’s very rare that you get a coupon that you’ll never see again.  With the exception of the odd amazing coupon for fruit, dairy or meat, you will likely see lots of coupons for paper products, cleaners, bathroom products, and junk foods.  So don’t worry if you don’t get to use your coupon before the sale comes up.  There will always be another one.

And oh the temptation to save on junk!  That is the toughest part and Michael is having to rein me in all the time.  If a deal looks too good to pass, it probably is!  Yes it’s possible to get a blue box of macaroni and cheese for $0.25, but really, why bother?   You know it’s full of chemicals and garbage, so why would you even put it in your cart?  The same goes for soaps, cleaners and junk foods.  Be careful what you put in your carts and your bodies.


Shaving Cream: Original Price: $3.19, or $12.76. On sale for $1.99 each. After coupons, $0.99 each. Total: $3.96. Savings: $8.80.

As unlikely as it seems, it is possible to get coupons for fresh produce, meats, dairy and organics.  Some stores, like our favorite grocery chain, feature special coupons for in-store purchases and often include fruits and vegetables.  Some products feature coupons for different products like eggs, vegetables and meats as well, if you buy something that goes along with it.  I’ve seen cereal boxes with coupons for milk, and plastic baggy boxes featuring coupons for bread.  Just be careful that if you’re buying the product, it is something you actually use, or else you might as well just buy the product featured on the coupon instead!

Even though we don’t use them all, I do save all the coupons I come across and trade them for things we do use.  It’s especially handy in a home like ours, where we don’t really use a lot of the products for which coupons are readily available.  I have been able to trade good coupons for cleaners, cereals and cosmetics for coupons we readily use, like ice cream and diapers.

So how else can coupons save you money?  Why they allow you to contribute and donate!  You’re more readily able to donate to your local food bank when you can get a bunch of items for a much more discounted price.  No one wants to fill up on a lot of sugar and chemicals, but let’s face it — everyone needs to eat.  If you’re hesitant about donating because you don’t feel you can afford it, why not try couponing?  Save your coupons for things like bagels, peanut butter, jam, juice, mustard, hot dogs, toiletries, and other necessities and when a great sale comes along, go spend some money on those items, and use your coupons.  Ta da!  You’ve got a very valuable, and very rewarding, lot of donations you can make to someone who does not have your good fortune.

Another way coupons allow you to be generous is by being the coupon fairy!  If you have a coupon that is about to expire and you know you’re not going to use it, why not leave it at the store for someone else to use?  I have done this several times, and have come across wonderful coupons for things I might not have purchased had I not found a coupon that allowed me to save more!

Coupons can be a great addition to your family budget.  Taking the extra bit of time to acquire, organize and employ them can save you money in lots of different situations!

How do you use coupons in your home?  Do you have a different strategy?  I’d love to hear it!

This post is a part of  Tackle It Tuesdays at 5 Minutes for MomWorks For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family, and Finer Things Friday at Amy’s Finer Things.

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Feb 29, 2012

Community Blessings

And God is able to bless you abundantly,
so that in all things at all times, having all that you need,
you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8

Sunday was such a wonderful day for me!  The paths of several people crossed in just such a way as to make it a day filled with blessings!  We needed a new high chair — the straps on ours didn’t buckle anymore and it wasn’t safe for a climbing toddler.  We also had an incident with our crockpot, and so we needed a new one.  Unfortunately a new high chair and a new crockpot were not in the budget, so I turned to my dear community and posted a request on Freecycle.

To my delight, a lady contacted me and said she had a great high chair that she would give us, but it didn’t have a pad.  She sent us a picture  — it was the same model as the one we had.  I rushed to get it.  On my way over, I received an email from a gentleman I had met beforehand to whom I had given some sourdough starter.  Well, he happened to have a crockpot for me — and he offered to give me some sourdough starter too (mine’s all gone!).

After receiving my two wonderful gifts, I headed to the grocery store to pick up a couple things.  I bumped into a gentleman looking at the almond milk.  He’d never tried the vanilla flavor before, and so I offered him some $2 off coupons I had with me.  He was so happy to receive them and we ended up having a wonderful chat.  He gave me a recipe for a delicious sounding shake that he enjoys regularly.  It was so nice to talk to someone with similar mindsets.

When we got home, I gave my new crockpot a quick wipe down.  It is a fantastic older model, tall and round.  It is so difficult to find a round crockpot these days.  I cannot wait to mix up a delicious soup or stew in it for Michael to come home to after work!  While I cleaned the crockpot, Michael looked over the high chair.  I was right — they were identical.  We were able to remove the chair pad from the old one and reassemble it to the “new” one and create a perfectly safe, perfectly functional high chair for Naomi to eat her dinner at.

And the starter?  It was so neat to receive some of my own starter back home!  I poured it into my bottle, set up some water to airate, and am eager to grow it and bake some homemade sourdough again this week!

It is so important, when you’ve received something wonderful from God through others, that you too act as an instrument of His good will and give to someone else!  It just so happened that another lady on Freecycle is looking for a princess dress for her daughter.  We happen to have one that Naomi will not fit into for years.  So rather than let it take up space, we’ll pass on the good will!  She doesn’t have a vehicle, so Michael is going to take the dress with him this week and meet her somewhere along the way to give her the dress.  I can only imagine the delight on her daughter’s face!

This post is a part of Gratituesday by Heavenly HomemakersWord Filled Wednesdays at Internet Cafe DevotionsHomemaking Link Up Wednesdays at Raising HomemakersSmall Successes at Chocolate For Your Brain.


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