5 Tricks that Kept Me Healthy When I Was Broke


I recently made a career shift that resulted in a new full-time job, but, during the transition, there was a time when I had no income—or any money at all for that matter. Aside from being more than a little disconcerting, I allowed this stress to affect my healthy lifestyle negatively. It pained me to let my gym membership fizzle and lower my food standards, but life has a way of interrupting our plans.

This small turmoil did get me thinking: How much of my healthy lifestyle is directly related to my income or budget?

As I really started to think about it, budget should not affect my ability to be a healthy individual. Yet budget is one of the most common pain points I hear when I talk to folks about embarking on their own health journeys.

Sometimes it can be difficult enough to find the motivation to make healthy lifestyle changes, and the last thing that we need is to add the stress of money concerns. I offer an alternative solution: drop the economic dependency, and change your mindset.

Let’s go over a list of things that you need to survive and be healthy:

  • A positive attitude
  • Essentials such as: shelter, food, water, clothing (although some of these may be debatable)

Now let’s take a look at a list of things you don’t need:

  • Diet pills, supplements
  • Liposuction, tummy tucks, spot removal or wraps
  • An iPod or pricey fitness videos
  • A gym membership
  • Diet food, low-carb options, enhanced protein products, etc.

I don’t intend to bad mouth any of the items on the aforementioned list; in fact, listening to a paid workout playlist, and eating non-GMO and organic food has helped me stay focused and feel more healthy. However, if lacking any of these luxuries is an excuse to put off your health journey for another day, I ask that you look elsewhere.

The key to your lifelong health and fitness comes down to finding a combination of good habits that works best for you and your situation. If you aren’t blessed with a blossoming money tree in the backyard, then to hell with it! You can use your circumstances to fuel your motivation and drive onward.

I have used affordability as an excuse for far too long, but I have found a pretty good system that works for me at my current financial state. I welcome you to try some of these tips when looking to save an extra buck.

Buy Sale Items in Bulk

Cutting coupons has never been for me, but when I walk past a good deal on canned beans or whole-grain rice in the market, I pick up as much as I can afford. Although you may spend more initially, when it’s three days before payday and you’re hungry, you have a healthy option to eat rather than settling for a value menu and crushing your dieting goals.

Buy Frozen Produce

Sure, buying organic produce and supporting your local farmer’s market would be ideal, but sometimes this isn’t always within our budgets or time commitments. Frozen vegetables can be as nutritious or more nutritious than their fresh counterparts and, aside from being budget-friendly, they practically last forever.

My favorite parts of buying frozen produce:

  • Measure correct portions easily
  • Find great deals on bulk items
  • Prep work is slim to none
  • Toss frozen fruit easily into a smoothie
  • Toss frozen veggies into an omelet, stir-fry, soup or crockpot

Plan Your Meals and Prep Ahead of Time

This definitely didn’t come easily for me until I found a pretty lazy solution to accomplish this: the crockpot. Typically, I’ll spend my Sunday slow cooking 10 pounds of chicken to toss into various meals throughout the week. Whenever I’m finished making the recipe, I divvy up the portions and freeze the meals I plan on having later in the week.

This can not only make logging your meals very easy, but can also save you money throughout the week since you’ve already done the preparation and won’t need to eat out. Try a few different prep options until you find one that works best for you. If you have a large family, you may need to plan additional meals to serve everyone’s needs.

Value Shop Your Gym Membership

Gyms can be a very expensive regimen. Fortunately, gyms often offer seasonal incentives to bring new members on board. Be wary of signing your life away to a one-year membership or any fixed term with a convoluted cancellation policy—these can be a total nightmare and cost a fortune.

If a gym membership isn’t within your budget, consider visiting a college campus or park with a track or recreational sports fields. Grab some friends, the kids, or just go alone, and get active for free.

Just Keep It Simple

If budgeting is adding stress to your health and fitness goals, be honest with yourself and question if you really need all of the fitness luxuries that we are often told we need. Consider cutting back to your bare minimum—can you still accomplish your goals? Of course you can.

I recommend finding any of the free motivation around you: fitting into a smaller pair of jeans, keeping up with your grandkids, being a positive influence on your family, impressing your spouse, or surprising your doctor at your next check-up. Ongoing health and wellness isn’t about your paycheck, past, or anyone’s opinion—it’s about getting what you want without reservation.


To readers from Jacob: Thanks everyone for the overwhelming feedback and support from What to Do When the Scale Won’t Budge. For those keeping score at home, I made a career transition, and am now a full-time writer.

I want to thank everyone again for keeping up with my story and sharing my articles. The feedback that I have gotten from the MyFitnessPal community has motivated me to become a better person each and every day. Those of you whom have reached out and shared your personal stories with me have been especially exciting, and I could not have asked for a more awesome community to support. Until next time, stay motivated and stay healthy, my friends.

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