USA Today Share Tips, Challenges Readers to Start 'Dieting on a Dime'


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Losing weight and getting in shape are not lifestyle changes limited to the rich and famous. Even on the tightest budget, with no tools except willpower and determination, you can reach your goals.

SparkPeople tells you that all the time--after all, we're 100% free, so we believe in weight loss for less--but plenty of others agree with us. USA
Today health reporter Nanci Hellmich recently shared the stories of readers who have lost hundreds of pounds for just pennies. From walking laps in the backyard to lifting weights a friend discarded or just running outside, real people--on real budgets--saw real results.

Hellmich shares some great tips and encourages readers to participate in USA TODAY's sixth annual Weight-Loss Challenge: Dieting on a Dime.
Here are a handful of her best tips for losing weight and getting healthy on a budget.

  • Plan ahead and create a menu of at least five dinners a week so you're not tempted to head for the drive through. The cost of a crockpot or casserole meal is less than a fast food value meal.

  • Make "planned-overs." Use the same food in several ways. Cook several chicken breasts and "use them to make different meals, such as a tossed salad with chicken, casserole, chicken noodle soup or other favorite chicken dishes."

  • "Shop with a grocery list and watch for sales. Studies show that people who go to the store without a list spend about twice as much."

  • "Cut portions, especially meat, which will trim costs. Keep in mind a serving of meat is about 3 ounces, which is the size of the palm of a woman's hand or a deck of cards. Many people are eating healthful foods — they are just eating too much of them."

    Eating out
  • Split entrées with a friend or partner or order an appetizer.

  • Fill up on broth-based, low-calorie soups.

  • Take home half of your entrée to have for lunch the next day.

    Feeding kids
  • "Recommend that everyone start eating a more healthful breakfast, the easiest and cheapest meal of the day."

  • "Take advantage of the child's positive eating habits. Most children like five to 10 fruits and vegetables, and parents should offer those foods more often."

    Read the rest of her sage healthy cooking, eating and shopping tips.

    And be sure to check out the profiles of readers who've lost 100 pounds or more--especially Diane Reuter, aka SparkPeople member BAMOM19.

    Do you have a money-saving eating, shopping or workout tip? Share it in the comments below.

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    NEXT ENTRY >   My Top 4 Healthy Eating Strategies for a Successful 2009


    • C.HAMMER
      The Food Saver and zipper storage bags save me money and calories. On Sundays after grocery shopping I chop and measure out everything and store it either in a Food Saver vacuum bag or zipper storage bag. That way when cooking a meal like a stir-fry or casserole I know how much of each ingredient was added, or a portioned out snack. I also shop for my veggies at a discount store or the "bruised 'n battered" section of the grocery store...I take the cheap but damaged fruit and veggies, chop them up, vacuum seal them and freeze for future use. - 1/12/2009   3:24:57 PM
    • 35
      I love these tips.

      Honey Love. - 1/12/2009   3:15:35 PM
    • 34
      stay away from lots of sodium which can cause weight gain as well. I've switched to dash seasoning instead of other spices, mrs. dash has NO sodium!! and it seasons great for salads, and meats.
      Another great tip...if your like myself and life out in the country, you have alot of your own land to walk on instead of traveling far off and spending gas to get to your walking area...walk on your own property. we've had alot of rain and snow this year which has kept me from wanting to walk due to slipping around in the mud....our house is not large, but when I can't walk outside I push some furniture out of the way and walk around the house...keeping your heart rate up for 30 minutes a day is getting you on a great pace towards loosing weight. :) it's helped me so far :) - 1/12/2009   3:01:13 PM
      I love my new elastic band I got for Christmas. They're inexpensive and versatile way to add strength exercises into your routine. You'd be surprised how many things you can do. The SP exercise tracker will give you GREAT suggestions how to use it, too. - 1/12/2009   2:46:33 PM
    • 32
      Great one! I agree about cooking for more than one meal. I usually freeze at least 2 or more meals in single servings. My husband and I are on different schedules for dinner. Having these frozen ones available definitely saves time and keeps both of us on track. - 1/12/2009   2:46:30 PM
    • QWERTYZ13
      I really like the one about the shopping list. It's so true! Even if I just have a short list, it keeps me from buying more than if I just go in without one. - 1/12/2009   2:42:29 PM
    • 30
      planned-overs, so that's what it's called when I make 4 meals on sunday and eat none of them! now I don't have to call them on-purpose-left-overs anymore :) - 1/12/2009   2:39:46 PM
    • 29
      Split pea soup is a gret cheap meal, and it is still good wihout the ham! - 1/12/2009   2:38:09 PM
      Great tips on saving money and losing weight! Today I dusted off my treadmill and did 30 minutes of cardio. Cost = 0; Calories burned = 280; Energy = priceless. Thanks for the motivation. - 1/12/2009   2:02:38 PM
    • 27
      certainly like the idea about making your own bread...we have gravitated to the double fiber brands that are available from the supermarket. If anyone has a bread machine recipe for high fiber bread, it would be great if you could share it. Then cutting it into smaller portions and freezing until needed is a great idea as if I don't, I eat too much of it or throw it out. Thanks for the blogs, folks! - 1/12/2009   1:53:42 PM
    • 26
      What a story....It gives us all hope. Thanks - 1/12/2009   1:53:40 PM
    • 25
      Take your lunch to work, don't eat out, and AVOID vending machines. - 1/12/2009   1:45:22 PM
    • 24
      I use leftovers to create new dishes and that saves a lot. I also cook extra and freeze some for a quick meal when I'm too busy to spend much time cooking.
      I like anything that saves time and money. - 1/12/2009   1:28:24 PM
    • SONYGEE1970
      Instead of buying expensive frozen vegetables,I buy fresh ones when they are on sale and I par-boil them and I throw them in a stir-fry on put them in a soup. You can save a lot of money that way. - 1/12/2009   1:20:12 PM
    • 22
      I have made a weekly menu for over a year now. I started doing it because my kids kept asking me (one at a time) what was for dinner. Finally, I got tired of answering multiple children and wrote a menu then I posted it inside a cupboard door so the kids can look ahead and see what we're having. It also helps me prepare a shopping list. I have also started making soups. My favorite is variations of cabbage soup. My kids hate cabbage but I cut it so small that it cooks down to nothing. Add a little lean stew meat and some black beans and you have a hearty, healthy soup that the kids like. And, it's pretty darn cheap. - 1/12/2009   1:14:44 PM
    • 21
      I did a great job at making the extra to freeze - only to end up throwing it away when it did not get eaten in a reasonable amount of time. Now I have cut back on my meal size, immediately dividing the leftovers into serving size containers to bring for my lunch at work. - 1/12/2009   1:10:56 PM
      I finally said I'm not spending anymore money on weight loss programs, gimmicks or diets... and then one of my friends told me about SparkPeople! Just starting - but I've excited about using the site - and would LOVE love love to have a good camera to document the change! thanks! - 1/12/2009   1:06:41 PM
    • 19
      I need to make a weekly menu, so I don't pig out on fast food when I didn't cook something. - 1/12/2009   12:53:55 PM
    • 18
      Another great way to cut back is to buy a bread machine and make your own, healthy, bread at home. You can spend $2.50 to $4 on bread at the store, which really adds up. If you make bread at home, you know exactly what's going in it and the cost of the machine makes up for itself over time. - 1/12/2009   12:51:31 PM
    • GRANDMO1
      When walking circuits with a friend at a mall or arena, use pennies to keep track of your circuits and add one each day to increase your activity level painlessly and easily. - 1/12/2009   12:19:08 PM
    • 16
      I have always planned my meals and grocery shop using a list (when I'm on track :) Eating out less definitely saves a lot of money. Another way that I've found to save money recently is trying to freeze more - for example, freezing my whole wheat bagels since I only eat half at a time. I found I was throwing out a lot of food and it's quite easy to thaw bread and other foods out using the microwave (or just planning). Freezing leftovers helps as well since I get tired of eating the same thing too many days in a row. - 1/12/2009   12:10:27 PM
    • 15
      Terrific article. I've already spread it around to a number of people! And best of's wonderful PR for SparkPeople! Keep that spark going, folks! - 1/12/2009   11:27:40 AM
    • 1LBDOWN
      I was definitely one of the "eating healthy foods, but eating too much of them" people. I could NOT figure out why I was overweight. I ate such healthy foods, I don't like sugar, I LOVE veggies, I don't eat beef, I eat very little meat...what was up? I watched friends gobble fries, cake, fatty foods, etc., and remain svelte, so what was my problem?
      I refused to track my food, because it was such a pain to try to figure out how much of each ingredient was in a prepared food, or to look up the calories when I had my planner. When I came to SP, all I had to do was type it in and BOOM...I was bowled over by the number of calories I was consuming...oh sure, they were grapes, but they were 600 calories worth of grapes! WHOA! How did that happen?
      I use the blown-out tracker to find out which nutrients I'm getting, and which I'm not. In this way, when I have "leftover" calories at the end of the day, I can see what I still lack, and choose a snack that best suits my needs. - 1/12/2009   11:06:22 AM
    • SBATES63
      I have made a menu for the week for years and it saves not only money at the grocery store, it saves time in my busy morning because I know what I have to take from the freezer, and it helps me make healthier meal choices. - 1/12/2009   11:05:18 AM
    • 20HEALTHY09
      Who knew dieting would be a great way to save money! I find I am saving money just by eating healthy and eating smaller portions, and by eating out less - it is crazy when I think of how much I used to spend weekly on food! I went out for lunch during the work week at an average of $12 per day, then add on dinner out at least 3 times a week; sometimes even grabbing a fast food breakfast - it's no wonder I am saving tons of money by planning ahead, packing lunch, eating dinner at home or sharing entrees when I go out. Now I can use the money saved on new clothes when I get to my goal weight! - 1/12/2009   11:01:42 AM
    • 11
      Losing weight on a budget is my specialty. My insurance pays for my gym membership. I have use of a pool and fitness center at my mobile home park. And of course there is SparkPeople which is an awesome resource. I also walk with my husband most evenings and have joined a fitness class with my pastor's wife at the beach on Saturday morning, all I have to pay for is gas and parking.
      I would be a fool not to take advantage of all this. - 1/12/2009   8:51:15 AM
    • 10
      Boy, this article sure offered some more ideas to help me save money. Thanks for sharing. - 1/12/2009   7:51:58 AM
    • 9
      I found the same true, all I did was buy a good pair of walking shoes. I walked the roads of the country side and any path I could find. Now I use my pedometer, which cost $5, and I keep walking until I hit 10,000 steps a day. I walk up and down the hallway of my house, around the living room and kitchen and up and down the steps to the basement. Then I use some old exercise tapes that have been gathering dust to get more exercise. - 1/12/2009   7:47:34 AM
      I save money by saving the bones from chicken & beef to make soup- I get two meals out of one serving that way. And I make bread from scratch, usually in the bread machine. - 1/12/2009   7:21:39 AM
    • 7
      Great reminder to stop making excuses and just do it!! - 1/12/2009   7:10:55 AM
    • 6
      Great article! Since I have four kids and obviously they don't want to diet with me, I have to budget too. I do not buy the expensive diet foods and with either what we have and buy more fruits and vegetable this is how I managed to lose 40 pounds. Our food bill has remained the same. So you can change the way you eat and still not have a whopping food bill to show for it.(and lose weight) - 1/12/2009   6:44:55 AM
    • DUNHILL1
      hi everyone not sure i have the right place but would like to say hi to all of you still feeling my way around this wonderful sight i have just joined the gym today first time in my life so tom is the big day a little scared but determind not going to be lazy anymore and finally stop making excuses - 1/12/2009   6:43:39 AM
    • APRIL_V_2
      One way to save money is to shop on craigslist. That website is a great place to buy exercise equipment. It's local people (you select city before perusing ads) and there's no charge for sellers or buyers, no shipping costs because you pick it up yourself, and a whole lot cheaper than buying a new piece of exercise equipment from the store! I've had all positive experiences with people on there, but in any case, whenever meeting up with someone from the internet, of course use common sense precautions. - 1/12/2009   6:37:19 AM
    • ASH72461
      i love to save money
      and beingable to lose weight without spending money is awesome
      it keeps the spark alive for many people - 1/12/2009   5:31:04 AM
    • 2
      I second that! I'm so happy to have found sparkpeople and am glad there's tips like this to help along the budget stretching a little more. - 1/12/2009   1:34:56 AM
    • 1
      Great blog! Great awareness for spark. I am always telling my friends and family about this site and how it's helping me to work towards my health and fitness goals! I am very blessed that I happened onto this site it's truly changed my life. Thanks! - 1/12/2009   12:53:16 AM

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