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.

  • Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
      You will earn 5 SparkPoints


    BigProfitbuzz is an Indian stock market advisory firm. BigProfitbuzz proven month after month that trading and investing in stock market can be profitable whether market is bull or bear. As said last time we made a sell Position in NIFTY All our paid clients made a very good profit. Now we suggest all our traders to make a buy position in NIFTY around 6100-6150 with stoploss of 5950 for the target of 6400-6500.One can also make a buy position in NIFTY 50 stocks according to NIFTY levels. If want good calls in the market then fill our trial form & get them. We believe in Low risk for sufficient profit.
    Bigprofitbuzz is a well known advisory of indian share marekt.We always believe in profit no matter whatever the market bear or bull.Our clients always make profit.we provide intraday equity,future,option,nifty & commodity calls with high accuracy.we try to give less call but more accurate so that you can earn some money without tension.We also give jackpot calls on a daily basis according to the market condition.You can make high profit in this by taking huge position.But always consider our levels to taking the entry in the call.We are not GOD of share market But we try to gain you high return Because only your satisfaction can only make us satisfy.
    Lists are definitely key, as is staying to the outer perimeter of the store (since all of the processed foods are at the center).

    I also like doing using the same ingredients to make different dishes. Such as using broccoli and mushrooms to make a pasta dish, and then the next day adding those ingredients and some other veggies to make a stir-fry.

    All in all this is a great article! Report
    Love the article. I go grocery shopping one day and the next day I do my cooking putting them in serving sizes and freeze them. Report
    Great article thank for sharing, and you look fantastic. Keep up the good work Report
    Fantastic article! I'm still trying to get in a routine on cooking meats ahead to use for several dinners. Meal planning is huge for weight loss. Great tips here from everyone! Report
    Our biggest savings came from reducing portion sizes. Once we were buying the correct amount of food and eating a fruit and vegetable at Dinner regardless if a pasta/rice dish or meat/fish dish our food bill went down. Now I am back to making my own spaghetti sauce (loaded with veggies) and freezing it in ice cube trays then I can just heat up the number of ice cubes I need for the meal I planned. I even baggie a bunch for my Dad to use. I believ it was a fellow sparker that gave the tip about the ice cube trays and I love it. Report
    My family can go through 3-4 boxes of cereal a week. At about 4.50 a box - that really adds up. So I now buy one box of sugar cereal (my kids/hubby love cinnamon life) per week and when it's gone, it's gone. They then can have rice krispies, puffed wheat, or cheerios (which they eat less of!) or I've been making cream of wheat or oatmeal. They love it with a little brown sugar and raisins or diced apple or bananas on top. I save about $9 a week. Report
    I find eating & snacking on Fruits & Veggies & drinking plenty of water Helps More than anything!!! Report
    i have always loved oats and also all the healthy breads, the more fiber,oats and whatever in a bread makes me want it more. i have tried to switch my family to all wheat bread...its better for them. Report
    It definitely can be done without the big buck. Report
    Love the article. Lots of good info. Report
    These are great ideas and I already do many of them. I love to only eat 1/3 to 1/2 of an entree, then bring the rest home and add other veggies or a salad. That way I can usually get 2-3 meals out of one entree. Report
    When I hurt my back my physical therapist gave me the idea of using cans in tote or plastic grocery sacks, or the plastic quart ( or halfgallon if your stronger) filled with water as weights to lift. It sure was cheaper then buying sets of weights. I also have discovered fruits and fresh veggies are cheaper then a lot of healthy "diet" type foods. One steak can give me two or three meals if I do it right. Report
    I love all the great ideas found here. Yesterday was my first day, and the only thing I can't figure out is how to add my own items to the food lists. It is great to have the menu for each day, and even got me eating spinach. Report
    Saving money is on most folks' mind(s) these days and it most of the time it come down to common sense and experience -- what a great combination! I was just talking to my banker yesterday about meals out being too big. And, I said that I used to get the 'doggie bag' or take home container after I ate half my meal -- NOW, I do so before I put a bite in my mouth. (smile) Report
    I also do my grocery shopping on line (though $10 here and every 6th visit is free). I can do it at night while watching TV, don't have the kids with me, and eliminate a TON of the impulse buys. It saves us money since you can sort by unit price (a lot easier than trying to compare a bunch of items on a shelf) and they take coupons. I don't ever get out of the car. It is BEAUTIFUL!!! And this site is the best for tracking it all! Report
    I find by eating alot of fruits and vegetables dinners and drinking plenty of water helps tremendously Report
    These are great tips. I always go to the store with a list but run out of fresh veggies quickly. It means another trip to the store but the frig can only hold so much. My husband and I stopped eating out and plan for leftovers to prevent fast food quick hunger fixes. I weigh in on Friday so we'll see if it's working for me. Report
    Since my son moved away to college, and I started living by myself, I have continued making family sized meals, but serving them into single serving containers. One serving is eating the day it is made, usually on the weekend. The others get placed in the freezer for a day at work when I won't have time or energy to cook. I have a refrigerator at work to store these meals. Since I started doing this, I hardly ever buy fast food (other than Subway salads) or hit the snack machines. Report
    Meal planning, list making and shopping the sales has really helped me to stick within my budget and yet eat in a healthy way. I heard an interesting discussion the other day - a woman was saying that she was finding it difficult to serve healthy meals to her family becuase they were struggling financially. She tends to use products like boxed macaroni and cheese, and convenience foods. The other person said, that there is nothing cheaper than hitting up the "bulk" food bins and stocking up on things like lentils, beans (great source of protein), and that if you really look at the benefit and nutrional value of "convenience" food, then you actually realize that it typically is more expensive.
    Thanks for the article Spark, especially since most of us are trying to keep on a budget. Report
    Way to go Diane! I recently added her as a friend on my page because her story is so inspiring! Check her out! Report
    Hm. That intro looks just like my intro to my SP Class and my little 'signature' to newcomers:
    Good luck on your weight loss goal and your quest to a healthier lifestyle!
    ~MrsHoneyC~ Team Leader SPClass Jan 6-12, 2008, aka Honey's Busy Bees!"

    And this is what I've been telling the team since it started. If you've got YOU and the street, you've got a workout. It's just the getting OUT there that is your obstacle!
    My fiance and I are kind of impulsive when it comes to what we eat, so we try to plan for lots of options by purchasing staple items like whole wheat breads & tortillas, bulk packages of meat, & a few of our favorite fruits & veggies. Then we add in a few extras like some fancy cheese or a spaghetti sauce to give individual meals some flair. It allows us the flexibility we like but we also save a bundle and know we're eating well because we try to choose healthful options. Report
    my favorite thing to do is to order groceries on line. I just go to the store an dpick them up, my local grocery store has dedicated parking for me and I never have to be tempted to buy what i dont needjust bacause I am hungry or it is on sale.... I also dont have to spend 45-60 minutes in a grocery store with a screaming 4 year old begging for something.... it is worth the $5 bucks I spend to the convenience. they will even take coupons and adjust the bill.....
    Not only do I save money, I save time and when I dont do this I have found that I spend $30 more at the grocery store and have less bags.... The best part is it is easier to do after you have done it once, all you need is a master list---you know the basics and add what you my D& H love icecream (not my trigger food) so I get sugarfree when on sale only... it has saaaaaved me tons of time, money and frusteration. I used to do one day of bulk shoping and still have to go to the store 3-4 times for fresh protein. now I am more careful and go to the fish market 2 x for fresh fish. Report
    use websites like or to match coupons with sale ads to get groceries, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc. at rock bottom prices. we get so much for free and we bring up our extras to the church. Report
    I love this article. I wish it was a little more detailed like giving you more specific ideas, but generally speaking its pretty good. For the first time EVER last week I made a menu for a whole week and based my grocery list off of that menu. We didn't waiver from the list and onlyy spent $135.00 for groceries that week. The best part was all week I didn't have to come home from work and worry about what was dinner, did I take whatever out of the freezer, or whatever. The plan was already set. I liked it so much I did the same thing this week....set a menu, made my list and ONLY shopped from that list. We only spent $130.00 this week. It's not only going to help us slim our waists, save us time, but also help us slash our food costs. Trust me with 4 kids we need to do that. And at $130 a week that's roughly $22.00 a day for 6 people. WOW think about that...that's just over $3 a person A DAY! If you can find time to sit down and follow these steps I'd strongly suggest it. For about 1/2 hour worth of planning on a Saturday afternoon I've saved myself hours in running back in forth to the grocery store during the week and the hassle of the unknown for meal preparation. It's allowing me to truly spend my time where its needed the most...with my family! Report
    Where i live, most grocery stores deliver. We are car free so it makes sense in more ways than one. And if i don't go to the store, i am not tempted to buy 'crap" Report
    Great tips, I do shop the sales and was able to get a large freezer to store the 10 for 10 veggies etc. I got my exercise bike - when my curves closed for a good price - otherwise I hit the pavement! Report
    I found out that when I cook most of my meals and only fix as much as we need for our serving portions, that there is just enough to fix our plates and none left over to tempt us to go back for second helpings. I by meat in volume when it is on sale and repackage it into one meal portions. I then take my Food Saver Bags and vaccum seal each of those portions. When meal time come's I have just the right amount of meat for that meal and If company is coming I just get extra bags out. Report
    Gardening! In addition to saving money, my produce is fresh, I only pick what I need, and my daughter and I still get a thrill knowing that we grew it! Report
    One way for me to save money is to pay attention to my calories when I eat out. Often the lower calorie meals are less expensive. Before I eat out, I google the restaurant nutrition information and select what I will order. Choose a few options so you're not boggled if your first choice selection is not on the current menu. Planning ahead helps me from making poor dining choices and save money by eliminating appetizers and desserts. Just knowing how many calories are in most of my favorites has taken all (at least most) the fun out of eating them. Planning ahead, in the grocery store, in the kitchen and in the lunch room are really the key to saving money and losing weight. If you don't buy food that is bad for you, you won't eat it and consequently, won't gain weight or spend the money. Hard to do, but limit yourself to one "naughty" food a week and even then read labels and get the most bang for your buck calorie wise. Good luck, we're fighting the good fight! Report
    These are some great ideas!
    I like to have peanut buttern, honey, or sugar free syrup around to snack on when I am hungry for real and not wanting to grab one of my teens snacks. I attempt to buy healthy, but here they come with their own snacks. My daughter is trying to eat healthier since she is afraid to get high blood pressure. Oatmeal has become her favorite food. Praise the Lord. I went and bought a big box today.

    Also keeping water in the car is a great idea and I have been doing that for a long time. I read that you really should drink you water at room temp. Really cold water shocks your insides. I also recommend using your free fitness center where you live. When I lived with my sister that place was a blessing. That's when I lost the most weight. So many people walk right past their fitness centers straight to the burger joint. How sad. A list while shopping is great. You have to keep to the list too. Buy items when on sale even if you have to go to more than one store.

    Shop at places like 99 cent store, Dollar General, and Dollar Tree. They have great bargains and even some of the expensive health foods at a low price. For breakfast, a fiber bar is always good to start your day if you are in a hurry. Lots of fiber and energy.

    Spark is the best suggestion I can have. A great place to meet all your goals no matter how large or small. God bless each and everyone of you who are on this journey. Be your own trainer. You can do it!!! Report
    Take a trip to your local library. They have videos, books and audio that are free to checkout. The new Playaways are great -- an entire book on a MP3 player. Take one of your favorite reads on a walk or run! Report
    These are all great tips! Here's mine...Keep bottled water in the car, and a healthy snack or two, i.e, all natural granola bars, fruit, etc. when you leave for an appointment or heading home from work, that way I stave off hunger and the urge to stop and buy a 99 cent fat on a bun! And, I don't eat so much more while warming up or preparing dinner. Report
    Losing weight and saving money is always a good thing.. Sometimes, when I can't or am too lazy to make dinner, we'll go thru the drive-thru at BK and order the kids meal instead of a full sized meal.. and wtih apple fries.. it's healthier :) Not the greatest choice but there are times when we fall off the wagon, afterall :) Report
    It would seem to me that most of us are in the same boat. We eat right but consume too much, throw too much out which is costing us dollars both in our own pockets and health issues. To save money, lose weight and regain control of your life. Think about the size of the plate we eat off now. In our grandparents times the plates sizes were quite (in todays terms) small. With advante garde style of presentation the size of our plates has increased considerably which has inadvertantly increased our meal sizes, hence the gradual weight gain (I swear I woke up one day and it was there).
    Try eating off a smaller plate. This will satisfy your psychological need for having a plate full of food, cut down on your food bills and wastage and ultimately lose weight. Cheers and good luck Report
    Great ideas! Report
    Another money saving tip: Dont shop at the grocery store! I go to the farmers market on Fridays and it costs a LOT less than buying fresh produce at the grocery store. Plus its all locally grown and sometimes organic- and it doesnt have that gross grocery store wax coating like a lot of grocery store produce. Report
    Great tips!!
    I think SparkPeople has helped me so much to stay ont he wagon and loose weight... Thanks for sharing! Report
    One thing I do is buy meat when it's on sale and divide it into separate portions of 3 servings each. Then I wrap them in good old-fashioned butcher paper and freeze. I wrap it tight so air can't get to the meat. Then I label it and date it.....simple. It's far better than those new fangled ziplocs. And cheaper too. The reason for 3 servings is because my husband takes the 3rd portion to work the next day. That saves us big time. I pack his lunches in small, glass pyrex storage bowls, which are healthier for you, than microwaving in plastic. That saves you the cost of ziplocs and such. One more thing......... Why pay 99 cents and up for a pound of bagged carrots? And even more for those pre-washed, pre-cut or baby carrots? Loose carrots are about 50 cents a pound. You save money and get to pick each one yourself. Then you peel, cut and store them in reusable containers.....wah lah! You just saved a bunch of pennies! Pennies add up over time.... Good luck! Report
    great tips on saving money and staying healthy. Report
    When I had my daughter, no daycare at the gym and my husband's schedule made it impossible to continue being the "gym rat" I used to be. I've purchased some dumbells on sale and I always shop stores like Marshall's and TJ Maxx for exercise DVD's and equipment such as bands at a bargain price. I also do some of the workouts on FIT TV if the timing is right.
    I've heard that so man times about how easy it is to get a quick breakfast in and it helps our metabolism. I believe that. I really do. But I don't agree that it's easy simply because I'm just not a breakfast. When I have tried, I'd just kind of think "blech" because I had just gotten up and the idea of eating something that soon just doesn't sit well with me. Report
    I do believe that vending machines were my down fall. Report
    Beans - keep lots of beans on hand - and add them to everything. I add them to soups, to casseroles, to mac and cheese, and to salads. It stretches them and makes the dish heartier. Report
    When cooking I always prepare more than needed, I divide in individual portions and I freeze for quick meals.

    When I clean my vegetables (for salads or other dish) I keep "not-so-nice-looking" leaves or ends of vegetables to make a blended vegetable soup that I store in my fridge (I reuse tomato juice glass bottles) and I can drink all day if I get hungry. It is filling, warm and it only adds a few calories per cup. Report
    Great tips here. I love this article. I like making crock pot meals like stew and soups and freeze them in zipper lock bags or single serving plastic containers for meals. Report
    Yes the list makes a difference not only in savings but time in the store the less your there the less you will buy!!
    Also I watch for sells on meat, frozen veggies, anything on my I can have most of list. My current favorite is pork loin. Very little fat on them & boneless. Also they can be roasted cut up for chops and left overs are great in stir fry's & salads.

    The freezer & zip lock type bags are great too. I like to cook out on the grill a lot. I will have a grill day and grill everything I can think of & portion it out in meal size servings & freeze.
    I but 94% lean ground beef in bulk and measure up 8 oz & put it in a quart size bag that is what I substitute for a lb of hamburger meat in a recipe cuts calories in half & you still have the taste.

    Just love Spark full of people that share all that they can Report
    Someone mentioned Craigslist. Another great resource is to check to see if there's a in your area. You post things you don't want, you ask for things you need, and hopefully someone responds. Check out local thrift stores as well! Report
    Close email sign up
    Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

    Magic Link Sent!

    A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.