The Frugal Health Plan—Exercise


A Sunset Stroll

The frugal health plan is the one you create yourself, not the one the insurance companies sell, though that will be the topic of a future post. Today’s focus will be exercise, one of the cornerstones of a healthy life, and completely under your control 99% of the time. Even if you are bed-ridden you can likely still wiggle around, and that is better than nothing. But the vast majority of us can do much better than that. Exercise does not have to involve expensive equipment. It does take time, but not THAT much. It can take many forms.

Here are a few of the ways we can fit exercise into our daily lives:

Walking—try parking as far from where you are headed as possible. And if you are going to a big walkable city, take public transportation and walk when you get there. You will be doing yourself a favor when it comes to parking too! Or make walking in your neighborhood a daily ritual. Take a sunset walk. Bring the whole family or a friend for a stroll and a chat.

Dancing—this is great fun and great exercise. Many places have free music in the summer, and even if not, getting into a club is not expensive if you stick to water and dance your buns off. If you want to get fancy take salsa or ballroom lessons, but you can also just go and do whatever the music moves you to. I know one man who dances four nights a week and that is his whole program. A woman I know was newly divorced and miserable. She started to gain weight on the Ben and Jerry’s post breakup program, and that made her even more miserable. Then a friend DRAGGED her out dancing. She LOVED it. Soon she was out every night, lost 20 pounds, and met a new man. When you dance anything can happen.

Working Outside—gardening, raking leaves, digging in the dirt. You have to be careful to vary your movements for a full workout, but it still beats sitting by a mile.

Get in the Water—swimming is an amazing low impact full body workout. Just take a gander at the bodies of the Olympic swimmers to see what swimming can do for you. And if getting in the water isn’t for you, try paddling, sailing, or other boating adventures. Remember to put safety first and you will see a side of the outdoors you can’t see any other way. Near me is a Laguna with a huge nesting ground in the middle, accessible best by kayak. Is there something wonderful in your neck of the woods that you can only get to by boat?

Then again, if none of these ideas work for you there is always the gym. Exercise is one thing a frugalista should not mind investing in. Medical bills are much higher than even a gym membership. Not exercising is a known health risk. People who sit too much have a higher mortality rate than those who move. But there are also positive benefits to exercise besides not dying so soon. Many disorders, including depression respond well to exercise. Studies show that exercise is the best natural antidepressant. It’s good for both body and mind. So put on those sneakers and let’s rock!!


Looking for a Great Winter Breakfast? Try a Big Bowl of REAL Homemade Hot Cereal!

Hot Cereal is Easy and Tasty Comfort Food

We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and in winter this will often mean hot cereal. But far too often it actually means a cheap imitation of hot cereal in the form of “instant” oatmeal. The kind that I am talking about comes in a little pouch, loaded with chemicals, expensive considering what it is, and lacking both taste and nutrients. It is so bad that lots of people won’t even bother, and so end up either skipping breakfast entirely or grabbing a tastier if equally useless pastry.

This is sad, especially since REAL hot cereal is so easy and fast, and so inexpensive. And—it is not limited to oatmeal. There are mixes of cracked grain ranging from three grain to ten grain. Some are in packages, such as Bob’s Red Mill, and others are bulk section products. What they all have in common is how easy they are to cook. Just put in a pan—one part cereal to three parts water for the cracked grain mix or one part rolled oats to two parts water for homemade oatmeal. Bring to a boil and simmer for about ten minutes, stirring often. That’s it. Add milk, dairy or not. Add the sweetener of your choice. I prefer whole milk and brown sugar, but there are lots of ways to go with this. There is even a microwave version on the Bob’s Red Mill package that only takes five minutes, no longer than the cheap imitation.

This breakfast will work for almost anyone. If you are gluten intolerant look for gluten free mixes of grain. Everyone except those with celiac disease should be able to enjoy this ten minute hardy winter breakfast. So give yourself a great start and eat your whole grain at the same time with a piping hot bowl of wholesome hot cereal.

Six Frugal Stress Busters You Should Try



Natural Landscapes Get Rid of Stress



It is a well-known fact that stress is very hard on the health. And in these difficult and unsettled times it seems impossible to avoid. The good news is that getting rid of stress need not be expensive. Recreational shopping may do the trick for an hour or too, but all the good effects will likely be undone when the credit card bill comes. Try these low or no cost alternatives.

Take a Walk-Preferably in Nature

Walking serves two purposes-it gets your body moving, and it clears your head. And it also seems to lift the spirits. Chances are that there is a park or trail near you that will serve nicely. If not, walk down the prettiest or most interesting street you can get to easily.

Get Physical

While you are at the park, try throwing a Frisbee or shooting some hoops. Do whatever is available to really get your heart moving. Exercise raises our levels of endorphins, the opposite of the cortisol and adrenaline that flood our bodies when we are stressed. We may have the same problems after a good workout, but we still feel better.

Do Something Mindless

It turns out that vegging out is a great stress buster. Whether you are playing solitaire or watching mindless TV, it can be a form of meditation, and it may be more beneficial for some people than “real” formal meditation. If that much laziness bothers you-try knitting. It serves the same purpose and you get a scarf out of the deal. Now that is frugal!

Do Something Useful

If you are worried about a bunch of things and your mind is spinning, try doing one of the items on your to-do list. Make it something mindless and energy intensive like cleaning the kitchen. You will definitely feel better psychologically when you are done. Doing something gives a feeling of forward motion and crossing a task off the list creates a stress relieving feeling of virtue.

Try a Long Soak

It may be trite, but a warm bath really is relaxing. Even if you are a shower person, a twenty minute soak will relax you and revive your spirits, not to mention any aching muscles. Try some aromatherapy while you’re in there.

Talking with Friends

I put this last because most advisors put it first, and it is actually trickier than you might think. First of all, there are gender issues. Women go right to this one while most men never get to it at all. So it is not a generic recipe for success. The problem for men is that a little venting is therapeutic. But the problem for women is that too much venting can actually cause more stress. Find a good balance with a friend that only lets you go so far, and then gets you out of yourself by changing the subject. A friend that can combine allowing you to vent with going out dancing would be ideal.

What is Fun, Free, and Very Healthy?-A Nature Walk

Everybody needs to walk to stay healthy, but it can be hard to get motivated. Walking in a mall or other commercial area can be very boring. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you live in the city, check out the parks. Every big city and most small ones have some parks filled with city wildlife and walkable trails. There may not be large mammals, but there are a never-ending array of birds, small reptile, insects, and other creatures. As well as plants, flowering or otherwise, and many species of tree. Things you might not expect to see living among humans so closely.

Spider Web Pearls

If you live in a suburb or rural area nature is even closer at hand. Strangely, though you make not have to go to an official park, if you live in the country you may have to drive to walk. That is the case where I live. The country road I live on is a back way to get to the nearest town, and is very heavily traveled at times. It is impossible to walk my road, which is two lanes with ditches on both sides. So I drive to the nearest trail where I could walk for miles if I wanted, far from cars, if not people and bikes.

A walk in nature is free entertainment, but you can make it better with a little planning. Find out a little about the plants and animals you are like to encounter, so you’ll know what you are seeing when you get there. Bring water, preferably in a glass container to save the land-fill, a pair of binoculars, and a camera, even if it is just in your phone. The phone itself should be turned off for full benefits to take place. I have seen people power walking and taking a meeting by phone at the same time. I have to ask, what is the point? If you don’t pay attention to where you are you will miss eighty percent of it.

A walk in nature can be wonderful even in winter. Maybe not in the middle of a storm, but right afterwards there are sights that are only seen as the world settles itself after a big disruption. Bundle up and go see what is out there. Whatever the season you will feel so much better afterwards, and so much richer for having opened your senses to the beauty of the natural world.

Want to Save Money on Food? Eat Less Meat

You don’t have to be one hundred percent vegetarian to enjoy the health benefits and money saving benefits of eschewing meat, though that is certainly a good option. But if you are not ready to make a real commitment to a veggie lifestyle you still get to choose what to eat at least three times a day, 365 days a year. Why not get some benefits by making more of those meals meat-free?

The Beauty of Produce

Think about what it is that keeps you coming back to the carnivorous choice over and over again. Is it habit? Or perhaps lack of knowledge of alternatives? There are plenty of jokes about Tofu, usually made by people who have never tried it. Nutritionists recommend five daily servings of vegetables and four of fruit per day for good health, even for committed carnivores. And the truth is that vegetables and fruit are the beautiful gifts of the earth. You can grow them yourself if you have the space and the skill, the most frugal choice of all.

What is really at issue is the protein portion of the meal. Americans in particular have strange ideas about protein, generally overestimating the amount needed, which is an individual thing.  So it is a good idea to do your own calculation.  Once you know how much you need, it’s up to you to decide where it comes from.

Meat has as much impact on your carbon footprint as driving a gas hog, and uses millions of gallons of water that is needed elsewhere. Protein comes in many other forms, including food combining of legumes and grains. What could be more warming on a fall or winter day than a big pot of beans with cornbread? This is a complete, balanced meal. Just load the beans with vegetables and have applesauce on the side to create a perfectly healthy meal that even a meat-eater could love.

Check out these links to more information on a meat-free life: the government site on recommended servings some good information, even if you are just trying to cut down Information on protein needs Another view on protein, though it is meatcentric. The leanest protein of all is vegetable based. Try out some recipes! The Mother of all veggie sites.

And as for the bean and cornbread dinner I mentioned? Check back in a few days and I will post the recipes.

The Healthy Frugalista

An Apple a Day

Maybe it’s an age thing, but I have been pondering the issue of health and heath care lately. I am one of millions of Americans whose main access to medical care is asking Dr. Google. But this post will not be about the health insurance crisis in America. It will be about the alternative and affordable possibilities.

On further thought, I realized two things: I can’t afford to get sick, and even with no real formal medical care there are things I can do to prevent or treat illness. In a world full of serious illnesses that I have no control over it felt good to create a plan to implement the things I can control (and afford).These suggestions are written for people that are on the edge with their medical dollars, but will still work even if you are wealthy. Preventative medicine is the best kind.

The first item is eating a good diet. As I have commented here before, you can’t really afford cheap food. But, even avoiding fast food and Velveeta sandwiches, there is a tendency to gravitate towards a carb-heavy diet when the cupboard is bare. One answer is to try some healthier whole grains, such as quinoa and barley. These foods are every bit as inexpensive as white wheat pasta and bread. Another solution is to seek out the inexpensive vegetables such as cabbage and kale. Check out this article for more ideas:

The second health preserving habit is free exercise. This is easy if you live the inner city or deep in the country. But if you live somewhere in between it gets stickier. Where I live there is a bike and walking trail about a mile and a half away. But it is impossible to walk to it. The road is narrow and heavily trafficked with big ditches on both sides. So, I settle for parking a few blocks from my destination on errands. If none of these ideas work for you it might be possible to run up and down every flight of stairs you see a couple of times. Or go out dancing and just buy one beer. Just move! Your life really does depend on it.

The third item is herbal medicine. Buying expensive supplements is out of the question at the moment, but healing herbs are inexpensive and have a track record that goes back thousands of years. There are plenty of good books on herbal medicine, both ancient such as Culpepper’s Complete Herbal (1653) available here free at bibliomania: or the works of Susun Weed.

Finally, avoid stress or work it out. When cash gets scarce tension naturally goes up. But it is a medical truism that stress kills. There has to be time everyday that is decompression time. Meditation is free, and so is beating a pillow or yelling. No matter how crappy things are talking to a friend can help. All of these things release stress busting hormones to counteract the killer hormones released when we get wound up. When things started to slide for me a few years ago I got into the habit of the 5 or 6 PM cut-off. No matter how bad the day, in the late afternoon I would just stop, turn it all off and pop in a Netflix or listen to loud shred music. No worrying aloud. Just dinner and entertainment.This turned into a habit worth keeping.

Everyone of these things are proven to preserve health even if you are broke. You may still fall prey to ill health, but that can happen even if you are possessed of great fortune.

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