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Is it Possible to Lose Weight on a Budget?


photo by Anushruti RK

Jessica, from Losing Weight on a Budget, recently wrote me about how she is losing weight on a budget:

After giving birth to my first child I started eating healthy and lost over
50 pounds. That being said I also lost a lot of money doing it. The cost can
really get out of control if you let it. By the time you buy all of the
special frozen meals and prepackaged snacks your wallet will definitely feel a
lot lighter.

After I gave birth to my second child, I wanted to lose weight again but I put
it off for several months because my family is on a strict budget and I really
thought that I couldn’t afford to eat healthfully again. This made me very depressed
and I continued to gain weight.

Finally, at the end of last year I decided that
enough was enough. I felt really tired all of the time from not eating right or
exercising and I knew that I needed to do something about it. So this is where my
journey began. On January 1, 2009, I began my journey of losing weight on a

I plan my menu every week and stick to it, I clip coupons, I do
without some of the convenience foods that I used to enjoy, and I definitely
go out to eat less. I even started a blog here to keep myself accountable and to share my ideas
with anyone interested in losing weight on a budget.

I have also tried a many new recipes which are
healthful and low in cost. Right now I am on a bean kick. I have found several
great bean recipes that cost very little but are low in fat and very high in
fiber. I am loving the fact that I can feed my family a hearty filling meal for
just a few dollars.

I have lost 17 pounds in my
first 10 weeks and I have no plans of stopping until I meet my goal. I love the
fact that not only am I losing weight but I am becoming healthy and so is the
rest of my family. It is such a great feeling to be able to teach my children
about eating healthfully and budgeting money all at the same time.

Jessica's story was quite inspirational to me–especially since I'm currently working on losing the rest of my pregnancy weight (14 pounds to go!). You'll not want to miss her post here on ten ways to save money while losing weight.

What tips or tricks do you have for losing weight on a budget? I'd love to hear! I blogged here last year
about some of the things which have helped me lose my pregnancy weight
without spending a lot of money and Tammy also has some great ideas here.

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  • Tonya says:

    Thanks for sharing the links on this topic! I have to get motivated to lose weight! I was within 10 lbs my pre-pregnancy weight from my 2nd child when my daddy died, and now I’m back to being 30 lbs away from my pre-pregnancy weight. Yuck!

  • I think it depends on what type of diet works for you in the first place – if you do better on a high-protein, low-carb diet, then usually it will be a bit more expensive.

    Having said that, I have actually found that a budget and losing weight don’t necessarily conflict with each other. The keys for me are:

    1) Portion control – measure out your portions, and freeze leftovers before you can get up for seconds! Not only does this stretch your meals, but it keeps you from adding on calories you don’t need.

    2) Cooking from scratch w/ whole grains, beans, etc. – I have found that eating “whole foods” including veggies, etc. that are in season keep my appetite under control. It’s only when I get on a junk food kick and eat more sugary foods or chips, etc. that I find my cravings going up.

    3) Don’t keep unnecessary snack foods around the house. If you have more things like muffins, homemade snack foods, or veggies cut up and available, you are less likely to overeat on these things (at least that’s what happens for me). If you have ice cream or potato chips, on the other hand, it’s very easy to overeat them, and they cost more.

    4) Cut out beverages except for milk, water, and tea. Doing this in our household (okay, we do buy gourmet coffee, but we don’t drink it every day), saves a ton on our budget as well as our waistlines.

  • Delores says:

    Well, one thing that I am sure many are already aware of: Sparkpeople. I think for food tracking it is great and free. I was using it and it helped somewhat. This link is great for helping determine how many calories you need each day : Also, you can do a one week free online trial of Weight Watchers to get a feel for how many calories you need and what that works out to in food. Of course, it’s in points, but is still helpful. Just remember to cancel the membership if you don’t want to continue it. Finally, the last thing is just strive to be more active — getting out and weeding the garden a lot, parking at the far end of the parking lot, things like that. Be intentional about it.

  • Tiffany says:

    I’m going to check out her blog right now. I could definitely use some tips on finding frugal, healthy foods.

    Exercise can be a problem if you aren’t able to afford a monthly gym membership, or don’t live in an area where exercising outside daily is an option. (In Arkansas it’s freezing in the winter and 100* in the summer!) My solution was to buy a mini-trampoline with video from Wal-Mart for $30.00. It can be seen here…

    I love it! It gives me a great cardio workout and takes up almost no space to store!

  • Swap Savers says:

    Yes I wrote an article called
    How to Lose Weight and Save Money here

  • Finance Girl says:

    I’ve had the same dilemma, and lost 15 pounds in the past 3 months. At first I thought I needed to get expensive “health food” stuff like Silk soymilk and flaxseed (basically whatever Bob Greene said). But what honestly worked was limiting portion sizes and calories, which for me meant eating cereal ($1/box after coupons) with skim milk (about $2 per half gallon) and a banana ($0.79/lb) for breakfast, a frozen Healthy Choice-type meal for lunch ($1-$1.50 each with sales/coupons) and a regular dinner. If I ever wanted a snack, I’d get a McDonald’s ice cream cone for $0.99 – only 150 calories.

  • Ashle says:

    Have you ever been here?

    It is a very helpful community!

  • Jackie Slattery says:

    Not sure if it’s Jessica’s sites fault or not, but clicking on that link launched an Internet Explorer storm that kept opening her window over & over & over again. I luckily got it stopped & shut down my computer, but Beware.

  • Mandy says:

    The best thing I have found is that there is a local store called Superstition Ranch Market that sells fruits and vegetables for cheap. (I don’t work there, I just shop there a lot!) Today, they had CA Peaches for $0.33/lb and 1 lb containers of strawberries for $0.50. Sometimes, it’s produce from other stores (like Safeway, or Sam’s Club) that that is overstock or nearing it’s expiration and so Superstition Ranch will sell it for cheap (ie: the 5 lb bag of baby carrots I just got that is identical to the ones at Sam’s Club for less than half price – and the date on them isn’t even until July 12th!) I go about every week or so, and usually spend between $10-$15 for a cart full of vegetables and fruit. You do have to pick and choose – There are a lot of inferior quality vegetables and fruit, but with a careful eye and a little bit of time, you can find great produce.

    I would definitely encourage you to check the internet or ask other moms if they know of such a place near you. And by the way, Superstition Ranch Market is located at Greenfield and Main in Mesa, Arizona, if there’s anyone that’s wondering!

  • I’ve lost 70 pounds since giving birth 2 years ago. It is completely possible to achieve on a budget! I share great tips each Friday for my progress and what has worked for me too!

  • Bethany says:

    Jessica – You mentioned being on a bean kick, so I had to share my favorite bean recipe with you. We use this recipe for tacos and anything that calls for canned black beans.

    I’ve got several other bean recipes at the link below, but that first one is the absolute best in the world. 🙂

  • Nicole says:

    I have a few conditions that I live by that help me keep my weight where I want it and none of them cost much (in fact, some of them save me money.)

    First, any junk I want to eat, I have to make myself. With the exception of the very occasional run to Dairy Queen, the vast majority of my “junky treats” are homemade. We just don’t buy pre-packaged cookies, chips, candy, etc. So not only are my treats cheaper and healthier than the pre-packaged version, but I also have to put in some effort to get them, and I’ll sometimes decide it’s just not worth it and eat something healthy instead.

    Second, I grow a garden every year. Any type of produce is better for you than anything that’s not produce, and you can’t beat the almost-free stuff that you grow yourself. Also, homegrown food is usually superior in taste (and definitely freshness) than anything you can get from the store, so tastier produce might mean that you want to eat more of it.

    Third, I limit the greasy/fried stuff that I eat. This one started because my digestive system just couldn’t take it. But I think it’s one of the main reasons I don’t struggle with my weight. We almost never fry anything at home, so the only time I eat fried stuff if when I get fries at a restaurant. You can almost always bake something instead of frying it, and it’s much better for you (and doesn’t cost more.)

    Fourth, we almost never eat frozen meals that you buy in the frozen food section. I do stock our freezer with stuff I’ve made from scratch, but frozen foods are generally very expensive and filled with lots of hard-to-pronounce ingredients, so putting in a little extra time to make my own food to freeze is well worth it to me.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I think most people wonder if it’s possible to eat healthy (a must if you want to lose weight!) on a budget. Our weekly budget is $70 for all groceries and household goods. We follow a very natural diet that is plentiful in protein, natural fats and whole grains. My budget includes meat almost every night of the week, plenty of dairy, and special foods like organic coconut oil. We also eat a moderate amount of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies. We avoid trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oils and processed soy products – all of which are linked to disease, weight gain and illness according to mainly studies. On this healthy diet I eat plenty of food, never go hungry and have maintained an ideal body weight for years as I stay at home with two young children.

    I am considering expanding our budget so we can include more organic items. It’s an exchange that is more than worth it in my eyes. A healthy body means healthy weight loss, and balanced, whole foods meals is the only real way to achieve that. Plus, in my family we rarely get sick and have not had to visit the doctor in more than three years. That alone saves us a fortune.

  • Jaden says:

    One of the resources that really helped me when I was trying to lose the weight from my daughter??! It’s a website that does free diet plans, you can track your calorie intake and workouts, and they offer tons of recipes, articles about health and fitness, and exercise routines, among other things! They really rock. That combined with the ExerciseTV workouts On Demand helped me to lose the weight WITHOUT spending the money to join the gym! Hoo-rah 🙂

  • Honey says:

    I try to eat healthy by eating vegetables in season. This provides variety and saves $. For instance, right now we are eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies like tomatoes, berries, melons, etc. In the winter, we rely on low-fat, high-fiber soups, bean dishes (like Jessica mentioned), root vegetables, etc.

  • Brooke says:

    I am so glad you posted this. I hate hearing people say they can’t lose weight because its expensive! No its not! It is only expensive if you buy a bunch of pre-packaged “diet” foods which are a total rip off. I, too lost 50 lbs after my first baby was born and have been on a strict grocery budget the whole time. Produce and lean meats are NOT that expensive, especially when you aren’t buying crackers, cookies, juice and other things that you don’t need and only make you fat. Brown rice doesn’t cost more than white, whole wheat bread doesn’t cost more than white. And eating smaller portion sizes is ALWAYS cheaper! I hope that a lot of people take this to heart.

  • Alissa says:

    I’m working on just being nutritious, not losing weight, as I’m three months pregnant but some of the things I do to help keep us within our budget and healthy are:

    — Exercise outside when it’s nice; do a $10 Jillian Michaels dvd from Walmart when it’s not (It’s killer! She has one that is a 20 min. circuit that makes you question your will to live. For a busy mom, I appreciate a quick but difficult workout)

    — Eat in-season veggies or frozen when it’s winter. They’re so much cheaper! I recently bought the huge bag of romaine lettuce at Sams club for a little over 3 dollars which is only slightly more expensive than the small bags at Walmart and challenged my husband and I to eat the entire thing before it went bad.

    — Have a meat-free night once a week. Even my carnivorous husband can handle it once a week. We sometimes do a breakfast night with eggs, etc.

    — Don’t invite my husband to come grocery shopping with me. That’s a huge money saver for me! 🙂

    *Thanks for all the other helpful posts! Great suggestions!

  • Shannon says:

    The No S Diet, found at, is one of the easiest, most sane approaches to weight loss I’ve found and it is completely free. Basically, you don’t eat snacks, sweets or seconds except sometimes on days that start with S (Saturdays, Sundays, special days, sick days.)

  • clare says:

    The best weight loss rule for me: quit eating out. Even if you bring half your food home, it’s impossible to count calories (unless its a chain that publicizes nutritional info) or know just how much saturated fat you consumed. Eating out can be expensive from a monetary point of view, but in the long run it’s even more costly to your health…

  • Erika says:

    With my daughter it took me 10 months to get my body back (she was my first child and after a 27 hour labor and then a Cesarean…my body took forever to heal) and then I got pregnant right when I finally got back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. I was a bit depressed.

    The biggest lesson happend during my second pregnancy. When I was pregnant with my son I found out that I had extra amniotic fluid (like lots), but not gestational diabetes (extra amniotic fluid is a big sign of gestational diabetes). Figuring that doing the gestational diabetic diet couldn’t HURT, mainly because I was feeling massively helpless and worried about my son being healthy, I put myself on a decently strict diet and I learned a lot about dieting through that experience.

    The biggest lesson? Portion control. My mother-in-law would sit there in shock as I’d sit there and meticulously count out 14 Pringles to go with my lunch (I’m a salty food fiend) to keep my carbs down. Figuring out how food worked in the body sure did help with the diet too.

    For one thing…if you are going to eat out DO NOT eat French fries if you are trying to lose weight (or any fried food period really). Potatoes are a no-no anyway because they are pure starch, but then when you fry foods you make those carbs more accessible to your body so that you will have sugar spikes and crashes for hours after eating them, which helps to lead to fat absorbtion.

    Eat a lot of protien and fiber because it helps to absorb what you NEED for carbs but not too many (the rest gets flushed) and it helps you to feel fuller longer. That’s why when you figure out net carbs you take your carbs – your fiber content.

    The worst thing I found for getting low carbs? Bread. One slice of bread, even double fiber bread, has tons of carbs in it (usually 25 carbs per slice and when you consider that 25 carbs is your max on a gestational diebetic breakfast…that doesn’t work if you like toast). The best one in the universe is Ororowheat Light (11 net grams of carbs for 2, count them 2, slices of bread! It is awesome stuff). It’s a bit spendy (about 3 dollars a loaf up here), but it tastes great and trust me it DOES make a difference.

    The biggest thing I can share from personal experience is read your labels when you buy things. Being educated is the best thing in the world you can do for yourself when it comes to putting something into your body. Especially portion sizes (boy can those be misleading).

    By doing these things not only did I feel better about doing what I could when it came to the health of my son (he came through fine), but after he was born I was also 5 lbs lower than my pre-pregnancy weight. I really believe by watching your diet you can just streamline your body to work better.

    A good source I’VE found that will give you healthy recipes (and creative ones) that taste REALLY good and gives you nutritional breakdowns, is books by Graham Kerr. He used to be the Galloping Gourmet years ago, but his wife started having severe health problems, so he got creative with cooking to do things healthy (mainly because he loved the many flavors of Gourmet food and didn’t want to give those up).

    He really does break things down and teaches you to cook with things like strained yogurt where the final products not only taste good but are really good for you. I have a couple of his cookbooks and find them a very neat source of creativity in my cooking. And the best part is that while SOME of his ingredients were a little spendy, for the most part the ingredients are pretty easy to come by, it’s the way you PREPARE them that matters. And he gives you nutritional breakdowns of all the recipes he redoes, before and after, so you can see where everything is healthier. It’s pretty cool.

    And now that I have given my non-paid endorsement for the day *Iaugh* I’ll let people get back to their lives.

  • Molly says:

    I count calories, just write down everything I eat everyday and write it on paper. I look up the calorie count ( or the book 8.99) and it contains a lot of resturants and popular foods. I take a lot of food with for me and the kids. We all are healthier too, no more fast food drive through (sometime an occasional mcd vanilla cone about 130 calories). Also, some medical insurance covers a vistit to a nutritionalist for free.

  • Davonne says:

    I don’t buy extra food for the rest of the family – when I was losing my baby weight (which I’ll have to do again in a couple of months!), I didn’t buy pop, chips, or any other snack that would tempt me. I did buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and would cut them up and have them in little containers, ready to eat, so I could just grab them on my way out the door, which meant I had no need for costly fast food or convenience foods.

  • Coco says:

    PUDGET- Losing weight on a budget! That is so funny! Go, you! And go, you for working toward your goal. I am so proud of you, sister!

  • Erika says:

    Losing weight isn’t just about eating healthy – it is also exercise that helps. After I had my first baby, I found that both $ and time were an issue to get enough exercise while caring for a newborn.
    What worked for me was to put on some good music with a fast beat, hold my daughter and dance around the house for 25-35 minutes. I got a great cardio workout, she was soothed by the motion, and we both had fun.
    I was back in my skinny jeans when she was 6 months old.
    Even if you don’t have a newborn, I think that cardio through dancing is a fun, inexpensive way to get exercise.

  • sarah says:

    anyone want to do a post on how to save money on a diet sans cow milk or eggs??? doctors just told me my 16 month old is allergic to these, but soy is SO expensive!

  • Caroline says:

    Our family has been through a lot with our little boy suffering from severe food allergies and Eczema. After three long yrs of constant itching, tears and frustration…we have found something we think is pretty special…afterall we believe it has been our answered prayer. We started him on a probiotic from Vidazorb and have seen such an amazing difference with him that now we all take it! He is a healthy little boy who feel and looks a lot better…so we knew how great it was. We also began to transform our lives into a more natural and pure one with ingredients. I have been replacing chemicals and synthetics with healthier options, eating whole foods, and of course our Vidazorb. It has even helped decrease my cravings for snacks and made me feel more satisfied after meals. We also operate on a very tight budget and it is difficult for us to buy organic. We de when we can though. I would guess about 40% of our grocery bill is spent on fruits and vegs! We do end up with less food for the week but that is the price we are willing to pay. We just try to stretch it out 🙂

  • VK says:

    Hi All-

    I am an American living overseas and am ALWAYS looking for ways to make stuff from scratch (American imported foods are extremely expensive here). I bought a crock pot and have been using it in the last few weeks to make some amazing meals! The site I’ve been hooked on is:

    There are loads of gluten free, vegan and low calorie meals plus things I would have never thought to make in a crockpot like yogurt, granola and tofu dishes. Great site with lots of photos-check it out.

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