How To Use the Bad Economy To Get In Shape

By Brandon Morgado

February 18, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Let’s face it: the economy stinks right now. We’re all a little tight on money and the last thing on most of our minds is fitness. However, if you look at this economic downturn as an opportunity rather than a hopeless disaster, you may just be able to use your lack of spending money as the motivation behind some healthy lifestyle changes.

While our finances are headed down the drain, working on improving other areas of our lives can be a positive alternative to counting how much of our savings we have lost. Here’s a few tips to help both your budget and waistline.

    • Order Water With a Meal
      By ordering a water with your meal at a restaurant instead of a soft drink or beer, you are not only saving at least $2 to $3, but you are also cutting several hundred calories from your diet. If you made this choice everyday, for example, you could save yourself almost $100 and 3,000 calories in a month’s time.
  • Eat Smaller Portions
    Do you really need to “Supersize-It”? No, of course you don’t. When getting a quick bite at a fast food restaurant, resist the urge to upscale your order. The difference between a small order of fries and a large one is about 250 calories and sometimes as much as a $1 or $2.



  • Eat Fewer Snacks
    I often imagine the inventor of modern day vending machines in the form of a villainous cartoon character. We buy his high calorie snacks at ridiculous markups while he twirls his waxed mustache and emits a maniacal laugh.


At my office, a 12oz can of cola is 150 calories and $0.75, while the water fountain next to it is 0 calories and free. Skip the afternoon snacks and have a glass of water instead. Another healthy alternative would be to bring some fruits or veggies from home. These are always going to be cheaper than the prepackaged items bought on a whim.


  • Eat More Meals at Home
    Regardless of how healthy and cheap you try to be when eating out, you are almost guaranteed a cheaper and lower calorie meal by fixing it yourself in your own home. When you control what goes into your meal, you can sum up the exact amount of calories you are eating without paying the restaurant markups. Most people drastically underestimate the amount of calories contained in average restaurant meals.



  • Bring Your Lunch to Work
    Similar to the point above, if you can manage a little forethought, bringing your lunch with you is a great way to cut both unnecessary calories and expenditures. By packing a healthy lunch at home you are totally removing the temptation to buy overpriced and over sized portions of food from restaurants or fast food establishments.



  • Walk or Bike Instead of Using a Car
    If at all possible, walking or biking to places you usually would drive is an excellent way to add more exercise into your day and save on the cost of your commute. Any time you make a choice to be more active, you are literally doing your body a favor. Plus, using less gasoline is better for your wallet and the environment.



  • Create a Food Log
    A food log is just a detailed list of everything that you eat throughout the day. Be meticulous. Write out exactly what you had for each meal and any snacks you had in between. The purpose of this is to keep track of all you actually eat in a day and to help you monitor your total intake of calories. However, if you also applied this same method to the monetary price of food as well, you will have a detailed summary of exactly how much you spend on your meals and snacks. Once you see exactly how much your diet is costing you, you may be a little alarmed. Personally, I had no idea I was blowing through so much money a week simply on lunch until I started doing this. This is a great format for you to budget for the total cost of your diet, both in calories and dollars.



  • Look For Cheap Activities Outside As Weekend Entertainment
    Instead of going to a fancy dinner and an expensive movie on the weekends, look for cheap or free alternatives that are based on physical activity. Go to a public park or take a hike in the local woods. These types of activities are usually free, incorporate some exercise into a usually sedentary time of the week, and provide a great opportunity to spend time with the people that are important to you. For bonus points, try cutting your cable or selling your TV. Anything that tethers you to the couch when you could be elsewhere is an activity that deserves to be reevaluated.


Written on 12/19/2008 by Brandon Morgado. Brandon is a self-professed fitness geek and blogs regularly at when he isn’t running, playing Ultimate Frisbee or wasting his life away on Twitter. Photo Credit: Bludgeoner86
Brandon Morgado

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