Where did all my money go? Am I right?! Moving toward a lifestyle grounded in wellness can seem overwhelming for many reasons, one of the most common being the perception that it comes with a super high price tag. Superfoods, fitness classes, natural bath & beauty products...etc. These things all add up, especially when you are staring down the barrel of an overall overhaul to your lifestyle. I've been there! I'm still there, seeing as I have yet to find a money tree. But I have learned some things along the way, mainly that it's best to start with manageable shifts and move your way down the path as your life & budget allow.
I want to note that I personally believe there is nothing better to spend money on than your own health (and your family's health, of course). I view it as a form of insurance and an investment in my future. I'd rather spend my efforts and income now, on things that make me feel good and keep my body functioning, than spend my future days dependent on medications. Even so, I like a good value as much as the next gal. Below are my top 10 affordable wellness tips. Try to work a couple into your daily routines. There are few things I do splurge on, and a method to how I go about building my wellness pantry when it comes to the pricier items. I'll be sharing those in a future post. But for now, let's focus on saving some cash!
1. Warm Lemon Water - Start your morning with a mug of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon. I get a bag of organic lemons at the grocery store for $3.99. It lasts me at least a week. Store them in the refrigerator to preserve the vitamin C and keep them fresh a little longer. Every morning I start my day by heating up some water and squeezing a lemon into it. Make sure you don't boil the water or make it too hot; that can kill the enzymes and vitamin C from the lemons. How does this benefit us? Lemons are high in vitamin C, which supports our immune system and our skin. They are also extremely alkalizing to the human body (pH balance) when ingested. Drinking lemon water in the morning promotes digestion and helps flush toxins out of the body. It feels great to start they day this way!
2. Bulk Herbs at the Herb Shop - Have you ever stopped in at your local herb shop? I started doing this a few years ago and couldn't believe I'd waited so long. They sell tinctures, teas, natural remedies, and the best part...bulk herbs! When I first started researching herbal remedies for symptoms I was experiencing, I took my first trip to the herb shop. I was able to buy as little as an ounce of individual dried herbs. They also showed me how to make a medicinal strength herbal tea at home. Very often, the employees in the herb shop will be experienced herbalists and able to help you find the right herb (or combination of herbs) for whatever symptom(s) you are experiencing...skin issues, cramps, headaches, sleep difficulty...etc. Bulk herbs are cheaper than tinctures and capsules, and it's fun to make your own herbal teas. I usually leave there having spent less than $15 or $20, with a supply that will last me around a month.
This is a super fun and indulgent way to give yourself some extra care without breaking the bank. Be safe, though. When adding herbal remedies to your routine, it's a good idea to speak first with your healthcare practitioner or licensed herbalist, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications.
3. Epsom Salt Baths - Just taking a bath alone is a great way to relax. Adding Epsom salts (and a few drops of your favorite essential oils if you've got them) really brings it to the next level. It feels like taking a detox bath. The magnesium in the bath will help to relax sore muscles and calm irritated or inflamed skin. I usually take an Epsom Salt bath if my skin is irritated (I am prone to allergic skin reactions and hives) or if I had a few drinks the previous night and just feel a little gross and depleted from it. While we're on the topic of recovering from a few drinks...taking an activated charcoal capsule along with fresh water and a salt bath really helps! I buy my Epson salts at Natural Grocers in their bulk package. It's a few dollars for a bag, which you can get a couple baths out of. That is the best price I have found so far. Most pharmacies and grocers will carry it, and it's easily available online as well.
4. Fresh Ginger Tea - Buy a piece of fresh organic ginger root at your local grocery store. You should be able to find this at nearly any grocer. Grate a thumbnail-sized piece of fresh ginger into a mug of hot water (you can boil this water, just like making tea). Drink this to help support your digestion or to relieve nausea or stomach discomfort. It can also be helpful for relieving inflammation and improving blood circulation. Plus, it tastes good! It's always relaxing to take a few minutes to sit quietly with a cup of hot herbal tea.
5. Good Quality Sea Salt - This is a nice swap to make early on in a shift to a more nourishing lifestyle. Table salt is heavily processed and stripped of minerals. It often contains additives to prevent clumping as well. Get rid of your table salt and replace it with Pink Himalayan Salt or Celtic Grey Sea Salt. Both of these contain more minerals and nutrients, and they have much more flavor. You can buy a large bag that will last you quite awhile on Amazon, or at Natural Grocers.
6. DIY Fermentation - Naturally fermented foods do wonders for our gut health (and the appearance of our skin). They help us strengthen our good bacteria and ward off an overgrowth of harmful bacteria (like candida). An imbalance in gut bacteria can effect your skin, allergies, energy, digestion, and weight. Fermented foods contain live cultures and probiotics, and they increase the food's nutritional value & shelf life. These foods include sauerkraut, some pickles, cultured nut cheese, and coconut yogurt/kefir. If you are buying these foods in the store, the naturally fermented ones would be kept in a refrigerated section and would likely not contain vinegar. Pickles and sauerkraut on the room temperature shelves in the aisles are not fermented and will not contain these beneficial probiotic cultures.
If you're looking to boost your health, incorporating fermented foods into your diet is one of the absolute best things you can do! Unfortunately, purchasing these foods at the store can be fairly expensive. A jar of raw sauerkraut can run as much as $10 or more these days. Luckily, the ingredients needed to make your own are very affordable. Cabbage, good quality sea salt, and a mason jar. That is all you need to make your own! Sauerkraut is a good first project for DIY fermentation. I would type out a guide here, but there are so many already out there online. I like the recipe/guide on the Wellness Mama website. Find it here
Homemade fermented nut cheese is one of my absolute favorite foods. Expect to see a recipe from us soon!
7. Eat Sweet Potatoes - If you want to get more value out of your meals (for both your wallet and your body), make friends with organic sweet potatoes. They are inexpensive, easy to find at most grocery stores, and packed with nutrients. Sweet potatoes are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The orange and purple sweet potatoes are the ones to go to for those antioxidants. Antioxidants fight off free radicals, increasing your body's defenses against chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Orange sweet potatoes also contain large amounts of beta carotene (like carrots). Beta carotene boosts our eye health and immune function.
Now to the good part...sweet potatoes are insanely delicious, and you can make them so many ways! Whenever there is a chilly evening, I like to bake sweet potatoes in foil in the oven. Then slice them in half and put coconut oil, fresh herbs, nutritional yeast, and sea salt on them. I put on my comfy pajamas, make some tea to go with it, and watch a movie while I eat. I just love it...feels nourishing and cozy. Also, if you are someone who likes a sweet potato to be sweet, topping them with coconut butter and cinnamon is amazing! Keep in mind...baked sweet potato fries with coconut oil and rosemary is always an option too.
8. Ditch Refined Sugar - Now this one will actually save you money. It's terribly difficult to give up white sugar. We are hard wired to be addicted to it, and it is EVERYWHERE. Nearly every packaged food contains refined sugar in some form. The amount of money we can save by not buying packaged, sweetened foods is huge! I know it's challenging, but give this a try, and ride it out. If you slip up, don't give up on it completely. The very next time you eat, you will have a brand new opportunity to choose not to give in to the refined sugar devil. My mantra that I say to myself when I'm tempted to eat refined sugars: "Not today, Satan." That may or may not be from a Sabrina episode, but it works for me! Having a mechanism like a mantra enables me to feel proud of myself for making a good choice, and it makes it feel like a wellness ritual to walk away from the Skittles, rather than just sacrificing a treat.
Now, the grip of refined sugar is strong. Giving it the boot is easier said than done, and most of us need a little more motivation to kick the habit. So, let's prepare! Have some Medjool dates or dried pineapple or stevia-sweetened dark chocolate on hand to get you through the transition period. Make sure it's a treat that you really enjoy. Then, don't buy anything with white sugar ever again. Just don't do it. You've got better things to spend your money on. You will feel & see so many benefits...most notably, your skin! If you're looking to improve your complexion and get that gorgeous glowy face, just repeat after me, "Not today, Satan."
9. Shop the Bulk Bins - At the grocery store, avoid most of the aisles in the center of the store. Try to shop the outer sections, and you will come across far fewer processed foods (which cost money and derail your wellness efforts). Obviously, the produce section is a good place to start. If I go to the store and only buy produce, I am always shocked at how much lower the bill is when I check out. The bulk bins are a great way to stock up on organic oats, nuts, grains, seeds, beans, flours, dried fruits...etc. I'm noticing more and more that "top shelf" items like chia seeds, goji berries, and alternative flours are showing up as options in the bulk bins too. Basically, shopping bulk bins will keep you with lots of options for nourishing whole foods, while reducing packaging and keeping the price tag down...sometimes making it possible to make the switch to organic without a huge price increase. Lots of grocery stores even have bulk options for freshly ground nut butters too. My personal bulk bin staples are oats, nut butter, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, brown rice, unsweetened dried coconut flakes, dried unsweetened cherries, chia seeds, garbanzo beans, spelt flour, nutritional yeast, cashews, lentils, and spices. I clear out the dried chives section almost every time. If you live in Portland and can never find dried chives, I may be responsible for that. Obviously we all have different pantry staples, but there is something for everyone in the dry goods section of the store. Given the right bulk bin offerings (check out the stores in your town to see what they have), you can do fairly well for your wallet and your nutritional content. If there is a co-op near you, they may even offer a bulk section for personal care products like soaps and shampoos. In Portland, I find a pretty good balance between value & selection at a lot of the Fred Meyer locations.
10. Free Yoga - Several yoga teachers have YouTube channels. You can access all kinds of flows for free. I'm not a fan of these for a full workout (though that exists and really works well for some people). I do better in a class setting But there are several 5, 10, or 15 minute videos online that are useful as a way to start the day, or to transition out of work mode when you get home in the evening. We all respond to different teachers, so it may take a few tries to find ones you like. A couple of the teachers with videos I enjoy are Kimberly Snyder and Tara Stiles.
You might also consider taking note when any yoga studios open up in town. Often times they will have free classes at their openings. Also, most yoga studios offer a significantly discounted rate for your first couple weeks or month of classes. You can hop around town to different yoga studios and try them all out with their introductory pricing. Depending on how popular yoga is where you live, there may be several of these new client deals for you to take advantage of.
I hope everyone found at least one useful tip here. There are plenty of other cheep (or free) rituals you can work into your lifestyle like meditation, reading a book, taking a walk in nature, spending time with your pet...etc. Just remember, moving toward a healthier life experience doesn't have to be overwhelmingly expensive. Pick a couple small changes to add to your routine; and make sure they work well for you. Start there, and add more things in as you are ready for them. Wellness looks and feels different for all of us.
If you have any cash saving wellness tips, I would love to hear them in the comments! What's your favorite?