As the end of the month approached, yet again I found myself rather penniless and with the cupboards somewhat bare. You see, while London is one of the most beautiful, busy and bustling cities in the world, it is also one of the most expensive. Combine this with costly sports membership fees, an appetite for healthy (but pricey) vegan treats and an addiction to health, fitness and running magazines, all funded by a job in the arts, you can see how I find myself in this monthly predicament.
Each month I spend £50 on my climbing membership, £46 on my gym and pool, and £25 for every five Zumba classes.
On top of this I have to content with a persistent internal monologue, which goes something like this:
‘Those are the most beautiful climbing shoes I’ve ever seen and the pair I have were a hand-me-down so technically I haven’t really invested in a good pair yet, and it would be so useful to have my own bouldering mat too. Oo and I could also really use a new long-sleeved, breathable, wind-proof running top, I’m sure that’s exactly what my marathon training really requires, and maybe I could do with a new swimming costume too…’
Food and drink purchases are also a contributing factor to my economic scarcities and while I try to take packed lunches to work and am not a big eater by any stretch, my predilection for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, coyo yogurts (which cost their weight in gold), coconut water and my deli counter habit (£4 for this small, small tub of olives and sun dried tomatoes you say?) is certainly eating into my bank balance (excuse the pun). Spending £50 a month on protein powder also adds to my outgoings and again, as with exercise, with all things food my mind wanders to ‘healthy purchases’ and I start convincing myself that I definitely need a spiralizer, and a juicer, and a food processor (I do actually really need a juicer…)
There is no point beating around the bush; being healthy can be a costly business. If I wanted to live on refined carbs and beige foods then I could do so at a fraction of the price that I spend on asparagus and avocados, but I don’t.
However, there are savings to be made and ways to make more from less. Having watched ‘My Stuff‘ this week – a documentary film about a guy who puts all of his worldly possessions into storage and is only allowed to take back one item per day – I’ve also really started thinking about the things I actually need and, rather than coveting more, I have been clearing out and making some trips to the charity shop, aiming to live with less.
Some thrifty switches:
Healthy blogs over magazines – so you’re reading this, which means I may be preaching to the converted, but to reiterate, health, fitness and foodie blogs offer all of the content of magazines but without the £3.50 a time price tag. Some of my faves include Deliciously Ella, Twins in Trainers, Jenovafoodblog, Pretty Fit and Honestly Healthy Food. When I do splash out on magazines I try to pass them on to friends and they do the same, while my friend Soph and I also snap and send any tasty vegan recipes or exercises we spot if we think the other will like them.
Yoga on YouTube – my running partner and yogi Becks suggested searching ‘yoga for runners’ online to get some free 20 minute workouts, stretching your limbs without stretching your purse strings!
Outdoor running over gym membership – it’s free, fun and means lots of fresh air, need I say more
Equipment-free circuits – there are plenty of body weight exercises you can do without needing any equipment: sit-ups, press-ups, squats, lunges, planks, burpees, crunches etc. so even if you are not in the mood, (or unable to run), there are always other options and all you need is a little bit of grass or a reasonably sized living room.
Strava – who needs to spend upwards of £100 on a high tech watch with GPS when you can download this free app to your phone. It tracks and maps your route and stores all of the data on your runs so you can compare you own times, speeds and distances. The social element also means you can compare your stats with other Strava users which is good to keep you motivated.
Hand blenders – for soups, smoothies and protein shakes you can easily manage without an expensive food processor, using instead a hand blender which you can get hold of for around £15.
Cans of coconut water – available in the international food aisle if you can route out a can with no added nasties you can get your coconut water at less than half price of the newer brands marketed to the health conscious consumer.
Dried lentils, pearl barley & mixed grains – go for dried grains and pulses over the pre-cooked options, as although the latter are certainly quicker and easier, you get a fraction of the amount for more than double the cost. I tend to pre-cook a batch and then add it to salads, soups and stews as required. I’ve discovered that pearl barley also makes a great alternative to rice in risotto, or cooked up with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg and served with baked pear it makes a delicious pudding.
Frozen fruit and vegetables – frozen options last longer and tend to come in cheaper than their fresh counterparts. While some vegetables actually benefit from the freezing process others don’t lose too much of their nutritional value. I always throw a handful of frozen mixed berries into my morning protein shake, snack on frozen mango and have frozen greens on standby. I also freeze fresh spinach if it looks like I might not get through a full pack before it starts to wilt, it can then be thrown into soups and stews and still tastes delicious.
I will leave you with an image of my sad little fridge shelf, ready for restocking post pay-day!