Most of the time I’m thrifty, and in some ways I aspire to be a vegan minimalist. I bought my Prius used on Craigslist a few years back and I gave up coffee in part, because of the expense. I also hate eating out and would always rather prepare my own meals at home.
Despite my aspiration to consume less and live way below my means, there are a number of items I highly recommend:
- Vitamix Blender I was in sticker shock the first time I considered buying one of these blenders too. But after spending what seemed like twice as much as I would consider reasonable, the Vitamix has delivered on it’s promise of being the best. Blender. Ever. It makes short work of frozen bananas for banana ice cream, and can even blend and slightly heat ingredients for amazing vegan soups. It pulverizes almonds that you can turn into almond milk, and will make short work of any nut you want to turn into a nut butter. You can buy this blender and have it forever, or you can buy cheaper ones and buy a new one every few years. It comes with a 7 year warranty. It’s essential in any kitchen, but definitely in someone aspiring to eat healthy.
- Amazon Prime. 2 day shipping is the bomb. Being able to order trash bags, cat litter and the like instead of traipsing out to my local Target is priceless. I have just started using Amazon Music as well, which is free for Prime members and has a gazillion songs to choose from. I know there are other advantages of Prime I haven’t checked out as well, like Prime Video service and Prime Pantry. This service will save you time and money, not to mention a trip to the store.
- Books I buy a lot of books. I also download ebooks from my local library when they’re available, but there’s something about buying a book that excites me. I use an iPad to read my selections, and many times I re-read past purchases, which can’t be done with a library ebook that I’ve returned. Don’t skimp on books. Buy them. Read them. Like Dr Neal Barnard’s new book, The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help you Lose Weight, Gain Energy and Get Healthy. Audio books are another great option from your library (for free) or with a membership to Audible (not free). There is a free trial offer, which you should take advantage of to try it out. Read (or listen) to some classics while you workout or in the middle of the day. I listened to all 17 hrs and 36 mins of Autobiography of a Yogi one winter while riding my road bike on a trainer. Okay, no, I wasn’t on my bike for 17 hrs at once, but over a couple of weeks I completed the book. Books will always, always be worth buying for your own enrichment but also to support the many authors out there that put their heart and soul into creating what is really a piece of art.
- Gym membership I belong to a great Crossfit gym (don’t judge)
and I pay a premium to belong there. Every morning when I wake up and don’t feel like going I remember how much I’m paying. I also remember that I have friends that go, and it pains me to think they’re there, getting stronger and fitter and I’m still in bed. So I willingly get up a little after 4am to get ready for the 5am class. I have yet to finish a workout and regret having gone. If you don’t need a gym membership to motivate you, more power to you. Most often though, the people I meet that are successful with regular physical exercise have a gym they love to go to or at the very least a group of friends they exercise with regularly. Being part of a community that inspires you is worth paying up for.
- Organic produce there’s a secret to eating organic – it’s easier if you buy in season. For example, it’s citrus season right now. Organic mandarins and navel oranges are available and inexpensive. If I wanted organic blueberries right now, they would cost a fortune. They’re not in season and may not even be available. So I adjust what I’m eating to the seasons. In July, I can buy organic blueberries for a reasonable price, while in March, I cannot. So adjust what you’re eating and preparing to what’s available and on sale. Eat simply, with fewer ingredients at a higher quality and you’ll find it much easier to afford organic produce. Certainly, it’s not always possible to find organic, but at the very least make sure you’re buying the dirty dozen organic, and for some inspiration on why organic is worth it, watch this. I also highly recommend buying organic coffee beans as well as rice, pasta and beans. Okay, pretty much whatever you buy that you can buy organic should be. Organic means your food will not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).
- A bike not just any bike, but a good quality bike that is fitted for you and that you maintain regularly. Regular tune ups are expensive but essential, as you want your bike functioning properly so that you actually enjoy riding it. Don’t be “that” person with a dirty, greasy chain, under inflated tires and a seat positioned too low. Use your bike for errands, commuting to work as well as getting in a great workout. Replace as much of your car habit as you can by jumping on your bike instead of in your car. Not only are you saving money and benefitting the environment, but you’re also working your muscles and cardiovascular system.
- A dog Yes, they’re expensive. Between vet bills, food, medication and boarding when you leave town, no fiscally responsible person would ever actually get a dog if they crunched the numbers. But of course, that’s leaving out the benefits of dog ownership. I have two labrador retrievers, and I take them for a hike pretty much every morning at 8am. If I don’t take them for a walk, I feel guilty and I suffer their wrath. They give me the sad dog eyes and stare at their red leashes until I finally give in and take them. Watching them scamper down the trails, chasing a tennis ball with their ears flapping and tails wagging makes me nearly as happy as it makes them. You can’t help but get outside when you have a dog. It’s practically required. It’s like a built in alarm clock that tells you not to get up but to get out. Ignore at your own risk. Of course, don’t get a dog if you don’t have the time or desire to raise one properly. But if you’re looking for some motivation to stay active and you have the time and desire, adopt a shelter dog.
- Regular charity donations I support several groups working for animal rights. Instead of large yearly donations, I give on a monthly basis, automatically charged to my credit card. It means I don’t forget to donate, and every month I get a thank you email that makes me feel good about supporting these worthwhile causes. Donations to charity, whether it’s your time or cash, should be viewed as a regular expenditure and not something you do once in awhile. Make some room in your budget and give generously and regularly. Need some ideas? I suggest PETA , Mercy for Animals and Farm Sanctuary, of course, where you can not only donate, but adopt a farm animal!
- Groceries – there is no better advice I can offer people who want to go vegan or raw vegan or just eat healthier than to prepare your own meals at home. This way, you have control over how your food is prepared and the quality of the ingredients. Give up the restaurant habit. If you don’t know how to cook or what to cook, take classes, solicit help from friends or family that cook or buy a few good quality cookbooks and work your way through them. Having the skill set to prepare some basic healthy meals is invaluable. Not only will you be saving money, but cooking for yourself and others can be a very satisfying endeavor. Shop at the highest quality grocery store you can afford, like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Buy produce in season and limit the amount of packaged or processed products in your cart. You’ll be amazed at how inexpensive quality food can be, such as a giant bag of organic basmati rice, an organic avocado and beans. These items are easy to cook and provide a great base for other items to be added to, such as grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes or coconut milk and curry. After buying your own groceries and preparing meals at home, you’ll become so good that restaurant fare will pale in comparison to your culinary creations. Did I mention I hate eating at restaurants?
- Hot yoga classes usually range anywhere from $10 – $20 for hot yoga. If you’ve never tried yoga, or specifically, hot yoga, you can usually find a Groupon or most places run specials for your first month at a discounted rate. Find a local place and try out some classes. I’ve been doing hot yoga for 6 years or so and it has really improved not only my flexibility but also my strength. A word of warning though – hot yoga is freaking hard! I remember the first few times I took a 90 minute class and thought I might actually die in that heated room. Which is really odd considering I don’t mind the heat and it doesn’t get to me like it does most people. Places vary, but the heat is typically in the range of 105 degrees and you’re doing movements that get your heart rate up near where it would be if you were running sprints or riding your bike up a good incline. Don’t be discouraged though…even though it’s hot and you’re extremely sweaty, the benefits of hot yoga far outweigh the suffering you’ll experience. It’s extremely relaxing and rejuvenating to sweat a great deal and stretch your body into positions you normally wouldn’t get into. So try it out and see if you like it. As a runner and cyclist, I think hot yoga is the best investment I’ve ever made in my physical health, not to mention the additional benefits to my mental health. It’s amazing how relaxed one can be following a good hot yoga session.