Beat the credit crunch with some crunching of your own!
It’s true, an unhealthy lifestyle will add to your bottom line - in more ways than one. A bad diet and a sedentary lifestyle affect your looks and your wallet. Healthy eating and regular exercise can improve your family’s immune systems and that adds up to fewer prescription payments in the expensive winter months and less down time at work.
The costs add up when illness hits your family. You spend what little time you have running to buy ointments and tissues and over-the-counter medications to ease their symptoms. You lose valuable work time and, usually, you lose sleep. Then your tired body catches their cold and the cycle continues.
Eating is everything
This doesn’t mean that you now face a life of staring mournfully at a lettuce leaf and a half tomato while a croissant calls your name. Instead all you need is a little moderation and a little more five a day.
This isn’t as much of a mission as it sounds. You can grab your fruity fives from juices that are low in sugar and crunch on carrots or celery to up your ante whenever you’re feeling munchy. Try to avoid any kinds of white breads and processed baked goods like buns and cakes. These are pretty much the big weight gainers. Transplant them with wholemeal breads, wholemeal pastas and brown rice and don’t let potatoes become an everyday occurrence. You’ll probably appreciate them even more if they’re allowed once a week.
The wholemeal variations of basic carbs don’t cost anymore than the white so your budget won’t have to undergo any kind of knock. Although, if you are planning on bringing more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet, try and stagger their expiry dates and to store them properly. Throwing away rotten food is a frustrating waste.
Stretch those muscles
When it comes to exercise you don’t need to join a gym and spend £100s on lengthy contracts that feel more like you’re paying rent for a house you never live in than an investment in your health. Walking around your neighbourhood for 40 minutes every other day will increase your circulation, improve your mood and help you lose the pounds.
Breathing in fresh air and discovering new areas of the world is proven to have a marked impact on self-esteem and health. Not only that, but you may end up finding a new park or play area for your kids that they’ll enjoy exploring and doesn’t cost you a penny.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to wander about outdoors then the internet is about to become your gym instructor. There are tons of free online exercise programmes that you can tailor to your own unique family needs and most of them will include a healthy eating plan too. They certainly do take the labour out of everything, especially if you’re not the kind of person who wants to spend hours learning about calories, carb counts and superfoods.
Read the fine print
Even when you follow a healthy diet and exercise regime it’s likely that a cold or two will slip through your defences. Also, there are plenty of times that you can’t avoid having to pay for prescriptions and medications, especially for conditions like diabetes and asthma. Check that you aren’t lucky enough to fall into one of the exemption categories that include Under16s, pregnant women and full time students.
If you don’t qualify for an exemption you should consider getting a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) from the NHS. Depending on the number of prescriptions you need every month (bear in mind that you can only use one certificate per person) you can potentially save some money. And, if you’re lucky enough to be in a region like Scotland that’s phasing out prescription charges, then you can get your certificate reimbursed if this happens while it’s still valid.
What about the counter?
Sometimes buying your medication over the counter is actually cheaper than buying it on prescription. If you’re lucky you’ll have a marvellous chemist who’ll point this out whenever you take a well-intentioned prescription to their counter, but there’s also a chance they won’t. Before you cash in that prescription ask how much the counter version will cost first. You may end up shaving off extra pennies and pounds that you could better use elsewhere, like that holiday to Majorca for example.
The final check
Being a parent is hard work and it’s likely that the long hours and extra stress (yes, there is extra stress!) will have a negative effect on your immune system. Try to get you and your family outdoors at least once a day, work up a sweat doing housework with ankle weights and eat fruit and veg instead of chocs and chips. It’s far too easy to succumb to fish and chips because you’re too tired to cook but good foods will improve your energy levels and you’ll save a healthy whack of cash not buying fast, instant meals. Besides, imagine how smug you’ll feel when number 32 looks over at your house at the end of winter and sees a slim, svelte you emerging into the sunshine in that favourite frock...