Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fun and Cheap Fitness Tips

The Topic: Tips for getting fit on a tight budget with VegNews Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig.

The Dish: I've always been really active, but lately I've been in a rut. Sure, I bike to and from work each day, and just by living in a bustling city without a car, I walk a lot more than your average American, but honestly it's not enough. I love to eat! And unfortunately, my eating has completely taken over my fitness regimen. So I'm writing this post not only for you fellow readers, but for myself as well, because I have a lot of fitness knowledge under my belt—I just need to get back on the wagon. Here are some tips to get fit, and save on the dough, because we all know it's easy to throw away a ton of money on gym memberships.

1. Running/Walking. This is the cheapest way to get fit, hands down! All you need is a good pair of running shoes, and you're set. And a good pair of running shoes certainly doesn't have to break the bank. Yes, there are $100-plus shoes that you could buy, but you can get the same quality shoes for way less. Now that's not to say that you can get a good pair for $10—a good, top-notch pair of shoes is something you don't want to skimp on—but you could definitely find a good pair ranging between $40 and $60 if you look hard enough. Shoe stores have sales every day. And again, that's all you need! So save up for a pair, and hit the road. You can easily map a running route anywhere in the US on the USA Track & Field website, which will give you the exact mileage of your run. And if you need a little extra motivation to get started, I suggest that you sign up for a race in the not-too-distant-future, and start training. You can find cheap races on Active.com, and training guides on the Runner's World website. Now, hit the pavement!

2. At Home. If you have the proper motivation, you could get super-fit at home for really cheap. You could pimp yourself out with a bunch of fancy equipment, yes, but you don't need to. I suggest that you at least get a set of cheap hand weights, but those aren't really necessary either—it's called body weight, people! All you need to do to get in shape is to do a basic strength routine two to three times weekly, including but not limited to push ups, triceps dips, squats, lunges, and crunches—the list goes on. Don't forget to do some jumping jacks in between to get some much-needed cardio. If you don't know how to do these moves, just Google them and you soon will learn—that's my promise to you. If you're able to spend a little more money, then try out a subscription to a fitness magazine. I enjoy Women's Health and Health, but there are many. You could also purchase a few cheap exercise DVDs—I recently purchased the Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 from Amazon, and once I get tired of it, I plan on selling it back. If you have the luxury of having On Demand on your TV or Netflix Instant Watch, there are plenty of free exercise videos on both (not including the monthly fees for both services). Very simple!

3. Gyms—without the expensive memberships. I'll admit, I've been really tempted to join a gym recently, but something keeps me from doing it—I'm guessing it's the money drain and the crowds. If you're really interested in checking out a gym though, then do it the cheap way! There are many coupons for gym classes on such sites as Groupon, and I bet that most gyms will give you a free trial if you ask. You may like it well enough and decide to shell out the dough, but don't forget to negotiate—many people pay a lower amount than the stated gym membership cost. You just need to ask! And don't forget about your local YMCA and community recreational centers—these are usually much cheaper than other gyms.

The Final Word: I truly believe humans are made to be active. I may have written about being a couch potato, but there's only so much sitting you can do before you get antsy. I'm feeling that itch, and I plan to get moving! I hope these tips help you a bit on the fitness front, and in saving money.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Saving and Going Green

The Topic: Simple ways to save money in the long run while saving the planet with VegNews Editorial Assistant Alexandra Chang.

The Dish: Living in the city as an independent lady has definitely put a dent in my savings account. Rent, electricity, gas, water, and garbage bills are just the beginning of the financial responsibilities. From keeping the home filled with necessities like toilet paper to staying hydrated without buying endless bottles of water, I’ve become increasingly more aware of both the financial and environmental benefits of making simple lifestyle changes. In honor of Earth Day this week, here are some of my easy eco-friendly tips for keeping more money in your bank account.

1. Reuse Water Bottles. I used to buy water whenever I went out and even though it’s only a dollar or two a pop, it added up quickly. I started reusing my old plastic water bottles, which was nice, but even nicer was getting my own Camelbak Groove canteen. For $18, it comes with an internal water filter that lasts up to 300 uses, after which you can just buy another filter for around $4. Another great filtering bottle is the Hydros Bottle ($30); a dollar from every purchase goes toward a water infrastructure project. Both options are easy to fill up in any old sink without having to worry about tap water contaminants.

2. Join a CSA. While it may seem a bit costly at first, in the long run, you'll be saving time and money on food. Plus, it's a great way to support local farmers and benefit from tasty organic produce. Living in the Bay Area means plenty of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) options, including Farm Fresh to You and Eating with the Seasons. I currently have a small box of produce delivered to my home each week for $100 a month. There's so much per box that I hardly buy any other produce, and seeing it come to my door helps me be inspired to cook new dishes and eat out less. To find a CSA near you, go to the Local Harvest site and type in your zip code.

3. Take Shorter Showers. While my housemate (ahem, boyfriend), has yet to cut down much on his shower time, it is important to remember that water isn’t an endless and free resource. Each minute in a shower requires 2.5 gallons, so cutting back a few minutes each day can save a lot! Another way to reduce water usage is to let the yellow mellow. After living in a Berkeley cooperative for a year in college, I started to adopt the motto (though it’s far more pleasant to do when living with just one roommate than in a house of 17).

4. Embrace the Cup. The DivaCup that is. Or the Mooncup. Both are small, reusable silicone cups used as alternatives to tampons and pads during menstruation. At $20 to $35 each, the DivaCup lasts up to a few years, while the MoonCup has a lifetime of up to 10 years. I’ve tried both and love them equally as much, because what’s not to love about never having to spend another dollar on boxes of tampons and pads and contributing less to landfill waste?

5. Turn off the Lights. My parents always reminded me to turn off the lights before leaving a room, but it never quite stuck until I had to start paying my own PG&E bill. Not only is it pointless to have the bathroom lights on when nobody’s in there, it’s wasteful in terms of energy and money. Using Energy Star florescent bulbs also reduces costs, and they last much longer than standard bulbs.

The Final Word: Nothing feels better than saving money while knowing you are using fewer environmental resources and contributing less waste to the world. It’s a win-win situation for everybody! For more energy-saving tips, visit the US Department of Energy’s website, and for more ideas on going green, check out VN’s 10 Tips for Going Green.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lasting Leftovers

The Topic: Making leftovers last longer than this past winter with VegNews Editorial Assistant Anna Peraino

The Dish: When you're a savvy vegan, your main expenditures are shelter and food (unless you live under a bridge, in which case, pull yourself together, man!). Since I don't know how to save money on rent (I live in San Francisco, after all), here are five helpful tips for making your grub last.

1. Cook big. Want to save time and money? Look to your Pyrex dish, my friend. Casseroles, soups, and pasta dishes can be made in bulk for cheap and can last a week if rationed responsibly. Check out our recipe roundup and make a pot of chili tonight (cans of beans + cans of tomatoes + spices = delicious money saver).

2. Bring back leftovers. Wasting food = money down the drain. Am I right? This goes for all food scenarios: groceries, potlucks, food festivals, and most importantly, restaurants. If you're going to shell out your hard-earned dough, you better make the most of it. How? It's simple. First, if you have enough self-control to save half of your meal for tomorrow's lunch, do it (and by the way, kudos to you). It's like having your dinner at half off! Second, get creative. Don't want the baguette that comes with your salad? Take it home and turn it into tomorrow's PB&J.

3. Ask for more. You want to know what's expensive? Salad dressing. But guess what? You can get it for free (legally)! Next time you order a salad, ask for extra dressing on the side, then take it to-go. It'll save you serious dough and you'll get to eat something that tastes like it came from a resturant (because it did). This method works for sauces as well. And bread baskets. And those little packets of jelly you get at diners. Just try to keep it classy, OK?

4. Grains all day. A bulk bag of brown rice will save your bank account, for serious. Cook a huge batch of the stuff Sunday night (four cups, plus. Dream big, people.), and use it throughout the week. Lunches and dinners can consist of stir-fries, casseroles, and rice salad, and breakfasts? Throw cooked brown rice in a pot on low-medium heat with non-dairy milk, cinnamon, sweetener, and raisins for 15 miniutes and Bam! Delicious porridge! Don't forget rice pudding for dessert.

5. Plan ahead. I don't know about you, but I usually walk into the grocery store with five items in mind and walk out with a $50 receipt. The easiest way to avoid the grocery-store money suck? Make a list. That way, you'll be less likely to splurge on that bag of Oreos (though I wouldn't blame you).

The Final Word: With a little creativity, you can make your grocery bill stretch farther than the line at the grand opening of a new Baby Gap. Just kidding. Baby Gaps are so 2002.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Brown Baggin' on the Cheap

The Topic: Tips for making brown-bag lunches on the cheap

The Dish: We know we have it good. The VegNews offices are located within a few blocks of four vegan restaurants, plus dozens of vegetarian and veg-friendly eateries offering up delicious plant-based fare. But what's a vegan trying to watch her budget (and her waistline) to do? Brown bag it.

Yes, it's glamorous to run out during lunch to pick up a sandwich, sushi, or burrito and not have to think about shopping, prepping, or cleaning up. But I enjoy packing lunch for myself, especially knowing that I am not spending money on food that I could make in my own kitchen (okay, not always true). Plus, restaurant food is ridden with oil, salt, and sugar, and the portion sizes send me into an afternoon coma. Here are my top five brown-bag meals that keep both my body and my bank account healthy.

1. Kale Salad
It's no secret that we're a bunch of kale lovers around here, but when a marinated kale salad costs upwards of $10 at a local vegan restaurant, I'll make my own. Buy a bunch of kale ($1.75), marinade it in an olive oil-lemon juice vinaigrette (50¢), and top with half of an avocado (75¢). Voilà—a delicious, nutritious meal for $3.

2. Bagel with Avocado, Sprouts, and Cucumbers
A toasted bagel loaded with fresh veggies makes for a hearty lunch to fuel an afternoon of editing. Buy a bagel (75¢), spread on fresh avocado (75¢), and top with sliced cucumbers (20¢) and sprouts (25¢). That bagel sandwich that costs $4 at a nearby café set you back just $1.95. Life is good.

3. Baked Potato with Toppings
If your office has a toaster oven or microwave, you can bake up a potato before lunch for a tasty midday meal. I love a baked Yukon Gold potato (50¢) topped with a slathering of vegan mayo (20¢), shredded lettuce (25¢), and chopped cherry tomatoes (40¢). Heaven for $1.35? Yes.

4. Soup
During the cold-weather months (that would be nearly all of them in San Francisco), I love to make a big pot of soup on a Sunday afternoon and then eat soup for lunch during the week. Think smoky black bean, curried sweet potato, coconut butternut squash, and African peanut. If an entire pot of soup costs $5 in ingredients to make, a bowlful amounts to just pennies. In my opinion, soup is the most underrated food on the planet. It's downright delectable, cheap, and filling.

5. Leftovers
Less ambitious and sexy than any of the above, packing leftovers from the previous night's dinner is actually a great habit to get into. Just make a little more dinner than usual, pack leftovers into a Tupperware/tiffin/lunchbox, and bam! Lunch is done. It takes a lot less time to make 25 percent more dinner than to create a new meal from scratch.

The Final Word: Whether you're new to packing your own lunch or are a seasoned brown bagger, bringing your lunch helps you save cash while keeping you healthy. My go-to meals are ideal for those who are time-starved, but I love the thought of fancy-pants bento boxes and gourmet lunch boxes. Enjoy the process, and happy eating!