6 Ways to Eat More Healthily for Less Money

Eating healthy is all the rage.  As fads go, it is an especially beneficial one. From college kids to busy moms, people everywhere are thinking about health.  It seems pretty straightforward in theory, yet obesity and diet issues are on the rise. So, what’s the problem?
 
Well, there is a widespread belief that it is too expensive to make healthy eating a lifestyle. Chain health food stores and boutique markets are partially to blame for this belief.  Those heavily marketed, expensive diet programs are part of the problem. Whatever the source of the rumor is, it has got to stop. You can eat well just by using what is available in your regular supermarket. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Keep it Simple 

You do not have to live off chia seeds and specialty grains to have a nutritious diet. Keeping your meals simple is a good way to get started. At each meal, about half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.  One quarter should consist of protein, and a quarter should consist of grains. Within these guidelines are endless delicious combinations of ingredients. 

Make a Plan 

Meal planning before you go grocery shopping is always a good idea.  It is especially helpful if you are attempting a shift in your dietary priorities. If you have not previously spent a lot of time in the produce aisle, it is easy to become overwhelmed by what you are doing.  You’ll end up buying too much of certain things, and curse your wastefulness when throwing away rotted food.
Instead, plan exactly how much of each type of food you will need, either by numbers or by pounds. This will make it easier to stick to your list.  This will in turn help your budget. Planning ahead also allows you to take note of which fruits and veggies are in season and incorporate them into your meals. This will make your produce purchases even smarter.

Incorporate Coupons

While you are planning your meals each week, remember to hunt down coupons for any special items you want to buy. You can check your weekly circular ad, search the Internet, or even make use of coupons that are attached to other food items. It doesn’t take long to become a savvy coupon shopper.

Become a Member

If you are not yet a member at the grocery store that you frequent, becoming one is a great way to save money and eat well. Most grocery stores offer sales exclusively to their members.  This can enable you to enjoy more variety in your menu. Some stores even use your shopping data to create personalized coupons.  You might be able to enjoy discounts on your favorite items simply because you purchase them often.

Rethink Meat

In a typical American meal, a large portion of meat is the centerpiece, accompanied by smaller sides of bread and vegetables or fruit. However, buying enough meat to give each family member a large portion at each meal can greatly increase your grocery bill. Furthermore, it is better for you to eat more fruits and veggies in proportion to meats. With this in mind, try using meat as a supporting player rather than the all-star in at least some of your meals. For example, you could make a stir-fry using two parts vegetables for one part meat.

Community Supported Agriculture

Participating in a community supported agriculture program is a great way to get access to fresh produce at a good price. For either a seasonal flat fee or a weekly payment, CSA members can get a portion of whatever produce is yielded by their local farms. For example, you might get a bushel of produce once a week for a twenty-week season, for an average of $30 a week. At that reasonable price, you can support your local farming community while enjoying optimal flavors and being introduced to foods you might not normally try.

Healthy Budget, Healthy Body

As you can see, eating healthily is not nearly as big of an expense as it is often made out to be. You may need to tweak some of your habits or perspectives in order to make it happen, but it is completely doable. All it takes is a little planning to have a balanced diet that works with your budget.
Content provided by a friend of Money Beagle.
Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Breaking Up (With Our Dentist) Was Hard To Do

Nobody actually enjoys going to the dentist, right?  It is, after all, roughly 30 minutes of sitting there with your mouth open while someone pokes around with various instruments, some of which are sharp.  So, with all that fun, it does make things slightly more tolerable to have a dental practice that you are comfortable with.  I had that, for roughly 37 years, which is a very long time. Still, after considering a lot of different things, we decided it was time to switch dentists.

37 Years At One Dentist

That’s right, I went to the same practice for that long.  I started going when I was around five years old, and at the time, it was picked for me by the same logic by which I’m sure many people pick their dentist: It was closest to where my family lived at the time.

As I grew older, my dad started going as well.  The practice moved a couple of miles away.  Our family moved about ten miles further away, but kept going as well.  By now, my step-mom had been added to the mix.

The dentist was, at the time, practicing alone.  He was actually pretty cutting edge, being one of the first in the country to employ high level technology into the practice.   It was solid and it served us well.  The practice did grow and change over the years (more on that in a bit) but it was good.

The practice was growing, which included our family.  My wife and kids became patients.

So, why did we change.  Well, there were two reasons:

Distance

The dental office is about a 25 minute drive from our house, an extra 10 minutes at least during rush hour…which was when we were starting to have to go with the kids in school so that they wouldn’t miss a lot of time for visits.  A round trip, including the visit, took upwards of two hours.  With time more and more limited as the kids get older, this just became tougher and tougher a pill to swallow.

Turnover

For a long time, the practice was run as a single dentist operation.  The founder was Dr R.

mb-2016-05-toothI mentioned above that he took on a lot of technology which was leading edge at the time.  This brought a lot of patients his way and in the mid-1990’s or so he brought on an associate, Dr G.

Things hummed along smoothly for quite a number of years.  Then, in the later part of the 2000’s, Dr R. was forced to semi-retire.  He starteds having numbness in his hand that was later diagnosed as something that really didn’t have a fix.  Bottom line, he didn’t feel comfortable in his role with the precision necessary, so he basically ran the practice, and hired another associate.  Around this time Dr G was promoted from associate to some sort of partner.  I assume she had a small ownership stake in the practice.

They hired a new associate, Dr I, and we really liked him.   He definitely met the high standards for which we’d been accustomed, so we stayed on.  After a few years, we were notified that he’d left the practice.  Later, it looked like he ended up across town, about an hour away.  I’m guessing maybe he simply wanted to establish his base ‘closer to home’.

More Turnover

Dr M was the next up and we got along well with him and felt he was very qualified.  Dr M was the first dentist that my children saw, and we all got along well with him.

Later last year, we found out that Dr. M had left the practice as well, and there was yet another new dentist, Dr P.  On top of that, Dr G, who had been there for nearly 20 years if my memory is correct, also left.

I didn’t mention, but we really didn’t like Dr P all that much.  We’d been fine with Dr I and Dr M, but Dr P was just not all that favorable to us.

All of this turnover was pretty alarming to us, and for the first time we’d talked about actually switching.

We looked up Dr M (who we liked) and found that he was now practicing (along with his wife and father-in-law) in a location not more than 10 minutes from our house.

But still, we talked about it for a long time.  Over many months we went back and forth.  I even spoke to my dad, who had a lot of the same concerns.

Finally, we decided to make the switch.

Our Decision To Switch Dentists Has Gone Well So Far

Our first visit was last week.  We actually all went the same day.  It was very odd going into a different office for the first time in 35+ years, but it was nice having some level of continuity as we knew Dr M and were comfortable that he would provide solid service.

The office was different and the staff was nice.  We noticed that the facilities were a bit older.  Plus, the technology that we’d gotten accustomed to at the old office was a bit behind.  But, in the end, does having a computer next to the dental chair really matter?  No. I think that will change now that Dr M and his wife are taking a lead role in the practice.  Especially since Dr M had the exposure to it in the past.

For now, the switch seems to be a good one.  We amicably ‘broke up’ with the old office via e-mail.  They were understanding and sad to see us leave.  I’m sure, while we didn’t solely tip them over to profitability, that nonetheless, they certainly never welcome losing the revenue of four patients all at once.

Of course, I did joke that the new office is bad luck.  I think in the last 25 years, I’ve had to have one cavity filled, and wouldn’t you know it, at the new office, Dr M found one!  LOL.  In fairness, there was a spot that they’d been looking at for the last few visits, so I sort of knew it was coming.  But still!

Readers, I’m curious, do you have loyalty to a particular dentist office or is that something that isn’t as common as I seem to think?  Have you ever had to ‘break up’ with a long standing professional relationship?  How did it go? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Rashes and Scratches: How I’m Dealing With My Eczema – 2016 Edition

I’ve had eczema for a few years now.  It’s pretty rare, though not totally uncommon, to develop it as an adult.  Typically children are more prone to it.  Adults that have it tend to have had it as a kid, which wasn’t the case for me.  In any case, it’s been an ongoing thing but as time has gone on, I’ve learned more and more ways to work through it.

Here are some of the recent activities in my ongoing battle with eczema.

Understand My Eczema Triggers

I don’t have breakouts all of the time, but when I do, I’ve found that there are often things that lead to them for me.  All of these things are quite common as far as triggers go:

  • Cold, dry weather – It definitely spikes in the winter time when the air is cold and dry
  • Stress – If I have a high level of stress, I seem to be more prone to outbreaks
  • Too Little Sleep – If I average 7 or more hours per night, this seems to help me out a lot.  If I fall below that, I have noticed that outbreaks are a lot more common.
  • Cleaning Products – Washing dishes by hand or cleaning with harsher products seems to really ratchet things up.  Even wearing gloves did not seem to help.  But more on that in a second.

Understood and Re-Upped My Medication

One of the things that worked out really good over the past few years was a topical medicine called ProTopic.  It was originally prescribed to me when it was a fairly new product, and there were quite a few concerns at the time.  One was that it was thought to have led to higher incidents of skin cancer.  Another was that it could weaken the skin.

mb-2016-05-doctorNow that it’s been around a lot longer, the larger sample size of available research has largely reduced these concerns.  As far as the cancer goes, there are no real differences in the rate of skin cancer for people who are on the medicine or who aren’t.

And the thinning of skin turns out not to be the case either.  That tends to happen when you use steroid based products for a long period of time, but ProTopic is not a steroid, but instead is an immuno suppressant, meaning that it really works to squash the response of the immune system that triggers the breakouts.  I also talked to the doctor about the concern that I could be building a tolerance to where my body would no longer respond, and she said that based on my usage, I have a long ways to go before she would be concerned about this.  That’s good!

The downside of the medicine is that it is expensive.  Even a now-available generic version, cost me $305 for a tube.  The good news on that is that I use it very sparingly, so this tube could end up lasting a long time.  At the worst, I’d estimate that it would last six months, but based on how much I’ve used my previous amounts, it could last as long as two years.

Reduced Mildew

We have a few areas where mildew seems to build up a lot.  One is in our washing machine, which is a front loader that unfortunately was one of the early models, and I found that the area around the soap / bleach dispenser was never drying out and causing huge buildups of mildew.  Maybe this had nothing to do with eczema, but either way, the idea that our clothes, towels, and bedding were being washed in it and then coming with our bodies gave me the idea to clean things out once and for all.

I spent a couple of hours erradicating all traces from the machine (using bleach, which ironically triggered an outbreak *lol*) and I now actually remove the little drawer and keep the inside dry to prevent new buildup from taking place.  It defies logic to have to take the blasted thing out before bed, and then put it back in before I leave for work, but actually once you do it a few times, the absurdity kind of drops off.

Improved Moisturizing 

One of the simple rules of thumb that my dermatologist told me is to make sure to use creams and not lotions.  They work differently and creams are better than lotions for eczema patients.  I’ve been working on trying to find one that I like best, and am right now working through an Aveeno formula specialized for eczema.  The creams are definitely more money and they also tend to be a little more messy as they’re more watery than lotions, but if it helps, I’m all for it.

Revamping My Cleaning Gloves (To Do)

When I told the dermatologist that cleaning solutions bothered me, she suggested gloves.  When I mentioned that they often irritated me, she said that’s common.  Sweat and condensation will form inside the glove, and this process can actually irritate the skin.  She has found that one thing that often works is to put a thin cotton glove on, then put the cleaning glove over that.  The cotton glove will absorb most of the moisture that forms inside the glove, thus preventing it from getting to the skin.  Now, the trick is just to find some thin enough cotton gloves where I can test this process.  Any ideas?

Overall

Eczema is no fun.  At one point over the past winter I decided I wanted to go cold turkey and see what would happen.  Big fail.  I ended up with spots in multiple places on my hands, fingers, and arms, and it itched so bad that I know I was spreading it around as I scratched it (even knowing that I shouldn’t).  Honestly, I hate being dependent on medicine but knowing that it works, I’m happy to continue on for now.

I’m hoping that one day there’s a miracle cure.  Until then, I’ll do my best to deal with the rashes and scratches.

Readers, do you or does anyone in your family suffer from eczema?  Any miracles out there that I should know about?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Money And Health: Money Should Never Be Top Priority

Money is important.  I don’t focus this blog exclusively on money or finance related articles, because I’ve been doing it for quite a few years now.  I just don’t have it in me to crank out post after post about why everybody needs an emergency fund or how to get a mortgage.  Those are great topics.  But, there’s so much more, including some hard looks about money and health.

Sometimes it takes life to remind you that while money is certainly important, it isn’t your number one focus in life.

The Phone Call

A week ago Sunday, the family was out for breakfast when my phone rang.  I looked and saw it was my parents.  I sensed something was odd because we typically don’t talk during the daytime hours.  We usually reserve our chats for the evening so that it’s a good chance that everybody is home and settled in.

I answered and when talking to my dad immediately knew that something was wrong.  It turns out that my step-mom had been taken by ambulance to the hospital.  She had developed sudden shortness of breath and had a hard time breathing or talking.

mb-2016-03-ambulanceI talked to my dad for a couple of minutes to find out if her breathing had been better when they took her (it was), if she was responsive and coherent (she was), whether my dad wanted me to come get him (he didn’t) and what hospital she was being taken to.

Shortly later, I dropped the family back at the house and drove to the hospital.

The Tests

When I got to the hospital, they directed me where to go and once I got there, they were running the first test of the day, a chest X-ray.

I was able to say hi and see that she was breathing but definitely shaken up by what was going on.  My stepmom is not one to complain, so we knew that this needed to be checked out.

I found a little bit more info as to what had happened, and around this time, they took her for her second test, a doppler scan on her legs.  She had developed blood clots about two years ago, and was on medication for about six months afterward, and it seemed that was the suspicion that they were leaning toward.

After she got back, an ultrasound tech came in and did a detailed scan of her heart.  You could tell that she was quite interested in several areas as they can take ‘snapshots’ and she was there for quite some time.

After this, they came in and told us that they suspected that she had blood clots and that they think some had traveled to her lungs.  They wanted to do a CT scan to test, and she was taken away for that.

When she came back, we talked to them about family history where my stepmoms sister had a similar situation, but had bleeding on the brain that was not diagnosed, and she ended up not making it when they treated the clot and the brain bleeding worsened.  (Different hospital, FYI)  After hearing this, they took her for a second CT scan to check out her head.

Treatment: The First Hours

The diagnosis was confirmed with all of the tests.  She had lots and lots of blood clots on her lungs.  Because the lungs weren’t able to take as much oxygen as needed into the blood, the heart was overcompensating.  Her blood pressure was 170/120 and the resting heart rate was around 130.  This was dangerous to heart.

The treatment option was to insert a catheter into her body and have it go through her body to her lungs.  She would be infused with clot busting medication that would basically be administered at its source.  It’s an aggressive treatment plan with quite a few risks that basically tie back to that if you have bleeding anywhere on or inside your body, it’s going to get worse.  But, the scans and such showed that this risk was minimal, so they advised this to avoid potential damage to her heart.

The importance of doing this sunk in when they told us that they had to page the team to come in to do this procedure, as it was a Sunday and the staff was not there.  I think it home for me at that point just how close of a call this was.

But, the procedure took about two hours and everything went as expected.

Treatment: Night 1 through Day 3 

She was moved to the ICU and we were allowed to see her.  At this point it was around 7pm, roughly 9 hours after she got to the hospital.  Almost right away, you could see that the numbers were improving.  Still, they had her on the infusion medicine as well as regular liquids and also other blood thinning medicine.  She had at least six different machines all clicking and thumping and beeping, and it didn’t allow for much rest.

Early the next afternoon, the administration of the infusion meds was complete.  As the doctor said, the numbers told the story that it was working, as her heart rate and blood pressure were completely normal.  The catheter was taken out, and about 2/3 of the machines were taken out.

They kept her in the ICU for another day until she was moved to another room.

Treatment: Day 3 – Day 5

At this point, they began stepping down her treatment.  By Day 4 they switched her blood thinning medication from an IV administered medicine to a pill.  She’ll be on that indefinitely.

One complicationdeveloped that may have extended her stay by a day or two.  It was bruising.  She’s been susceptible to bruising, and with the blood thinners, it caused bruising at many places on her body.  She had bruises anywhere where pressure had been applied during the course of her stay.  Her entire left upper arm was bruised almost from elbow to shoulder.  Since that was where everything had been done, blood pressure and such, it was very bruised.

So, they spent some time making sure that the bruising wasn’t spreading, but by Thursday morning they were pretty sure that she would be able to leave, and by Thursday afternoon she was back at home.

Money And Health: What Matters

In all this, did money matter?  No.  She’s got great insurance, having worked for a government agency for many years, and having retired with great insurance.  So, hopefully the time spent will not cost much out of pocket, but it wasn’t like my dad was even checking or it was discussed.  The goal was just to get her healthy again.

In the end, money is a priority and a very important one.  When it’s all said and done, money doesn’t matter compared to health.  You want to see your loved ones healthy.  That’s what’s important.  If we’re not healthy, all the money in the world doesn’t make a single bit of difference.  Not a penny can be enjoyed in life if we don’t have health.

This was a trying week.  My stepmom has been told that she’s not allowed to scare us like that again.  She used up her quota for a good long while!

Now the goal ist to take this as a reminder to make sure to cherish what’s really important.  Each other.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.