Experiments in Frugality #2 – Super Frugal Weight Loss

by Chris Tecmire



It’s time to do something.  I married my lovely bride just over 2 years ago.  She and I were both in fantastic shape.

She still is.

Me…not so much.

Now, no one who knows me is going to tell me that I need to lose weight because, frankly, I’m a bit of a stick.  You wouldn’t look at me and say, “boy he needs to lay off the ho-hos” because my wrists are the size of a 10 year old girl’s, and chickens actually get jealous when they catch a glance of my legs.  But, I’ve put on more than 15 pounds smack-dab in the middle since that magical day back in 2010, and there’s not an ounce of muscle in there.  My gut is getting wider and more gelatinous every day.  Sorry for the gratuitous nature of these descriptions.  :)

So, I’d like to lose some weight.  I’d like to lose at least 10 pounds to be more precise.  More importantly, I’d like to get back in shape and feel as though my body is more than just a chair weight.


The Weight Loss Industry

I’m not alone in my quest for weight loss.  That’s why the weight loss industry is GIGANTIC.  We can’t help ourselves.  If someone appears on our television and promises to make us look like a professional athlete or a swimsuit model, we’re going to pay attention.  They consistently tell us that losing weight and getting in shape is easy and fast if you simply use their gadget or drink their shake.

That’s why Bowflex is one of the top selling TV products of all time.

It’s why P90X has made over $300 million in the last few years.

According to MarketResearch.com, Americans spend nearly $6 billion per year in energy and nutrition bars alone.

But that’s only a very small piece of the $60.9 billion in revenue that the weight loss industry produced in 2010!


So, it’s clear that we all want to lose weight and we’re willing to try just about anything to do it.  There are fitness gadgets galore to get ourselves into shape (and “finally get those rock-hard abs we’ve always dreamed of!”).  There are diet pills, protein shakes, and meal replacement bars to consume, along with reduced calorie this and low-fat that.  And, if all else fails, Jenny Craig would be happy to help us out.

Do you remember those ab shocking belts?  Have you ever used one?  I have.  I’ll admit it.  One of my roommates in college bought one to test it out.  The idea behind it was that you were supposed to place the belt on your stomach along with a generous amount of gel to keep the electrical stimulation from giving you a serious jolt.  The device would apparently shock your muscles into shape, making them contract in the same way that a bunch of crunches would.  All you had to do was sit on the couch and get a six pack.

I never got a six pack.  But I got a shock that made me want to pee my pants a few times.


Obviously, we have lots of help if we want it, but I’d like to go in the opposite direction.  I’d like to try to lose my weight for free…or at least as cheaply as I possibly can.  I’m sure Jenny Craig would work great, and I know for a fact that P90X will kick my rear, but I’d like to see what I can do without them.

I’d also like to show that someone can eat reasonably healthy (well enough to lose weight, get in shape, and receive all the nutrition they need to thrive), and not double their grocery bill.  In fact, I’d like to continue to eat for only $2 a day while I lose weight.  My goal is to make sure my grocery bill doesn’t increase a single penny over and above our normal (already well below average) budget.

I’ve been told many times that you can’t eat a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats on only $2 a day.  I know that’s not true because I’ve done it before and I’m planning on doing it again.


Experiments in Frugality #2 – Super Frugal Weight Loss



The Purpose of the Experiment

Lose 10 pounds in the next 2 months and get back in shape without spending any extra money.  I currently weigh just over 171 pounds, so my goal will be to reach 161 pounds by October 15th.

Original Weight


The Rules of the Experiment

1.  I can’t spend more than my normal $2 per day on food

Obviously, the “free” portion of this experiment can’t be held too tightly because I’ll need to spend some money on groceries.  Anorexia is not a valid solution.  However, I will not be allowed to spend any more than I normally would on food.  My wife and I each spend $2 per day or less on food ($120/month total).

No protein shakes, Healthy Choice meals, or Slimfast this time around…unless they fit in a $2 a day budget.  And I can assure you they don’t.


2.  I can’t spend any new money on weight loss gadgets

I can’t run out and buy a bowflex, thigh master, or set of P90x DVDs to help me with my weight loss.


Other items I don’t own and can’t use:

Dumbbells, barbells, and weights

Medicine balls and kettle bells

Ab gliders/rockers/shapers/and other …ers

A treadmill or other similar cardio machine


3.  I can’t even use any weight loss gadgets that I currently own, but aren’t commonplace or free

I have a pull-up tower in the garage and workout DVDs (Insanity) on a bookshelf, but I will not be allowed to use them.  The Insanity DVDs are what Trisha and I used to get in shape for our wedding a couple years ago, so I know how much they would beat my body into oblivion, but they aren’t frugal or common enough for this experiment.  Same goes for the pull up tower.


Exceptions to this rule:

Common sporting goods equipment like basketballs and footballs will be allowed.  Technically, they get my rear in gear, so they may help me lose weight, but they are not designed specifically for that purpose.  Plus, just about everyone already owns some sporting goods and I think it’s unreasonable to exclude sports from my life for 2 months.

Running shoes will be allowed.  I don’t know how often I’ll run since I don’t exactly love it, but that’s a pretty basic accessory as well.


4.  I can’t use a gym (due to the membership fees)

Technically, my gym membership is free because my employer owns the gym and offers free memberships to its employees, but most people don’t have that luxury.  So, I will stay out of the gym for the full two months.   (Not that I had been there recently anyway – why do you think I gained 15 pounds?)


I think that’s enough rules for now.


I will update you here and there, letting you know how the experiment is going, what kind of food I’m eating and what kind of exercise I’m getting.  I’ll let you see behind the scenes to better understand my routine.  And at the end of two months we’ll see what happens.

Will I be 10 pounds lighter or not?  Will I be in better shape or still resemble a tall, lanky dough boy?  I guess we shall see.  That’s why it’s called an experiment.

Wish me luck.

P.S.  This experiment is not meant to villify those who use shakes, gyms, or gadgets.  I’ve used many over my years that have worked great and helped me get on track.  This experiment is for those who can’t afford those things, or can afford them but would rather find another way.  In that case, I hope my journey helps a little.

SFF Piggy Logo

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kacia Todd August 14, 2012 at 7:48 am

There are a lot of work out videos on youtube that are a good place to start for free work out sessions:)


Chris Tecmire August 14, 2012 at 8:01 am

Great point Kacia. Youtube is a fantastic place to get ideas!


rachel August 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

I think the way you are going about this will prove to be the most sustainable in the long run as well. Good old fashioned exercise and eating less is pretty much all it takes. Start walking, cut some calories and you’ll succeed.


Chris Tecmire August 14, 2012 at 9:35 am

Thanks Rachel. That’s always been my view on dieting too – no dieting in the modern sense – just better decisions and pick up the pace a bit. I’ll update everyone on my exercise and eating habits later on.


Colleen August 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

Hi Chris! While I completely understand being frugal, it makes me wonder just exactly how healthy you can be eating on $2/day. It has been my experience that the cheaper the food (aka the more processed it is) the less healthy it is for you. Makes me wonder if those extra 10 lbs around your waist is a direct result of that $2/day budget and the accompanying food items it allows. Perhaps the frugality of your eating habits will actually end up costing you more (your health) in the long run. Have you ever considered why housewives from the 50′s and 60′s who didn’t work, never exercised and never “dieted” were still very slim and trim???

Stop eating products made from commercialized flour and the weight will drop off very quickly. And for those who would like to read about the science behind it, pick up a copy of Wheat Belly (available for free at your local library).


Chris Tecmire August 14, 2012 at 9:50 am

This is a big misunderstanding that I hear all the time. Colleen, I fully agree with you that processed foods and white wheat, etc are to blame for much of our society’s health issues. However, we CAN eat for $2 a day and still eat well – fruits, veggies, etc. My frugality is not to blame for my gaining weight – my job where I sit for 8-9 hours a day, this blog (where I come home and sit again), and my lack of will power with sugar are my issues. I love sweets and if I allow the “well, maybe I’ll just have one” philosophy to survive, I tend to splurge on sweets pretty quickly.
I plan on showing what I eat in a later update, so you’ll be able to decide for yourself. I’m not a dieter – I don’t deprive myself for a few weeks to lose weight and then go right back to my normal lifestyle. I know how unhealthy that can be. I’m just adjusting my eating habits a bit (and, again, I’ll reveal that in a later post). I’ve read Wheat Belly, PH Miracle, the book about the China Cancer Study, and many more, so I am knowledgeable about the research. I really do understand your position, but I assure you that you can do much more than you think for $2 a day. In fact, many of the processed foods are more expensive than the whole foods that our bodies need.
Thanks for the comment Colleen. Give me a few weeks and you’ll see an update on what I’ve been eating and how much it has cost me.


Colleen August 16, 2012 at 8:39 am

Hi Chris! I am very excited to see how things go and what you eat to lose those pounds for $2/day! It’s refreshing to know that someone has found a way to eliminate processed foods and still eat inexpensively. Reading Wheat Belly has been a huge wake-up call for me. I am in the process of eliminating wheat from my diet (and my family’s diet – MUCH harder). We went Real Food/Organic about a year and a half ago.
Have you ever seen that report where a family of four goes into a grocery store with $20 and is required to purchase foods from the outside perimeter of the store? Well, basically they cannot purchase enough food from those areas to feed a family of 4 for $20. The punchline is that they could go to a fast food restaurant and easily eat for that $20. Sad, huh? Will the government ever stop subsidizing processed foods?


Chris Tecmire August 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Haven’t seen that report Colleen. As far as our diet goes, we eat a decent amount of fruits, veggies, oatmeal, millet, lean meats, etc, and try to stay away from too many processed foods, but we still eat wheat. I gave it up for a few months after reading Wheat Belly to see what would happen, but didn’t notice a difference. Honestly, that’s fine with us though since my wife and I love bread :) . We try to use as much whole wheat as possible and make almost all of our own bread products, but wheat is still a part of our diet and probably will be for quite awhile. It was an interesting book though. Good luck Colleen and God Bless!
Thanks for your interest.


Felicia August 14, 2012 at 11:17 am

Like Colleen, I will be curious to see how you use whole foods and a healthy diet and still keep it way frugal, and lose weight….your response sounds like that’s at least partially what you intend to do.

I was diagnosed with prediabetes a few years ago and had to lose some weight initially, and I did it by adjusting my diet, walking and eliminating most sugars and grains and shifting to a simple diet of whole foods. I spend more than $2 day on food, but what I’ve saved in medical bills (including insulin, which I don’t need now) and doctor visits is well worth it — my health has radically improved the last few years.

I look forward to hearing how this goes and thanks for writing about it!


Chris Tecmire August 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Glad your health has improved Felicia!


Deanne August 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm

It is absolutely possible to do this. I know because I’ve done (am doing) it. I have lost 25 pounds in the past 5 months and it didn’t cost me a penny. I didn’t buy any exercise gadgets, memberships at gyms, special food, etc. The only thing I did do was download the FREE app called “Lose It.” This app allows you to put in all your foods that you eat and it figures out the calories for you. As you exercise, you put that in too. The more you exercise, the more you can eat. It is purely based on knowing how many calories you are putting in versus calories burned….simple science. The app has helped me make better food choices by staying withing by daily calorie budget. Once I began actually seeing how many calories were in certain foods, it made me not want to waste my budget on high calorie foods , but rather make healthier, lower calorie choices. It also made me exercise more because the more I worked out (running, biking, and swimming…no cost) the more I could add to my calorie budget.

All that to say…it works! The app has helped hundreds of people. And it’s free! Lest you don’t have an iphone, it is also available at loseit.com. I’ve tried so many things over the years and believe me, this is the best! I don’t even feel like I’m on a diet. It’s all about learing how to make better choices and get moving by finding an exercise or two that you enjoy (or at least can tolerate). :)

Good luck!


Chris Tecmire August 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Thanks Deanne! Sounds like a handy website/app.


Todd August 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

Enjoyed this Chris! Good luck on this.


Michelle August 20, 2012 at 7:44 am

Check out local hiking routes. My family found one that went around a supply pond. It was great exercise for all of us – including the family pet!

Free, excellent views, fresh air, and exercise.


Chris Tecmire August 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Great idea Michelle. Trisha and I love hiking too.


Sean August 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Hey Chris, I’ve been on the Primal Diet (not as strictly as I should be) which is basically the Paleo diet without the fear of egg yolks as far as I can tell. Hard to do on $2 a day, but I’ve not been terribly far above that. Still saving tons of money each month with your advice. Also, I stopped using weights about six months ago, and with only a pullup bar and some creativity I’ve made some impressive gains. I don’t know if you want my help on this one, because not everyone has access to a personal trainer for free, but I do know literally hundreds of variations of the pirmary body movements capable of generating a very impressive range of difficulty without any more “equipment” than you would find at any childrens park. Drop me a line in my e-mail or on facebook if you find yourself out of ideas and I’ll be glad to troubleshoot with you.


Chris Tecmire August 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Glad to hear you’ve been saving so much money! Yeah, I know you’re a wise one when it comes to that kind of stuff :) I think I should be alright as far as the 10 pounds goes, but I may get with you afterwards for some workout advice. I always like to hear different view points and learn from the experts. I’m pretty limited in what I can do at the moment (tendinitis in both elbows, etc), but hopefully that will heal up in time. Thanks Sean!


Old Broad August 25, 2012 at 8:14 am

I entirely gave up wine and sweets for Lent this year and dropped 12 pounds. Unfortunately, they have returned.

Interesting, isn’t it? We all know what we need to do if we just quit kidding ourselves.


Chris Tecmire August 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm

You got that right :)


Connie September 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

Hi Chris ! Saw you just last night in Whittemore and you look great . Did you start losing your 10 pounds about a month ago ? How are you doing so far ? I belong to a weight loss group from Hale . I have been trying to lose over 30 pounds for over a year . I’m stuck on 6pounds & I go up & down , so kinda curious to see how this works for you . I am sure you will suceed & share ALL your secrets. God bless you !!! Can’t wait for the results :)


Chris Tecmire September 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Hi Connie! Yeah, I started about 3 weeks ago or so. Losing weight ain’t easy – and the last few are always the worst. Good luck and God bless you on your weight loss endeavor. I’ll be putting an update out soon, talking about what food I’m eating during this process.


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