By LaTina Emerson, Shopper Deals

At the start of a new year, many people make health and fitness resolutions to get in shape, lose weight or eat healthy. If these were among your goals for 2018, are you on track or do you still need to get started?

Perhaps finances are hindering your efforts to meet your health and fitness goals. For many, the added expenses of gym memberships or restocking their pantry and freezer with healthy foods aren’t in their budget. If you’re looking for ways to save money on health and fitness-related expenses, here are some tips:

Ask for discounts – If you’d like to join a gym, take fitness classes or hire a personal trainer, don’t be afraid to ask for discounts. Many gyms offer membership discounts at the beginning of a new year, so maybe it’s not too late to find some savings.

Throughout February, Barefoot Lizard Yoga Studio at 3500 Highway 34 East in Sharpsburg is offering two classes for the price of one for the Super Gentle: Healing Your Back classes. These classes assist with strengthening the back, making it more flexible and preventing future back problems. With the deal, participants can attend the Tuesday class and come back to the Thursday class for free. The classes are held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, call 706-957-6255 or visit http://barefootlizardyoga.com/.

Work out in the park, your neighborhood or around town – If you don’t want to spend money on a gym membership, then consider walking or jogging in your local park, your neighborhood or around town. These are economical options, especially if you’re not sure if you’ll visit the gym regularly. Also, take the stairs at work and other venues, instead of using the elevator, to burn extra calories. Always consult with a physician before starting a rigorous exercise routine.

Exercise at home – It’s possible to get fit in the comfort of your own home. If you don’t have home exercise equipment, such as a treadmill, elliptical machine or exercise bike, consider using yoga or exercise DVDs to help get in shape. You’ll only need to purchase the DVD and a yoga or exercise mat. Also, dumbbells, resistance tubes, jump ropes and performance balls are reasonably priced tools that you can use at home to get toned and burn fat. Lastly, invest in a pedometer, which is available for less than $20, to keep track of the number of steps you’re taking each day.

Eliminate junk food and invest in a healthy diet – Many of us spend a significant amount of cash on foods and beverages that are unhealthy for our bodies and bad for our wallets. This money could be better spent on healthier food options, such as fruits and vegetables.

However, many people feel healthy eating is beyond their budget. A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that a healthy diet (high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish) can cost $1.50 more each day per person, compared to an unhealthy diet with lots of processed foods, meats and refined whole grains. For a family of four, this is an extra $2,200 per year. Still, healthy eating has longterm financial savings, such as a lower risk of serious and expensive chronic diseases as you get older, according to WebMD.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to purchase pricy organic or gluten-free foods or buy from a food co-op. Instead, focus on eating more whole foods and fewer processed ones. WebMD recommends these tips to keep grocery bills low and eat healthy:

• Pay attention to portion sizes. A bag of chips may seem cheaper than a bag of apples, but you can actually get more total servings out of a bag of apples.
• Plan your meals ahead of time. This helps you avoid impulse shopping, such as buying a cartful of fruits and vegetables that ends up rotting and going to waste. (Establish a weekly menu and make sure you have the required ingredients so you won’t be tempted to ditch your meal plan.)
• Choose cheaper protein. Protein is one of the most expensive items on your grocery list, so instead of buying red meat or fish for protein, buy a cheaper option, such as lentils.
• Buy in season. Pay attention to which fruits and vegetables are in season and purchase these items to get the best deals.
• Purchase frozen produce. If the fruits and vegetables that you want aren’t in season, buy them frozen instead to save money.

Look for sales – To reduce your grocery costs, try to purchase foods when they’re on sale. Review the weekly sales ads for grocery and discount stores and stock up when items are on sale. Meat, for instance, can be frozen and stored until later. When you decide to prepare a meal with this ingredient, you’ll already have the item handy, purchased at a cheaper price.

Generic foods are often cheaper than brand name foods, but you can occasionally get deals on brand name items with coupons and store specials. Discount stores, such as ALDI, advertise having cheaper prices than their competitors. ALDI reports that customers can save up to 50 percent on ALDI exclusive brands. If you buy vitamins and other nutritional supplements, watch out for sales and special promotions.

Use coupons – Download digital coupons from your grocery store’s website and clip coupons from the newspaper or inserts mailed to your home to save money on grocery items.

Be consistent – Whatever you do, it’s important to be consistent. Whether you invest in a gym membership or home exercise equipment, you must use it regularly in order to get your money’s worth and see improvements. If you have trouble staying motivated, find an exercise buddy who can hold you accountable. Even if you can’t meet your exercise target for the day, it’s better to do something than nothing at all.