When I was in high school, I only weighed 110 pounds. During college, grad school, and my early 20’s, I continually put on more and more weight. Eventually my weight hit a number I never thought I’d see.

I was scared. I knew if I didn’t make some major lifestyle changes, I would continue to put on more weight until I became obese. I had to do something differently.

Sound familiar?

I made a plan to lose weight and I stuck to it. I managed to lose 35 pounds, which is a lot for someone my height (I’m barely 5’3″). This was the first time in my life I had ever lost weight intentionally.

Here’s how I lost 35 pounds even though I was completely broke and buried in six figure student loan debt.

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Whole Food Diet

Weight loss is 90% diet, 10% exercise. No amount of exercise will make up for an awful diet. I wasn’t eating a ton of junk food while I was gaining weight, but I was eating a lot of processed snacks.

I’ve always been a snacker (and always will be), so it’s important that I eat healthy snacks like fruit and veggies instead of processed crap.

Since starting a (mostly) whole food diet, a typical day for me looks something like this:

  • Breakfast: Ezekiel whole wheat bread with 100% natural peanut butter (the only ingredient is peanuts) + 1 banana
  • Lunch: Salad with spinach, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers (with a small amount of light Italian dressing) + mixed nuts or dried fruit
  • Afternoon snacks: carrots with hummus dip and 1 apple
  • Dinner: veggie burger + baked potato, OR brown rice, OR scrambled egg whites

In addition to losing weight, I notice that I feel full sooner and I have more energy when I eat whole foods.

Related: How to Eat Clean on a Tight Budget

Cutting Grocery Costs

A whole food diet can get expensive, so I found ways to keep it inexpensive. I started shopping at a cheaper store (Wal-mart) and I relied heavily on cheap staples like rice and eggs. I also chose less expensive fruit and veggies like carrots, apples, and bananas.

In addition, I use my freezer to store leftovers so I don’t throw away food every week. Throwing away food is basically the same thing as flushing money down the toilet!

Another way I cut my grocery costs is by using the money saving app Ibotta. Ibotta is a free app that allows you to earn cash back on every day purchases (including groceries).

Ibotta is super easy to use and includes cash back offers at hundreds of popular stores, including grocery stores like Wal-mart, Target, Kmart, Cub Foods, Hy-Vee, Fareway, and Costco.

Download Ibotta with my link and you’ll receive a FREE $10 welcome bonus once you start redeeming cash back offers. Score!

Related: Ibotta App Review: How to Earn Cash Back for Everyday Shopping

Meal Planning

Meal planning is another way to save money on groceries. If I have no idea what meals I’m going to make for the week, I could easily end up buying too much food and throwing away a bunch of it.

Instead, I plan my meals for the week ahead of time and I also prep them in advance. Every Sunday, I make my salads for the work week so I can get it all done at once.

That way, I don’t wait until I’m too tired after a busy work day. Having meals prepared in advance prevents me from being tempted to buy lunch at work.

Do you want to spend less on groceries?

Download this free meal planning worksheet today. This resource will help you to spend less money, eat healthier, and save time!

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Consistent, Frugal Workouts

Diet is the most important factor in weight loss, but exercise is important as well. If you’re broke, you might think it’s impossible to exercise consistently.

How are you supposed to pay for a fancy gym membership or a personal training package? You don’t need to!

When I lost weight, I was exercising 5-7 days per week, and I wasn’t paying a penny for it.

Here are seven ways I exercised for free:

  • Using the fitness center at work daily.
  • Going to free holy yoga classes each week.
  • Doing yoga at home to YouTube videos. I like Yoga by Candace.
  • Going for walks with my husband and our pug outside.
  • Mall walking when it’s too cold (or too hot) to walk outside.
  • Doing squats, lunges, and other simple exercises at home.
  • Going to free exercise classes like spin, Zumba, Pilates, and PiYo. I work for a fitness company and get a free gym membership (which includes classes).

Related: 9 Ways to Find Free Yoga Classes

Losing Weight on a Budget

Trying to lose weight can feel overwhelming, and doing it on a tight budget is even more stressful. Weight loss doesn’t have to be expensive! You don’t need an overpriced gym membership, an at-home gym, a personal trainer, or some fad diet.

All you need to do is eat healthy and exercise consistently. Both of these things can be done on a tight budget if you get creative and find ways to save money.

Ready to lose weight without spending a fortune? Follow the tips outlined above.

Your body (and your wallet) will thank you!