Faith Notes: 5 tips to reduce costs while increasing health

Several months ago, I found myself in the unenviable position of needing to buy a vehicle. After nearly 210,000 miles, my reliable 2009 Dodge Caravan (affectionately dubbed “The Rust Bucket”) had failed an inspection. To repair it would have cost twice what it was worth. So with only a few options, I bought a five-year-old Subaru for nearly the same amount that it had originally retailed for when it was brand new.

If you, like me, are frustrated with the ever increasing rise of inflation, which has shot up faster than a SpaceX rocket, here are five ways I’ve tried to reduce costs while increasing my health.

First, cook more vegetarian meals. We all know that eating vegies is good for us and the planet. Granted, it’s hard to swallow when a head of organic cauliflower now sells for $5.99. But some of my favorite (and least expensive) family meals are:

· Bean burritos loaded with veggies

· Vegetarian chili

· Fried rice with veggies and eggs

· Frittatas and quiche

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· And soups

The above can be made with nearly any combinations of beans and vegetables (although I’d skip the beans in the fried rice, frittatas and quiche). For added protein, throw in a little tofu. For extra crunch, add a salad. Recipes are easy to find online.

Second, plant a garden. Even if you don’t have much space, a pot or container garden can be great for growing tomatoes, herbs, and lettuce. For the price of a $3 seed packet and a few supplies, you can enjoy eating your own organic vegetables for much less than those in the grocery store. You might even save money on health care costs, as time outdoors is known to boost mood, decrease stress, and lower blood pressure.

Third, spend less time shopping and more time with people you love. Sure local stores need our business. But time, like money, is limited. So whenever possible, prioritize people over things. Pack a picnic. Take a walk. Play an old-fashioned game of cards with someone you haven’t seen in a while. You’ll likely lift their mood as well as your own.

Which leads to the fourth item on my list, give generously. It may seem counterintuitive to give away money or resources when things cost more than ever. But Scripture repeatedly says that our resources come from God, and he asks us to share them. “For God loves a cheerful giver,” II Corinthians 9:7. An added perk, studies show that acts of generosity increase dopamine, the feel-good chemical in our brains.

And fifth, say, “thank you.” No matter what difficulties I am experiencing or going through, one guaranteed way to feel worse is to grumble and complain. The opposite is also true. Gratitude has been consistently shown to increase mood and lower rates of stress and depression. Which is why, when I write a check to pay my ever-increasing utility bills, I stick a “thank you” stamp on the envelope as a reminder to be grateful for the services these companies provide.

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Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir “Redeeming Ruth,” writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book “The Best Birthday” and four other books celebrating the holidays with activities that build children’s faith. Connect at meadowrue.com

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