How I'm Saving $160 and Improving My Health This Month
Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.
Dry January is never really something I've considered or been interested in. A month without wine with dinner? Or a beer during the big game? No thanks. But this year is an anomaly. When a friend brought up that they were doing it, I started to get curious about how I would feel without a drop of alcohol for a month. Eager to feel some sort of accomplishment after last year, I jumped on the bandwagon. I usually buy about two bottles of wine and one or two six-packs of beer per week, sometimes more if I'm being totally honest. But cutting that out is going to save me at least $160 this month. Even if it's just cutting back and not totally cutting out, the savings and benefits from drinking less can add up.
If you have been drinking more during the pandemic, you are not alone. Research (and alcohol sales) confirm that many of us have been consuming more alcohol during COVID. You may not want to stop drinking entirely, but there are some compelling reasons for cutting back. Drinking less can help you lose weight, sleep better, have healthier skin and even give your immune system a boost. Whether you are doing Dry January like me or just trying to drink less, here are some easy tips to cut down on your alcohol intake and save some money.
1. Embrace the mocktail
Need something fun to sip on at night that isn't water or seltzer? Make a mocktail! EatingWell has lots of recipes for inspiration, from Nonalcoholic Strawberry Margaritas to Cucumber-Mint Spritzer. Enjoy a refreshing, flavorful drink without the next-day effects of a hangover. I would highly recommend using a fancy glass, because you deserve it.
2. Sip on bubbly
I'm not talking about champagne, I'm talking about seltzer. There are endless flavor options to try for a tasty afternoon (or evening) pick-me-up with no calories, added sugar or alcohol. You can also spice up plain seltzer by adding frozen fruit, cucumbers or slices of lemon and lime.
3. Use ice
Not feeling interested in drinking water? Put some ice in it. Surveys have found that 45% of Americans voted a chilled beverage as the second most satisfying feeling behind having a perfectly firm pillow. Staying hydrated will help you be healthier, happier and more productive. Ice is a free addition that can make it more appealing.
After a long or stressful day, it can be tempting to have a drink to calm down. But try another activity to decompress before busting out a glass of wine or cracking a beer. Go for a walk, stretch for ten minutes or read a chapter of a book. All of these things can help you calm down without alcohol. Even if you still want to have a drink afterwards, it buys you time and cuts down on one or two drinks you would've had if you didn't take some time for yourself.
5. Try non-alcoholic alternatives
If you are trying to do Dry January but miss the flavors of your favorite drinks, try their non-alcoholic counterparts. There are several beers, wines, aperitifs and mocktail mixes with no alcohol to enjoy the flavors you love without the alcohol. Whether you have it in place of an alcoholic drink or in between drinks, it can help you slow down so you don't overdo it. I already have a six-pack ready for the games this month, because I know I won't be able to make it through a football game without a fun beverage.
6. Seek support
Trying Dry January, or even if it's just dry Monday through Wednesday, with a friend or family member. Doing it with another person (even if it's virtual) can help keep you accountable. My boyfriend and I, as well as some of our friends, are doing Dry January together so we can help hold ourselves accountable.
During the past crazy year, many of us were drinking more than we previously would (myself included). Cutting out alcohol this month is saving me $160 and helping me feel better. You don't have to do a full on Dry January to reap the benefits of cutting back. Drinking less can help you lose weight, sleep better and boost your immune system, all of which sound great to start off a new year.