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Lose weight, save money

The saying goes: You can never be too rich, too thin or have too many books (Carter Burden, 1941-1996). We can't help you with your book collecting, but we can show you how to save a few bucks and knock off a few pounds -- at the same time. The key is to pick things you've let others do -- or worse, paid others to do -- that you could do yourself.

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For example, cooking your own dinner may be less convenient than picking something up on the way home. But if you cook for yourself, you can control how many calories you're eating. With a little bit of practice at the grocery store, you can pay a lot less for less fattening dinners than it costs to pick up fast (and fattening) food -- and certainly for less than it costs to go out for a meal.

Don't know any good recipes? Try Recipezaar. It offers lots of quick and easy recipes with a nutritional guide for each (and it's free).

What the experts say
You'll lose weight faster if you're burning more calories in addition to eating better.

"Doing housework burns calories that otherwise you wouldn't burn if you were sitting in a chair doing nothing," says Lois Sheldahl, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin and director of the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation unit at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

"You also feel good about keeping things clean," she says.

Sheldahl says a good goal is to burn 140 to 400 calories a day. Start at the low end and work your way up.

Do your own yard work
Using a self-propelled lawn mower, you can burn 100 calories in about 25 minutes. An old-fashioned manual mower will get you burning calories twice as fast. While you're pushing, keep in mind that you could be saving quite a bit of cash too -- depending on the size of your lawn and the going rate for yardwork in your area. In San Antonio, that's about $150 a month for mowing and upkeep of about acre's worth of land.

If you're feeling inspired by that hefty savings, you might want to stop giving the neighbor's kid $10 to rake up your leaves. With 20 minutes of raking, you'll burn 100 calories. You can put that extra $10 bill in the pocket of your future skinny jeans.

Wash and wax your car
Now that we've got you outside, turn your attention to the driveway. Notice anything? Your car needs a good wash and wax. In 20 to 25 minutes you can burn 100 calories washing and waxing your car. And though you'll have to buy a few products like soap, wax and a chamois, these costs will eventually pay for themselves and be a lot cheaper than paying the local suds-shop, which can run from a few dollars for an automated wash, to more than $30 for a personal job.

Running errands on foot
That newly clean, shiny car looks tempting, doesn't it? But here's a secret Manhattanites have known for years: Running your own errands on foot leads to skinny waists and svelte calves. Not to mention the money you'll save on gas -- or taxi and delivery charges -- if you are one of the Manhattanites less prone to picking up your groceries yourself.

A brisk walk will burn 100 calories in about 15 to 25 minutes. That could save you about $28 per month in taxi fees, depending on how many trips you have to make. Don't forget to add a few dollars for delivery tips. If you'd be driving your car for these trips instead, a quick glance at gas prices (about $2.27 a gallon for unleaded in West Palm Beach, Fla.) should convince you to lace up your sneakers.

Washing the windows
Hope you picked up some window cleaner on your trip to the store because your windows are filthy. Now, chances are, you probably don't have someone to wash your windows -- so your actual savings here are negligible. But sparkling windows will add beauty, and therefore value, to your home. OK, that's stretching it a bit, but you will burn 100 calories with about 20 to 30 minutes of window washing.

And the biggest savings will be ...
Getting in better shape will obviously make you a healthier person, and we've shown you some tips that will save you a bit of cash. But you'll find even bigger savings down the road if you get in shape. You'll be healthier, so you'll spend less on medical costs.

If you come home from work tired, you may feel like flopping down in front of the TV. Big mistake, says Sheldahl. While occasional TV-watching is OK, letting your entire life slip into a blur of work, sleep, errands and a vegetative TV state is not.

"We sit in front of the TV and computer, not burning calories," says Sheldahl. "And there's so much food available. Those two combined -- that's why we have a problem with obesity (in this country)," she says.

If you turn off the TV and pick up some housework, you'll find you not only have a cleaner house, but you've got more energy. You'll also have more time to ponder thoughts of your own -- rather than what the boss wants to have done or whether you need that new Philly cheese steak pizza on that commercial between "Seinfeld" reruns.

Who knows, you may even have a real conversation with a family member -- if you can convince him to come into the kitchen and help you whip up the new recipe you found online.

"Every calorie counts," says Sheldahl. "Walking, cycling, doing housework: There are lots of opportunities."

The table below offers a breakdown of several activities -- and how long it takes to burn approximately 100 calories (estimated for a 120- to 150-pound healthy person):


How to Burn Approximately 100 Calories
ActivityTime in minutes
clean/vacuum/mop floor25-35
wash dishes/iron clothes45-50
mow lawn (self-propelled mower)25-30
mow lawn (manual mower)12-15
garden (spade/roto-till)10-20
rake leaves20-25
wash/wax car20-25
wash windows20-30
paint (brush)35-40
shovel snow10-15
blow snow15-20
stack firewood15-20
walk (brisk)15-25
golf (walk course)20-25
cycle (5.5 mph rate)20-30
cycle (9.4 mph rate)15-20
aerobics (medium)20-30

Courtesy Medical College of Wisconsin

Calorie counts are approximate and based on a healthy person weighing between 120 and 150 pounds. Calories burned are according to research published by the Medical College of Wisconsin. Consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

-- Updated: May 26, 2005




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