#5: Drug Store, No More! How I save over $250 a year by eating real food.

Are you one of those people who go to the pharmacy more than once a week? Nowadays, it’s almost impossible not to, with one on every other block selling everything from cold medicine and toothpaste to cereal and sushi (yes, in New York City, they sell sushi at the drug store). If you’ve got a problem, CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens probably has a solution.

But have you ever calculated how much money you spend at the drugstore? If you’re living a modern lifestyle, working 10 hour days, dealing with any amount of emotional or physical stress and going out to bars and restaurants, then your local pharmacy may be getting more than its fair share out of your weekly paycheck. When you add up several colds a year, allergies, upset stomachs, headaches, working out too hard at the gym (damn you, kickboxing class), and a few too many late night parties, it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself searching for products to make you feel and look better.

I calculated how much money I used to spend at the drugstore before I made healthier dietary and lifestyle changes and could not believe how quickly the dollars added up. Here’s a list of the products I used to buy and how much I spent on an annual basis.

When talking about disposable income, $455.06 can go a long way. That’s an airline ticket, your monthly grocery bill or a nice chunk out of your annual car insurance payment. Who wouldn’t want to save that? Here’s how I get by on less from CVS:

Skincare Products 

I made the power move from toxic scented body wash and shampoo made with tar (a known carcinogen) to really simple and affordable toiletries. Instead of facial moisturizer, I use coconut oil mixed with a few drops of essential lavender and peppermint oil. For deodorant, I mix coconut oil and baking soda into a paste - it keeps me drier than any brand I’ve ever bought in a store. In case you’re interested in the contents of your daily skincare regimen, you can find them through the Environmental Working Group website. Plus, beauty comes from the inside so removing dietary stressors like gluten and soy and adding good quality fats into your diet can make your skin and scalp clear and moist. This is due to the connection between the gut and the skin, which is beyond the scope of this article but if you’re interested in reading more on the science, you can do so here.

Cold Remedies

It’s been quite some time since I’ve come down with a cold and here are a few good reasons why. First, I significantly cut down on alcohol which regularly wore my body and immune system down. Second, I worked with a nutritional therapist to improve my gut, the location of over 80% of our immune system. Finally, I began supplementing with Vitamin D, which has been shown by researchers to help activate T-cells, a particular type of white blood cell which fights infections, bacteria and viruses. Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning, loading up on vitamin rich foods like orange bell peppers and incorporating fresh ginger and turmeric into your diet can help ward off foreign invaders looking to attack.

Pain Relievers

Headaches are one of your body’s many ways of signaling that something is off. In my case, they were due to spikes and swings in my blood sugar as well as chronic dehydration despite drinking lots of gatorade. Balancing blood sugar takes time and planning but adding quality fats into your diet and reducing highly processed carbs will result in more balanced blood sugar. Additionally, sipping filtered water throughout the day is a great way to avoid headaches and improve joint health.

Antacids

Eliminating digestive stressors like gluten, soy and dairy have improved my digestion to the point where I no longer rely on antacids. That’s a good thing because antacid use over the long run can decrease your body’s natural ability to produce stomach acid which is required for the breakdown of the food you eat. If you do get an upset stomach, drink a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar mixed into 4 ounces of water. It’s far more effective than antacids and doesn’t cause any other long term digestive system damage.

Other Food Products and Sports Drinks

Foods, like cereal that are sold in drug stores don’t count as real food. Here's a simple rule. If you can't purchase fresh produce, like broccoli or spinach where you're buying your groceries then shop elsewhere! Also, when in doubt, always adhere to the mantra, “Just Eat Real Food (JERF)”. What's not real food? Generally, if it's in a box, can or bottle with sugar, corn syrup, salt and words you can't pronounce, then there's a pretty good chance it's faux-food. Another way I save money is by no longer drinking sports drinks. I found that once I cut out the alcohol, I no longer needed gatorade as a hangover cure to replenish electrolytes. Did you know that you can more effectively and affordably restore electrolytes by adding a pinch of unrefined sea salt to a glass of water? How's that for a natural and cost-effective alternative to a neon blue beverage?


All of the changes I referenced in this post are very DO-able. I’m not suggesting you boycott drugstores or even shop there less. I, just like everyone else, still need razors, prescriptions and birthday cards for friends and family. But by making some changes to your diet and lifestyle, you may just find yourself with some extra pep in your step and cash in your pocket.