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Recession-proof Nutrition: How To Save Money On Your Supplements

October 22nd, 2008

There are lots of ways to save money supplements.

There are lots of ways to save money on supplements.

In light of recent economic crises, it comes as no surprise that everyone’s looking for ways to save money and avoid incurring additional expenses.  Protecting your health is a crucial part of that process – the very last thing you want at this time is a major illness, regardless of your insurance status. Nutritional supplements may seem like an extravagance at first glance, but they can also help protect your health during these uncertain times.  Think you can’t afford supplements? You can. Here’s a guide to stretching your supplement budget to the max.

One of the more pervasive myths about nutritional supplements is that they are expensive, but that’s not necessarily the case. Some of the best and most important supplements are very inexpensive, such as vitamin D, which can cost less than $1 per month.  But you can save money on supplements and stretch that budget a lot farther when you keep a few things in mind.

1) Start with a budget. Set an amount that you are comfortable spending each month and stick to it. Only buy what you can afford to pay for completely – don’t buy supplements on credit cards that won’t be paid off immediately.  Each person’s budget will be different, but after reviewing thousands of orders, our sense is that the supplement budget for most customers is in the $25-200 per month range.

2) Research places to shop before you buy anything. Don’t make any impulse supplement purchases while out shopping for other things.  But before you drive all over town, realize that, for most people, the most cost-saving way to shop for supplements- by far -is from home, via a reputable online retailer.   They have several advantages over brick-and-mortar nutrition stores:

  • With much lower overhead than physical stores, online retailers can offer you much lower pricing.
  • Online retailers have modest shipping charges equivalent to a gallon or two of gas.  In addition to possibly saving on gas, you’ll definitely save time by not driving anywhere.
  • If you choose an out-of-state retailer, you won’t be charged sales tax in most cases, saving you additional money.
  • Most online retailers give shoppers and customers the opportunity to post and read product reviews, which can be a big help when choosing products, and is something the stores don’t have.
  • Online retailers have a larger, in some cases much larger, product selection.
  • You can shop online 24 hours a day, seven days a week; you aren’t limited to a store’s inconvenient business hours.

2) Prioritize. Once you have your budget, and have an idea where you’d like to shop, prioritize your supplement needs.  Which supplements are most important for which person varies according to health status, medical history and other factors. But generally speaking, we feel the most important supplements, the ones everyone needs, are a multivitamin, vitamin D, and a omega-3 fatty acid  supplement. Nearly everything else is optional for most people. The reason we consider these three as indispensible are that they represent the fewest number of products with which you can cover your established nutritional needs; vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids (omega 3 in particular).

  • Choose a multi. Lots of choices here.  This may be the most expensive product you by but is definitely the most important since, tablet for tablet, no other supplement covers as many nutritional bases.  To narrow down the rage of choices, look for a tableted multi; tablets cost less than capsules which cost less than liquids.  Then, since multis come in a range of potencies, consider how many tablets you’re comfortable taking each day.  There are basic one-per-day multis, and more comprehensive formulas that require 3 or more tablets per day. There is a trade-off between the nutritional potency of a multi and the number of tablets in a suggested dose. Lower potency one or two-per-day formulas cover the basic vitamin and mineral needs but only the basics; because of space limitations, most leave gaps (under-supply) calcium and magnesium relative to other nutrients.  Higher-potency formulas require 3 or more tablets per day, but provide higher potencies and fewer gaps.   On a limited budget, there are a few ways of approach a multi. Some people use less expensive one or two per day formulas and take them everyday. Other use more expensive formulas and take a half dose each day or a full dose every other day.  Since this is will be one of the most expensive parts of your supplement regimen, the multi you choose may depend on your budget and what other supplements you need to buy.
  • Choose an omega-3 supplement from fish oil or flax oil. These nutrients are every bit as essential as vitamins and minerals but very difficult to formulate into a multi because they are in an oily medium.   We recommend using enteric-coated fish oil softgels.  When shopping for fishoils, a major consideration is the amount of DHA and EPA per softgel.  You want at least 1 gram (1000 mg) of DHA and EPA in combination every day.  This requires between 1 and 4 softgels per day depending on the concentration of the fish oil and the product. Generally, the more concentrated a fish oil is, the more expensive it is on a dollars-per-gram-of-DHA/EPA basis.
  • Choose a vitamin D supplement. These are very inexpensive, small softgels, and very easy to take. There is abundant research underscoring the importance of vitamin D which cannot be obtained from diet in sufficient quantities. Most experts are recommending 1000 IU per day of vitamin D, an amount far above what most multis provide. The only people who don’t need vitamin D are those who live at lower latitudes and who are outdoors for a several hours each day.

These three types of products would amount to a good, complete and inexpensive supplement regimen to protect and enhance your health.  If and when budget permits, you can and should include other supplements for more specific purposes. Some examples:

  • CoQ-10: Especially important for those concerned with heart health
  • Protein powders: Very important for athletes, strength training, immune function (whey protein) and preserving lean body mass while losing body fat.
  • Vitamin C: Important for cardiovascular and immune health, tablets are the best value.
  • Green tea extract: Powerful antioxidant with immune and cardiovascular benefits
  • Zinc: Men may want to supplement the modest amount of zinc from their multi with a zinc supplement.
  • Alpha lipoic acid: Powerful antioxidant nutrient, liver detox factor, blood sugar regulator.
  • Milk thistle extract: Affordable detox support for your liver.
  • Melatonin lozenges: Very inexpensive support for sleep, immune function and the brain.

Keep in mind that you never have to use a full dose of a product, you can always take less than the recommended serving. Many people use this approach to stretch their supplement supply. Whether that will amount to a noticeable or significant difference is impossible to say, and depends on the product, but many people feel it’s more important to get small amounts of a nutrient every day if the alternative is much higher amounts every other day or so.

What else?

Keep an eye out for specials, every place has them from time to time.

If your online retailer lets you sign up to receive re-ordering reminders or announcements about special offers, definitely do that.

When placing an order by phone, it never hurts to ask the representative if they see any way you could save some money on your order. They may have some suggestions.

Get together with friends and family and pool your purchases into one order. This can save time and money because only one shipping charge is incurred.

Order well-enough in advance so that you can use the least expensive shipping method without running out of your supplements.

Always, always, always ask your primary supplier abut price-matching before you “jump ship” and change suppliers because you found a lower price online. Most retailers are happy to match prices, and would much rather work with you, rather than lose you, in the event you find a cheaper price. There may be exceptions and limitations, but in most cases you can get a price match when it’s an apples-to-apples comparison.

2 Responses to “Recession-proof Nutrition: How To Save Money On Your Supplements”

  1. August 04, 2010 at 7:18 am, consumer said:

    Very well though out and extremely helpful for a newbie like me. I’ve looked all over the net for something as comprehensive as this. Thanks so much!

  2. January 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm, Paul_Baeyens said:

    Arletta, our pleasure. If you ever have any questions about supplements, costs, or what to buy for specific health or fitness needs, feel free to contact me. pbaeyens@allstarhealth.com

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