September 8, 2015 12:06 PM EDT

There’s a weird inverse relationship between our wallets and our bellies. The smaller one gets, the larger the other seems to grow.

It’s a vicious cycle: When we’re low on cash, we gravitate to cheaper food. And the cheapest food is also the most heavily-processed—chips, cookies, crackers. That leads to weight gain in three ways: Processed foods are packed with fat and sugar; they lack fiber or other nutrients; and our bodies burn only about half as many calories digesting them as we burn when we eat whole foods, according to a study in Food Nutrition Research. But in the long run, cheap food doesn’t save us any money: A Duke University study that looked at 17,000 of its employees found that for every one-unit uptick in body mass index (BMI), a person’s medical costs increased by 4 percent and his drug costs by 2 percent. Their heaviest employees spent an extra $8,000 a year!

But if money is tight, how might you go about losing the weight while you’re waiting for that green to show up? Fortunately, not every slim-down plan requires an expensive gym membership, a personal nutritionist, or a $70-a-day juice cleanse. The staff of Eat This, Not That! magazine identified 8 secret weight loss tricks that will save you money—and calories.

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