Write down everything you spend on what goes into the mouth! Many of the following items can be replaced with more nutritious foods. Writing everything down, and then reviewing it, will help you cut down or eliminate costly, and unhealthy, non-essentials.
The following are some category suggestions:
- Drugs (prescription, non-prescription, coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks)
- Meat (including chicken and other fowl, fish, canned fish, red meats, canned meats, sausages, bologna, hamburger, sandwich meats)
- Milk (milk products including cheeses, ice cream, yogurts, kefir, creamers)
- Snack foods (chips, popcorn, ready made pizzas and breads)
- Eating out (restaurants, drive-ins)
Define your goals. Decide which is most important to you and which ones you will not eliminate or compromise quality.
- Do you want to eat better simply because you want to be healthier or are there other reasons mixed in, for example:
- buying more organic foods because you want fewer chemicals in your body;
- eating less meat and dairy because it is better for your heart or because you want products without hormones, eggs from uncaged hens, and meat from cows that have not been artificially fattened in feedlots?
- Do you want whole grains that are not genetically modified?
- Do you want more variety?
Knowing what is most important to you helps you decide the various cost levels money spent now to eat healthy or money spent later to reverse illnesses.
Drink more water. Even by adding the cost of a filter or buying bottled water (never drink tap water), drinking water is still cheaper and much better for you than any other beverage. Water is vital for the body so that it can wash out toxins and carry nutrients to all its cells. Caffeinated beverages dehydrate, and seniors are at a greater risk for dehydration than other age groups.
Eat less meat and dairy. It is even better if you can eliminate them altogether. These two items alone take the biggest chunk out of the food budget. Not only that, but they are the hardest to digest for seniors because their digestive system slows down with age. Such other protein foods as lentils and beans are cheaper and can be easier to digest. Making your own nut milks is easy, cheaper, and nutritious. Many people eat far more protein than what their bodies can handle anyway, so cutting back will be beneficial physically as well as financially. The more protein that is eaten, the more calcium that is lost; and this is especially important for seniors whose bones become more fragile with age.
Shop locally as much as possible. Often, your local grocery store will have a good stock of fresh produce. If not, how far are you willing to go to get it? The cost of gas or bus fare will have to be factored in. If you do have to go a distance, buy up enough to last a week at a time or car pool with friends. Local farmers markets are always a better choice for freshness and quality. It also supports the small, local growers instead of large, impersonal corporations.
Organize a food exchange. Bring extra prepared food or fresh produce to a central location where each person can exchange for something new and different.
Grow your own garden. If this is not possible, have a few pots of your favorite herbs growing in your kitchen. Herbs require little space or care and continue to grow despite constant use. Fresh herbs not only add flavor to bland foods, but they also provide extra nutrients. Seniors often complain that foods lack flavor. This is because the aging process decreases the senses of taste and smell. By adding herbs, and some spices that aid in digestion (anise seed, fennel seed, ginger, for example), food not only becomes more appealing again but more healthy, too.
Make sure that you are not wasting your money by allowing food to go bad (even then, it can be used if you have a garden with a compost pile). Buy good-quality frozen vegetables in large polybag sizes. This way, you can easily add a handful of frozen vegetables to a recipe without wasting the rest. Frozen vegetables should be an addition, rather than a replacement, for fresh produce purchases.
Coupons are not always money-savers. Check them closely to see if the saving is worth the sacrifice in the quality of normally-purchased food. Lost leaders are sale items to bring you into a store. Take advantage of these savings by buying up quantities that can be used right away, frozen, or traded with friends for something else.
Keep snacks simple yet healthy. Healthier snacks also tend to be cheaper. You do not have to limit yourself to carrot sticks either. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are cheaper than out-of-season ones. Whole grain crackers with a nut or seed butter is another healthy snack. Packaged chips are not healthy because they are usually fried in hydrogenated oil. Make your own yogurt or buy plain and add your own fruit. Fruited yogurt has added sugar and not much fruit or food value for your money.
Make as many of your own meals as possible. Prepared meals are not only expensive, but not nearly as nutritious. For instance, you can make up a healthy whole grain pancake batter and use that everyday, keeping it in the refrigerator for a few days only. Another way is to make up a big batch at a time, freeze the extras, and take out one or two each day. These are readily heated up in a toaster or microwave oven. Oatmeal (not instant) is not only a cheap breakfast, but a very healthy one as well.
Keep a record of your weekly purchases and savings. Remember, saving just $1 a week can add up over the year. This plan alone can leave you with more money to spend on healthier items.