Office for the Aging

 
 

Eating Well, While Keeping an Eye on Your Budget

Everyone can benefit from budget saving tips for food purchases. Budgeting for groceries involves some extra planning, decision making, and behavior modifications. But the savings are worth the time spent.

Plan your purchases.
Before you shop, plan your meals for the next week. Look at what food you already have and start your meal planning based on what’s on hand. Determine what additional ingredients you will need. Plan to make enough food to allow for leftovers and you will have ready-made items to eat for lunches, to have for later in the week, or to freeze. Making larger potions adds to the amount of overall food purchased; however, food purchased in bulk is usually less expensive. Also, plan on where to shop for your food purchases. Check the local newspaper and/or online for coupons. Compare prices and look for items with lower unit prices. Unit price is the price of goods per item or measure, e.g., per pound or dozen. Take your list with you when you shop and don’t deviate from it. Planning your trip to the grocery store will help reduce impulse purchases that can end up costing you more.

Use SNAP benefits if they are available to you.
If you meet income requirements, consider applying for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). SNAP is a federally funded program that helps offset food costs. Most grocery stores allow purchases made with SNAP benefits. Visit the SNAP page on the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (ODTA) website to determine your eligibility.

Buy fresh when possible.
When considering nutritional value, fresh food is always best. Consider purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season—they are usually more affordable. Local farmer’s markets are a perfect place to find seasonal foods. Take advantage of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), offered July 1 through November 15. Visit the SFMNP program website for more details and to apply.

Fresh foods do not usually last as long, so buying in bulk for seasonal items may not work for your budget. At certain times of year canned or frozen options may be less expensive. The best nutritional choice for canned fruits are those packaged in 100% fruit juice rather than in syrup, and vegetables that are low sodium or have no added salt.

Behavioral changes are key.
Eating less, and smarter, can have an immediate and positive effect on your grocery budget. Eating large portions can cost extra money as well as add extra calories. To avoid overeating, use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses. This change will encourage better portion sizes. For information on USDA dietary guidelines, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

Another behavior change that can help keep your budget in check is to make your own snacks. Food companies make portions convenient for you, and you pay for their efforts. To avoid high-priced snacks, buy foods in bulk and portion them into snack-sized containers. This saves money and also helps with calorie control. Once you have them prepared, they, too, will be convenient as well as portioned properly.

Whenever possible, avoid restaurants, fast food chains, and frozen dinners. Preparing food at home can provide better nutrition and better budgeting. And for a healthier, more affordable option that you don’t have to prepare, dine at a congregate meal site. These meal sites are found throughout the state, and serve meals up to five days a week to older adults and their spouses. Voluntary donations are accepted but not required. Some sites also honor SNAP benefits. Regardless of donation, no one will ever be denied a meal at a congregate meal site. To find a site in your area, please contact your local office for the aging.

By taking a closer look at your food budget and nutrition, you can create not just a healthier food budget, but a healthier lifestyle, as well.