Most seniors who have entered retirement or those who are working less and living on a fixed income must be budget-conscious about everyday expenses. As diet plays an important role in health throughout life, this is an unavoidable cost at any stage of life. Maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet doesn't have to be expensive. There are several ways for aging adults to stretch their dollars and eat well. Here are a few quick and easy ways to maximize savings while also maximizing optimum nutrition when meal planning and grocery shopping.
One of the key parts in keeping seniors healthy is meal planning. It's also very effective at saving money and it can even be fun! Meal planning and preparation is a great way for seniors to avoid frequent outings to the store, which may become more difficult for those seniors who rely on others for transportation. Less time spent at the grocery store means less money spent at the grocery store in a given week, month, or year. A little effort up front saves a ton of time and energy down the road.
There are several different meal planning sites available online to help seniors to meal-plan. These sites create easy, fast, and healthy meals with links to grocery lists; and they even provide step-by-step meal prep planning. Best of all, the meals can be easily customized based on dietary needs. Some sites are free, and some require a small monthly fee (typically around $5) The following is a listing of various easy-to-use meal planning websites:
When meal planning, one should avoid convenience foods that often lack nutrition and cost more than home-prepared foods. Grocery delivery services such as Instacart are becoming more widely available and can make grocery shopping a breeze not only for seniors but it's a convenient way for their caregivers or family members to assist with shopping as well.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The SNAP program is an amazing program that helps people stretch their food budget and buy nutritious food. This program was formerly known as food stamps, but the program has improved greatly since changing its name. First, benefits are given to a person each month on a plastic card called an EBT which works just like a debit card. This makes obtaining benefits just as easy as using a credit or debit card. Also, the cards can be used at almost any location, including some farmers markets and coops!
Senior involvement of the SNAP program is extremely low. The USDA estimates that 3 out of every 5 seniors who are eligible for SNAP are NOT enrolled in the program. That means many seniors are missing out on serious savings. The average SNAP benefit is around $100 a month, which can go a long way toward stretching a budget. What's even better is the ability for seniors to increase that number by taking advantage of deductions for other expenses they may have. For additional information and to see if you quality for SNAP click here: https://www.benefitscheckup.org/resources/snap/
Nutritious Meals Delivered
Meals on Wheels is a program widely available in communities throughout the United States that brings nutritious meals to seniors who would otherwise be unable to prepare or buy food. The mission of Meals on Wheels is to improve the health and quality of life of the seniors they serve so that no one is left hungry or feeling isolated. This program not only helps to improve quality of life but also can customize meals to suit a variety of different dietary needs. Research has shown that participants in the Meals on Wheels program have reduced food insecurity and have a better quality of life. To see if your loved one qualifies check out Meals On Wheels.
Meat is one of the most expensive foods in the diet. Luckily, there are some ways to keep the price down. Buying meat in bulk is a great way to start saving. Warehouse retailers like Sam's Club or Costco typically have prices that are significantly lower than those at the local grocery store. Divide bulk meats into smaller portions and store in the freezer for easy access next time meal prep or cooking is required. Another tip for seniors is to buy veggies in bulk (as this is cheaper) and divide and freeze in portions for later use.
Another way to save is to decrease overall consumption of meat. Instead of always having an animal-based protein, consider plant-based protein sources as well. Some examples include beans, edamame, quinoa, oats, and sprouted breads. Mixing in some of these plant-based protein sources is an easy way to save money because it's tough to spend as much on plant-based protein as it is animal-based protein. Another benefit of plant-based proteins is they tend to be softer to eat so if chewing is an issue, they're a great choice regardless of budget.
Whether it is being conscious about planning meals and snacks for the week, utilizing community programs for delivered meals, or taking advantage of grocery allowances, there are many ways for aging adults to get the nutrition they need, regardless of income. Exploring different options for proteins, buying in bulk, and trying different tools and services can provide easy ways to get the essential nutrients into the senior diet in an affordable way.