Saturday, January 7, 2012

Frugal Retirement-Eating Well in The Current Economy

Cooking and shopping for food in retirement can be a challenge on many levels. Most obviously, food prices are rising, while our retirement incomes remain fairly steady.  Adjusting portions is also a problem. Many of us  are recently used to cooking on a larger scale. Eating well and healthily is also an important and challenging part of retirement.  What to do, What to do?  Well, the best way to save money at the grocery store is generally NOT to shop, or cook for one or two:
  • Develop some kind of storage system and shop in bulk. I have  free standing freezer. That may or may not work for you. Larger, so called family sized packages are always cheaper than buying a chicken breast or two. Since most of us have plenty of time, buy the large portion and divide into individual portions at home (or cook and freeze, see below)
  • Learn to freeze properly (many people do not know how to freeze food so that it lasts well). In my experience the best recipes are usually for four people and often for six. This gives those of us with households of one or two  a couple options.  We can eat the same thing a few days in a row (this does work for some people, just not for me), or we can freeze for another meal. Let me say here and now in the gentlest of terms-if you don't like the way frozen food tastes, you are either freezing improperly or else reheating improperly.  Meals CAN be frozen and come out with an even better consistency. Foods will also always taste better reheated on or in the stove instead of nuked. Off my soapbox, now...
  • Widen your palate.  Almost ALL foods are healthy, when eaten sensibly.  One doesn't have to only buy chicken breasts and fish to eat well. Lean pork chops once a week will neither hurt you nor your digestive system.  All foods are good and good for you, depending on how they are cooked. Yesterdays poor mans food is today's gourmet entry. Case in point, I remember when flank steak was cheap as dirt and used only for fajitas.
  • Cook from scratch as much as possible. I cook from scratch, almost every thing.  Doing this allows me to control ingredients, try out new dishes, and eliminate most processed foods.  Every time a food is processed, the cost increases. the exceptions may be canned fruits and veggies.  Obviously this works for me because I have a full pantry and do not have to run out for specific ingredients.
  • Consider learning to shop for so called loss leader items and buying enough to last until the next sale (generally six weeks to three months). Have a low price for everything-your buy at price if you will.  This will reduce your costs significantly. If you only have a refrigerator freezer, use Ziploc bags instead of containers.
  • Appliances have their uses. I'm not saying you should run out to the local thrift and buy a bread machine or slow cooker today.  But a couple of those kinds of items might be a smart investment in lowering grocery costs. I still make bread by hand, by the way. Something to be said for the therapy of kneading. On the other hand chicken with wine in the slow cooker is to die for..........and leaves me more free time.
I am not an expert by any means-I just know what works for me. I DO eat well, including beef, lamb, chicken and seafood. We have wine, soda, and coffee at hand at all times. I spend a couple hundred dollars for two people, and yes, prices are rising for me as well.  What works for me may not work for you.

Oh, and while I am an extreme couponer, you can do what I do without the coupons-if you're willing to give it a try. How do you save on food costs now?


  1. will you post the chicken/wine crockpot recipe pls?
    I try to buy meat on sale and freeze in 1 lb and 1-2 meal sizes - I freeze soups for later (yikes have some I need to freeze when I get off work this morning!)also trying to cook more at home and need to improve in this area since I slipped up with a mcdonald's drive thru and a sitdown today(the sitdown is cheaper to eat there than make since it has a lot of ingredients for the vietmanese sauces)but mcdonald's is a no-no for health reasons.
    I also try not to overbuy stuff that won't last - this past year I did a major cleanout of my pantry and evrything is now in-date and where I can find it. I found for me that NOT ovrstocking is working better though it makes no sense to most people - too much was confusing me and going overlooked.

  2. We eat lots of soup with lentils as a base - so good for us and wonderful tasting. With soup, we don't have to pay much attention to portion control.

  3. Susanna, I will post my chicken crock recipe in the next couple days.......It is from one of the not your mothers slow cooker books. Still learning how to make good soups. While I do stock up a lot, I dont buy hardly any prefab foods so most of it is bsic ingredients.

  4. Linda, I am trying to do mroe soups. I admit I am not a big bean person.

  5. You reminded me of the joys of using a slow cooker. After a few hours pleasant smells begin to fill the house. You can use less expensive cuts of meat. A meal made in a crockpot will usually be enough for at least two dinners or more.

    I look forward to the chicken/wine recipe, too.

  6. ooh thanks! I love a good recipe! just froze the last big serving of a pretty good sausage/kale soup(though it's really sausage/kale and potato since I consider there enough spuds to qualify!) someone linked to it - think it was a martha stewart recipe - onion, garlic, chicken broth but instead of the precooked smoked chicken sausage I accidentally bought an uncooked chicken apple sausage but it was good (cooked the sausage after the onions softened) I like trying to get in some veggies and using different ones.
    thinking chili either tomorrow or Tuesday.
    my pantry has a lot of basic stuff I think -broth, canned tomatoes, some canned veggies, lots of teas, oatmeal - once I got rid of a lot of the stuff and stocked more basic things it's a lot easier on me.

  7. We are [i]still[/i] eating leftovers from Christmas, all which I froze in small batches after serving them, just as you've suggested in this blog.

    Perhaps it's because of the state where I reside (California), but I'm not noticing any significant creepage in food prices. Our costs have actually been dropping as a result of trying to focus on purchasing more fresh fruit and vegetables, and less processed foods.

    We've decided to "lean" a bit further into vegetarianism this year, going meatless 4-5 nights a week, and it will be interesting to see what impact that has on our grocery budget. I'm expecting it to go down a bit, but will have to wait and see once I finally get around to needing to go to the market!

  8. We aren't quite at your stage yet, because we still have one child left at home in high school, but I give myself $50 per week and that is my budget. I used to coupon and get great deals, but now I buy less and we eat less and we don't eat any processed foods except for mayonnaise and ice cream on occasion. Other than that, I make all our food from scratch. I started putting less meat in our food and dry beans are a better buy than canned beans with coupons in my mind. I have simplified things for us and don't spend much time shopping. We buy lettuce from Costco and we can have several large salads with that. I buy things from the bulk food section and only get what I need especially when trying new recipes. I am trying to be more eco-friendly with my shopping and cooking and we have much less trash and recycling than when I bought things on sale with coupons. It may not work for everyone, but I am amazed at how healthy we can eat and I don't spend any more than I used to. Americans eat too much anyway, so cutting back and eating proper portions has been a good thing for our family. We garden and freeze what we can't eat fresh. That has saved on our grocery bill, too. I really didn't think I could do it and spend as much or less, but it works. I even buy my meat fresh and I only get 2 slices of bacon instead of a package. It may be a little more in the long run, but it forces me to eat less when I buy smaller packages.


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