Retirement is supposed to be that golden time of life during which your spoil your grandkids, travel, and do all the renovations on the house you’ve been putting off. Unfortunately, for many of us retirement means a serious cut in income. Add the sometimes minor, sometimes serious health issues of growing older and your disposable income can quickly disappear.
I’ve done some cost-cutting and I wish I had done so years ago. I’d have more of that elusive disposable income now if I’d spent less and saved more. But saving anything now helps and for those of you who aren’t yet “golden” these are some good ways to help you cut your expenses. Not all will work for you but at least a few should help.
To the grocery store and beyond! In this series I’ll write about shopping and also about how to protect the things you buy. Saving money on groceries isn’t doing you any good if you waste much of what you buy. The series will encompass much more than groceries, so be sure to check back for new installments!
What’s for Dinner? Making a weekly menu is a great way to save money if you stick to it and shop for only the items needed to make the items on the menu. Plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week and check the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for what you have on hand.
To Meat or not to meat; that is the question. I am an unrepentant carnivore. I I love beef. I love turkey. I love pork, chicken, etc. But if you’ve been grocery shopping lately you know that meat prices are always on the rise. Try making a few meatless meals every week. Pasta dishes can be really satisfying without meat. Experiment with meatless dishes. Indian and Thai cuisine are two that have great recipes with no meat.
Convenience can be costly. The so-called convenience foods are expensive. Frozen foods, microwave meals, and junk foods cost more than homemade and they don’t taste as good! Cut them out of the budget and save not only money but your health.
List it. Before you go shopping make your grocery list. Be sure to include all items you don’t already have to make the meals on your menu. Sticking to the list will help you avoid impulse buys and save you another trip to the store because you forgot some key ingredient.
Substitutions are permitted. A local market often runs a great special. You buy a chuck roast and they throw in a 5 lb. bag of potatoes, a 3 lb. bag of onions, and a bag of carrots, all free! If that store is running that or any other great special I’ll go off-list. Sometimes I buy the roast in addition to my list and sometimes I substitute it for another planned dinner.
Not so extreme couponing. Coupons are another way to save. I don’t do extreme couponing but I always check for coupons online for the things on my list. We don’t buy a Sunday paper but if you do it’s a good source for coupons. I never buy something just because I have a coupon unless it’s a staple item like toilet tissue or some other non-perishable.
Budgets are beautiful. Decide your grocery budget and stick to it. Shopping without kids will save you money and stress. We all have been guilty of giving in to the kids when they beg for some expensive cereal or candy. If possible go without the kids! Reminding yourself that you only have a certain amount to spend will help you avoid costly impulse purchases.
I didn’t buy that! Keep an eye on the register. I once had the cash register ring up a very expensive sheet cake instead of the bag of ant killer I’d actually put on the conveyor belt. Sometimes the price on the shelf and the one in the register isn’t the same. Don’t be overcharged because you’re not paying attention.
I wish I’d had lunch. Never shop when you’re hungry. Junk food and even expensive items are easier to pass up if your tummy isn’t growling.
What’s in a name? Brand names aren’t always better. A very well-known product comparison magazine tests expensive brand name products against each other and lesser-known brands. I was actually surprised to see how often the less expensive product outshines the high-priced competition. A vacuum cleaner that retails for over $600 was beaten handily by one that is just over $200. A discount chain carries its house brand and its boxed Au Gratin potatoes rated much higher than a brand that you probably purchase. Do a little research. You’ll be surprised at how often a big brand name is simply a big price tag.
But I REALLY want it! Sometimes we just can’t resist an impulse buy at the grocery store. A seasonal treat may be available or a certain kind of chocolate may be calling your name. Saving money doesn’t mean depriving yourself of every joy in life. I run a mental tab at the store so I have a rough idea of my total bill. It’s not a to-the-penny tally of prices since I’m not going to turn the trip into a nightmare of math. I round up to the nearest dime or quarter to help me stay in budget. If I find I have a little wiggle room I’ll get that treat.
That’s a lot of beans! Buying in bulk. Certain items are cheap if bought in bulk. Sometimes a store runs a sale that makes it worth buying in bulk. Keep a little money aside for the bulk purchases. Not only will you save money but it’s a great way to build a reserve of food and other items you may need someday. Stick to items that are either non-perishable or good for long term storage. Toilet tissue and beans spring to mind.
I was in the neighborhood. When you run errands try to accomplish several things in one trip. If the home improvement store is a stop you have to make try doing other necessary shopping on the same trip if the other stops are nearby. I live in a rural area so when we make a trip to town we hit the pharmacy and the grocery store in the same trip. If we have to go to the city we try to arrange a visit with our daughter for the same day.
FIFO (First In, First Out). When you put your groceries away be sure to move the new purchases to the back so you’re using older food first. I keep a list of all the items in my pantry, and freezer so I know exactly what I have on hand. I immediately write down refrigerated items that are running low. Butter? Check. Eggs. Check. I also keep a list of paper products, cleaning stuff, etc. and add them to the list before I run out. No one wants to realize they need toilet paper when they really need it!
In the next installment on groceries I’ll give my tips on making the most of your grocery budget. Easy tips to keep food fresh and ways to save time and limit waste. I’ll also throw in a couple of recipes!