Groceries are one of the main expenditures for many people. Depending on where you live in the country, the average monthly grocery bill for a single person can be between $165 and $345! With the average Social Security benefit in 2020 being $1,503 and the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the U.S. being around $1,078, your monthly budget may be pretty tight.
If you’re on a fixed income or just looking to save a little extra as a senior, you’ll likely be looking for ways to slash your grocery bill each month. While there are many ways you can cut a little off the costs, we have five tips that can make a real difference for you financially each month.
One of the quickest ways to inflate your grocery budget is by going into the store without a plan and getting a cart full of impulse buys. You know the ones. The items you pick up that’d be “nice to have” or “look good.” Planning out your grocery list and sticking to it is an easy way to save money each week. By deciding what you need beforehand, you can ensure that you’re getting only what you need at the store, not a lot of extra stuff. It may be tempting to pick up the extra packet of cookies, but if it’s not on your list, that’s because you don’t need it. Impulse buys could cost you as much as $5,400 annually!
By deciding what you need beforehand, you can ensure that you’re getting only what you need at the store.
While planning, you can also research what deals are coming to your grocery store and buy items when it makes the most financial sense. This lends itself well to another suggestion a little later, too.
In “The Benefits of Cooking for Yourself,” we discuss how much you could save by cooking at home instead of going out to restaurants all the time. While the markup may not be equivalent to the 300-percent markup of restaurants, you still pay for convenience when you buy prepared food at the grocery store. Instead, buying the base ingredients can save you money in the long run.
On average, prepared and frozen foods have the second-highest markup at the grocery store, behind only non-grocery items.
There are a host of other issues with the prepared food at your grocery store, but financially, prepared foods can cost more. For example, certain precut foods can be marked up 392 percent! On average, prepared and frozen foods have the second-highest markup at the grocery store, behind only non-grocery items. Though it means you’ll need to learn to cook more, it’ll save your health and finances. And we can help with the learning how to cook part.
Brand loyalty can be a troubling enemy of your budget. While there may be some items from a specific brand that you won’t compromise on, if finances are your top priority, shopping around is the best bet. In many cases, being free of brand loyalty will allow you to go with the cheaper option or the one that’s on sale, as opposed to the same one every time.
Going with a store-brand option can save you as much as 33 percent on your grocery trip.
Similar to how generic prescriptions are cheaper than name-brand drugs, you can often save a noticeable amount of money by going with the generic, store-brand grocery item. Some people even prefer certain store brands. Ultimately, going with a store-brand option can save you as much as 33 percent on your grocery trip.
If you’ve got a friend who’s looking to save on groceries too, joining a wholesale club like Costco or BJs can help. Wholesale clubs tend to sell large amounts of goods at a discount in exchange for a monthly or annual membership fee. Generally, the membership ends up paying for itself over the course of the year, with the average markup for these stores being around 14 percent. The downsides of these memberships are the fees and the massive portions you buy. By splitting a membership with a friend, you can mitigate both. The membership fee is suddenly halved, and you get to split goods, so you don’t have to store too much or let perishables go to waste.
By splitting a membership with a friend, you can mitigate both downsides of a grocery club membership.
There are a few ways to go about sharing a membership to these clubs. Some clubs will allow you to take a friend in with you. You will just have to let them scan your membership card before they buy their items. If you’re not allowed to bring a guest, have them write up a list for you beforehand. Alternatively, the club may let you have a second membership card for your friend or family member, so you can both go when you wish. But going together, if you can, could be a nice day out for two friends once a week or every two weeks!
Finally, there are a few ways you can get direct savings while still getting the products you love. Some stores will have senior discount programs or specific senior discount days. These discounts differ from store to store and can give you a neat savings at your favorite store. It may also be worth checking out a discount grocery store, where the prices tend to be lower. Just be sure to inspect some of the stuff you buy, since they may be from other stores and out of date or damaged. So long as the products are in good shape, though, the savings are yours for the taking!
You can see a healthy savings with casual coupon clipping.
Savers hunting for a bargain should also look into coupons. Yes, this can take a little work finding the right coupons, but it’s never been easier to do with the internet. There are guides everywhere on how to get started with couponing. While you don’t need to go to the levels of Extreme Couponing (we wouldn’t suggest it anyway), you can still see a healthy savings with casual coupon clipping.
● ● ●
Everybody’s got to eat, but the bills for food and drinks can stack up if we’re not careful. If you’re a savvy senior looking to cut costs, your grocery bill is certainly one place to trim the fat. By utilizing all these tips, you’ll likely start to see the savings in no time, without missing out on your favorite foods.