Eating well on a tight budget continues to become a bigger challenge with each passing year. In fact, in the last 20 years, “food prices have risen 2.6 percent a year on average.” Among budgets high and low, everyone is experiencing higher grand totals each time they visit the checkout lane at the grocery store.
For those living on assistance programs, this impact is even more significant. Whether you are receiving assistance for your housing payment, food expenses, or medical expenses, an increase in your grocery bill can make your situation even more difficult. It is essential to have strategies to stretch your funds as food prices continue to rise. If you are currently looking for ways to manage your grocery budget while living on financial assistance programs, explore these valuable tips.
Cook unprocessed, whole foods
Receiving funds from assistance programs for food is a much-needed help. However, at times, it can feel almost impossible to eat healthily on a restricted budget. Skipping fresh foods for items such as pasta, canned goods, and other highly processed foods may seem like the only way to make your budget work. However, did you know that whole meat, frozen vegetables, and rice are some of the least expensive foods available? While prices vary depending on your location and individual grocery store prices, frozen vegetables can be purchased for as low as $0.99 per bag, and large bags of rice that will last weeks or months are usually no more than a few dollars. Items such as whole chickens can often be purchased for between $4-$6 at many stores. It is less expensive than many people think to put together a healthy, nutritious meal.
Use physical and digital coupons
Want to save as much money as possible on your food purchases? Look for coupons from a variety of sources. Websites that offer physical coupons allow you to print the coupons you want and use them at the store. Instant save coupons can also be found on products in stores. For those who have a smartphone, some stores offer in-app coupons. Even if you don’t have much time to spend searching for coupons, it pays to take a look at each grocery store trip.
Be brand flexible
When you choose to buy the brands that are on sale rather than just one brand, you have the potential to save big. Check the weekly sales ad to see which brands are on sale, and plan to buy those instead of a more expensive brand of the same item.
Look for deals on products close to the expiration date
Stores want to sell as much of their products as they can before the expiration date. When meat, dairy, and produce are within a few days of their expiration date, stores will often offer a major discount. Look carefully for products that are marked down for this reason, as they are usually mixed in with products that have later expiration dates. Also be sure that you will be able to use what you buy before the expiration date listed.
It is possible to eat well while living on assistance programs
Even though managing your grocery budget while living on assistance programs can feel discouraging, these strategies will help you make the most of what you have. Utilize as many coupons as possible, look for bargains, and buy brands that offer the best sales. As you develop experience using these tips, you will see that it is possible to eat healthy foods and buy what you need.
Jess Walter Contributor