Meal planning and cooking for retired couple Barb and Doug is costly, and I’m going to help them reduce grocery costs.
Even with recent product price freezes at large grocery store chains, Canadians still need to watch comparable pricing numbers.
Some Canadian food executives and a rival grocer say Loblaw Companies Ltd.’s “price freeze” may be nothing more than an empty gesture, since the timing of the move lines up almost exactly with a standard, annual freeze on cost increases across the industry.Financial Post
It’s easy to get sucked into the media marketing game but always look below the surface.
Today, I want to discuss how much a retired couple should spend on groceries to answer Barbs’ email.
I want to examine seven key areas a retired couple might consider when creating a food budget.
- Available Grocery Stores
- Grocery Savings Opportunities
- Food Shopping Frequency
- Meal Planning For Two
- Food Waste
Getting Used To Retired Life And Eating
Dear Mr. CBB,
My husband and I have recently retired and feel we are spending too much on groceries.
We are not in the swing of things regarding living a retired life.
Often we are both looking for something to do and end up at the grocery store.
Generally, you will find us both in the kitchen as we like to cook together.
Occasionally, we might eat out but tend to stick with inexpensive family-style restaurants.
However, we enjoy trying new recipes, especially from your blog.
One of our favourite recipes is your Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Pineapple over brown rice.
Currently, we have $800 budgeted for groceries each month, but I feel it is too much for a retired couple.
How much should a retired couple spend on groceries?
Thanks for any tips, and we love reading your blog.
Barb and Doug, Ontario, Canada.
Creating A Food Budget For Two
Hi Barb and Doug,
Congratulations on your recent retirement.
What a great question and I’m sure you’re not alone in your plight to lower retirement expenses.
I’m sure you quickly realize how busy you used to be compared to the no-alarm life.
I want to review the scope of Canadian grocery savings tips we’ve learned to answer your question.
However, before considering savings, I want to look at lifestyle because that generally determines food costs.
Thanks again for emailing your question, and I hope you get some helpful answers from the readers and me.
Dietary Needs and Lifestyle
I choose to look at lifestyle first because dietary needs often set the pace for a grocery budget.
For example, if you are gluten-free, product prices differ from those that include gluten.
The flour products below are close in weight, but the costs are significantly different.
Gluten-Free Robin Hood Flour – Amazon Canada $8.49 for 907grams.
Robin Hood Flour – Amazon Canada $4.79 for 1kg
Perhaps you purchase protein powder or other health-related foods that fall under your grocery budget.
It’s also important to remember that not both people may have a gluten intolerance.
When it’s just a one-person grocery budget, it’s not too bad as you’re buying food for one.
Buying groceries for two diet lifestyles means purchasing double some grocery products.
You’ll notice an increase in grocery costs for this reason, but if your partner is willing to eat the same, that will make a significant difference.
Instead, we buy one set of grocery products, and on occasion, I’ll buy myself a bag of potatoes or oats if they are on sale.
So I’d talk about how your food and healthy lifestyle may increase your grocery expenses.
Where Does The Retired Couple Grocery Shop
Over the past 12 years of blogging, I’ve divided Canadian grocery stores into two categories.
An $800 grocery budget for a retired couple can amount to lots of food.
I’m not sure from your email whether this budget includes non-grocery items.
For the sake of this example, I’ll include them.
Perks Of In-Store Grocery Shopping
Skip the grocery delivery, park, collect groceries, and opt for good old-fashioned in-store shopping.
Although some people swear that ordering groceries online saves them money, it may be the opposite for you.
Decide on this option, especially if you both tend to avoid the grocery list.
Perhaps some time away from in-store shopping may shed new light on whether you need $800 each month.
If you find stepping away from in-store shopping is making a big difference, and you have money left, perhaps it’s a better option.
Some retired couples may enjoy social interactions when visiting the grocery store.
Sticking to the grocery list is ideal, but looking for reduced produce and other grocery products can save big bucks.
You won’t have this opportunity to find 50% off reduced grocery foods by shopping online unless you sign-up free for the FlashFood App.
You’d still have to go in-store to pick up your order, but you won’t have to grocery shop.
Is Bulk-Buying Necessary For A Retired Couple?
Lastly, Costco is a bulk-buying store that can have cheaper costs compared to the standard Canadian grocery store.
The only problem for a retired couple shopping at Costco is how they would eat the food.
We’ll talk more about that down below, although there may be products shoppers can freeze or don’t have to consume that will last longer and are worth buying the Costco membership.
Sometimes I feel we are a retired couple since I work at home 50% of the time and Mrs. CBB does not work.
Generally, we shop at Zehrs, Food Basics, Costco, and Amazon Canada for two adults and one child.
We’ve chosen an expensive grocery store such as Zehrs for reduced products and the FlashFood App.
On the frugal side, we visit Food Basics for 80% of our grocery shopping needs as it’s generally cheaper.
Lastly, we visit Costco once a month to pick up what we buy in bulk which is cheaper than grocery stores.
Examples: Coffee, Costco Keto Products, Milk, Cream, Eggs, Cheese, etc.
How Often Should You Grocery Shop
I think grocery shopping is a personal experience that someone might want to visit as often as they’d like.
Others may despise grocery shopping, and once is too much for them. In the realm of it, all grocery shopping more than once can either save money or cost you more money.
The reasoning behind increased grocery expenses would be buying more than you need, including in-store deals when you shop too often.
However, sticking to a plan that fits your lifestyle and budget may reduce costs as you’re not in the store as often.
When I lived in the UK, I grocery shopped twice a week because my refrigerator was tiny.
I was very disciplined as I had a limited grocery budget, so there wasn’t much room for overspending.
For those who grocery shop online and pick up the groceries, this is another reason they stay out of the stores.
Although it’s easy to get carried away with online grocery shopping, there’s a fine line between in-store and online grocery shopping.
I suggest grocery shopping as much as you feel necessary but have a solid plan before entering the grocery store or ordering online.
Are We Wasting Food?
I feel this is the easiest to discuss because it’s either a yes or no answer.
Are we wasting food?
If yes, you probably don’t need to spend as much on groceries each month.
To reduce food waste, if you’ve got too much food in your house, scale back on what you purchase.
Go through your cupboards and donate food you can’t use before the expiry date.
Nevertheless, if you aren’t wasting food but your grocery expenses are high, look at savings opportunities or scaling back on expensive purchases.
For example, do you need to buy a $50 roast for two people? Can you do without the $40 two-pack of huge steaks and opt for something cheaper?
You don’t need to reduce the quality of food you eat but the quantity if you waste what doesn’t get eaten.
Grocery Budget Affordability
Ask yourself whether your grocery budget is sustainable to determine whether you can reduce it.
If you’re consistently spending more but can’t afford to do so, then it’s time to cut back.
You can do the same even if you have the money but don’t want to spend as much.
If this is the case, there is a simple solution, redirect what you don’t want to spend.
Take, for example, If your grocery budget is $800 and you feel that you spend it because you can but don’t need to, then scale it back.
Set aside $600 for groceries and add $300 to your vacation fund. It’s money you’ve freed up, which you then have the power to put in any budget category you please.
Perhaps you have debt you need to pay; use that extra $300 to start wiping it out.
Essentially, it boils down to whether you can afford the amount you’ve budgeted for groceries.
Related: How To Make A Budget Revision
Grocery Savings Opportunities
Indeed there are grocery savings if you know where to look and what opportunities are available for Canadians.
Mobile Apps and Grocery Rewards Programs
You’re missing out if you’re a retired couple worried about increased grocery expenses and have not tried rewards or mobile apps.
It might be a case of not knowing about them, so I’m here to tell you about some of our favourites.
- PC Optimum rewards (we have over $7000 worth of free groceries saved in points)
- Nielsen Homescan Canada is fantastic and fun if you have the time
- FlashFood for 50% off or more at Loblaws stores across Canada
- Receipt Hog
- Pinecone Research
Getting paid for buying groceries in Canada is fundamental; you must research what opportunities work for you.
You can find even more tips by reading “The Ultimate Guide for Online Cashback Canadian Programs.”
Also, using a rewards tracker (free printable for budget binder) is a fantastic way to see how much you save and becomes motivational.
Occasionally, I find paper coupons at the grocery store, flyers, magazines, and in the mail; they are still valuable.
Although coupon use is valuable only to the product user, they don’t apply to everyone.
This means that not all available coupons meet the needs of all Canadians.
Whether printable, paper or digital, coupons contribute to grocery savings if you use them.
Grocery Savings With A Credit Card
You can earn points even faster from the lucrative PC Optimum MasterCard to the NEW Scene + Card with an eligible Scotiabank credit card.
Honestly, I feel that the PC Optimum and Scene Plus programs are almost going head to head-for your business.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see more programs such as these pop up in the future.
Earn points at participating grocery stores through: personalized digital offers, weekly product offers, flyer and in-store events. Also, get member exclusive pricing on great products every week.Scene Plus Grocery Program
Coming Soon to Ontario, the Scene Plus program is now available in Atlantic and Western Canada.
Scene+ members can now earn and redeem* points on many items at participating grocery, liquor, pharmacy**, and convenience stores in Atlantic (NB, NS, PEI, NL) and Western (BC***, AB, SK, MB) Canada.
Starting November 3rd, 2022, Scene+ members will be able to earn and redeem points on many items at participating grocery and pharmacy** stores in Ontario.Scene plus.Ca
Even though I can’t review the Scene Plus program as it’s not in Ontario yet, I plan to do so after November 3rd.
Participating Scene Plus Grocery Stores
- IGA and Voila IGA
- Sobeys and Voila, Sobeys
- Fresh Co and Chalo Fresh Co
- Safeway and Voila Safeway
- Foodland and Coop
- Thrifty Foods
How Much Is Food In Your Freezer?
So many people fail to take inventory of what is inside their freezers which causes excess.
If you don’t know what food you already have in stock, you’ll spend more buying repeats.
Before creating a grocery list, refer to your pantry and freezer inventory.
As you buy new freezer products, rotate and document them on my free freezer inventory printable for your budget binder.
Trust me, this may seem like extra time wasted, but it will be worth your while if you’re worried about your food budget.
Plus, it eliminates freezer-burnt food, which likely will end up as food waste which is a shame.
Once you read the weekly flyers and complete a freezer and pantry inventory, you’re ready to meal plan.
The great thing about being retired is that you will have extra time to complete these tasks.
Although daunting for those working or those with small kids, meal planning and inventory can be huge savings.
Plan meals around what you already have in the house and weekly grocery sales.
Reduce grocery costs further and prepare meatless meals, which cost less.
If the idea is to incorporate new recipe ideas, pick one to work on each week that revolves around sales.
For example, it’s a great time to review a new recipe if you want to try Borscht soup, and it’s the Fall when beets are on sale or cheap.
Buying seasonal products, growing a garden, and revolving what you eat around these two factors will save a retired couple money.
Another consideration is the quantity of food you buy when there are only two people.
As we get older, we tend to eat less, so although a bag of 20lb potatoes is nice, consider whether you can eat them before they sprout.
Alternatively, another way to look at buying more significant amounts of a product is whether you can freeze or can it for future use.
For example, if you purchase a 20lb bag of beets in August to make Borscht use the remainder to make pickled beets.
Buying Reduced Food
We never skip checking the reduced racks throughout the grocery store because there’s always a deal.
Occasionally, we will find a vegetable in our shopping cart on the reduced rack and swap them out.
Just be cautious of reduced fruits and vegetables, as you’ll need to use them immediately or process them for the freezer.
Eat What You Can Afford
If you find an $800 grocery budget is too much, or you’re not eating what you buy, reduce it.
Consider many tips I’ve mentioned above and are on this blog to control food expenses.
Often, we believe we need a massive food budget when we don’t.
It’s easier to test a grocery budget if you think you’re spending too much than if you know exactly how much food you can afford.
Perhaps see if you can reduce the $800 to $700 and if those works reduce it further.
You may find that the higher your budget, the more enticing it is to spend it.
Related: How To Track Your Grocery Expenses Each Month (free budget binder printable)
Hobbies For A Retired Couple
You mention that you both end up at the grocery store when you’re bored.
Finding new hobbies is worth exploring to fill your day are part of retirement life challenges.
Perhaps you are passionate about playing an instrument or like to sing, and your church has a choir you can join.
Volunteer your services at various opportunities throughout your city that you support.
Join a gym and meet other retired people who want to meet daily to work out and chat.
Maybe, going for walks or visiting as many provincial parks together to see what nature holds.
Start a side hustle and blog to make extra cash on the side if you know about a topic you’d like to share.
I hope I’ve given you somewhere to start with your grocery expenses and that you can make changes that fit your lifestyle.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, I have written over 300 grocery-related blog posts for The Ultimate Canadian Grocery Guide.
Please leave your comments below.
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