Fall is in the air… schools back in session full swing… it’s quiet around the neighborhood and the house. No visitors are present, everyone seems to be saving money to take vacations next month for the Thanksgiving holidays. For many seniors, this time of year constitutes just one or two people being in the household full-time. Kids may be off at college, married with children, or living elsewhere with their own careers and daily lives. Even though this situation is becoming increasingly common due to the growing rate of the senior population, this doesn’t mean eating healthy and fresh needs to be stressful, inconvenient, or more expensive than if you have additional people to feed. I’m here to share some information and give a few pointers on how to keep the nutrition up and cost down when the grocery demand lessens.
For those of us with smaller appetites, eating fruits and vegetables daily doesn’t have to be challenging. Many people may not realize that buying frozen fruits and vegetables provides the same nutritional value as buying fresh. Steam-in-the-bag varieties of vegetables are available if they are within budget, and buying store brands are just as nutritious as name brands. If you’re on a tighter budget, buying frozen vegetables in bulk and portioning them into smaller bags for easy accessibility can be quite cost effective. Regarding partial meals or other entree items, try buying in bulk and making several meals and freeze them. The support behind “convenience” meals has really taken off over the last few years…but the consumer definitely pays for this. Even the frozen meals such as Stouffer’s, Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, or Hungry Man are pricey for the amount included. Additionally, the preservatives many of these meals contain reduces their overall nutritional values. Save yourself some money and make your own! They will taste better and be more nutritious than anything pre-packaged or pre-cooked. Meal preparation containers are readily available and are relatively inexpensive. Quality containers are made with microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe materials, but always check the box to make sure.
Likewise, dependent upon the way you choose to utilize your fruit, frozen is equally nutritious as fresh. If you are a fan of smoothies, for example, buy frozen berries, pineapple, mango, papaya, etc. to throw in the blender. Frozen fruit lasts much longer than fresh, and it removes the need for ice in your smoothie to keep it extra rich.
If you want to avoid the cost of bagged frozen fruit, it is perfectly okay to buy your own fresh fruit, bag it, and freeze it yourself. This can be advantageous especially if you’re buying fruits that are in-season. This is also a good method to use if you’ve purchased excess or haven’t eaten all your produce and it becomes overripe. Cut it up, and freeze it! Be sure to check your local farmer’s markets for some of the best prices on in-season produce and start stocking!
When shopping for meats such as chicken, beef, and pork, buying individual packages can be quite expensive. Opt for larger packages if they provide a discounted price by ounce, separate and freeze for convenience when you’re ready to prepare it. Always check for daily and weekly specials on meats in the grocery stores…buy it and freeze it when it’s on special! Meats can be deep frozen for up to a year.
Furthermore, preparing one-pot meals is beneficial because they can easily be frozen and thawed for additional meals. Try meals like soups, chili, spaghetti (sauce), casseroles, or crock pot recipes. They can simply be portioned into as many freezer safe bags as desired and can last for several weeks or months.
Even though the house may not be full of screaming grandkids, the time will come soon enough! Make sure your nutrition is at the top of your priority list so you can keep up when the house IS full!