Tag Archives: expenses

Grocery Shopping Fresh

Grocery Shopping Like a Pro

Even after you’ve gotten ready to head to the store, grocery shopping on a budget for healthy meals can be hard. But there are some things you can do to make it easier.

Stock Your Pantry

Keeping your kitchen stocked with certain key things can make cooking easy. This list has some items that are perfect for this. And this article has some healthy foods perfect for your pantry that only cost about $2.

Add one item that won’t go bad, like a spice, grain, beans, or frozen veggies to your cart each shopping trip to help you build your pantry without dropping a lot of money at once. (These are also good things to buy in bulk when they’re on sale if you have space to store them.)

Having this stocked pantry will help you throw together meals fast, help you save on packaged or premade meals you might’ve grabbed in a hurry, and make shopping easier.

Choosing Your Store

Choosing where you shop can also help you save. Besides the grocery store, some great places to find good deals are:

  • Ethnic markets
  • Dollar stores
  • Retail supercenters
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Farmers markets

At the Store

Once you’re at the store, you should try to shop the outer edge of it as much as possible. The outer edge usually has the fresh produce, like fruits and veggies, meat, dairy, bread, and frozen food. It’s typically the inner aisles that are full of boxed and processed foods.

Fruits & Veggies

It’s recommended that you eat 5 servings of veggies a day, so it’s important to really use that part of the store. With that in mind, fruits and veggies, fresh or frozen, should take up about a third of your cart on each shopping trip.

  • Shop in season 

At the farmers market, you have to buy what’s in season, but at the grocery store, there are lots of choices. But when you buy what’s in season, you can save a lot, and your food will be the tastiest and freshest it can be. This list can help you find what’s in season when.

  • Buy bags at the right time

With certain go-to things your family will always use, like apples, oranges, potatoes, and onions, buying them in the big bags when they’re in season can help you save even more.

  • Stock up on canned and frozen fruits and veggies

Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are picked while they’re in season and tasting best, and they’re good for you, too. So instead of buying fresh peas when they’re not in season, stock up on frozen ones to save and get the best flavor. Plus, they last much longer.

Look for frozen veggies without added sauces or butter. Choose canned fruit in 100% fruit juice and veggies with “low-sodium” or “no salt added.”

Canned veggies and broths are perfect for easy soups and stews, and canned fruit makes great fruit salad and snacks for the kids.

Packaged Goods

Avoid a lot of the packaged and processed foods in the center of the store. Cookies, candy, chips, crackers, and soda are all high in things you don’t want, like sugar, salt, and bad fats, and low in things like protein and nutrients. They’re also expensive.

  • Look for whole grains

Be careful you don’t get fooled by things that just call out wheat. Instead, look for whole grains and whole-grain breads.

  • Find high-protein foods besides meat

Yogurt and cheeses are great sources of protein, as are beans and other legumes, which you can find dried or canned.

  • Be smart about cereal

Cereals are one of the top foods for hidden sugar. Look for ones with little or no sugar. You can always add honey to flavor it in the bowl. Also look for cereals high in fiber to start your day right.

  • Try new things in the bulk aisle

If you want to try a new grain, nut, or dried fruit, the bulk aisle with bins is a great way to taste test. Scoop out a small bag for your family to taste before buying bigger servings.

Shopping Tips

Make the most of your trip by paying attention to how your store organizes things, their price tags, and food labels.

  • Don’t shop at eye level

Stores oftentimes stock the most expensive things right where they’ll catch your eye. Looking at the upper and lower shelves can help you find the best deal.

  • Grab from the back

Stores also stock from the back, putting newer things behind the older ones. Grabbing from the back gets you fresher food with better expiration dates, so your food will be good for longer.

  • Look for store brands

Many stores have their own brands of items, and in most cases, you’ll get the exact same or very similar thing at a much better price.

  • Read the label

Reading the nutrition label can tell you a lot about what’s in a food, if it’s good for you, and help you choose between brands.

  • Pay attention to serving sizes

Some things might seem good for you until you check the serving size. Sometimes the serving size is much smaller than what you’d actually eat in a sitting, which makes the numbers on the label look better.

  • Learn how to read unit price on the price tag

Unit price tells you how much something costs per pound, ounce, quart, or other unit of measure. It can tell you which brands are the most affordable. This guide can help you read or calculate unit price.

  • Have a calculator handy

Whether it’s on your phone or you bring a small calculator along to the store, having one on hand can make it easy to compare labels and costs.

Up Next:

Learn how to read and make sense of nutrition labels to get the most out of your food.

Medicare Advantage Mythbusting

Long View: Medicare Advantage Truths Might Just Change Your Mind

As I travel around the Illinois countryside, I hear the same misinformation about Medicare Advantage over and over. To tackle some of that, here’s a Q and A.

Question: When I join a Medicare Advantage plan do I lose my Medicare coverage?

Answer: No. If you have a Medicare Advantage HMO or PPO plan, a private health insurance company that has a contract with Medicare, like Health Alliance Medicare, provides the services instead of Original Medicare. People who disenroll from Medicare Advantage plans revert to Original Medicare. In either case, no one loses Medicare coverage.

 

Question: Will I be able to stay with my current doctors?

Answer: Probably, especially with Health Alliance Medicare. That’s why it’s important to check any plan’s provider directory to confirm your doctors work with the plan. People who select a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan can use out-of-network providers, but they typically pay more when they receive services.

 

Question: We travel and might need to use the emergency room. Will Medicare Advantage plans only cover me for emergency care when I’m close to home?

Answer: No. Medicare Advantage plans cover out-of-area emergency and urgently needed care.

 

Question: If something serious happens and we need lots of services, could we predict how much we would pay for care?

Answer: Yes. Medicare Advantage plans have an annual Out-of-Pocket Maximum (OOPM), also called a Yearly Limit. When a Medicare Advantage member reaches that limit, the health plan pays 100 percent for Medicare-approved services. This amount doesn’t include the premium and other limited expenses. You can estimate what your expenses would have been last year on the Medicare Advantage plan you are considering.

 

Question: Medicare Advantage sounds good for me, but wouldn’t the premium be too costly for my 88-year-old mom?

Answer: Not at all. One of the best things about Medicare Advantage plans is the premium is the same no matter the member’s age. You and your mom would pay the same monthly premium if you had the same plan, unless either of you could get extra help paying for coverage based on your income.

 

Question: Would I have to deal with all the paperwork I get when I receive services from Original Medicare plus a Medicare Supplement plan?

Answer: No. You would have much less paperwork with a Medicare Advantage plan. In fact, that’s one reason Medicare Advantage plans exist, and I’m all for less paperwork.

 

Remember, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP, runs from October 15 to December 7. That’s the only time most people can change their coverage for the following year.

If you are thinking about a change for yourself or a loved one, you will have to do a bit of research. Trusted resources like Area Agencies on Aging and your local senior center can help.

Please consider Health Alliance Medicare a resource, too.

We all want to make well-informed choices that don’t depend on myths and misinformation.