“The Boomer” is a column written for adults nearing retirement age and those already in their “golden years.” It will also promote reader interaction by posting e-mail responses and answering reader questions. E-mail your questions or topic ideas to thefoxboomer@gmail.com.

With the holidays behind us and all of the baking, festivities and parties over, I began to think about the amount of money my household spent during the last two weeks of the year on food. With such a big family and many mouths to feed, our food tab grew immensely. And 2012 looks like it will be bringing higher food prices.

The USDA is projecting that the new year will bring an overall spike in food prices of 2.5% to 3.5%, while the Department of Agriculture expects food prices to rise 3.25% to 3.75% during the year. Rising commodity and energy prices coupled with elevated demand are the key drivers for the increase in food prices.

In fact, many food chains, including Starbucks (SBUX) and Denny’s (DENN), have announced increased prices to help make up for higher commodity costs and maintain profit margin.

In 2011, consumers experienced a 4.75% increase in food prices at the grocery store, while menu prices ticked up nearly 2.5% across the country.

For most retired baby boomers living on a fixed income, this is not good news. It’s important for us to stay healthy and meet our nutritional needs without exceeding our budgets-but these rising costs are making it hard. The answer is not in sacrificing quality foods, but to explore ways of reducing the price of our overall food costs.

The start of a new year is a great time to evaluate our diets, eating and purchasing habits, and look for ways to cut food costs. 

In the Boomer household, we cut costs by using a crock pot for cooking meals, which allows us to buy a cheaper piece of meat; by slow cooking it all day, it tastes just as good as the more expensive pieces. We also do our bulk shopping at Costco--with just me and my wife, a lot of the bulk items are more than we can store or use, but we split orders with family members. Once a month we visit Costco (COST) and then return home and break up all the packets between ourselves and my wife’s sisters. There is also a wealth of information online explaining different ways to cut food costs just waiting to be tapped into.

I spoke with Al Kernek, CEO of Pacifica Endeavors, a San Diego-based marketing consulting firm made up of baby boomers, and he shared the following tips on how boomers can cut food costs:

  1. Make a grocery list. Before stepping foot into a grocery store, scan the ads to see what’s on sale and check your pantries and cupboards to see what you need. Once you are in the store stick to the list to avoid impulse buying.
  2. Buy in Season. Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season tends to be healthier and cheaper.
  3. Forget Name Brands. Generic or store brands tend to have the same ingredients as the name-brand products with cheaper price tags.
  4. Make Meal Plans. Don't waste money and time by buying products that you know your family or spouse doesn’t like or eat. Forcing them to eat it will just create waste and frustration .Maintain meal appeal through variety, and look for new ways to spice up favorite (and cheap) meals like spaghetti or meatloaf.
  5. Get Frozen. Buy (or share) a deep freezer to take advantage of store specials on meat and other perishables. Frozen fruit can also be a cheaper alternative to fresh produce.

E-mail your questions to thefoxboomer@gmail.com.