My clients often tell me, one obstacle to eating well when managing type 2 diabetes is the cost of wholesome foods. Whether you’re shopping at the grocery store or going to a restaurant, fresh and nutritious foods can be more expensive.
This is a fact, but rumors of all healthy food being too expensive is very much escalated from the whole truth. It is possible to eat a well balanced diet that meets your needs as a person with diabetes, promotes stable blood sugar and even weight loss. You can save money and stay healthy by choosing whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.
Here are 3 tips for eating wholesome foods on a budget
Prepare a healthy homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruits, and a few chocolate pieces. This is cheaper than purchasing ready-made snacks. If you need more ideas for healthy snacks, check out this post!
Keep in mind that purchasing a premade salad, or cut up vegetables and fruits, etc. is expensive from a convenience store. But don’t let this deter you from eating healthy! Making your own salad instead is cheaper than anything you can purchase out - including fast food. Making things on your own (even things that take very little prep time) is cheaper and fresher.
Make bulk items! When you make a soup or casserole, make large batches. Freeze some in small bags or containers so that you can use it on days where your meal plan falls through. This will prevent you from purchasing expensive ready-made food from a restaurant or store.
Plan your meals and snacks weekly (or monthly if you so choose).
Have a list and stick to it. The only reason to veer off the list is sales on items that you can 100% work into your meal plan soon (or freeze).
Go to the store only once per week to procure items needed, as this will give you less temptation and opportunity to purchase more foods.
Look through your refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets to see what you have to use. Plan your meals around this.
At the grocery store
Purchase very few high-calorie foods with added sugars and fats, such as chips, cookies, snack cakes, and candies. These foods are expensive and provide very little nutritional value.
Instead, choose healthier snacks like nuts, fruits and veggies, yogurt, whole wheat crackers, popcorn, and cheese.
Choose fresh vegetables that are generally cheap (carrots, cabbage, lettuce, onions), and others if there is a sale or when they are in season. Frozen vegetables are flash frozen at peak freshness, so that they maintain their nutrients. So they are as good an option as fresh, and much cheaper. If they are on sale, stock up!
Choose fruits that are generally cheap (apples, oranges, bananas), and choose others if there is a sale or they are in season, as with vegetables. Frozen fruits are also nutritious, and great for smoothies, desserts, and adding to oatmeal or yogurt. If purchasing canned fruit, choose the ones packed in 100% juice, rather than syrup.
Refrain from buying already cut and washed produce, as it is much more expensive.
Avoid purchasing individually packaged snacks. Instead, choose bulk containers of nuts, dried fruit, popcorn kernels, etc.
Select large packages of quick-cooking oats rather than instant packets. This will save money and avoided added sugar from the highly processed instant versions. Want more info on nutritious, diabetes friendly carb foods? Check out this blog post.
Buy dried beans and prepare them rather than purchasing canned beans. They are very economical, at around $0.10 per serving, compared to about $0.40 for canned.
Choose lean meats on sale and freeze them until you are ready to use.
Buy eggs for breakfasts, and hard boil for snacks. Eggs are a great source of protein and micronutrients, and are economical.
Avoid choosing frozen, processed meals. These are expensive and pack in sodium and added preservatives.
While cooking and preparing
If using canned fruits and veggies, rinse in a strainer to decrease the sodium content. Better yet, choose the “no sodium added” or “NSA” versions.
Use proper portion sizes. Not only will this help you control your blood sugar and weight, but it will also keep your grocery bill down.
Swap half the meat in a recipe for beans. Simply mash up cooked or canned beans and stir it in with meat. This improved the nutritional value of the dish, and reduces the price.
Choose beans, tofu, and lentils for protein at some meals. These are cheaper than meats, and will promote stable blood sugar when paired with non-starchy vegetables.
Make large batches of chilis, soups, and casseroles to freeze for later. You’ll thank yourself someday when you have a busy week and your meal plan inevitably fails!
Prepare more homemade items, such as dressings and sauces.
Remember that you can eat a diet full of nutrient rich, wholesome foods even with type 2 diabetes and a tight budget. A little planning is well worth it to your time and your health.