When you’re on a tight budget, the thought of preparing tasty, nutritious meals on a regular basis can seem impossible, as healthy foods have that bad reputation of being “too expensive.”
It’s time to kiss the excuse of eating junk food to save money goodbye, because it is possible to eat healthy without putting a large dent in your wallet. All you need is careful planning and a little effort.
Here are some tips on saving money while shopping for diabetes-friendly foods.
Before Leaving the House
Planning ahead is important in making sure you get more bang for your buck at the grocery store.
Make sure to sign up for your grocery store’s valued customer program to receive automatic discounts and coupons. Also check advertisements and online to see what’s on sale.
Before you walk out the door, take note of what food items you have on hand so you don’t overbuy, and take into account how you’ll use leftovers (which will also help you save!). Then create a shopping list based on this and your weekly menu plan.
It may be hard while passing the chip aisle, but stick to that list! An important tip for fighting those urges: Don’t shop hungry. Have a light snack before you go shopping to avoid impulse purchases.
Plan for one to two meatless meals each week. Pork, beef, fish, chicken and other meats are usually some of the most expensive items, so the more vegetarian meals you plan, the more likely you are to save. Good sources of meatless protein include beans, peas, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy and eggs.
At the Grocery Store
Buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Not only will they taste better at that time, but they’ll be cheaper, too. For example, corn on the cob can cost as little as 10 cents an ear in the summer compared to ten times as much at other times of the year.
Fall is a great time to shop for cheaper produce. There are numerous tasty options this season, including apples, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, butternut squash, grapes, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, eggplant and cauliflower.
When buying produce that’s out of season, check the price of canned and frozen varieties, which may cost less than fresh, out-of-season produce.
Take note that canned and frozen produce also keep longer than fresh. Buy fruit that have been canned or frozen without added sugars and go for no-salt added or low-sodium varieties of canned vegetables—they’ll be just as good for you as the fresh versions. Remember to drain and rinse your canned vegetables before using, to reduce your sodium intake!
Avoid buying “diabetic” and “dietetic” foods. They can be expensive and you don’t need them to follow a healthy meal plan. You can eat healthy foods at lower prices and still manage your diabetes.
Stock up on foods that will last like rice, beans, cooking oil and frozen foods, and buy extra when they’re on sale. Check unit prices to compare the cost of different brands and different size containers, as bigger packages are often cheaper.
Pass up buying individually packaged foods that have been pre-cut or prepared, which can raise the cost. Fresh, precut produce such as apples, pineapple and carrots will cost more than buying the whole fruit or vegetable and cutting it yourself.
Try this oven-barbecued chicken, a dish that will only cost you 50 cents per serving. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? It’d go great with these tasty cooked greens, also a steal for 49 cents a serving.
Making soup is another great way to get nutritious veggies in your meal while saving a few bucks. With this vegetable soup you can replace some of the ingredients with others from your fridge that need to be used. The cost of this soup is just 45 cents per serving!
For a lunch option, here’s a cheap, quick tuna salad recipe with chickpeas that give it great flavor and crunch.
To help you plan out your days, take a look at our low-cost meal-plan. You can eat for less than $7 a day with these meal and snack ideas that are both budget-friendly and delicious.
The bottom line is that with these shopping strategies, you can be a healthy eater on a budget and still enjoy variety while managing your diabetes. Remember that you are in control of your kitchen. And by shopping smart, you’ll make your wallet and waistline very happy.
For more information, tips and recipes on healthy eating on a budget, visit our Recipes for Healthy Living website.
Tell us: What are your favorite tips for eating well on a budget? Favorite fruits and veggies? Share your recipes too!