Living With Diabetes? Find Big Eats on a Low Grocery Budget

Living With Diabetes? Find Big Eats on a Low Grocery Budget

Living With Diabetes? Find Big Eats on a Low Grocery Budget

Food choices are so important when diabetes is part of your day-to-day life. Here’s something to keep in mind: The best healthy meal plan for diabetics isn’t that much different from a healthy eating plan for people without diabetes. 

Our bodies have an appetite for a well-rounded diet. One that is includes plenty of fresh, tasty, nutritious foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (peas and beans), lean proteins and low-fat dairy products are all on the menu.

Not sure how to get started or stay on track?

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) gets rid of the guesswork. The Diabetes Plate Method, leaving site icon makes it easy to create good meals. It’s all about a healthy balance of fruits and vegetables, protein and carbohydrates. The plan also teaches you how to figure ideal portion sizes without counting calories or weighing and measuring foods.

Finding Foods That Are Healthy and Affordable  

Of course, every balanced, healthy meal depends on the quality of its ingredients. Fresh is best, but there are other options, too. The way you grocery shop is key when it comes to making meals that help control blood sugar while still being tasty. Unfortunately, food shopping is a lot more expensive than it was several months ago.

Inflation has seen grocery prices shoot up about double digits – the most since the 1970s. Rising costs put even more pressure on those trying to control their blood sugar. A survey by CharityRx leaving site icon reveals 79% of U.S. adults with diabetes or who care for a diabetic say paying for insulin is difficult. Four out of five of those surveyed have racked up credit card debt to pay the costs – $9,000 on average.

It’s never been more important to find ways to afford healthy food. Here are some ways to eat well when food costs more.

Plan ahead. Set aside a time each week to plan your meals for the next week. Once you have your menu, scan your fridge and pantry to see what you may already have. Make a list of everything else you need and only buy those food items. Stick to your list to avoid wasting food and money.

Explore your options. Loyalty can cost you. It might be a neighborhood store you’ve gone to for years. It could be a name brand food you reach for again and again. Remember, prices can vary from grocery store to store, so look for one where you can save. Store brands usually cost less than name brands, but offer the same quality. And your local farmer’s market or vegetable stand offers fresh produce without all the costly overhead of a box store

Buy whole foods. Some foods cost less in their natural form. For example, block cheese is cheaper than shredded cheese. Whole grains like brown rice and oats leaving site icon cost less are per serving than most processed cereals. They usually come in larger quantities or can be bought in bulk that offer more servings for your money.

Choose canned. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are less expensive. Even so, they provide similar or the exact same nutrition as fresh produce. Use seasoning to improve their flavor, if needed. Select low-sodium canned vegetables, and look for canned fruit packed in water or low-sugar fruit juice, not syrup. Avoid anything with added sugar.  

Pick lean proteins. Fresh meat and fish can be very expensive. There are many cuts that are less expensive, though. Chuck steak, pork top sirloin steak, whole chicken or ground meat and poultry are a few. They are great to use in burritos, casseroles, soups, stews and stir fries. Also, look for items that are priced for quick sell because they are close to their “sell-by” date. You can freeze them for later use. Trade meat for other sources of protein a couple times of the week. Eggs, legumes and canned fish are all options.

Pass on processed foods. They are among the most expensive, least nutritious foods available. Highly processed foods like sodas, crackers, cookies and prepackaged meals lack the good nutrients you need to control your blood sugar. Plus, they are often high in fat, sodium and added sugar. Spend your food budget on higher quality, nutrient-rich whole foods.

Don’t pay for packaging. Convenience costs money. Avoid buying individual yogurts, snacks and cereals. Buy the larger container and divide them into servings at home if you like.

Skip diabetes and diet foods. These specially marked and marketed foods usually aren’t better for you in terms of calories, carbohydrates and fat, according to  the ADA. And they definitely cost more than fresh, whole foods.

Remember, don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry. Armed with a meal plan and these strategies, you can eat healthy, satisfying meals that will help keep your blood sugar levels in the sweet spot.

Sources: Recipes and Nutrition: Eating Right Doesn’t Have to Be Boring, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association, 2022; 4 Out of 5 Americans with Diabetes Went Into Debt to Pay for Insulin, leaving site icon Forbes, 2022; It’s Belt-tightening Time: How to Save When Food Inflation Jumps More than 11% in a Year, leaving site icon CBS, 2022; Diabetes When You Can Afford Healthy Foods, leaving site icon Diatribe, 2022; 19 Clever Ways to Eat Health on a Tight Budget, leaving site icon Healthline, 2021.

Originally published 11/5/2015; Revised 2022