Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive.

If you have diabetes, you must already know, what you eat is critical to your health. However, it is easy to observe that processed food at a grocery store is often cheaper than a fresher, more nutritious option. Despite this, it is possible to eat well on a budget. It is important to note that any person attempting this feat must have a basic command of cooking and good organizational skills.

Following are some tips on how to shop on a limited budget:

1. Before you leave

  • Plan ahead of time. Make a list before you go shopping and stick to it. Impulse buying is the culprit in breaking a budget. Also, set a menu to use leftovers from one dinner for lunch items for the next day.
  • Take advantage of sales and coupons. Look at deals either online or in your local newspaper and plan your meals around what’s on sale for the week.
  • Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. This one is a no brainer!
  • Decide where to buy. Cheaper foods will always be located at chain locations instead of corner grocery stores. Also, consider going to your local farmers market. Contrary to common misconception you can find a lot more at a farmers market besides produce, like butter, honey, eggs, seafood, and meat, etc.

2. At the store

  • Stay clear of the ”junk food” aisle. Even though these items are often cheaper, they add little nutrition to your diet in the long run.
  • No need to stock up on just “special foods” . People with diabetes have the same nutritional needs as anyone else. The American Diabetes Association reminds us that, as with all foods, you need to work them into your individualized meal plan in appropriate portions.
  • Meat and Seafood: they generally take the largest chunk out of the food budget. Anything that contains omega-3 fatty acids is a good option (e.g. salmon or sardines) and beneficial for heart health and brain protection. Chicken is high in protein and generally low in fat. Consider avoiding red meats overall. They have been linked to colon cancer, a condition diabetic people have an increased risk of developing. As for budget. only buy what you know will be consumed within the week! This avoids your purchases going bad and winding up in the rubbish bin. Also, go for less expensive cuts.

  • Fruits and vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are the lowest in calories and carbohydrates. Some options include broccoli, cauliflower, celery, asparagus, carrots, and zucchini. Buy in season and on sale! Shopping for foods in season means that the produce has traveled a shorter distance to your supermarket and is, therefore, fresher and cheaper. An alternative is to buy bags of frozen vegetables. These are just as nutritious as the fresh ones and have the added benefit of less spoilage!
  • Dairy and dairy alternatives . Studies suggest that yogurt is good for people with diabetes. Just be cautious of the added sugars in yogurts and remember to read the labels. Go for options that are lower in calories, added sugar and saturated fat.
  • Breakfast cereals and snacks. It’s not always feasible to limit processed foods. When shopping for cereals, crackers or snack bars look for certain keywords i.e. “whole grain”, “high fiber” and “sprouted grain”. Also, consider reaching for nuts (e.g. almonds) as an ideal daytime snack since they reportedly increase insulin sensitivity.
  • Legumes. Although rich in carbohydrates, these foods have one of the highest fiber-sources. Reach out for beans, peanuts, peas, and lentils when going for your weekly shop!

3. At home

  • Cook most items from scratch. If you don’t think your cooking skills are up to par, invest in a good all-around cookbook or look up recipes online! You will without a doubt find a myriad of cool recipes.
  • Try to incorporate more vegetarian meals at home . Beans and soy are lower cost proteins that are low in saturated fat and contain fiber. When opting for meat meals, ensure that all visible fat has been trimmed before preparation.
  • Try to refrigerate meat or fresh produce in bags inside your fridge/freezer. To determine the shelf life, there are multiple guides online to assist you.
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