6 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

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Eating healthy when money is tight can be challenging, especially if you are living with a costly condition like diabetes. These tips can help.

A diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins is important for good health, especially if you have diabetes. Healthy eating is key to maintaining blood sugar levels in your target range. But the cost of nutritious foods can quickly add up.

Eating on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice nutrition. With a little know-how and planning, you can enjoy nutritious foods without breaking the bank. And if you need help, a diabetes care and education specialist can work with you to develop a plan that fits your lifestyle, beliefs, and culture.

By following these six tips, you may be surprised at how much you can stretch your grocery budget.

1: Plan Your Recipes
Planning ahead allows you to think about your food needs, tastes, and budget. If you know you have to stretch your money for the week, meal planning can really pay off.

Adapt recipes to fit your needs. A diabetes care and education specialist can customize your diabetes diet for your specific needs. Choosing meals that help manage your blood sugar is key to managing your diabetes. If you love pasta dishes, but your diabetes meal plan has you following a low-carb diet, you can search recipes that use veggie noodles instead of traditional noodles. These are great alternatives to increase your vegetable intake and keep your blood sugar from spiking.

Use recipes with common ingredients. Using the same ingredients for multiple meals doesn’t mean they all have to taste the same. Using different herbs and spices can turn common ingredients into meals with different flavors. If your favorite protein is chicken, cook one whole chicken and use it for several different dishes. You can have chicken and vegetable stir fry one night and chicken fajitas another night.

Find ways to stretch a recipe. You can stretch meals by making dishes that freeze well. Search online for delicious healthy recipes like soups and casseroles that are budget-friendly and easy meals to stretch. For example, make a large batch of vegetable soup or white bean chicken chili that can last throughout the week, or freeze the leftovers to have later. You’ll also spend less time in the kitchen than if you make a different meal every night.

Planning your weekly menu also increases the chance that your pantry and refrigerator are stocked with healthy ingredients to make balanced meals that help you maintain your blood sugar levels.

2: Shop With a List
Once you’ve planned your meals for the week, create a shopping list with the ingredients you need. Having a shopping list makes shopping easier and faster, which helps you reduce impulse buys and take home only the items you need. It also helps you avoid extra trips to the grocery store to buy forgotten items.

If your shopping list includes nuts, beans, or grains, consider buying in bulk to save money and keep your pantry well-stocked for future meal planning.

3: Buy Frozen or Canned
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, frozen and canned options can be healthy alternatives to fresh produce. What’s more, they cost less and last longer. Many frozen veggies and fruits even have resealable packaging that allows you to use what you need and store the rest. This way you can enjoy your favorites even when they aren’t in season.

When choosing canned options, it’s best to select those that come in water, not syrup. Be sure to read the label for any added sugar or salt. You’ll want to avoid those. And skip frozen options that have added butter or cream sauces. Choose options without sauce or look for packaging that reads “lightly sauced” to avoid extra sugar, salt, and empty calories.

4: Cut Cost With Coupons
Coupons are a great way to save on your grocery bill, especially if you have your shopping list planned out. You can search for online coupons for the ingredients on your list.

With over a billion coupons available each year, you will likely find a coupon that you can use. If you can’t find a coupon for those blueberries on your list but find one for strawberries, consider making the swap to save money. Even low-value cents-off coupons can really add up. Just by using five 50-cents-off coupons a week, you can end up saving over $100 each year.

5: Buy Store Brands
Buying generic or store brand items can save you 20% to 30% on your food bill. Items like canned tomatoes, milk, olive oil, and frozen fruits and vegetables are usually available in a cheaper store brand version.

Just be sure to compare the ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to make sure you’re not getting a product with added ingredients. Learning which store brands your grocery store carries can help you reduce your total at the cash register.

6: Try Growing a Garden
If you can, growing your own fruits and vegetables is a great way to save money and have fresh produce at your fingertips. Even if you don’t have a yard to grow a garden, many fruits, vegetables, and herbs can grow in pots on patios or balconies.

Having a constant supply of fresh produce at home can save you money at the store. You may not be able to grow a “money tree” in your garden, but it’ll feel like you did with the extra money you’ll be saving.

Healthy Eating: Not “One Size Fits All”
Diabetes meal plans for healthy eating are not one size fits all. Work with a diabetes care and education specialist to create a meal plan that fits your health needs, tastes, and budget. They’re there to help you make healthy food choices that work with your eating plan. Eating healthy to manage diabetes doesn’t have to be a hassle, and best of all, doesn’t have to break the bank.

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