The Scrimping, Saving, Diabetic Grocery Shopper
Let’s face it: following a special diet can feel like a nightmare at restaurants and grocery stores. You can’t just think about what you like – you have to think about what won’t aggravate your diabetes symptoms or shoot your blood sugar through the roof.
Instead of killing your bank account by buying specialty “reduced sugar” and “low-carb” items, learning to shop smartly can save you tons of cash and actually improve your diet.
Cheap Fruits and Vegetables for Diabetics
Firstly, it is my opinion that all diabetics could benefit from carrying a pocket-size list of green light, yellow light, and red light foods. A simple list of your favorite foods can be categorized by their glycemic index and kept on-hand for eating out and picking foods at the store. As you might imagine, it is best to purchase only from the green, with a few yellows and a very occasional red category food item.
The best way to get your fruits and veggies is fresh – I stick to sale items no more than $1 per pound or per unit. This will also force you to eat seasonally and to try new recipes.
If fresh is too pricey or hard to come by in your area, or if you are not sure you can use it all before it goes bad, frozen fruit or vegetables are your next best option. Not frozen as in part of a TV dinner or cheesy, saucy microwaveable platter, but frozen as in picked and flash-frozen at the height of freshness, with no added ingredients (including salt or sugar). That way what you are eating broccoli or chopped spinach, not sodium and grease. As a perk, frozen veggies are quick to cook and are already prepared (sliced, peeled, etc.), and can often be found for under $1.50 per 1-pound bag.
If you prefer certain fruits and vegetables that are easiest to find in a can, keep a few pointers in mind. Fruit should be packed in water or 100% fruit juice (not light or heavy syrup), and search for store-brand varieties of veggies that have no added sugar and reduced sodium. Waiting for sales and clipping coupons can make canned vegetables and fruits as cheap as 50 cents each.
Cutting Unhealthy Expenses from the Diabetic Diet
Hidden diet saboteurs abound for grocery-shopping diabetics. They lurk in salad dressings, potato chips, beer, soda, ready-made meals, dips, and refined grains. These items also suck up large portions of grocery and food budgets. Instead of spending $7 per day on a sandwich and drink for lunch, buy the (whole wheat!) bread and turkey at the store and get ten sandwiches for the price of one or two from the café.
Opt for oil and vinegar dressing instead of ranch or French, swig plain homemade iced tea instead of forking over the dough for the bottled variety, and snack on string cheese and grape tomatoes all week for the price of a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of nacho sauce.
Use Diabetes as an Excuse to be Thrifty and Healthy
One of the best things to do with diabetes is to use it as a motivator for leading a better, healthier life. Knowing your wellness depends on what you feed yourself, you have a more immediate stimulus than the general population to cut processed foods from your diet and focus on eating fresh, healthy foods. When done carefully, this can help stretch your dollars at the grocery store and pull you into a pattern of healthy eating and healthy spending.
So go ahead – let diabetes be your excuse for getting a handle on a healthy diet. Avoid the entire aisle of sweets and junk foods at the store to keep away the impulse to buy it, and see the saving stack up. Then feel proud that you got the largest amount of nutritious foods for diabetics at the least amount of money when you’re standing in line!
Katie Brind’Amour is a Certified Health Education Specialist and freelance health and wellness writer. In her spare time she blogs about friendship and life in the not-so-fast lane while chipping away at her PhD.