Diabetic grocery shopping – on a budget

Making healthy, diabetic friendly purchases without increasing the grocery bill.

According to the Food Marketing Institute, a supermarket on average carries 43,844 items. For people with diabetes, who have to make some relatively large dietary changes, the grocery store and grocery shopping can become overwhelming. Not to mention that the new food choices involved with a diabetic diet may seem to make health come at a high cost. But this does not have to be the case; healthy food can also be cheap. With these tips from Michigan State University Extension, you can start on the right foot and manage your diabetes without breaking the bank!

Where to go: Tips on maneuvering the grocery store

Generally, the perimeter of grocery stores contain the healthier foods, like fresh produce, fresh meat and dairy products; whereas the aisles in the center tend to have more processed foods.

Making a grocery list in the order of the layout of the store and sticking to it is an excellent guidance tool. Most likely, you have received some sort of food list or meal plan from your registered dietitian nutritionist or physician following your diagnosis, which can be very helpful for making your grocery list. If you have not made a meal plan, the first step is to make an appointment with a registered dietitian. This will prevent you from making spontaneous purchases that can be detrimental to your nutrient intake, and increase your grocery bill.

What to get: Food switches that are cheap and healthy

  • Substitute chicken and seafood for red meat: Chicken is one of the cheapest meats and it is packed with lean protein without the saturated fat found in many red-meat cuts. Canned seafood is another affordable way to have healthy fats and lean protein in your diet.
  • Going meatless: Combining canned or dry beans with any whole grain product (corn, brown rice, whole grain pasta) can make going meatless for a meal easy and affordable!
  • New convenience food options: Frozen meals, pre-made deli dishes and salty, high-fat snacks can actually be quite expensive. However, canned or frozen vegetables are very cheap and require only a couple minutes in the microwave; you can season or drizzle on a small portion of your favorite sauce.
  • Low fat and nonfat at no extra charge: Switching from full fat to low fat and nonfat dairy products usually costs the same. In the case of milk, it can actually be cheaper!

Here is an example of a recipe that can be incorporated into a healthy meal plan:

Chicken Stir-Fry      

Yield: 4 servings

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast (cut into cubes)

1 teaspoon oil

1/2-1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup lite (reduced sodium) soy sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder or 1-2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Crushed red pepper (optional)

1 – 12 ounce package frozen stir-fry style vegetables (or any frozen vegetables you want)

2 cups cooked brown rice

Heat oil, on medium high heat, add chicken pieces and cook until chicken is no longer pink inside and juices run clear; about five minutes. Add onions and garlic; cook until onion is almost translucent; about two minutes.

Add frozen vegetables, cooking until they have softened a bit; about five minutes.

Stir together the soy sauce, garlic powder (if not using cloves) and ground ginger in a small bowl. Add the sauce mixture to the stir-fry. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

Cost comparison:

  • Approximate cost for entire recipe = $5.53
  • Cost per serving = $1.38 per person
  • Approximate cost for Chinese take-out (per serving): $4-$8 per person
  • Approximate cost for premade grocery store product (frozen meal): $2.50 per person

Managing your diabetes and following a healthy diet does not have to cost a fortune. For more information please visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/food_health for programs and educational opportunities.

Related Articles