Diet is an essential element of your diabetes treatment. A healthy diet can help control the disease and thus prevent complications to the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. For many people, one of the main barriers to a healthy diet is the high cost of food. Indeed, with the constant rise in the price of a basket of groceries, it can sometimes be difficult to square your budget with a healthy diet. Don’t despair! Here are some tips and concrete examples to help you eat well while not breaking your budget!

The key to success? Planning!

Did you know that nearly 40% of the food produced is wasted and of that amount, 47% is thrown away by Canadian consumers? This represents a total loss of $27 billion in food each year. The average Québec household throws out an average of 194 kg of food annually, a loss of $771. So, throwing out food means throwing away your money! Planning your menu can avoid waste and potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year. Planning also makes better use of our resources, develops better eating habits, avoids impulse purchases and reduces the consumption of ready-to-eat meals.

On your mark, get set, plan!

  1. Set aside time to plan your menu and the groceries needed for the upcoming week:
  • Find a time that works for you and make it a set weekly date. It will become a habit, a part of your routine.
  • Planning the menu with your family or a friend can make it more fun and help you share meal ideas.
  1. Check what you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry:
  • What’s left?
  • What foods expire soon?
  • Are there foods that could be used to make the next week’s meals?
  1. Check out flyers for specials:
  • Compare the discounts from one store to another and shop at one or two stores to optimize your travel and your time.
  • Over time, you will become familiar with the cost of food.
  1. Plan the menu for the week:
  • Prioritize the foods you have on hand and the foods on special.
  • Get inspiration from cookbook and websites.
  • Use the same food in multiple ways.
  • Use supper leftovers for lunch.
  • Make sure you follow the balanced plate model.
  1. Don’t forget to plan for your breakfasts and snacks, too.
  2. Make a grocery list.

Doing all this may seem arduous in the first few weeks but by persevering, you will see that everything gets simpler and simpler. The savings in both time and money will quickly convince you!

Money-saving tips

  1. Choose seasonal and local products.
  2. Choose frozen and canned vegetables and fruit: they are excellent choices especially when they are not in season!
  3. Buy ugly (imperfect) vegetables to incorporate into your recipes: these are sold at a discount but taste the same!
  4. Incorporate meals into your menu that use meat alternatives, such as tofu and beans. They are much more affordable. For example, for the same amount of protein:
  • Cost of one serving of lean ground beef (75 g): $1.04
  • Cost of one serving of plain tofu (150 g): $0.86
  • Cost of one serving of beans (175 ml): $0.39
  1. Incorporate egg-based meals into your menu. In sandwiches, omelettes, frittatas or boiled, eggs are versatile, economical, and nutritious. Note, however, that people with diabetes should eat no more than two or three egg yolks per week.
  2. Choose canned fish. It is often cheaper than fresh fish.
  3. Buy private label brands.
  4. Buy in the bulk section: you can buy just the amount you need.
  5. Make use of the competitive price-matching policy in some big box stores.
  6. When they are on special, stock up on staples and foods that can be frozen.
  7. Take advantage of a collective kitchen ( If there isn’t one in your area, organize cooking days with friends or relatives. You will cut the cost of your food bill and have fun cooking with others!
  8. Grow your own vegetables, fruit and herbs. Don’t have a yard? No problem! Plant them in pots or bins that you can put on your balcony or near a window. It’s easy and economical. There are also community gardens where you can rent a plot of land. Check with your municipality.
  9. Keep a lookout for bundled discounts. The discount often applies even if only one item is purchased. Check the unit price.
  10. Use a smartphone app, such as Flash Food or Food Hero. These apps help you find products that are imperfect or whose expiration date is approaching, at a fraction of the price.
  11. Stick to your grocery list and eat before you go shopping; you will be less tempted to impulse shop!

Putting theory into practice

Now let’s apply some of these tips to real examples.

On sale items Recipe 1 Recipe 2
Ground meat
Cook a meat macaroni on Sunday. This will make a great supper for the family and can be served for lunches during the week. Any extra can be frozen. Vary your pasta dishes by adding vegetables, using half meat, half lentils, and baking it au gratin (with sprinkled breadcrumb and/or cheese topping), etc.
Chicken breasts Marinated chicken brochettes. To further cut the cost of the recipe, why not make them with half chicken, half tofu? Then use any leftover chicken on a salad or homemade pizza.
Canned fish Salmon croquettes. Is the discount is worth it, buy more to double the recipe and freeze the extra. Tuna sandwiches for lunches during the week. Quickly made, economical and nutritious!
Bag of pre-cut frozen vegetables For the ultimate in speed, take advantage of specials on pre-cut vegetables. Combined with tofu and brown rice, this makes a great stir-fry! A soup meal with vegetables, lentils, and barley.
Miscellaneous vegetables Take advantage of vegetables on special to make side dishes for suppers and raw vegetable sticks for lunches. Do you have leftover vegetables at the end of the week? No problem. Turn them into a delicious soup. Accompanied by bread and cheese, this makes an excellent, economical no-waste supper!
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Lunch Vegetable and cheese omelette ($2.00/serving) with hash browns ($0.30/serving) Meat macaroni with cucumber slices Egg sandwich ($1.10/serving) with raw vegetables Tofu and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice Tuna sandwich ($2.45/serving) with raw vegetables Vegetable and chicken salad with whole wheat crackers Vegetable soup with lentils and hulled barley
Supper Meat macaroni ($1.80/serving) with a green salad ($1.10/serving) Tofu and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice ($2.30/serving) Salmon croquette ($1.80/serving) and green beans ($0.65/serving) Chicken brochette and green peppers ($2.00/serving) with baked potato ($0.30/serving) A soup meal of vegetable, lentil and barley soup ($1.70/serving) Vegetable Soup ($0.75/serving) with a melted cheese sandwich ($1.00/serving) Homemade chicken pizza ($3.00/serving) with a green salad

*Costs per serving are approximations calculated from regular prices.

In conclusion, with good planning and a little creativity, it is possible to eat well at low cost. Don’t be afraid to try new foods and recipes. Bon appétit!

Helpful resources

  1. Websites that post nutritional values:
  1. The Associations coopératives d’économie familiale (ACEF) are an association of non-profit organizations whose mission is to help people manage their budgets. They can provide advice and resources, based on the region.
  1. Food banks: Visit the to find a resource in your area.
  2. Infosocial helpline: dial 811 • Community resources helpline: dial 211 (available in some areas).