Food Budgeting when Following a Gluten-Free Diet with Diabetes

Posted by nicole on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 14:38 in

Nicole Coar has had type 1 diabetes and celiac disease since 2010. She lives in Minneapolis and blogs about living a happy, healthy, diabetic and gluten-free life at

Is it possible to grocery shop within these criteria and not spend your whole paycheck? While I’m not a health professional of any kind, I am a person with dual medical diet experience and I’d like to provide you with three basic tips to help you eat a healthy, diabetic-friendly and gluten-free diet while not breaking the bank.One fine fact about me is that I'm a notoriously frugal gluten-free diabetic. You see, I have both type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, which means my food must be diabetes-friendly and gluten-free.  Through following not one but TWO medical diets, I’ve learned how to stretch my food budget until it cries “Uncle!”  I'm a proud frugal gal, a fru “GAL” if you will. Oh, and one more thing –  I also want my food to be healthy, because the goal isn’t just to spend less - it’s to be healthy in the end. 










1.  Meal plan over the weekend for the week ahead.  I have found that grabbing a calendar and writing out the meals on the calendar is most productive for me.  I usually prep for all of the meals on Sunday afternoon for the whole week (do all the chopping, dicing, washing, etc.). I’ve determined that I need to make approximately five different entrees a week to have enough leftovers for both lunches and dinners for a seven-day period.  Depending on your family size, your number may need to be increased.

To help families stretch their dollars even further, it may be beneficial to double recipes and freeze the extras for quick warm-up meals later, and since you are already making it, there’s no extra effort or time involved.  Use your meal plan to create your grocery list and buy only the ingredients for the recipes you have planned to make. Never go to the grocery store without a written plan in hand. There’s nothing worse than buying random ingredients that will sit in your cupboards untouched for months, or worse, expire and get thrown in the garbage. You wouldn’t throw dollar bills in the trash, would you? I prefer to shop at the lower-cost, no-frills grocery stores to save additional money. I also buy meat in bulk and freeze in individual serving size freezer bags until use.

2.  Buy multi-purpose foods that are both healthy and inexpensive.  For example, I buy lean ground turkey in bulk and out of that I will make multiple recipes that week that use ground turkey, like tacos, turkey meatballs and turkey cranberry burgers. Or after purchasing a large sized can of chicken, I will break it up and use it to make healthy chicken salad and later use it as my protein on top of lettuce greens with veggies and a little salad dressing.

Another perfect example of a multi-purpose food is eggs. Eggs can double as both a breakfast and a dinner food.  In the morning, scramble egg whites with your favorite veggies (I use frozen spinach and fresh mushrooms with a little Tabasco on top). Use the eggs to make a healthy frittata or a quiche, and serve with a side salad or a serving of fruit for dinner. Another favorite item to buy is black beans.  I use them to top salads and also turn them into baked black bean burgers for a healthy vegetarian option.

3.  If you are diabetic and/or have celiac, ALWAYS have snacks with you in your car or your purse. Don’t get caught hungry away from your house and be forced to buy convenience foods at inconvenient prices at gas stations, grocery stores or recreational events. I always keep a gluten-free granola bar and an apple in my purse and a bottle of water in my car. Pack your lunch every day and keep healthy snacks in your desk (I keep roasted almonds and fruit), so you won’t be tempted by that evil work vending machine stocked with overpriced, unhealthy fare.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming to cook healthy, yummy meals when you must follow a medical diet and are on a budget, but with a little planning and creativity, it's doable. Check out my blog for more healthy food and budgeting ideas: