Top Ten Tips For Healthy D-Eating on a Budget

Guest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian

I’ve had a few requests for some ideas about how to eat healthy on a budget, especially with the costs of living with diabetes becoming ever higher. I’ve done some looking around and there’s loads of help out there.

Today’s blog is based around a handout I provide to my clients, but rather than focussing on all the points on that handout I thought it would be most useful if I chose my top ten favourite tips and provide helpful ideas and explanations for them, and give you links to other places you can look for more if you’d like to.

Before starting it’s important to remember that we need to follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines to ensure we include all the nutrients we need for overall wellness. Each meal should be balanced and include low-GI carbs, lean proteins and generous serves of non-starchy vegetables. Snacks should be based around fruit, nuts and dairy produce.

You may remember that I posted a blog on meal planning a few months ago and this is an awesome way to start on your money saving adventure by planning your meals and snacks and sticking to your plan. And if you’re of the opinion that fresh foods are more expensive than processed ones, think again. Take a look at this resource prepared by the Dietitians Association of Australia on The Real Cost of Healthy Food.

Sally Top Ten Tips

1)      Shop to a list and focus on the five food groups

If you have a thoughtful list and don’t buy anything that isn’t on that list, you’ll make a huge dent in your usual food spending.


The Australian Dietary Guidelines further explains: “Spend most of your money on the Five Food Groups.  Think hard about why you are buying discretionary foods and how much you really need to buy. This is especially important if you are trying to lose weight, because if you don’t buy it and take it home, it’s much easier to stick to your goals. If you would really like to have a high kilojoule food, buy the smallest amount that will satisfy you, the best quality you can afford and eat it slowly, savouring it with all your senses.”

Using the supermarket brochures as a guide to help you build your list and planning to purchase the products on special.  Ensure you buy the five food groups foods before putting any treats in your shopping basket.

2)      Carry a calculator

If you’ve prepared your shopping list and you know what your budget for your shopping is, then adding it up on a calculator as you go will help you to stay on track. Keep track of the amounts on the side of the list. Only shop for any extras after you’ve reached the end of the necessary items and know that you have budget left over for them.

3)       Choose water as your drink of choice

Only deviate from water by choosing milk as an alternative to make up your required dairy serves through the day. Read here for more info on the importance of dairy and how you can include more in your day.  If cost is an issue here, choose to buy home brand skim milk powder and make your own as needed – certainly use the powder for cooking. Same goes for yogurt which is a pricey item – yogurt makers are a very cost effective way of including yogurt in your diet.


4)      Buy what’s in season and what’s on special.

You can check which vegetables are in season each month on the General Australian Seasonal Produce Guide. Check the supermarket specials listing either online or via the home delivered paper leaflets while you’re making your shopping list.


5)      Buy and use the frozen, tinned or dried home brand products

Dried products such as lentils, soup mix, other legumes and rolled oats are all awesome sources of low-GI carbohydrate and fibre to help with our glycemic control, and they’re so much cheaper than the tinned, or fancy alternatives.  When the budget’s tight for meat products, you can use the legumes to reduce the amount of meat you need in a meal or even happily enjoy a vegetarian version.  Here are some awesome recipe ideas to help with this idea.

And if you’ve exhausted the fresh fruits and vegetables in season, the frozen and some tinned varieties can be a great buy and help to avoid wastage. I always keep frozen peas, corn, spinach and berries at home, so we’re not caught short with no ‘fresh’ vegetables.  The frozen and tinned ones are just as nutritious. You can’t go past tinned tomatoes to make so many meals much tastier!

6)      Familiarise yourself with your local supermarket

Keep a note of when they discount items for quick sale and arrange your visits on those days, remembering to only shop to your list.

7)      Watch for significant specials on bulk items

Products that won’t spoil such as tins of tomatoes, tuna/salmon and baked beans, blocks of cheese that can be hand grated then frozen for ease of use, dried items such as basmati rice and pasta, and skim milk powder can save you lots if you keep your eyes open and check the supermarket brochures that are delivered to your home.

8)      Don’t shop when you’re hungry

You know you will buy much more sensibly if you shop after lunch or after a good breakfast, or even after dinner as you won’t be guided by your hunger.

9)      Look out for healthy eating on a budget recipes

There are lots of these around. Most of them use products that you should have in your pantry or that are in season. Taste has an excellent healthy budget recipes collection, as does and there are many other sites that you will find if you Google ‘budget recipes healthy’ or similar.

10)   Make the most of your leftovers

If you can buy a whole chicken or a whole roasting piece of meat it’s likely to be much cheaper per 100g, and will mean that you’ll have lots left-over to make extra meals for lunch, dinner and even breakfast.

The BBC Good Food website has some great leftover recipe ideas, as does and many others – just keep an eye out for the lower saturated fats, lower glycemic index carbohydrates and lower sodium recipes wherever you can.

There are loads of ideas out there to help you. Some other really helpful links are:

Remember that we’re eating for wellness so spend a little extra time to be prepared with delicious and healthy food ready when you need it, to help you avoid spending more and buying rubbish that you’ll only regret later.

If you have tips to share on eating healthily on a tight budget we’d love to hear them so please add them to the comments below.

Bon Appetite! Sally 🙂

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.


  1. helwild on May 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I love this post Sally & I will definitely be recommending people to read & make notes on this blog. So useful! Sensible & easy to implement. Who doesn’t love saving money! The only ‘tip’ I would suggest to add to save money & improve health is a really obvious one- stay away from takeaway/fast food shops.

    • Sally on May 26, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Thanks Helen 😀 I tried to make it as practical as possible, and of course that’s a brilliant (and obvious) tip to Stay Away from TakeAway/Fast Food shops! So true!!

      Best wishes, Sally 🙂