*UPDATED FOR 2022
Is following the gestational diabetes diet costing you a fortune? The gestational diabetes diet can be expensive with excessive amounts of protein and fresh foods, so here are a few tips on how to manage a gestational diabetes diet on a budget.
Tip #1. Shop smart!
A gestational diabetes diet on a budget has to start with some budgeting, so you need to shop smart to make your money go further!
I try to base all my advice on eating good, wholesome, natural foods that most people can buy at a reasonable cost. There’s a wealth of ‘health’ foods, sugar-free, protein-supplemented foods/treats and dietary extras you can add to the diet, but many of these products can be quite expensive and are NOT necessary at all.
Shopping around in a few stores is a pain, but may work out much cheaper than trying to buy everything you need from one shop.
Try discount stores such as Lidl and Aldi for everyday shopping. Lidl has some of our best-found products such as Greek yoghurt. Both have great weekly deals on a range of fresh foods and essentials like meat, cheese, nuts and things like oatcakes. They even stock many GD UK recipe ingredients like coconut flour, ground almonds, good quality dark chocolate and tinned coconut milk etc.
Try to go to local markets, farm shops and butchers for great local buys and locally produced products that may be cheaper. Local butchers often do some great deals on meat packs, multi-buys and offcuts. Or try meat packs from online good quality butchers. The one I use, Rendalls is fantastic and I keep my freezer full of good quality meats at much better prices.
Try cheaper cuts of meat such as chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs instead of breasts, or stewing beef cooked slow instead of steaks.
Places like Pound shops, B&M and Home Bargains often stock GD staples like nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, mayonnaise, Hartley’s sugar-free or no added sugar jelly and Nairn’s oat biscuits at discounted prices, so pop in and keep your eyes peeled!
You also do not need to only buy branded products. Often store’s own-brand products can be much cheaper and actually contain less sugar and carbs!
Tip #2. Everyone eats the same family-friendly meals
One of the biggest comments we see is that Mums can’t afford to buy so many extra things just for them to eat separate meals. Cooking separate meals can be expensive.
STOP COOKING DIFFERENT MEALS FOR EVERYONE
I understand that feeding the family can sometimes be a struggle with fussy eaters, or when you have other dietary needs and requirements, but I try to base the majority of my meals and snacks that I advocate, on things that the whole family will enjoy, after all, these are the recipes that I’m cooking and making for my family including my 3 boys!
Try easy swaps, like whole wheat, wholegrain, brown pasta and rice instead of white. Most people cannot notice any difference in the white varieties and these will be better-tolerated carbs that release more slowly into the bloodstream than the more refined alternatives.
Try to get everyone eating the same things and then when you serve up the meal make sure you cut back the number of carbs and increase the protein, fat and vegetables/salad on your plate.
Use the gestational diabetes diagnosis as a chance to learn more about food and introduce a healthier way of eating to your family if you feel your family’s diet could be improved.
Think about what things your family enjoy eating and tweak your meals so they are more suitable for you.
If you have fussy eaters that won’t eat the extra vegetables that you are trying to incorporate then try grating and dicing the veg as small as possible, or even try blitzing the sauce for little ones so that ‘lumps’ of vegetables are removed. Slow-cooking meats can soften them so that they are more palatable and full of flavour for little ones too.
Tip #3. Cook from scratch, convenience costs more
We live in a world of convenience and so it’s no surprise that it can be tricky when switching to a diet where cooking from scratch is the best option. By cooking from scratch you are choosing exactly what ingredients are used in your meals and can therefore make much better choices and cut a lot of refined sugars out of your meals, many of which are hidden in prepared sauces and dishes.
You can buy some suitable gestational diabetes-friendly ready meals from the likes of Marks & Spencer, but you will pay a lot more for that convenience.
You can save a packet by cooking from scratch and using whole real food ingredients!
If you’ve been buying prepared vegetables, grated cheese, cheese portions like Babybels, jar sauces and prepared salads e.t.c. then save yourself money by getting out the grater, peeler and knife and start buying good wholesome real foods. Yes, it will take a bit more time and can be a bit more of a faff, but it will save you money!
You don’t need an expensive spiralizer or to buy ready-made courgetti… grating a courgette will taste no different than these pretty-looking spirals of fake pasta! The same goes with things like cauliflower rice… just buy a whole cauliflower and blitz it in a food processor, or grate or chop it by hand.
Sweet potato wedges or chips may be a great choice as a carb on your plate, but ready-prepared ones come at a much higher cost than getting a sweet potato, peeling and cutting it. Prepare lots and freeze them, they will taste lovely, you know what’s in them and they will be ready to use when you need them. Simply take them from the freezer, drizzle them with a small amount of oil and add salt, pepper, paprika etc.
Tip #4. Plan
Planning a menu and shopping list in advance can really help you stick to a budget and only buy the things that are necessary. Sometimes we can get carried away by supermarket promotions and bulk buy things that ultimately end up getting wasted.
The bonus of creating a meal plan means that it also helps you stay on track and stops you from getting bored eating the same things over and over again.
A good basis for a gestational diabetes meal plan is 3 meals and 3-4 snacks a day. An example meal plan can be found here and a shopping list here.
Gestational Diabetes UK does offer 7-day meal plans as part of our Silver Recipe Subscription, but no one has to join the subscription. The basis of my dietary advice can be found here for free, along with many free recipes, seasonal posts and extra ideas on my Instagram. The information behind my diet is shared freely so that you can plan your own meals.
The idea of the recipe subscription is that it is there for convenience. It pays for the running costs of a spam and add-free website and a small income for the input by myself. If you are really stuck for ideas and need extra help then my recipe subscription can be bought and cancelled straight away, giving you one full month of access with no recurring charges.
Tip #5. Eat the seasons
Look out for seasonal fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. If produce is in season they will be cheaper in price and are at their tastiest!
During the Summer months, visit a local pick-your-own farm to fill pots with locally produced fresh fruits at much better prices.
Seasonal foods also match which nutrients and minerals your body requires to eat at that time of year e.g. butternut squash and apples, are packed with vitamin C to boost our resistance to winter colds.
Learning about different fruit, vegetables, meat and fish and what is in season doesn’t need to be difficult with resources such as this seasonal calendar from BBC Good Food.
Buying things like fresh berries and cherries can be very expensive during winter months and so at these times of the year, frozen alternatives will be more economical.
Tip #6. Frozen can be as good as fresh
Frozen products can be as good as fresh alternatives.
Buying frozen alternatives can save you money when products are not in season and save wastage from fresh products going off too soon.
Many vegetables, fruit and fish are frozen within so many hours of being harvested/caught to preserve freshness.
Frozen spinach is a great example of a cheaper alternative to use. It works out so much cheaper than buying fresh spinach and comes in handy portions, ready to use.
You can also freeze fresh products to use at a later date, from Burgen soya & linseed bread to grated cheese and leftovers, don’t forget to use your freezer to help save you some money!
Tip# 7. Store cupboard essentials
There are many things that will cost you money upfront, but they make great store cupboard essentials that will help you create many recipes over and over again.
When you create a meal plan and shopping list, think about what store cupboard essentials you could get which will be used often in your GD-friendly cooking.
Things like cooking oil, seasoning, herbs and spices, stock cubes, tomato purée, sweetener, ground almonds e.t.c are things that you will be able to use time and time again.
Budget shops are great for stocking up on these store cupboard essentials at a more reasonable cost. Remember you don’t need to buy everything in one go. Build up your store cupboard essentials as you go along and try to buy ones that will be used time and time again.
Tip #8. Nothing goes to waste
Use leftovers to create more dishes. Leftover meals make great GD-suitable lunches!
Plus did you know, that chilling cooked pasta, rice and potatoes and then re-heating them alters the resistant starch1 meaning you may achieve lower blood glucose levels with reheated meals?
In our house a whole roast chicken always serves at least 2 family meals by using the leftover chicken to create another dish on Monday, following our Sunday roast. Even the carcass can be used to create chicken soup or stock. I also do the same with gammon ham and beef joints.
Leftover pasta, potatoes, rice and couscous, can be created into bakes or salads the following day and leftover cooked vegetables can be made into bubble and squeak.
As you’ll see below, many of my recipes use leftovers…
Tip# 9. Use different sources of protein
Meat is a great source of protein, as is fish but both can be quite expensive. Frozen fish and cheaper cuts of meat can be used as mentioned in my tips above, but there are plenty of other sources of protein that you can tuck into.
How did I get this far without mentioning eggs?! Eggs are a great source of protein, they are cheap compared to meat and fish and can be eaten in so many different ways. We might get fed up with eggs on the gestational diabetes diet, but we can’t knock them for price and protein!
Try local farmers and smallholding stalls for local eggs at a good price, remember that to eat runny eggs, they should be stamped with the Lion stamp of approval which many local suppliers’ eggs will not be.
Cheese, nuts and seeds are also great sources of protein. I find Aldi, Lidl and Home Bargains have some great choices at great prices for these things.
Quorn is another great source of protein that can work out cheaper than meat. You could use Quorn mince instead of beef mince, or bulk the meal by using half and half. Look out for Quorn on promotion and in cheaper stores like Aldi, Lidl, Iceland and Farmfoods.
Lentils and pulses are also a great cheaper plant-based sources of protein, however, be mindful that they are also higher in carbs and so they cannot be used for pairing other carbs.
Don’t dismiss cheaper tinned, jarred or canned foods such as fish like sardines or mackerel, or hot dogs! These tinned options can also be beneficial to a GD-friendly diet to add protein to a meal. Check out the recipes below for a protein-packed budget-cooked breakfast and a tinned-sardine salad.
Budget cooked breakfast | a protein-packed full cooked breakfast that works out at 88p a serving | Gestational Diabetes UK
Tip #10. Bulk/Batch cooking – your freezer is your friend!
Batch cooking can mean that much less food goes to waste and that you have gestational diabetes-friendly ‘ready meals’ to hand.
Cooking off big batches of beef or Quorn mince and then splitting the batches smaller to make a range of different dishes is a great way of making food in bulk.
Cook things like my spaghetti bolognese in big batches and then with a few added ingredients it makes a great base for so many other dishes e.g. lasagne, pasta bake, chilli, minced beef hotpot, beef moussaka e.t.c
Tip #11. Invest in a slow cooker
If you don’t own one already, then it’s worth thinking about investing in a slow cooker. You can get basic ones for as little as £8 when they’re on offer or around £15-£20 at the standard price.
They can be a great helping hand after your baby has been born too. The best thing is that you simply throw everything in and leave it to cook!
Prepping vegetables that need using up and maybe past their best and cheaper cuts of meat, you can literally freeze the raw ingredients in a bag together, then the night before you want to use it, simply lift it out of the freezer to defrost overnight and pop it in the slow cooker in the morning. Voilà! Fresh, tasty, wholesome food which is ready to eat by dinner time!
Slow cookers are great for cooking cheaper cuts of meat. By cooking the meat for so long, cheaper cuts that may be chewy and unpleasant when cooked normally transform into succulent pieces of meat that fall apart.
Tip# 12. Keep an eye out for deals and get cash back and loyalty rewards
You can pick up some great deals and offers if you’re willing to look and shop around.
It’s worth joining sites such as Hot UK Deals, Groupon e.t.c to keep an eye on what good deals and promotions are available.
You may also want to sign up for online cashback, such as Top Cashback or Quidco and loyalty schemes that will help you earn rewards for spending money online or in-store.
Tip# 13. Go online to compare
If you’re looking for specific ingredients that are more expensive, then check out places like Amazon to see how prices compare.
Whilst it’s great to support your local economy, this can be tricky if you are on a very tight budget.
Often products on the high street can be more expensive and so it’s worth searching online to compare before overspending in an expensive high street health food shop.
Tip# 14. Look for the yellow stickers!
Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to grab a bargain! Personally, I love finding a bargain in the reduced-to-clear section and often use the opportunity to fill up the freezer with items that are reduced to clear if they are things that I can make use of.
Reduced to clear foods are often products that need to be sold as they are on, or close to their sell-by date.
Quality can be poor with some reduced to clear products, so it’s best to have a good look at what you’re buying and it is advisable to not buy products that have been opened and re-sealed in case of contamination. That said, the product being sold has to be fit for sale still. So if you are unhappy then do not purchase the item and notify a member of staff.
Sometimes stores will be selling through end-of-range items to clear them and it’s with these products you can grab some great bargains that still have very long use-by dates on them.
Most foods can be frozen, check the labels to make sure if you are planning to freeze the product as is, or you can always cook up batches of reduced to clear foods to create a stash of ready meals for the freezer.
Tip# 15. Have a treat night ‘fakeaway’
A gestational diabetes diet on a budget may mean going without treats. Takeaways and eating out can be expensive and so if you can, make your own ‘fakeaway’ foods and drinks at home!
Extra thin base pizza (or cauliflower, courgette, chicken breast, wholemeal tortilla base pizza) with plenty of extra cheese, meat and vegetables, salad and coleslaw is a fraction of the price of a takeaway pizza.
Try making your own Chinese by following the recipes that Elizabeth kindly shared in this post.
There are plenty of creamy curries which are suitable for the gestational diabetes diet that can be made with spices and double cream and served with a small amount of basmati rice.
Avoid the expensive coffee shops which not only charge you a fortune but also pack tons of sugar in their drinks and make yourself a nice Options, Highlights or Choc Shot hot chocolate with whole, lactose-free, almond, soya, or coconut milk. Top it with some Anchor extra-thick squirty cream or whip up some double cream and pop a sugar-free marshmallow on top!
I hope these tips are helpful to some of you and help your pennies stretch a wee bit further for a gestational diabetes diet on a budget, Jo xx
FINANCIAL SUPPORT LINKS
Things are harder than ever for many of us and sometimes it’s a case of not knowing where or who to turn to for support.
Below I have shared links to what you may be entitled to claim, different organisations that can help advise and support, including in a crisis where you may not be able to feed your family or yourself.
Please do not suffer in silence, there are organisations out there that can support you:
1. What can I claim when I have a child? https://workingfamilies.org.uk/…/financial-help-with…/
2. Gov. info on financial help if you have children https://www.gov.uk/…/childcare…/financial-help-children
3. Financial Support for Single Parents https://www.singleparents.org.uk/…/financial-support…
4. Citizens Advice https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
5. Using a food bank https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/…/using-a-food-bank/
6. Find a Food Bank https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/
7. The Trussel Trust (Stop UK Hunger) Food Banks. Helplines https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/
8. UK Baby Banks https://littlevillagehq.org/uk-baby-banks/
9. The Finance Support Service Northern Ireland https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/finance-support
10. Turn 2 Us (Financial support for England & Wales) https://www.turn2us.org.uk/
11. Money Helper https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en
12. CAP (Christians Against Poverty), note you do NOT need to be Christian in faith to benefit from their help & support https://capuk.org/i-want-help
13. Payplan Free Debt Solutions & Advice https://www.payplan.com/debt-solutions/
14. Step Change Debt Charity, Help with emergency food & money https://www.stepchange.org/debt-info/emergency-funding.aspx
15. Housing Advice England https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help
16. Housing Advice Scotland https://scotland.shelter.org.uk/
17. Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Ireland) https://www.citizensinformation.ie/…/mabs_service.html
18. If you’re struggling with living costs https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/…/if-youre…/
19. Advice on benefits & money (Ireland) https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/informatio…/benefits-and-money
20. Check what you could get from your local council https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council
21. 4 steps if you’re struggling to feed your family https://www.debtadvisorycentre.co.uk/…/struggling-to…
22. Homestart https://www.home-start.org.uk/…/things-we-can-help-with
23. Find a Sure Start Children’s Centre. Sure Start centres give help and advice on child and family health, parenting, money, training and employment. England: https://www.gov.uk/find-sure-start-childrens-centre Ireland: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/sure-start-services
Check what help you can get from your local council. Your local council might give you vouchers to help pay for day-to-day essentials like:
- a hot meal
- second-hand furniture
- household appliances, for example, a cooker
This help is known as ‘welfare assistance’ or the ‘Household Support Fund’. Each council runs their own scheme. The help on offer and who can get it varies. Find your local council on GOV.UK and ask them if they run welfare assistance or Household Support Fund scheme that could help you. You don’t have to be getting benefits to get help from your local council. If you do get benefits, they won’t be affected if you start getting money from welfare assistance or a Household Support Fund scheme.
1.Hodges C, Archer F, Chowdhury M, et al. Method of Food Preparation Influences Blood Glucose Response to a High-Carbohydrate Meal: A Randomised Cross-over Trial. Foods. 2019;9(1). doi:10.3390/foods9010023