Gestational diabetes diet on a budget

Gestational diabetes diet on a budget – 15 tips for frugal feeding

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’s a few tips on how to manage a gestational diabetes diet on a budget.

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 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 of 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 Nairns oat biscuits at discounted prices, so pop in and keep your eyes peeled!

You also do not need to only buy branded products. Often stores own brand products can be much cheaper and actually contain less sugar and carbs!

british coins

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.

I understand that feeding the family can sometimes be a struggle with fussy eaters, 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 my 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 to the white varieties and these will be better tolerated carbs which 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 amount 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.

blackboard sign 'What's for Dinner?'

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 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 buy getting out the grater, peeler and a 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! Same goes with things like cauliflower rice… just buy a whole cauli and blitz it in a food processor, or grate or chop by hand.

Sweet potato wedges or chips may be a great choice as a carb on your plate, but ready prepared ones come t 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 with a small amount of oil and add salt, pepper, paprika etc.

grated cheese on a board

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 of 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 membership, but no one has to join membership. The basis of my dietary advice can be found on here for free, along with many free recipes, seasonal posts and extra ideas on our Instagram. The information behind my diet is shared freely so that you can plan your own meals.

The idea of the membership 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 membership can be bought and cancelled straight away, giving you one full month of access with no recurring charges.

shopping list

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 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.

berry picking

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!

frozen spinach blocks
frozen spinach

Tip# 7. Store cupboard essentials

There’s many things that will cost you money up front, 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 which will be used time and time again.

herbs in jars

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 starch​1​ 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 a 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 our tips above, but there’s plenty of other sources of protein that you can tuck in to!

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 has some great choices at great prices for these things.

Quorn is another great source of protein which 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.

eggs source of protein

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

mince and potato bake
Mince and potato bake made with leftover spag bol mince

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 from as little as £8 when they’re on offer, or around £15 at standard price (like this one from Argos), or ones that have more functionality for around £25 (like this one from Amazon).

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 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 cashback 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 which will help you earn rewards for spending money online or instore.

We often post any good deals, promotions and coupons which may help our Mums with saving money in our Facebook support group so keep your eyes peeled for any deals we share!

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 which are reduced to clear if they are things that I can make use of.

Reduced to clear foods are often products which 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 which have be 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’

Gestational diabetes diet on the 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 recipes that Elizabeth kindly shared on this post.

There’s plenty of creamy curries which are suitable for the gestational diabetes diet that can be made with spices and double cream, 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, lactofree, 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

  1. 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