Making Budget on a Diabetic Diet

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This guest post was written by type 2 diabetic and chef Ward Alper. It originally appeared on his website, The Decadent Diabetic, and was republished on Information About Diabetes with permission.

We are all concerned with making our food budgets stretch as far as they can, while still enjoying meals that are delicious but also diabetic-compatible.

One of the people who read my posts commented: “I eat wild Salmon and eat veggies, and they are expensive.” I would like to take a minute to address that.

How to Save on Fish

“Wild” salmon seems expensive when you look at the price per pound over “less” expensive fish such as haddock, cod, hake and pollack. The fact is that when you purchase a pound of salmon and cook it up, you wind up with about 14 ounces on your plate. When you cook some of these other fish, what winds up on your plate is about 7-8 ounces of fish. This is because the “cheaper” fish naturally has higher water content than the salmon. In the end, the salmon is the bargain. It does have a lot more flavor and a little less goes a lot further.

Fish like salmon and tuna are said to have better health benefits as well. As “fast food” Americans, we have been brought up on mild white fish that takes breading well. As we all know, the breading can be the problem. We just have to expand our tastes and learn to enjoy a stronger, richer taste.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been able to get MY taste buds around mackerel. It may have great oils and great health benefits, but I have never been able to tame the strong taste. Tuna and swordfish, however, are excellent choices. Like the salmon, they don’t shrink very much, so what you buy is what you get. While I usually don’t like frozen fish, tuna, swordfish and salmon all freeze well. That is probably because of the lower water content. If my market has any of these on sale, still frozen, I like to stock up. My freezer works just as well as their freezer.

How to Save on Meat

For many of you, fish in any form is not an option. So let me go to meats. Other than the obvious (buying on sale) there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing meats: Leaner, more expensive cuts and grinds shrink less; more winds up on your plate. They tend to be drier and a little less flavorful. You may have to add a “good” fat like olive oil to give it more taste.

The other side of the coin is that less expensive cuts like chuck and eye round take very well to long cooking such as pot roasts and stews. The long cooking not only tenderizes the meat but also enhances the flavor. The old French standard, Beef Bourguignon, always uses a less expensive cut of meat and allows the long cooking in wine and herbs to turn the dish from ordinary to elegant.

How to Save on Vegetables and Fruit

As for veggies being expensive, sometimes that is true. What I like to do is to watch for them on sale. Almost every “stupidmarket” has one or another veggie on sale each week. The real bonus with this is that sale veggies taste better. Wait a minute! What do I mean by that? When a veggie is on sale, the market has planned for it in advance, ordered it in bulk, and gets it out front fast. The vegetables spend less time in storage because they sell faster. They don’t lose as much flavor or nutrient value as do veggies that sit around longer.

The other thing that markets do is purchase the vegetable in season (even if it is only in season in southern climates or the other side of the world). Again, the flavor is better, while the cost to you is less. For example: look at cranberries, green beans, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, and asparagus at Easter time.

This shopping trick also works for fresh fruits: Apples are less expensive in the fall, and peaches are cheaper in the summer. Stores want to cash in on the availability and pass the savings off to you.

The other trick, maybe the most important, is to buy ONLY what you can consume before it loses flavor and freshness. Carrots and turnips usually will store in your refrigerator for a long time. Broccoli and cauliflower go by pretty fast. Sweet onions (my favorite) do not last as long as old fashioned yellow onions. So buy what you can use up quickly.

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Steakhouse Tuna recipe!

Get more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.

Photo credit: christine592 on Flickr