Can you eat well on a budget?

Healthy foodYou already know that dialysis requires learning about your new lifestyle, diet, exercise, and scheduling.

Learning, paying attention, and putting this new lifestyle into practice can be difficult when you are already tired. So how do you incorporate eating well on a budget into all of the other changes in your life? 

Set a day for shopping
Try setting a specific day each week to shop. Sales start mid-week.

Try shopping the day after your mid-week dialysis. You have the least fluid and feel best then. Use the motorized cart when shopping if necessary. Don’t be embarrassed. I was only in my forties and thought I was going to have to resort to driving the cart. I remember my dad saying, while he was seriously ill in his fifties, that he understood why older people lean on their carts. Sometimes we need the cart for support more than for shopping. Many of you can relate to that.

Plan for your shopping trip

To exert the least energy when you prepare for shopping, compare sales in sales papers or on-line. Some grocery stores offer their sales papers and coupons on-line and in apps for your mobile phone. Many people find this easier than making lists and searching sales papers.

If you use coupons, you can “stack” manufacturers’ and store coupons. So if you have a manufacturer’s coupon for toothpaste and a store coupon for the same toothpaste, you can use both coupons.

Food Lion sends me coupons every month or so. They gave me a coupon for up to three pounds of bananas free. I limit my bananas, but I could use them to make banana bread or a banana pudding for a friend and save a little cash while doing something nice. Most grocery stores also offer coupons from the register. (Some are for $3 off your next purchase or money off of your next purchase of a specific amount spent.) Publix grocery stores offer coupons for a free Publix brand if you let the bagger walk your bags to your vehicle. That is a great way to try store brands the next week, which is a good way to save money.

Find a couponing or frugal shopping site for local tips on saving. A good one with resources that anyone can use is

Look up kidney-friendly recipes and diets and shop for ingredients for those menus. Try Davita’s site for hundreds of recipes.

Grocery storeShop store brands
When trying to save money, consider store brands. But before deciding, compare the ingredient or nutrition labels. If you are not sure, buy the product, ask your dietician, and return the item if you decide against eating it. (Check store return policies before purchasing questionable items.) If you get the Publix brand and decide against it, share it with a friend or food bank!

Brands on the top and bottom shelves are not popular brands so they are generally less expensive and might be really tasty. Again, read the nutrition label and decide based on the phosphorus, sodium and other content, coupled with price.

Compare prices
Use a calculator to see which items are cheaper when comparing sales, brands, etc. (Remember to divide the price by the ounces, pounds, servings. Ex. Divide the price of $1.89 by the number of ounces in a 15.25-ounce can of low sodium green beans. ($1.89/15.25 oz. = .1239 or .124)The decimals move around, but you can figure out that the cost is $0.124 cents per ounce. To check yourself, multiply the total number of ounces in the can by the cost per ounce to get the total price: 15.25 oz.* $0.124= $1.89.

Find your favorite store
Shopping many stores takes time, energy and transportation. Select one that has the best prices in general or for that week.

If you have a store like ALDI where you live, they carry their own store brands and employ a few cost saving measures at each store that they pass on to customers. To get a cart, you must deposit a quarter (A quarter is required.), but when you return the cart, you get your quarter back. ALDI doesn’t offer bags free of charge, so you can use boxes the store is not going to use again or bring plastic or reusable shopping bags from home. I always keep canvas or cooler bags in my car. As soon as we unload the bags at home, we hang the bags on the front or garage door knob so we remember to put them back in the car. This is not only earth friendly and cutting waste, but it reduces the clutter and waste in the house!

Farmer's marketConsider farmers markets
You can get nice produce that looks perfect in the grocery store. Or you can opt to shop for local produce at a farmers market where the fruit and veggies are picked only a day or so before. The farmers market close to use has a cooler section with lettuces, celery, carrots and even fresh eggs and butter.

I find that farmers market prices can be less than stores because they don’t discard “ugly” produce and fewer people are involved in the exchange of goods. But compare prices.

No matter where you buy your produce, wash your fruits and vegetables well with a vinegar solution or soap and water. Then rinse well.

Dialysis poses challenges to our diets, but we can use this opportunity to learn about the foods we eat and the ingredients in grocery store foods. Reducing our fluids and improving lab results are good incentives for shopping and eating smarter.

If you or someone you care about is facing dialysis, share your experiences and concerns. This is a forum for learning and inspiration where we can ask questions and be honest with others in the same situation. What are your experiences and challenges with dialysis?


(2011). Fill your plate!: A world of tasty recipes for the kidney community. Fresenius Medical Care North America.

If you would like Beth, the Dialysis Gal, to speak to your group, reach out via e-mail or the comments.


About dialysisgal

When I joined the 450,000 Americans on dialysis, I wondered what "normal" would be. Would people stare at my access and ask what was wrong? In this blog, I hope to save other patients and their families from the difficulties I have faced. I want to share my experiences, what I learned, had to ask and was shocked to find. I am not a medical professional, but I hope we can have a conversation to help you better understand what you or someone you love with chronic kidney disease (CKD) might expect while living with dialysis.
This entry was posted in dialysis, kidney disease, Nutrition, phosphorus, potassium, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Can you eat well on a budget?

  1. Pingback: 9 tips for a budget- and kidney-friendly diet | dialysisgal

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