Meal Planning on SNAP for Diabetics

The fresh, lean, healthy foods recommended for a diabetic diet can be expensive. If you are using food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Florida SNAP, you may feel like it is an impossible challenge. However, planning meals for a diabetic diet on food stamps is achievable. Below, review some tips to help you along.

Plan Beforehand

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you have probably been given diet advice by your doctor or a nutritional expert. There are also many online resources or books you can read to learn what you should and should not be eating. Make a list of affordable products you know are safe and that you will use frequently, and keep these as a basic stock in your pantry or your refrigerator. You can use these to base your meals on, and vary according to other deals that you find. Try planning a week in advance. You can make a large batch of something like sugar-free tomato sauce near the beginning of the week and use it as a basis to plan several meals.

Use Coupons

Buying in bulk is not always as affordable as it sounds, especially if the purchase was not planned. If you use coupons along with food stamps, you can get the best possible deals. You might want to bring a calculator to the store with you, as the payments can get a little complicated, especially if you are also buying non-food items. You should also bring a little extra cash to allow for sales tax.

Buy High-Fiber Foods

Whole grain starches can often be more expensive than refined, processed ones. It is worth looking for deals and using coupons, especially for items that have long shelf lives, like brown rice, barley, oats or nutritionally-approved dry cereal. Nuts are also a great bulk-buy for their healthy fats as well as fiber. If you do find a great deal on whole wheat or rye bread, try slicing the loaf and then freezing it. You can eat one slice at a time without having to defrost the whole loaf.

Find Fresh Produce

For fresh fruits and vegetables, expense and availability can both become a problem on a food stamp budget. The best option, by far, is to buy in-season, specifically in the middle of the season, when supply overtakes demand and prices drop. You can research in advance to find out what produce is in season at what time, and see how many meals you can come up with based on that item to see if the purchase will be worth it. This is especially helpful if you need to travel far to get the fresh produce. If you do have a local farmers' market nearby, check to see if they accept EBT cards as an acceptable form of payment.

Plan for Protein

Most cheap cuts of meat tend to be fatty, which is a problem. If you find a good deal on chicken breasts or fish, it may be worth buying a large amount to freeze. However, opting for eggs and low-fat Greek yogurt is more reliable in terms of planning. The best and most affordable protein source for you may well be legumes. Beans and lentils can get repetitive, but with research and practice, you can vary your meals and find your favorites: chili, soups, stews, pastasauces and burgers can all be made with legumes.

Use Canned, Frozen and Dried Foods

Canned foods are often the cheapest available. Canned vegetables have a similar nutritional content to fresh, but often have sodium added. Look for brands that offer low-sodium or "no added salt" options. Canned fruit is also good, but read the labels carefully for sugar that may have been added to the preserving fruit juice or water.

Frozen foods are safer that canned in terms of additives, but are generally more expensive. It might be a good idea to wait and take advantage of coupons or sales when you can.

Dried foods are inexpensive, have long shelf lives and contain no additives. Barley, lentils and beans are all great to buy dried. They do usually require soaking before use, so you should make sure to look ahead in your weekly meal plan to prepare.

Living with and planning for diabetes is always a challenge. If you follow these tips, planning and shopping carefully, you can make the most of your food stamps, while keeping your diet healthy and staying on budget.