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Eating Right for your Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) on a Budget

By: Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN, PatientsLikeMe Contributor

Following a kidney-friendly diet for your CKD can be tough. There is so much conflicting information out there about what to eat for your kidney health and it can make you feel so stressed and confused. It can also be difficult to find foods and drinks that fit into your diet and your budget, especially when you are dealing with other costs like medications, doctor’s visits, and more. But your wallet doesn’t have to suffer just because you have CKD. There are ways to make your meals and snacks more budget-friendly while also still making them kidney-friendly!

Make a plan for success

Planning ahead not only has health benefits but financial benefits too. When you plan ahead, you can help to reduce your stress and overwhelm because you feel more ready to take on the task ahead of you. Creating a plan looks different for everyone, but some common tips that can help make it easier are:

  • Plan to eat at home more and go out to eat less 
  • Create your shopping list and plan your meals ahead of time 
  • Keep kidney-friendly staples in your pantry or freezer so that you can use them when in a pinch 
  • Search for budget-friendly recipes for free online 
  • Find coupons for your favorite grocery stores before heading out

Grocery shopping on a budget

Grocery shopping with CKD is already stressful enough, add in trying to stick to a budget and it can be so overwhelming! How can you make it easier on your mind and your wallet? 

Choosing more vegetarian or plant-based sources of protein like canned beans, legumes, tofu, eggs, yogurt, and milk can help to reduce your grocery costs overall. Vegetarian and plant-based sources of protein are often much more affordable than animal sources of protein like meat and seafood. Win win! A more plant-based diet is recommended for those with CKD to help manage heart health, blood sugars, and overall kidney health. But what does plant-based mean? Plant-based truly means more plant-forward. This can be as simple as adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. It can also mean adding other plant foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes too. For example, instead of having roasted salmon for dinner one night, try having roasted tofu with brown rice and your favorite veggies. Your kidneys and your wallet will thank you! 

Buying canned or frozen foods can help to cut costs and still keep your kidney-friendly diet intact. Canned goods and frozen foods last so much longer than fresh foods and can taste just as good! With that being said, many people think these items are not as healthy as fresh foods, but that is not the case. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often just as nutritious as fresh fruits and vegetables and are even sometimes fresher because they are picked at peak ripeness. When it comes to canned goods like canned beans and vegetables, reading the food label is key. Canned foods can be higher in sodium so looking for products that are labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added” can be helpful. Rinsing your canned goods can also be helpful in reducing sodium content. Buying canned fruit that is packed in water or fruit juice instead of syrup can also help to better manage blood sugars. Overall, be sure to keep in mind your nutrient needs and always read the label or ingredient list of your canned and frozen foods. 

Purchasing store-brand foods and in-season foods can also help to keep costs down. Store-brand foods are often just as good as brand-name foods but sometimes take a bit more investigation to find the most kidney-friendly options. Why? Because some store-brand products contain additives that are not beneficial for kidney health. For example, some store-brand instant oatmeals contain phosphate additives which can contribute significantly to high phosphorus levels. It is so important to read the nutrition label and ingredient list so that you know exactly what you are getting in your food. In-season produce is typically a more inexpensive option, however, it’s not always available. Instead of buying produce out of season, opt for frozen or canned instead. 

It might sound cliche, but avoiding going to the grocery store when you are hungry can make a huge difference! When your stomach is growling and you are walking down every aisle of the store, your brain might be telling you to buy everything in sight. This can be detrimental to your wallet and kidney health! Instead of going to the grocery store hungry, try having a balanced meal or snack before leaving. This will help to satisfy your hunger and keep you full while you are glancing at different foods and beverages for a few hours. 

Cooking kidney-friendly meals on a budget

Finding recipes that are both kidney-friendly and budget-friendly can be so challenging. Instead of wracking your brain trying to find tons of recipes, try tweaking recipes you already like and have around. You can swap certain ingredients for more budget-friendly options like:

  • Tofu ➡️ instead of chicken 
  • Beans ➡️ instead of beef
  • Canned vegetables ➡️ instead of fresh and out-of-season vegetables
  • Frozen fruit ➡️ instead of fresh and out-of-season fruit
  • Whole grain pasta ➡️ instead of whole grain bread
  • Dried herbs ➡️ instead of fresh herbs

    You can also try extending your recipes to last the whole week. In order to do this, you can bulk up your recipes with frozen or canned vegetables and whole grains. This adds more nutrition and more servings to your favorite dishes. This way, your recipes last longer and you can enjoy leftovers all week. 

    Recipes that involve only one pot/pan are great for an easy kidney-friendly meal idea and minimal ingredients. This could include foods like chilis, soups, casseroles, pastas, rice dishes, stir-fries, and stews. A cooker or soup pot can help to make these recipes more doable and less time-consuming too. Some great kidney-friendly one-pot meal ideas are:

    • Tofu and veggie stir fry 
    • Bean and lentil veggie chili 
    • Veggie noodle soup 
    • One pot whole grain pasta with frozen vegetables
    • Chickpea, broccoli, and rice casserole

    Budget-friendly & kidney-friendly staples

    Now that you know more about how to stick to a budget and kidney-friendly diet, let’s talk about which staples to keep in your pantry and fridge. Having these staples in your house at all times can help to make cooking, recipe planning, and grocery shopping easier and less expensive:

    • Low sodium or no salt added canned black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, white beans
    • Unsalted store-brand nuts and seeds
    • Frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, corn, and green beans 
    • Frozen fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, and pineapple 
    • No added sugar canned fruits like pears, peaches, and mandarin oranges 
    • Low-sodium or no salt-added canned vegetables like green beans, corn, carrots, and peas
    • Low sodium or no salt added tomato sauce
    • Whole grain pasta
    • Brown rice 
    • Dried herbs
    • Cooking oils like olive oil

    How to continue your budget-friendly and kidney-friendly diet for life

    Eating a kidney-friendly diet and trying to stay on a budget is no easy task. Having a support system around you that assists you in your health and budget related efforts can be so helpful. A great support system can allow you to continue on your health journey. It can also further help you reach your goals because you have someone cheering you on and encouraging you along the way. Instead of trying to do this all on your own, try talking to your loved ones, friends, or family about your new budget and kidney-friendly plan. Or, try finding a support group or support forum instead, like on PatientsLikeMe. You can sign up for free today to receive even more support on your kidney health journey by clicking here: http://bit.ly/3YjHAfN. Remember that eating a kidney-friendly diet while on a budget is doable, but having more support may help make it easier for you!

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