Tips for Kidney-Friendly Eating While Saving Time and Money in 2021

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This is an update to the original blog: What’s Good for the Kidneys is Good for the Budget: Tips for Kidney-Friendly Eating While Saving Time and Money (2017), submitted by Dani Renouf, RD, MSc, CDE

Since the beginning of COVID-19 almost one year go, food prices have risen more than ever before. According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2021 (available in English only), more cost increases are predicted, whereby annual food expenditure could go up by as much as $695 compared to 2020. Although most of us are eating at home, thereby saving money as compared to the bills we paid for restaurant food, budget considerations still matter, especially for those of us who are already trying to juggle a household on a low income.

I hope that the following suggestions will help to manage the budget when planning trips to the grocery store or ordering groceries online.

Here are my top three tips for kidney-friendly eating on a time and money budget:

  1. Plan Ahead and Batch Cook

Choose recipes first, then make a grocery list of items based on the recipe you are planning.

Now that many flyers are online to review, you can plan your grocery store trip by visiting the store’s website, finding out what weekly specials are offered, and then going to the store with a grocery list that will save you time and money. You can also order your groceries online, then choose to pick them up rather than having them delivered to your home, as this will reduce the cost of delivery.

For recipes that are easy and contain fewer ingredients, the Kidney Community Kitchen offers a variety of options for you to get started. Many of the dishes can be cooked in batches, so you can use fewer ingredients and stretch the meals out over a few weeks or months by freezing the leftovers right away.

Choose one day of the week when you stew a pot of something or bake a dish, which can be portioned out into airtight containers and frozen for later use. If you are “cooking for one”, try portioning out the protein, starch and vegetables into one container and freeze the leftovers. The meal looks like a TV dinner, but it’s made from scratch, so low in sodium and virtually free of other additives. Reheating takes only minutes on a busy day. A win for the budget, time, and health!

2. Go Meatless

Recipes that include plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils or tofu are often more cost-effective than recipes that call for animal-based proteins. The good news is that plant proteins are found to benefit overall health for the kidneys so choosing these will help your health and your grocery bill.

Vegetarian proteins from beans and lentils have a better effect on kidney health when compared to meats, so including vegetarian meals in your diet one to two times a week helps keep to meet protein needs, offers more fibre, and keeps the budget in check. Batch cooking beans and freezing them for later use is a great time-saving tip, as beans make for great stand-alone proteins or additions to soups, salads for those busy days.

Note: Some dried beans and seeds are high in potassium – check with your dietitian to find out if these are good choices for you!

3. Choose Frozen and Dried Bulk Foods

Although buying fresh fruits and vegetables in season adds great flavor and nutrition to meals, the colder months present a great opportunity to choose frozen fruits and vegetables, which are usually picked in season and frozen straight away. This means that they offer great nutrition, but at a better price. Frozen vegetables can be quickly added to salads and soups, or heated up in minutes for a time-saving burst of flavor and vitamins. Multiple uses of the same ingredient also help to save costs.

Dried bulk foods like beans, oats, rice, seeds, and salt-free spices can be stored in airtight containers for up to one year, so not only do they have a long shelf life, they also cost fractions less because of the absence of packaging. Grains and beans add great nutrition to everyday meals as a source of protein, fibre, and vitamins. Once cooked, beans and grains can be frozen for later use, thereby saving time but without compromising nutrition.

Although these are challenging times, I hope that we can continue to find creative ways to look after our nutrition and stay motivated to try new ways of enjoying our meals.