Eating a kidney-friendly diet can be a challenge at the best of times, but shopping for nutritious food on a tight budget can make it even more difficult.
A healthy diet that follows the advice of your kidney doctor or dietitian is a hugely important part of managing your kidney health, so this is not something that should be compromised.
To support families who are feeling the pinch and trying to reduce their weekly shopping bill, the Kidney Kitchen team have put together some practical tips for a kidney friendly diet on a budget.
1. Plan your meals for the week ahead
Making a meal plan based on the ingredients you already have in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards will help you to only buy what you need each week. Download our free Kidney Kitchen weekly meal plan template to get started.
You will find lots of great inspiration for budget friendly meals on the Kidney Kitchen website.
The Cheaper Options information on our recipes suggests easy ways to reduce the cost of each meal.
2. Make a shopping list and only buy what’s on it
Once you’ve planned your meals, use our Kidney Kitchen shopping list to make a note of all the ingredients you need.
Studies show that shoppers who use a list are less likely to buy impulsively and find it easier to stick to the essentials and keep costs down.
3. Batch cook the meals you love
Try cooking extra portions of one or two of your meals each week. Cooking larger quantities will use up all of the ingredients and means you can freeze portions and reheat them when you don't want to make a meal from scratch.
Our Kidney Kitchen Shepherds Pie can either be kept in the fridge and eaten within two days, or frozen.
All our recipes include advice on how to eat and store each meal safely.
4. Check out the frozen aisle
Swapping fresh foods for frozen can really help reduce the cost of meals. In fact, frozen fruit and vegetables may be more nutritious than fresh because they tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, when they are most nutrient-packed.
Frozen fish is a particularly good choice if you have had a transplant as the freezing process prevents the growth of bacteria that can cause illnesses.
5. Fill your cupboards with tinned goods and basic staples
Tinned fruits, vegetables, pulses, and legumes are often cheaper and have a longer shelf life, but always remember to read the food labels carefully and choose options that are best suited to the diet you have been advised to follow.
You might consider:
- selecting products with the lowest salt content
- choosing ingredients tinned in water rather than a salty brine
- looking for fruits canned in their own juice rather than a sugary syrup.
In Kidney Kitchen recipes we recommend cooking with tinned chickpeas and lentils in water rather than dried options – they are quicker, cheaper and easier to cook with, and lower in potassium too! Try using them in our budget friendly North African one-pot casserole.
6. Add flavour with herbs and spices
Dried herbs and spices will add flavour to your food without adding salt and can spice up an otherwise simple and affordable meal like our Indian spices beans on toast.
We use paprika, crushed chillies, mixed herbs, coriander, and cumin regularly in the Kidney Kitchen. They are often available to buy cheaply or on 3 for 2 offers in supermarkets and will last you a long time.
Some of our recipes do include either fresh herbs or multiple herbs and spices in the ingredients list but remember that you don’t have to use them all!
A good rule of thumb when swapping fresh herbs for dried alternatives is 1 tablespoon fresh herbs is equal to 1 teaspoon dried herbs.
7. Buy in bulk or on offer
It can be cost effective to stock up on foods which you eat regularly and keep for a long time. Good options to bulk buy are staple carbohydrate ingredients, for example:
- Rice, which features regularly in Kidney Kitchen recipes such as Rice and bean burritos or as side to Butternut squash and chickpea curry
- Spaghetti which is hearty and filling; try Garlic and chilli whole wheat pasta or our Red lentil bolognese.
8. Store food correctly so that it lasts longer
Reducing your food waste will save you money. Storing your ingredients correctly will help them last, so you don’t end up throwing them away. To keep your food fresh for as long as possible:
- Keep dry goods like pasta, couscous and flour in air-tight containers.
- Clean out your fridge regularly to protect your food from harmful bacteria.
- Keep your salad free from moisture and place a paper towel in the container after it’s been washed to soak up any extra wetness.
- Store your apples in a dark place, next to your potatoes – this can help them last up to eight weeks longer! The gas produced by the apples stops the potatoes from going bad.
- Tie and hang your onions in a pair of old, clean tights. This will allow them to breathe and will prevent one bad onion from spoiling the rest.
- Storing broccoli in the fridge, tightly wrapped up in tin foil, is the perfect way to keep it fresh and crisp for up to four weeks.
- To keep them fresher for longer, wash berries like strawberries, raspberries or blueberries in a mixture of one part vinegar to three parts water before putting them in the fridge. Don’t worry, you won't taste the vinegar!
Don’t forget, Kidney Kitchen recipes are packed with additional advice, including useful storage tips, from our chefs and renal dietitians.
9. Use a local community cupboard, fridge or freezer
Over the past few years community groups all round the UK have set up free community cupboards, fridges and freezers to reduce food waste.
Community food groups can be a great way to supplement your food shop and reduce the amount of food going to landfill. They are typically open to everyone, and are either free to use, or charge a small membership fee.
Voluntary organisations collect surplus food (and other goods) from supermarkets, allotments and people's fridges and make it available to anyone in the local area who can make use of it.
- Hubbub coordinates 250 Community Fridges across the UK
- Your Local Pantry is a UK network of low-cost membership food shops.
10. Save £££ with the supermarket Downshift Challenge
One tried and tested way to save money on your regular food bill is to 'downshift' by changing the supermarket you shop at and the brands you buy. Drop one brand level on everything you buy: if you can't tell the difference with the cheaper brand, stick with the cheaper option.
Downshift your supermarket
- If you have access to more than one food retailer and aren’t worried about buying branded products, consumer champion Which? regularly names Lidl and Aldi as the cheapest supermarkets.
- If you still want access to some branded products or prefer more flexible collection and home delivery options, Asda has been the cheapest non-discounter supermarket for the past two years.
Downshift from branded goods to own brand or value options
- The packaging often shapes our opinion about a product. Why not try giving family members a blind taste test with no packaging? Can they taste the difference between the more expensive and the cheaper option?
- Keep an eye on prices – branded items on promotion can be cheaper than own brand products. Try comparing cost per gram prices, which are shown on the label.
- Don't assume downshifting is worse nutritionally; but do check! Often lower-cost products can be just as good as their branded alternative. Always check the label to make sure though.