Managing Food Costs with CKD

Marika Wamback, BSc. R.D.
Registered Dietitian |


Managing Food Costs with CKD

I often hear from my clients that they struggle with healthy eating due to the cost of food.  This is especially prevalent with clients with CKD. It can be overwhelming to manage a chronic condition and the costs that can go with it.  In Canada, food costs are set to increase by 4-6% in 2020. Approximately 35% of the Canadian household grocery budget goes to eating out. Below are some simple and easy tips to help you manage your nutritional needs by cooking at home, planning ahead, choosing healthy renal foods, and managing your budget.

1. Focus On What You Can Have:

I often tell clients to focus on the foods they can have to manage their nutrition needs.  The renal diet can be complicated, but you can simplify the diet by buying food that you can eat.

2. Plan Ahead:

Cooking healthy, affordable meals, especially if you have CKD, requires planning.  Set aside time each week to plan out meals. Create a grocery list based on the renal friendly meals you are planning.  This saves time and money at the grocery store. You’ll know what to buy, how much to buy, and what can be reused at the next meal.  You’ll be less tempted to impulse shop, get take out, or go out to eat.

3. Look for Sales and Deals:

Browse weekly store flyers for sales, deals, and coupons on items you can have and incorporate them into your meal planning.  For example, if chicken is on sale, plan a couple of different meals for the week using chicken. Often times, stores will discount items that are close to expiring but are still safe to purchase such as bread, meat, etc.  These items can be purchased and frozen for later use.

4. Discount Grocery Stores Versus High End Grocery Stores:

Where you choose to shop is a matter of personal choice.  From a nutrition perspective, there is little to no nutritional difference between the food at a discount grocery store versus a high end grocery store.  Prices of items often reflect the overhead cost instead of the nutritional value of the food item. Of course, accessibility, variety, and cleanliness are factors to consider.

5. Buy What you Need:

I often discuss with my clients ‘wants’ versus ‘needs’.  Everyone likes and wants a treat, but what nutritional value is in a $4 bag of chips compared to a $4 bag of fruit or vegetables?  There’s often more food in the nutritious choices compared to the non-nutritive choices. Focus on selecting and purchasing foods that you need for good health.  Only buy what you think you will realistically eat. It may seem like a good deal to buy a lot of healthy food because it’s on sale, but if it goes bad before you eat it, you haven’t saved anything.  If you buy extra or buy in bulk, split the cost with others.

6. Shop the Perimeter of the Store First:

By shopping the perimeter of the store, it is easy to get most of your nutritious food choices.  The inner aisles contain both nutritious and non-nutritious foods. For example, you can get whole oats for oatmeal, canned fruit in juice, canned fish, and no-sodium added vegetables.  Highly processed items are also found in the aisles so be diligent about reading food labels.

7. Read Ingredient Lists and Nutrition Facts Labels:

Reading and deciphering both of these is essential to managing CKD.  The ingredient list will tell you what is in the food. Ingredients are listed from the greatest concentration to the least concentration.  The Nutrition Facts Label provides specific nutrient content in one serving of that food. For more information and articles on reading food labels and ingredient lists, check out limiting sodiumpotassium info and phosphorous control.

8. Pick a Shopping ‘Time’:

Choosing a regular day and/or time to shop can help make grocery shopping more manageable for you.  Grocery stores are usually busiest during the weekends. If you can go grocery shopping during the week, especially in the evenings, it can save you time and stress.  Most stores now offer on-line shopping where you can order your groceries and pick them up at your convenience. It saves you time and helps you stick to a budget.

9. Have a ‘Prep’ Day:  

Try picking a day or time to prepare the food you carefully selected.  Chopping, cutting, marinading, batch cooking, and storing your food can all be done quickly and efficiently.  This will help you organize your week, save you time, and avoid the unnecessary stress of lengthy meal prep every day.   Everything is prepped and ready for you to prepare meals. This helps decrease the urge to go out and eat and keep you on track with your CKD diet.

With a little practice, getting yourself into a routine of planning, shopping, and prepping will save you time and money.  Working with your renal team will enable you to manage your CKD and relax and enjoy your food by making the best food choices for you.  Plan to enjoy your food!


The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. KidneyChef urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. KidneyChef advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.

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