Food Shopping for a Diabetic Child During the Holidays

Mary Kate Cary Health Guide
  • I went to visit my husband’s family in a small midwestern town for Thanksgiving. Once we arrived we realized that we had only brought two test strips for my daughter’s glucometer. (Not two packages of strips – only two strips.) We got in late the night before Thanksgiving and didn’t realize our mistake until Thanksgiving Day, when most stores in town were closed.

    So while Grandma was cooking the turkey, we drove to every pharmacy we could find, including a few found inside grocery stores that were actually open. But the pharmacies were not. Test strips are not a controlled substance (like insulin is) so you don’t need a prescription to buy them in a pinch. The only reason the endocrinologist writes prescriptions for them is so that your health insurance plan will cover them. (If you forget them away from home, you’re going to be paying out of pocket unless your insurance company will re-imburse you after the fact.) So you should be able to just grab a package off the shelf. But because the test strips are so expensive, they are not out on the shelves – they are locked up behind the pharmacy counter with big “Closed on Thanksgiving” signs everywhere we went.

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    Finally, we found a 24-hour WalMart open on Thanksgiving. Of course, the pharmacy was closed. But then we hit the goldmine: WalMart’s in-house brand of glucometers and test strips are not locked up behind the counter. The reason is they are drastically less expensive than the national brand we use, which were all locked up. Our regular brand is about $75 for the glucometer and about $100 for 100 strips, unless we get them from our mail-order pharmacy. The in-house brand was only $8 for the glucometer, and about $20 for 50 test strips. No wonder they leave them out on the shelf. They also had lancets which were not locked up either, and not expensive. The twenty year-old cashier – who it turned out had Type I diabetes and was very kind to us, in a wonderful small town way -- couldn’t believe the prices either.

    So we bought the in-house glucometer and strips just for the weekend, and we switched back when we got home. We like our usual glucometer better because it can store her insulin dose as well as her blood sugar numbers, and we can download the numbers to e-mail to the doctor. The WalMart one doesn’t do that. But whether you like WalMart or not – and most of the folks in my husband’s family don’t – you have to admit they’re pretty smart. Having an affordable glucometer and test strips available 24/7 in most small towns in America is a good business decision – and a valuable service to forgetful parents like us.

Published On: December 02, 2005