How to Get the Best Use Out of Your Test Strips


Trying to manage type 2 diabetes without checking your blood sugar is like going on a journey without a map. Your doctor has probably mentioned it’s important to check your blood sugar, but if you have a limited number of test strips, how often should you check your blood sugar?

Actually, the better question may be: When should you check your blood sugar?

Fortunately, there isn’t one single way of blood glucose monitoring. And, let’s be real, test strips are expensive. Your insurance plan may only provide coverage for a certain amount, making it even more essential you get the best use out of the allotment you already have.

To decide when to check your blood sugar, consider what you want to learn about your diabetes and why.

Your reason for learning about your diabetes can differ from another person’s, and that’s okay. Here are some factors to consider when thinking about what’s impacting your blood sugar:

  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Medication
  • Menstrual Cycles/Other hormonal changes in the body
  • Pregnancy management

When To Check Your Blood Sugar

In addition to the different factors that affect your blood glucose, determine when you’d like to learn more about them. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Fasting or Bedtime
  • Before taking insulin, especially rapid-acting/mealtime insulin
  • When experiencing symptoms of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia
  • When adjusting medications
  • Before driving (when at risk for hypoglycemia)
  • Before or after exercise, especially vigorous physical activity
  • Illness

Pairing Blood Sugar Checks

Paired blood glucose testing is a structured method of checking your blood sugar. For example, you may want to check your blood sugar before and after meals, including choosing which meals you want to monitor. For instance, you may want to learn how your blood glucose changes after eating the largest meal of your day to learn if and how you should make changes to that particular meal. You may also want to use paired blood glucose testing to see how the changes for that same meal are impacting your blood glucose on different days.

Example Scenario:

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical patient named Gerald. Gerald’s use of paired testing. Gerald is often lethargic after eating breakfast in the morning. While he takes his fasting blood glucose after he wakes, he doesn’t check his blood sugar again until just before bedtime. He’s suspecting his tiredness after his first meal is due to high blood glucose levels. His breakfast usually consists of:

  • Two eggs and a slice of bacon
  • One cup of a chopped mango
  • Two slices of white toast
  • Cup of black coffee

To learn how his blood glucose changes after breakfast, he decides to check his blood glucose two hours after starting his breakfast. On a day eating his regular breakfast his blood glucose numbers are:

  • Fasting blood glucose: 5.0 mmol/L90 mg/dL
  • Two hours after breakfast: 13.9 mmol/L250 mg/dL

After confirming his blood glucose levels are indeed high after eating, Gerald decides to make some changes to his breakfast. While he doesn’t want to give up anything on his plate, he recognizes he can manage the portion sizes of his meal. He decides to:

  • Reduce the number of chopped mango to ½ cup
  • Change the kind of toast to whole-grain toast and eat only one slice.

The next morning, he checks his blood glucose to see the result of his changes. His blood glucose numbers are:

  • Fasting blood glucose: 4.9 mmol/L88 mg/dL
  • Two hours after breakfast: 10.5 mmol/L190 mg/dL

Though his blood glucose numbers are still higher than he’d like, Gerald is happy to see improvements from the changes to the meal he made and is going to continue to make adjustments as necessary to reach his glycemic goals.

Gerald’s example is one of many strategies you can use to make paired testing work for you. You can decide to check your blood glucose before and after lunch, before and after dinner, exercise, medications, etc. It all depends on what you want to learn about your diabetes. Speak with your healthcare provider about using paired testing to identify blood glucose patterns and set goals.

Keep Track of Your Progress

In order to see your progress over time, make sure you’re keeping track of your blood glucose numbers. Use a journal or an app like mySugr to learn how your changes are working for you and what further adjustments you need to make. In addition to recording your blood glucose values, make extra notes such as:

  • The kind of meal you ate, as well as the number of carbs and other nutrients such as fiber, protein and fat.
  • Your mood before and after certain meals.
  • Medications that were taken prior to testing and their dosages
  • Stressors that could impact your blood glucose.

Other Ways to Ensure Best Use of Test-Strips

Make sure you’re getting the best use out of your test strips by:

  • Washing your hands or using an alcohol swab on the testing site and allowing them to dry before testing.
  • Using the correct meter for your brand of test strips.
  • Ensuring your meter is coded correctly.
  • If using an alternative test site, make sure you’re using blood glucose meters that are approved for testing other than the finger.
  • Store them properly after each use.

Want to Save on Strips? Try a Test Strip Subscription Service or Buying Strips Over-the-Counter

If your usual prescription of test strips isn’t enough to get the kind of data you’re seeking, there are other ways to get more test strips while saving money, overall. You can try a test strip subscription service like Accu-Chek’s or another listed in this article. Some of these services may not require another prescription and may also be FSA-eligible. Another option to obtaining more test strips is by purchasing them over-the-counter. Many of the basic diabetes supplies can be bought at your local pharmacy in the diabetes aisle. These test strips, however, may have the store brand’s name but will list which meters are compatible with their strips. Also, those test strips may require your device to be coded differently, however, you can change the coding according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

Key Takeaways

  • Being limited to a certain number of test strips doesn’t mean you can’t get valuable data about your diabetes.
  • You can determine which factors or metrics such as food, exercise, stress, etc. matter most to you when it comes to what’s impacting your blood sugar.
  • A method for making the best use of your test strips is using paired testing. Paired testing is a structured way of identifying changes in your blood glucose levels before and after specific events.
  • It’s possible to save money on test strips through a test strip subscription service or buying them over-the-counter. Some subscription services may not require a prescription. When buying over-the-counter strips, your meter may need to be coded differently according to your product’s instructions.

This content was made possible by Roche Diabetes Care, the makers of Accu-Chek and a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2. 

WRITTEN BY T'ara Smith, MS, Nutrition Education, POSTED 06/24/21, UPDATED 12/13/22

T’ara was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July 2017 at the age of 25. Since her diagnosis, she focused her academic studies and career on diabetes awareness and living a full life with it. She’s excited to have joined the Beyond Type 1 team to continue her work. Two years later, T'ara discovered she'd been misdiagnosed with type 2 and actually has latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Outside the office, T’ara enjoys going to the movies, visiting parks with her dog, listening to BTS and cooking awesome healthy meals. T’ara holds an MS in nutrition education from American University.