If you’re thinking about trying the keto diet or any low-carb eating plan for the first time, get ready to adopt some new eating habits.
Eating a ketogenic diet is a complete departure from the Standard American Diet most people are accustomed to eating. The Standard American Diet is high in sodium, sugar, refined grains, and highly processed foods. It’s also low in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
But is the keto diet expensive?
Given that going keto might represent a significant overhaul of the way you currently eat, you might assume it will cost you an arm and a leg. And while it is possible to run up your grocery bill buying keto-friendly foods, that’s true of any eating plan. You can spend a small fortune on any diet.
There are plenty of cheap foods to buy when you’re broke, but many are not suitable for a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Pasta, rice, most beans, and everyone’s favorite cheap food, ramen noodles, are off-limits. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that are both keto-approved and budget-friendly.
Can Keto Be Cheap?
Keto can be cheap depending on where you shop and how you shop. Some popular foods are expensive, but if you shop sales, plan your meals, choose more inexpensive cuts of meat, opt for low-cost fats, buy vegetables in season, and buy in bulk, keto can be cheaper or as affordable as any other diet.
How Do You Do Keto Cheap?
Saving money while eating keto boils down to planning and shopping smart. Here are 13 tips to help you do keto cheap and save money on groceries:
- Only buy what’s on sale. You’ll automatically save a ton of money if you go through the weekly flyer before you set foot in the store. Make your shopping list and plan your meals based on what’s on sale.
- Buy in bulk. As long as you have the space and use what you buy before it spoils, buying in bulk can save you money. Keto foods you might buy in bulk include low-carb nuts and seeds from the bulk bins, cooking oils, ground beef, and canned or frozen foods when they’re on sale.
- Choose cheaper cuts of meat. Buy a whole chicken or thighs instead of boneless skinless chicken breast. You can buy a roast and cut it into steaks or make something like a pot roast that will last for days.
- Buy veggies in season. Fruits and vegetables are so much cheaper when they’re in season. This guide to seasonal produce will tell you what’s in season at any given time.
- Opt for frozen instead of fresh. Frozen foods pack plenty of nutritional value. They’re often cheaper than fresh, particularly out-of-season vegetables or fruits like berries.
- Shop discount grocers. You can get unbeatable deals on keto foods at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Sprouts, and other discount stores. Walmart has the lowest prices on dairy products where we live, and we buy eggs exclusively at Aldi.
- Don’t buy prepared or packaged keto foods. Keto-friendly or not, prepared foods are seldom a good deal for what you get. You can usually make the same thing yourself for much less. The same goes for the low-carb versions of things like pasta and bread. They’re usually overpriced, filled with additives, and highly processed.
- Forget brand loyalty. If you insist on buying a specific brand of anything, you’ll be paying full price for it more often than not. Ask yourself if it’s worth the extra money. You can usually find store brands or lesser-known brands that are just as good or even better than the famous brand. Sometimes the only noticeable difference is the price.
- Forget grass-fed, free-range, and organic foods too. They’re significantly more expensive than conventional options. They probably shouldn’t be your first choice if you’re on a budget. You don’t need them for ketosis or weight loss if that’s your goal.
- Prep meals in bulk. Spending a few weekend hours preparing your meals for the upcoming week means you won’t have to spend much time in the kitchen after work. Meal prepping in bulk also helps you stick to your diet and prevents wasting money on takeout or delivery.
- Don’t waste food. The USDA reports Americans throw out 219 pounds of food per person per year, equating to over 30 percent of the country’s food supply. That’s inexcusable. Eat, cook, or freeze anything perishable before it goes bad. Use leftovers for lunches or leftover nights.
- Use coupons. Using coupons is worth it if you’re trying to reduce your food spending. You’ll save a lot over time. You can often get free coupons in the mail by reaching out to your favorite brands and just asking.
- Get cash back on groceries. Install Ibotta on your phone to get cash back on grocery purchases. With Ibotta, you find cash back offers from local stores and then add them to your list. Scan your receipt via the app. You’ll get cash back, usually within 24 hours.
How Much Does the Keto Diet Cost per Month?
The cost per month of eating a keto diet will vary based on your food choices, your calorie needs, and how you shop for groceries. With a little planning and effort, you can do the keto diet for $5 to $10 a day, which works out to $35 to $70 a week or between $150 and $300 per month per person.
We have five mouths to feed in our family, but only one person is currently sticking to a ketogenic diet. It’s hard to say what we spend on keto only, as there are some cheap keto dinner recipes the whole family enjoys. We use some keto staples like butter in all types of cooking.
That said, our grocery budget works out to around $200 per month per adult on groceries, and sometimes less.
List of Cheap Foods to Eat on Keto
If you’re running low on funds or trying to eat a keto diet on a tight budget, here is a list of cheap foods to eat on keto:
- Chicken thighs
- Ground beef or ground turkey
- Canned tuna
- Canned salmon
- Natural peanut butter
- Romaine lettuce
- Mixed frozen vegetables
- Low-carb dairy (cottage cheese, butter, cheese, heavy cream)
- Store-brand olive oil
If you stick to this keto shopping list, you could eat keto for $5 to $10 a day. How much you spend depends on your food choices, where you shop, how you shop, and your calorie needs. But $150 to $200 a month per person is possible.
Is it Expensive to Eat Keto?
It doesn’t have to be expensive to eat keto. It is possible to follow the keto diet without breaking the bank. Grass-fed meats, hard-to-find or organic foods, and supplements are not needed. Shop sales, choose cheaper proteins and fats, buy produce in season, and buy in bulk to eat keto on a budget.
Image Credits: Unsplash
Sara Graham is a frugal living and household budgeting expert. Her writing has appeared on MSN Money, The Good Men Project, Fairygodboss, and several other online publications. She is the co-founder of KindaFrugal.com, a personal finance and frugal living blog.