How To Do Keto on a Tight Budget
If you want to eat keto on a tight budget, you must be strategic about your food shopping.
That means doing a little bit of extra planning. The effort is worth it if you want to stretch your grocery budget. If you wander around the grocery store hungry without a plan, you’re almost guaranteed to waste money.
You can also do other things to keep from going over your grocery budget. Eating at home and cooking in bulk are examples.
- How To Do Keto on a Tight Budget
- 15 Tips for Eating Keto on a Budget
- 1. Cook at Home
- 2. Meal Plan Around Sale Items
- 3. Stick to Your Shopping List
- 4. Shop Warehouse Clubs and Discount Grocery Stores
- 5. Shop the Bulk Bins
- 6. Buy From Farmer’s Markets, Co-ops, and CSAs
- 7. Try Store Brands
- 8. Choose Cheaper Cuts of Meat
- 9. Buy Produce In Season
- 10. Avoid Pre-Packaged Keto Diet Foods
- 11. Skip Anything Grass-Fed, Organic, or Free-Range
- 12. Keep Meals Simple
- 13. Batch Cooking and Meal Prep
- 14. Don’t Waste Food
- 15. Find Cheap Keto Food Options
- The Keto Diet on a Tight Budget
15 Tips for Eating Keto on a Budget
The ketogenic diet can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend much money to do keto. Here are 15 tips for eating keto on a budget:
1. Cook at Home
With the popularity of the keto diet and other low-carb diet plans, restaurants and fast food places have become more accommodating. You can order bunless burgers, tell the waiter to skip the bread and order an extra side of low-carb vegetables instead of rice or pasta.
But ordering takeout and dining in restaurants multiple times a week adds up fast. It’s also harder to count calories and macros when eating out. You have total control over the ingredient list when you cook at home.
Even if you’re not great in the kitchen, a quick Google search will yield tons of easy delicious recipes that are wallet-friendly and keto-friendly.
2. Meal Plan Around Sale Items
Meal planning helps you stick to your budget and your macros. But don’t just plan meals around what you’re in the mood for or a favorite keto recipe.
Review the weekly sales flyer or check the grocery store’s website before shopping. Plan meals around whatever is on sale, plus what you have in your pantry and refrigerator. When you only buy sale items, the savings are automatic.
3. Stick to Your Shopping List
Always write a shopping list, bring it with you, and stick to it. Knowing exactly what you’re buying before you walk into the supermarket prevents you from making impulse buys.
4. Shop Warehouse Clubs and Discount Grocery Stores
Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and Sam’s Club can save you substantial money because they sell items in bulk. Bulk pricing might cost more upfront, but save you more in the long run. As long as you have the space for it and it doesn’t go to waste, shopping at warehouse clubs for keto staples saves.
You pay a membership fee in order to shop at these wholesale stores, but you can save a lot of money by purchasing bulk quantities of keto foods like quality meats, nuts, eggs, coconut oil, other healthy fats, and frozen vegetables.
Discount grocers like Aldi don’t typically have a big selection, and there might be some brands you’re not used to, but they offer cut-rate pricing on pantry staples, meats, and vegetables. Trader Joe’s has good deals on veggies, frozen foods, and some keto-friendly prepared foods. Dollar stores are also cheap for keto pantry staples like salt, spices, and condiments.
5. Shop the Bulk Bins
Many grocery stores have a bulk bin section where you can buy items you weigh out and pay for by the pound. Buying out of the bulk bins is usually much cheaper than buying a national brand or prepackaged food. If you like to have a handful of nuts for a snack or seeds and other dry goods are part of your eating plan, you’ll save when you hit the bulk bins.
6. Buy From Farmer’s Markets, Co-ops, and CSAs
Look into farmer’s markets, food cooperatives, and community-supported agriculture in your area. You can often get farm-fresh locally grown produce at a significant discount compared to what you would pay at a supermarket. You will also be supporting your community.
For co-ops and CSAs, you might have to pay upfront or monthly. You’ll save money buying direct, though.
7. Try Store Brands
Name brands don’t necessarily mean better quality. However, they almost certainly mean higher prices compared to lesser-known and store brands.
Store brands are often just as good or better than the more familiar brands you’re used to. Every major supermarket and big-box store like Target or Walmart has its own house brand for many popular foods.
8. Choose Cheaper Cuts of Meat
More expensive doesn’t always mean tastier or better quality. There are plenty of delicious dishes you can make that don’t require the most expensive cuts of meat. You’ll do your wallet a favor when you choose cheaper cuts.
You can buy canned tuna, sardines, or lump crab meat instead of wild salmon. Swap ground beef for steaks and buy chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. If you don’t want to give up skinless, boneless chicken breasts, you can buy frozen chicken breast in bulk at Costco or other warehouse clubs for cheaper than fresh.
9. Buy Produce In Season
In-season fruits and vegetables are much cheaper than when they’re not in season. Shipping out-of-season vegetables from the other side of the world is expensive. Look for non-starchy vegetables that are in season in your area.
If you have to have out-of-season produce for whatever reason, it’s often cheaper to buy it frozen. Frozen vegetables are picked at peak ripeness and then flash-frozen. You won’t lose much, if anything, in terms of nutrients or taste.
10. Avoid Pre-Packaged Keto Diet Foods
Anything pre-packaged or marketed directly to keto dieters is probably overpriced. You can usually get the same thing for less if you’re willing to shop around or make it yourself.
Bagged salad, salad dressing, riced cauliflower, and other pre-packaged low-carb foods almost always cost more than their do-it-yourself counterparts. For example, you can buy a head of cauliflower and make your own cauliflower rice with a cheese grater or food processor cheaper than buying premade.
Skip processed keto junk food like keto cookies. Don’t buy low-carb versions of carb-heavy standards like keto pasta, keto ice cream, and keto bagels. These sorts of fake foods are usually disappointing and cost too much.
Eat whole foods. Prep them and cook them yourself.
11. Skip Anything Grass-Fed, Organic, or Free-Range
If goal number one is getting rid of body fat, and goal number two is staying within your budget, stick with affordable fresh meats and conventional vegetables.
If you’re doing keto on a tight budget, paying extra for certified foods might not be an option. You don’t have to eat organic or grass-fed to stay in ketosis or lose weight.
12. Keep Meals Simple
Low-budget recipes generally have a short ingredient list of readily available, affordable foods and common spices. A simple keto meal doesn’t have to be a bland keto meal. Elaborate recipes, French cheese, and expensive ingredients aren’t required for flavor.
Breakfast can be cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, fresh avocados, or a smoothie. A giant salad with a protein is the perfect keto lunch. One-pot dishes, casseroles, meat, and two non-starchy vegetables make for an affordable keto meal.
13. Batch Cooking and Meal Prep
Designate one day a week for meal prep and cook several low-carb recipes. Portion them into individual meals, then refrigerate or freeze what you need for the week. Busy weeknights are a breeze when all you have to do is reheat your favorite meals with no extra prep time.
You can also batch-cook versatile main ingredients in addition to complete meals. Roast a whole chicken or cook a few pounds of ground beef. You’ll have what you need ahead of time for multiple recipes.
Cooking in batches is a smart way to save time, save money, and cut down on food waste. Cooking in bulk might seem like a chore at first. You’ll appreciate it on those nights when you don’t feel like doing anything and are tempted to grab takeout or fire up DoorDash.
If you’re new to keto, cooking in bulk makes sticking to your diet easier. You can avoid straying from your eating plan with all your meals prepped and made. You’ll have enough homemade meals ready to help you fend off temptation.
14. Don’t Waste Food
The USDA estimates that food waste in the U.S. amounts to between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply.
Avoid contributing to that absurd number while you save yourself some money in the process. A good deal is not good if a third of what you buy is in the bin.
Eat, cook, or freeze your most perishable items as soon as possible. Store your food properly, so nothing spoils. Use leftovers for lunches or have a leftover night or two every week.
Eating keto on a budget is about not wasting food as much as it is about not wasting money.
15. Find Cheap Keto Food Options
I’ve heard people say when you do keto, cheap meals aren’t possible. That simply isn’t true. They just haven’t figured out how to eat keto on a budget.
Many of the foods keto dieters splurge or overspend on have budget-friendly alternatives. There are plenty of keto-friendly cheap foods to buy when you’re broke. Here are some examples of keto food swaps you can make to save money:
Even though vegetable oils are usually cheaper, stick to healthier options since fat will be your main source of calories. Butter, heavy cream, nut butter, and avocados are staples.
If you do a lot of searching online for keto recipes, you’ll come across indulgent recipes that call for expensive or trendy fat sources like beef tallow, avocado oil, or duck fat. Instead, you can create great flavor with bacon fat and extra light olive oil. Ghee is simple to make from unsalted butter and is cheaper than buying it at the grocery store.
Proteins tend to be the most expensive ingredients in keto recipes. Saving money on meat helps you save money on food overall.
Cheaper options include ground meat (beef or pork), eggs, chicken thighs, and bacon. Canned tuna, sardines, and canned salmon are inexpensive seafood options.
Since a small percentage of your diet will come from carbs, get carbohydrates mostly from vegetables and low-carb fruits like berries. Add wallet-friendly vegetables like broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, lettuce, green peppers, and cabbage to your grocery list.
Brand-name sugar substitutes that are keto-friendly and widely available, like Swerve or Lakanto, are expensive. I buy bulk stevia or monk fruit extract powder online from Amazon or BulkSupplements.com.
The Keto Diet on a Tight Budget
Starting your keto journey might seem costly if you’ve eaten the Standard American Diet for a long time. Once you know how to do keto on a budget, it really isn’t any more costly than any other eating plan.
Is the keto diet expensive? It can be, but the keto lifestyle can also be budget-friendly. If you plan ahead, shop smart, and use what you buy, you can do the keto diet on a low 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.