There seems to be a general impression that doing a keto diet is going to be expensive. It’s true, that some of the cheapest food, per calorie are the ‘staple’ grains like rice and wheat, but they’re also some of the least nutritious. I’m here to tell you that keto on a budget is definitely doable, all it takes is a little planning to rustle up some cheap keto meals.
I hope this guide will put you on the right track to reach your keto goals without breaking the bank. Enjoy!
Keto on a Budget – Money Saving Tips
Make a plan – and stick to it
This tip is the top of my list and with good reason! Impulse buying when hunger kicks in is one of the quickest ways to ruin your wallet on a keto diet (or any diet for that matter).
Eating on impulse and getting into this habit is also one of the easiest ways to crash out of keto too and give in to temptation. This is why having a plan, and sticking to it is so crucial to every aspect of success on a keto diet.
So what does a plan look like for doing keto on a budget? The first step is knowing what you’re going to eat this week well in advance of when you reach for your fork.
I like to plan my meals for the week on a saturday, and shop on a Sunday. I’ll list out some of my low carb favourites that I make time and time again, then scour Pinterest and google for any extra keto inspiration (I like to cook at least one new dish each week to add to my list)
Before starting your meal plan for the week, head over to your store cupboard. What have you got already? If possible try to make the most of what you’ve got and base your keto meal plan around these.
It’s also good to check your cupboard to avoid buying something twice that you’ve already got tucked away somewhere (I have 4-5 mustards in my cupboard now from forgetting to check first…I need more keto mustard recipes!)
Once you’ve got your shopping list ready, stick to it! Seriously, the amount of times I’ve gone into the store with a shopping list in mind, and come out spending double on a bunch of random impulse buys!
With the exception of genuinely good discounts and offers you may spot on your shop, resist the impulse buys at all costs!
Keep things simple – go for fewer ingredient meals
Less sometimes is more. When trying to eat keto on a budget, simplicity is crucial to keep your spend down per meal. That 30 ingredient curry may taste great once it’s done, but now you’ve got 10 different spices to figure out how to use and dropped a bunch of cash on that one, specific meal.
When starting out it’s better to try and keep ingredient lists as short as possible, focusing on keto staples and green veg. Limit yourself to perhaps one specialty ingredient each week or fortnight, so over time your store cupboard and dishes become more varied without breaking the bank all at once.
This is especially the case for keto specific ingredients like coconut flour and coconut oil etc. These speciality ingredients are great but really not necessary if you’re on a budget or new to keto. Save these for when you’re fully committed to this way of eating and even then, get them incrementally.
When I first started keto I kept things really simple. I got a spice mix that I liked, covered a couple of chicken thighs with the mix and olive oil, and served with a pile of buttered greens. 5 ingredients, easy to make and easy on the wallet, a great cheap keto meal!
Looking for some quick and easy meals? This list of 15 minute keto dinners will keep the ingredient list short!
Shop sales where possible
Now this may go against my first point about planning your meals; but you should always be keeping a look out for discounts in store when you’re shopping. These aren’t impulse buys, so think about how you’re going to use or store them before dropping them into your basket.
It may not be for this week’s meals but if you see a good offer on something you know is keto friendly, then I say go for it. Especially for things that will freeze well or stay in the cupboard. Look out for 2 for 1 deals on things like eggs, oils, butter and meats.
If it’s something that will last at least two weeks or will freeze then if you have money to spare this week, get it to save more next week. And if you find something that fits your meal plan this week, even better!
The other sort of discounts you’re likely to encounter are for items close to their expiry. Now be honest here, if you pick up one of these discounts are you actually going to use it in time before it expires?
Food waste is money down the trash so think before buying. If you’re going to use it, or think you can freeze it straight away then these can be some great discounts,
What’s the best way to avoid temptation and impulse buys? Stay away from the store! By shopping from home you can check off your list, and only your list, without being tempted by the smell of the bakery or the chocolate aisle.
Online shopping is a growing trend and retailers often have pretty good, online only deals and discounts to attract customers. The key as before is to buy offers intelligently, thinking about how you’ll use the product rather than being blinded by the price.
There can be a delivery charge when shopping online so it’s best to buy in bulk to cut down the impact of this extra fee. If you can plan 2 weeks worth of meals and buy them in one go that can help, but does mean more organisation, especially to store fresh produce well for 2 weeks.
This will very much depend on where you live, but often some of the cheapest produce you can buy will be at local farmers markets (although out of season it can be some of the most expensive!)
When certain crops/ingredients are ‘in season’ prices can drop significantly, and going direct to the source cuts out the middle men of the food industry (and supports your local farmers!)
It’s worth getting to know when certain foods are in season, which can be found with a quick google search. Often those ingredients will be at their tastiest at this point in time too!
Buy in bulk
Saving money on a keto diet is all about getting as many calories as possible for the smallest expenditure. The easiest way to achieve this is to buy in bulk. Just about anything, when bought in larger quantities, is going to be cheaper.
What does this mean for you and your meal planning? I suggest focusing each weeks meal plan around a couple of key ingredients, which you can buy in bulk. Things like chicken thighs, mince, eggs are all items you can buy in bulk and focus your weeks eating around.
Cook in bulk
Of all the items on this list, this is one of most important for success on the keto diet, not just financially but for helping stay on the keto wagon too.
Avoiding food waste is crucial for saving money on food and cooking. I often find when I cook a meal just for myself as a one-off, I have lots of spare ingredients left over, and end up with a bunch of small quantities of unused food.
Cooking in bulk can fix this issue with a little forethought and some tupperware containers. Instead of buying the ingredients for and cooking 7 different dinners each week, cook 2 or 3 bigger batches to eat through the week.
This allows you to make better use of those discount deals, and by having a bunch of ready to go meals in your fridge or freezer you can avoid temptation or making bad food choices when hunger strikes or you’re short for time to cook.
I use my meal planner to plan perhaps 3-4 main dishes that I can make into 12 meals during the week. Each day I take a different one to work for my lunch and mix and match during the week to keep things interesting.
I like to cook most of the meals on a Sunday afternoon, to have prepped for the week. With all the ingredients laid out in front of you this can seem like a huge task but in a couple of hours I can have almost all of our meals ready for the coming week which saves so much time in the long run.
There’s nothing better than coming home after a long day and not having to spend the next hour getting dinner ready!
Learn to love your freezer
Following on from buying and cooking in bulk, loving your freezer and making proper use of it is a great way to save money on food.
For years my freezer was a wasteland of random unidentified leftovers, mystery meats and fish I’d had in there so long I couldn’t bring myself to risk defrosting.
Once I got organised and started using my freezer properly I found it to be a crucial tool for making food go further.
Nothing goes into my freezer now at random,before it goes in I try to know how and when I’m going to defrost and eat it. If you have leftovers you want to freeze, label them and mark when they went in to avoid doubt down the line making you throw out perfectly good food.
If you followed the above advice to cook in bulk, then you may find you’ve got more that you can eat in a week. Whack a couple excess Tupperware dishes of your meals into the freezer and label them up.
I actually find I almost always have 2 or 3 different dishes in the freezer which I can defrost to help mix things up during the week if I’ve been eating the same 2-3 dishes I bulk cooked at the weekend.
When packing your freezer the key is to leave as little air as possible in the containers to prevent ice ‘burn’ damaging the flavour and texture of your meals. Also reducing air in the freezer leaves more space for food!
Some people invest in a vacuum sealer to get maximum longevity out of their food. I find a good alternative is to use freezer bags, and lower the still open bag (holding at the top) into a container of water. As it goes deeper into the water any air in the bag is pushed out, seal the container once the top is just above the water (avoiding getting any water inside the bag!)
Stick to cheaper veggies and meats
Knowing how to pick good quality, but cheap produce is the key to saving here. Knowing different cuts of meat and how to use them for instance is a great money saver. Two pieces of meat from the same cow can cost hugely different amounts.
To save money stick with the fattier (ie: better for keto!) cuts and those meant for stewing and longer cooking. Nobody really needs fillet when flank steak can taste just as good cooked properly.
Note that I’m not suggesting you choose a lower welfare/quality meat, as that tends to come with worse nutrition,added water etc.
Chicken thighs are a great example of a cheaper cut of meat that tastes so much better than the more expensive breast. For even better savings on chicken get the whole bird instead and learn how to carve or portion the carcass.
Another good money saving buy you can often find is bacon ‘odds and ends’, essentially all the leftover bits of bacon that didn’t cut neatly into a rectangle. I always have pack of these in the fridge to add to omelettes, carbonara sauces etc.
Do you have to buy organic/grass fed/free range etc? I leave this one up to you and you preference. Personally I go for grass fed where possible, free range too. Organic I’m less concerned about than the other two but it’s down to personal preference and budget allowances.
With this I would generally recommend picking quality over quantity budget allowing. I prefer to have less, higher quality meat than to eat lots of low welfare produce.
Avoid eating out unnecessarily
Sometimes you just find yourself hungry when you’re away from home, in need of something quick, and the easiest solution is to eat at a fast food joint or takeaway.
These are the times when you can quickly ruin your week’s progress eating on a budget, as it’s very hard to get a meal anywhere near as cheap as you can make it yourself.
The easiest way to avoid this is to stock up on some no-prep keto snacks, to keep on your person when you’re away from home just in case. Cooking in bulk and having a bunch of portioned meals in tupperware is also really useful to avoid the temptation of getting a takeaway
. It’s also a great idea to take your tupperware lunch to work to avoid the small lunch purchases that soon add up over time.
Cut out the sodas
This used to be a huge drain on my wallet, and I know it is for a lot of you too!
Lots of people going onto a no sugar diet fall back on diet sodas to get their sweet fix. This is something I would always try to discourage so if this is you, start trying to reduce your daily intake slowly until you’re soda free.
The reason these are so bad for doing keto on a budget is that they’re not bringing anything to the table. Diet sodas are often Zero Calorie, they say it right there on the can. When we’re doing keto on a budget we’re trying to get as much nutrition, calories and flavour for each dollar we spend, so empty soda’s just don’t fit the bill.
Many will find going cold turkey on their diet sodas tricky, and I don’t want this to derail your keto journey, so don’t rush, and make a conscious effort to cut down over a couple of weeks.
I good idea is to keep a record of how many sodas you drink each day for the next week, for many the number could surprise you. Let’s say you find you drink 3 per day this week. Then each day next week write down how many you have and aim for 2 a day, then 1 a day the week after.
It may take a while to completely get over that craving but it’s going to be great for you in the long run to reduce that sweet tooth.
It’ll hopefully be kind to your wallet too. If you added up that first week of sodas, multiply it by 52 on a calculator to find how many sodas you’re having per year. You may find you’ve been spending hundreds if not thousands on soda!
The same thing goes for ordering coffees and teas when you’re out. Many coffee addicts I know buy at least 2-3 coffees per day, which can add up to a huge amount over the year.
For success on keto, I really have to advocate getting most of your hydration from good old fashioned water. Making tea or coffee at home is cheap too, and both come with various health benefits (in moderation)
In fact, green tea in particular is a great addition for those wanting to lose weight, with various chemicals that help with fat loss. I wasn’t a fan of the flavor of green tea at first, but have come to enjoy it now and tend to have 3-4 cups per day.
What you save by doing keto
We’ve talked about the ways to reduce the cost of doing the keto diet on a budget, but I think before we finish it’s worth talking about a key way a keto diet can save you money versus a typical western diet.
How much and how often you eat
At first, keto is going to be tough, and you’re going to get hungry and impulsive occasionally. But then a magic thing happens. After a few weeks your body starts getting into full on optimal ketosis, and those sugar cravings subside.
Hunger tends to become a thing of the past and a lot of people on the keto diet (myself included) often find themselves skipping whole meals or eating smaller portions as they’re just not as hungry as they used to be.
For me, I rarely feel the need to eat breakfast nowadays as I’m just not hungry yet. I rarely snack too which I was terrible for before going keto. These changes to your appetite will reflect directly on your wallet. If you can cut back your sweet tooth and avoid diet sodas etc. then those impulse buys and mid afternoon vending machine snacks will become a thing of the past.
Many people inherently eat less when on a keto diet. Once your body is in full ketosis, and especially if you’re trying to lose weight, your body is using its own fat reserves for a big part of it’s daily fuel in a way it may never have done before, meaning you need less food on your plate to keep going.
Keto on a budget, easy enough if you have a plan
So there you have it, enough tips to hopefully get you started on reducing your keto budget, and hopefully sticking with this way of eating long term.
As a I mentioned in my first point, for success you need to have a plan, I just wanted to get that in again here at the end. I hope after reading this article you’ll get a pen and paper, and think about how your next week on the keto diet is going to be your best yet.
Plan out some great keto meals, dust off the tupperware and get shopping smart and most importantly, affordably. The keto diet doesn’t have to be a financial drain to get you the results you want to see. If you’re new to the diet, then read up with the beginners guide to keto first.
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Short on time too? Then this list of quick 15 minute keto meals may be the next thing you should read to help with your keto success.
Got any of your own keto money saving tips? Share them in the comments below!