Life today requires so much. Many of us now find ourselves wearing many hats to manage work, life, and staying safe. And it is also imperative for many to be fiscally frugal in these times—trying to constantly make a dollar out of 15 cents.
But, even with the possible tightening of your budget, we’re sure you want to feed yourself and your family healthy and nutrient-dense food that’s low on the glycemic scale if you or your family have committed to eating a ketogenic diet.
Well, good news, it’s entirely possible to mind your macros and your money on a low-carb, high-fat diet!
You may have to invest a little more elbow grease to maximize your food budget (and that’s never hurt anyone): cook regularly at home, look into food preservation methods that suit you to build your pantry for a rainy day, and do your best to use everything at your disposal; waste as little as is possible.
The Frugal Foodie’s Keto Diet
Some foods are staples for many people following a ketogenic lifestyle. And fortunately, we can remix and reinvent all of those main dishes throughout the week to add variety to our menu without piling on added effort.
So, if you’re interested in learning some best practices to keep carbs low and your budget in check, while enjoying flavorful meals, keep reading.
Oh, and we promise, you won’t sacrifice an iota of flavor, in many cases evolving ingredients into new iterations or transforming would-be scaps like bones into electrolyte-rich bone broth are all a means of stretching your food dollar, deepening flavor, and maximizing your family’s food supply.
OK, so, the genius of a convertible meal approach to keto starts before we get in the kitchen and begin cooking. Conscious meal prep begins with creating your grocery list—which hopefully contains as many sales, bulk, or in-season foods as possible for the most delicious options at the best prices.
Here are some items to grab during your regular supermarket or Amazon Fresh online grocery runs to make sure you have the basics to build a variety of tasty, low-carb, high-fat meals throughout the week.
Whole Chicken: It’s understandable to buy chicken parts if you want to, say, make party wings, or you want to shave some time off of an otherwise lengthy meal prepping process. However, always opt to buy the whole chicken instead otherwise.
Why make a single meal, when you can have the meat for a meal, fry the skin to make chicharrones, and then can lastly extract the nutrients from the marrow to make broth? Remember, use everything!
- 80/20 Ground Beef: Eating healthy fat is the goal of a ketogenic diet. We especially need quality fat as an energy supplement on keto to support the healthy functioning of the body in the absence of carbs or generous amounts of glucose and 80/20 beef provides a lot of healthy fat.
- Bone-in Chicken Thighs: You can make a myriad of meals with some succulent dark meat chicken thighs! This cut of chicken is tender and juicy, and it’s mind-blowing if the chicken skin is crisped.
- Butter: What doesn’t the golden savory spread make better? Butter is a staple food on a ketogenic diet because good grass-fed varieties provide ample amounts of healthy fat and also enhance food’s flavor.
- Heavy Cream: Whether poured into your morning keto coffee or whipped and a dollop added to a bowl of fresh berries, heavy cream is an essential item to keep close on keto. Plus, you can make loads of other keto-friendly foods like sauces, and desserts like ice cream homemade with this versatile ingredient.
- Broccoli/Cauliflower: These cruciferous vegetables are filled with fiber and they are also cost-effective ingredients to use to recreate traditionally high-carb foods like pizza, rice, and potatoes for a creamy and satisfying faux mash.
- Green Beans: These lanky veggies are fun to eat and nutritious, as well. Keep these beans available fresh, frozen, or canned for a virtually instant simple side, the base for a creamy casserole, or the centerpiece of a stir-fry topped with bits of bacon.
Grow What You Can at Home (Countertop-to-Table):
The conveniences of modern life have lulled many of us into total dependence on the outside world for sustenance. Just a generation or so ago it was commonplace for most families to maintain—at least—produce gardens, and even raise chickens if space allowed, to fortify their loved one’s security and self-sufficiency.
But today, we are more accustomed to drive-thru meals and insta-everything; and as a result, many of us may have felt a bit disoriented when we all found ourselves home and cooking more in early 2020.
“How do I boil water?” was likely searched for online in April of this year more than ever, with food blogs and recipe sites a buzz as formerly reticent individuals were faced with the task of becoming bonafide home cooks making food from scratch—some for the first time.
However, as the months have rolled on by—kind of feeling like the embodiment of if a year was a run-on sentence–more and more people have warmed up to the idea of baking and meal prep and have found that it’s not all that bad; they may even learn they like the foodie life!
Whether it’s potting and tending to a modest herb garden or tapping into the aid of technology and growing smaller vegetables like plum tomatoes or chili peppers with the use of a countertop hydroponic garden, people from all walks of life are reconnecting with growing, harvesting, and preserving the food that nourishes them.
Line your windowsill with lots of thyme, rosemary, or basil and dill so you always have fresh options available at your fingertips. Growing herbs is fairly simple and low maintenance which makes them a perfect option for the newbie grower—a way to build confidence with early successes.
Also, florals like lavender can serve a dual benefit as a lovely addition to your decor as well as the base for a fragrant tea that you can make at home whenever you want! And gifting a planter is an excellent last-minute gift to give someone on the fence about testing the greenness of their thumb.
Also, experimenting with fermenting foods is another way to enhance your food’s nutrition and flavor profile while using traditional methods to extend your food’s life.
Plus, here are some foods that grow well in small spaces and without too much upkeep:
- Leaf Lettuce
- Pole Beans
And as for herbs, the following are fantastic options to grow—even indoors—at home:
Also, the following are great seasonings to keep handy to elevate and augment even the most basic keto recipes:
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Pickling Seasoning
- Celery Seeds
- Mustard Seeds
- Lemon Pepper
- Italian Seasoning
- Curry Powder
- Chili Powder
We could add so many staple keto food items as there are many, but we have provided the ingredients above as a starting point. Check out our dedicated article about the best foods to include on a ketogenic diet, here.
How to Convert Foods Throughout the Week
So, meal prep on a Sunday afternoon may include cooking a chicken rotisserie-style, searing some ground beef, or preparing some creamed spinach and faux mash to enjoy throughout the week, but will you want to eat the same foods the same way for days on end?
If the answer for you is “yes”, good for you. But if you like a little more variety in your meal plan, keep reading.
Whole Chicken: Start off with cooking a whole chicken and harvesting the meat to pair with keto-friendly sides. Use leftover meat to make lettuce wrap sandwiches or top a huge low-carb salad topped with a generous helping of fatty dressing.
Once you’ve enjoyed the meat, gather the bones and brew a batch of electrolyte-rich broth; it’s a perfect nutritional complement to a keto diet!
Steak: Sear a marbled steak in a cast-iron skillet for a restaurant-style result, and enjoy it with a side of asparagus topped with salted grass-fed butter. If you manage to have leftovers, enjoy them in a huge taco salad; it’s a protein-packed quick meal that’s sure to hit the spot—especially if you’re short on time.
Boiled Eggs: Taking the time to boil a handful of eggs at the start of the week can come in handy in many ways. An egg is a great source of fat and protein, and it can serve as a snack plain or as the main ingredient in a quick-and-easy keto egg salad or deviled eggs.
Boneless & Skinless Chicken Breasts: Steamed broccoli and baked chicken breasts are an amazing staple meal to make and keep handy when eating a keto diet. In addition to acting as a primary source of protein, you can cube the chicken later in the week to make soup, chicken salad, or a keto Cobb salad—and that’s just for starters.
Fish: Frying some salmon in a shallow bath of salted butter is a quick way to have dinner on the table in a hurry—full of flavor and rich in omega-3s. Then, pull the fish apart and use it to make fish cakes later in the week for a new take on a keto staple.
Plus, here are some Konscious Keto approved recipes that you can make with leftovers:
- Delightful Zucchini Bread: Save the pulp when you juice and use it to make a nutrient-dense and delicious keto-friendly quickbread.
- Kickin’Keto Chicken Salad: As we’ve shared, making a whole chicken during meal prep is a great way to set yourself up to create many remixed meals throughout the week and this salad is a case in point.
- Keto Chili: A warm bowl of savory chili is the perfect comfort food to enjoy on a cold winter night, and many of the ingredients needed like onions or peppers are items you can chop and prep ahead. Plus, you can freeze leftovers, so you always have healthy, homemade heat-and-eat meal options at the ready.
- Keto Savory Pie with Zucchini: Again, acting as your own sous chef and prepping veggies can expedite mealtime significantly. Set some zucchini aside for this tasty and filling keto savory pie.
- Keto Pumpkin Walnut Bread: Save some pumpkin if you’re making pies for the holidays, and add some variety to your meal plan by baking a nutty and fragrant keto pumpkin pie bread.
- Avocado Keto Chocolate Pudding: Adding this fatty fruit may not initially come to mind when you consider how to make keto pudding, but it works like a charm and can act as the perfect way to use slightly oxidized fruit.
- Keto Pizza: A piece is a delicious base for an endless amount of topping combinations. Again, use some leftover veggies and meats as toppings for a fun night with the family.
Keto on a Budget
Also, buying whole foods with as few ingredients as possible is generally the way to go when looking to save money. Invest a little elbow grease to reap savings that surprisingly add up fast!
The savvy keto dieter is able to leverage sales, coupons, farming collectives or cooperatives, and knowledge about seasonal availability to their advantage to stack savings while keeping carbs low.
While a ketogenic lifestyle provides many benefits, cost and accessibility are key to successfully implementing the eating style long-term, and we get that; more on ways to save while eating a keto diet below.
It’s vital to make every dollar work as hard and stretch as far as possible for many, and we feel that sharing important tips regarding ways to eat a keto on a dime is needed now more than any time in recent history.
Here are a few articles we’ve published that are dedicated to living a keto lifestyle on a budget:
Plus, there are many helpful tools, gadgets, and hacks to use to make your time in the kitchen enjoyable and memorable; here’s more on that:
Cook in Bulk
Buying, cooking, and preserving food in bulk is a great way to cut costs and use your time in the kitchen most efficiently.
Also, investing in a tool like a food vacuum sealer is a fantastic tool to help keep food fresher for longer to prevent food spoilage and subsequent waste.
If you were going to make a pound of chicken wings for dinner, triple the amount and freeze some to eat later.
Also, canning foods is a perfect opportunity to batch process large amounts of food in a single sitting to give your family an additional leg up on your long-term food supply.
The bulk food outlet options may differ based on your geographical location, but the following are a few brands to consider:
In-store and online wholesale options:
- Hubba.com: This online source offers everything from keto bread and snacks to jerky and baking essentials, at wholesale prices.
- Keto and Co.
- Thrive Market: Membership sites like Thrive Market don’t necessarily provide food in bulk, but they sell food at deep discounts so you can get a great deal on smaller orders.
Seek Clever Ways to Use Everything
Cooking and preserving foods is a fascinating and rewarding experience, and as you become more comfortable in the kitchen you’ll likely want to continually eliminate inefficiencies and waste.
Make pâté with that leftover liver or steep some collagen-rich broth to use in soups and stews throughout the winter. Plus, dehydrating, pickling, canning, and curing are all really useful and practical ways to take advantage of buying in bulk when food is on sale and preserving it to carry you securely through the season.
If you’re curious about dipping your toe into the world of home-based food preservation but are unsure where to begin, read our straightforward guide to get started.
Plus, if you’re getting a handle on the idea of cooking and would be better served with a meal plan personalized to your needs to achieve your wellness goals, take our 30-second quiz to gain instant access to your customized keto weight loss meal plan to embark on your 2021 keto journey early.
There are so many ways to revise and remix staple keto ingredients and dishes to keep your meal plan fresh and new. Plus, keeping an eye on buying low-carb foods for less is an excellent way to maximize your budget on a ketogenic diet.
Check out our tips above, leverage the hacks and recipes outlined in the resource articles linked, and you’ll soon find yourself well prepped with macro-friendly food for the week and an endless variety of ways to enjoy it!
- Madjd, A., Taylor, M. A., Delavari, A., Malekzadeh, R., Macdonald, I. A., & Farshchi, H. R. (2020). Effects of consuming later evening meal versus earlier evening meal on weight loss during a Weight Loss Diet: A randomized clinical trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-25. doi:10.1017/s0007114520004456
- Low-Carb Diet Beats Low-Fat for HDL-Cholesterol Levels. (2010). SciVee. doi:10.4016/20185.01
- Bray, G. A. (2012). Diet and Exercise for Weight Loss. Jama, 307(24). doi:10.1001/jama.2012.7263
- Dearlove, D. (2018). Adaptation to prolonged nutritional ketosis. Http://isrctn.com/. doi:10.1186/isrctn35075523
- Boschert, S. (2007). Low-Carb Better Than Low-Fat Diet for Lipids. Family Practice News, 37(3), 11. doi:10.1016/s0300-7073(07)70131-7