Keto has gone from being looked at as a fad diet to becoming a legitimate way of eating, both among dieters and medical professionals. While there are a number of medical reasons helped by keto, the majority of those following the diet are doing so to lose weight.
The entire purpose of keto is to get your body into a state of ketosis. To achieve this, you increase the amount of healthy fats you consume and limit your carbohydrates to less than 50 grams a day. Since you’re relying on low-carb, high-fat foods, it’s natural that your diet will consist of foods like coconut, animal products, avocadoes, and similar items.
When grocery shopping, it might shock you to learn that unhealthy, carb-filled processed foods are cheap, while the healthy options can be quite a bit more expensive. This can be troublesome in households that have to stick to a strict grocery budget and don’t have a lot of wiggle room.
Fortunately, it’s possible to follow keto while making it affordable. Keep reading for some valuable tips and discover some of the best budget-friendly keto foods in the process.
32 Tips To Do The Keto Diet On A Budget
- Avoid pre-packaged keto foods
The popularity of the keto diet has exploded in recent years, and that’s never been more obvious until you take a stroll around your supermarket and see so many products labeled keto-friendly. Some of the most common foods you’ll find are meal replacement shakes, single-serve microwave meals, snack bars, and even sugar-free candies and cookies.
First of all, you don’t actually need any of these processed foods to be successful in doing keto. That’s not to say they’re not nice to have for convenience or an occasional treat. As convenient as they are, they’re also pretty expensive, and if your diet consists mainly of these foods, the cost will add up quickly.
While keto-friendly, a lot of the snack bars won’t be very dense in nutrients. For example, a couple of tablespoons of natural peanut butter will be far less expensive and better for you in the long run.
2. Purchase your keto items in bulk
A membership to Costco or Sam’s Club can make a huge difference when it comes to keto. The ability to purchase your keto items in bulk can go a long way towards keeping your overall costs down.
Buying in bulk doesn’t always have to mean buying in large quantities. I eat a lot of chicken on keto. When they’re on sale, I can get quality chicken breasts for $2.49 per pound and sometimes even a little less. If I’m willing to put in the work to cut it up myself, I can buy a whole chicken at 99 cents per pound, giving me just as much chicken (or more) while saving money at the same time.
So e of the best items to buy in bulk include:
3. Keep meals simple
Keto meals don’t have to be extravagant. Simple meals can be delicious, and by using minimal ingredients, you aren’t spending extra money just to make a fancy dish. Many meals can be prepared for as little as $3.00 using minimal ingredients. Obviously, this won’t always be possible, especially when cooking for a large family, but I regularly feed my family of 5 for around $10.00 total.
4. Focus on proteins that may not be as popular
When it comes to proteins, most of us love things like steaks, chicken breasts, ground chuck, and wild salmon. All of these options taste great, so it makes sense that they’re among the most popular choices. The problem with them being popular is that the suppliers know this so they’re able to charge a premium for them. Obviously, paying the price for these foods can quickly eat into your food budget.
You can make your money stretch further by utilizing cheaper cuts of meat. They may not be as popular, but you can still make delicious meals from them. Chicken thighs are excellent replacements for breasts, and you can save even more money by purchasing chicken leg quarters and cutting them up yourself. Some other inexpensive protein options include eggs, sardines, tuna, and ground beef.
Recommended protein swaps:
- Flat iron steak over flank steak
- Beef chuck steak over top round steak
- Chuck roast over eye of round roast
5. Prepare your own snacks
If you’re a snacker, then you’ve probably seen all the different snacking options that are available to you. Fat bombs, single-serve flavored nut butter packets, and frosted keto cookies. While they are all delicious, they don’t come cheap. Something as simple as some pork rinds or a handful of nuts will satisfy your snack craving without costing a fortune.
6. Prepare your own meals
One of the best ways to save as much money as possible is to make sure you’re preparing the majority of your food at home. Why is this important? According to research published by Forbes magazine, you can make approximately five meals at home for the same price that it would cost to have one meal delivered or ordered in a restaurant. It could be an even wider gap by now since the referenced article was written in 2018.
Recently, people have been moving to meal service kits due to their busy lifestyles. Depending on the kits you choose, they either come already prepared and ready to be heated or you’ll get a box with all the ingredients you need to prepare your meal. While these options are convenient, they’ll still run you about triple what it would cost to buy the ingredients and make the food yourself.
If you’re choosing takeout options or meal kits due to time constraints, planning out your meals and prepping them ahead of time can save you a lot of time. The best way to do this is to write out a menu and stick to it. If you need to prep ahead of time, take a day when you’re off work and spend a few hours cooking and portioning the items into single-serve containers. You can get a lot of reusable containers inexpensively.
Here are my favorite meal prep containers:
7. Plan meal prep around sales
While we are on the subject of meal prepping, it’s the perfect time to tell you about a little secret I use to save even more money. Before planning out your menu for the week, check out the local circulars and see what meats are on sale.
Simply look for deals on beef, chicken, or pork to figure out what you’re going to buy. Once that’s settled, plan your menu by making your favorite dishes or jumping online and looking for new recipes to try.
8. Eat meals with no meat
This is one that most people struggle the most with. Unless your following a vegan or vegetarian version of keto, meat is an important staple in the diet. The one bad thing about meat is that it’s usually what costs the most when it comes to the ingredients in our meals.
Eating meals with no meats from time to time can help with budgeting, even if it’s just a meal or two per week. It’s really easy to use a vegetable spiralizer to create noodles out of zucchini. Make up some low-carb alfredo sauce, and you have a delicious keto-friendly fettuccine.
9. Don’t eat out
These days, we are busier than ever. Work is demanding. Kids have sports, or theater, or music, or play dates, or any number of things that kids do these days. Never having enough time, it’s easy to hit a drive-thru to get a lettuce-wrapped burger or burrito bowl with no beans and rice. It makes for a nice treat sometimes, but if you’re trying to stick to your budget, it’s almost always going to be cheaper to cook your own meals at home.
10. Use your appliances
Speaking of constantly being busy, why not make use of the appliances you purchased to make your life easier? Seriously, how long has your crockpot been sitting in the back of your cabinet collecting dust? There are so many delicious meals you could make cheaply. And by using the low setting, you can start the meal as you leave for work and have a delicious dinner waiting for you when you get home!
Don’t have a crockpot yet? Check out some of our favorites:
11. Try intermittent fasting
There isn’t a better way to save money on food than not eating any. Many people find success in combining keto with intermittent fasting, especially after being on keto for an extended amount of time.
There are a variety of different ways to follow an intermittent fasting schedule, but the most common that I see is the 16/8 plan This is when you fast for 16 hours and eat only during an 8-hour window. This might sound difficult, but when you think about it, if you stop eating after dinner, skip breakfast, and then eat lunch and dinner, you’ll easily fit your meals into your window.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are many benefits to intermittent fasting other than just weight loss. The most significant benefits include:
- Brain health, thinking, and memory
- The health of the tissue inside your body
- Improved blood pressure
- Improved resting heart rates
- Increased physical performance
12. Buy local
If you’re looking for the best produce money can buy, finding local growers is the way to go. Not only is the quality second to none, you’re often able to purchase it at a significant discount.
Produce isn’t the only thing you should be purchasing locally. If you have farmers in your area, you can buy your meat, eggs, and dairy products. If you have a deep freezer available, you can get the most bang for your buck by purchasing a whole, half, or quarter beef, which allows you to buy more cuts at an affordable price per pound.
13. Fill up on non-starchy vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables should be a big part of any ketogenic diet. It’s often too easy to put all the focus on healthy fats and proteins, but your vegetables should never be overlooked. Not only are they extremely healthy, but they also go a long way toward bulking up your meals inexpensively.
When it comes to keto, not all vegetables are created equal, so choose friendly options like broccoli, cauliflower, and squash. Fresh vegetables are always preferred as they are almost always less expensive than the frozen options.
14. Go big
My Costco membership comes in handy when it comes to some of my keto staples. If you regularly use any kind of cooking oil to prepare your foods, you can save a lot of money by purchasing large containers instead of the small ones at your local grocer.
Canola and avocado oils are great for cooking and can be purchased in bulk quantities. These are great for things like stir-frying. You can also buy large quantities of butter, cheese, avocado, fish, and meat. Eat what you need immediately and freeze the rest to use later.
15. Black soybeans
If you’re looking for a way to make your meals more filling, add some black soybeans. Not only are they delicious, but they give volume to whatever you add them to.
If you’re reading this, you are probably confused because we’ve been told that beans are off-limits on keto. For the most part, that’s true. Black soybeans are a bit of an exception as a half-cup contains only one net carb.
16. Stick to your grocery list
Impulse buys are a big reason that our food budgets get spent quicker than we want. If you’re creating a weekly menu, make a list of all the ingredients you need to buy from the store. When you go grocery shopping, do not deviate from the list, no matter how badly you may want to.
Not only does this method keep your grocery budget on track, but it can help your dieting goals as well because you won’t be buying anything that maybe you shouldn’t have on keto.
17. Swap ingredients to save money
This might go against the previous tip but stick with me here. If you’re shopping for your ingredients and you see something that can save money, feel free to buy it as long as it’s replacing something on the list.
A great example of this may be that your recipe calls for ground turkey, but once you get to the store, you see that ground beef is on sale for 30 cents a pound cheaper. Just swap out the turkey for the beef and enjoy the savings.
18. Make use of your leftovers
If you have food left from a meal, don’t throw it out! Save it and head it up for lunch the next day.
If you don’t have enough for an entire meal, at least save the protein. Steak and chicken taste great chopped up and eaten in a salad or omelet. If you’re trying to stretch your grocery budget, make sure none of the food you buy goes to waste.
19. Buy produce in season
Produce that is in season will always be more plentiful, making them cheaper than options that are harder to find because they are not in season in your area. Produce that is not in-season has to be shipped in from elsewhere. The transportation costs are always passed on to the customers.
Here’s when some of the most popular produce items are in-season:
- Spinach (Fall and Spring)
- Broccoli (Fall and Spring)
- Green Beans (Fall and Summer)
- Cabbage (Fall, Spring, and Winter)
20. Try different animal parts
This tip isn’t for everyone, especially picky eaters, but there are a lot more edible parts of an animal than you realize. Additionally, these parts are often quite a bit cheaper. Livers and hearts are extremely affordable and are among the most nutritious meats you can find.
21. Buy frozen berries
Earlier, I mentioned buying fresh vegetables instead of frozen to save money. When it comes to berries, the opposite is often true.
Many people choose to give up fruit when starting a keto diet because even though the sugars they contain are natural, they still contain sugar nonetheless. Berries, however, are actually pretty low in net carbs when compared to fruits like apples and bananas.
You don’t want to go crazy eating strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries and want to limit the fruit to small portions. Because of this, your berries can go bad in the fridge, leading you to throw away money. When you buy frozen berries, you don’t have to worry about them going bad. You can even open the bag and portion them out into individual servings if you’d like.
22. You Don’t HAVE to buy organic veggies
If you look around at a lot of the keto gurus, you’ll see them scream about the importance of eating only organic vegetables. Are organic vegetables the best option? Of course! If you’re low on funds, however, it’s more important that you’re eating your keto-friendly vegetables in the first place.
23. You don’t HAVE to buy grass-fed, free-range meat
Piggy-backing off the previous tip, grass-fed, free-range meat is not required. Again, they will always be the best option when it comes to quality, but a ketogenic diet should be all about eating whole foods and getting as far away from the standard American diet as possible.
24. Eat more fat and protein
People usually put all the focus on carbohydrates when following a keto diet, but fat and protein play a huge role as well, including the ability for you to save money.
Getting your calories from healthy fats and eating foods with plenty of protein keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time. When you feel full, the length of time between your meals increases, meaning you’re not spending money by eating as often.
25. Make your own sauces
Sauces, such as alfredo and barbecue sauce, can get expensive quickly. You can save some of your cash by preparing your own. The ingredients may seem expensive at first when compared to what a single jar might cost, but for the same price, you can make four times as much or more! Use what you need now and freeze the rest until you’re ready to use it.
26. Skip the avocado
I just heard the keto community collectively gasp as they read this tip. Look, I get it. I love avocado too, but the goal here is to save money and the price of an avocado is at an all-time high.
It’s hard to match the nutrition of an avocado. It’s one of the best whole foods you can buy. It is full of healthy fats and contains a good amount of fiber.
Although it’s not quite the same, you can purchase some avocado oil to enjoy some of the same benefits, but I prefer extra virgin olive oil as a cheaper alternative to get healthy fats into your diet.
27. Become a bargain hunter
This doesn’t apply just to keto, but we can certainly use it. The days of people opening up the newspaper and clipping coupons to take to the store is mostly a thing of the past, although some people still do this. For the most part, coupon clipping has been replaced with store apps that allow you to clip coupons virtually and scan them at checkout automatically.
Another way to find bargains is to check for sales where meat is a day or two from reaching the sell-by date. When this happens, the stores typically discount the meat significantly. You can buy a lot of it, take it home, and throw it in the freezer for as long as you need to.
28. Don’t be afraid of generic
Generic brands can be just as good as, and sometimes even better, than their name-brand counterparts. Still, it’s normal to be skeptical, especially when you have a brand that you’re particularly fond of.
The review publication Consumer Reports performed their own study of taste tests that put name brand items up against their generic, store brand counterpart. According to their study, these generic store brand options were not only cheaper but tasted better than the name brand version:
- Giant Eagle chicken broth
- Winn-Dixie greek yogurt
- Wegmans peanut butter
- Target’s Market Pantry ranch dressing
- Costco’s Kirkland Signature walnuts
- Whole Foods 365 organic kosher dill pickles
- Trader Joe’s frozen vegetables
- Walmart’s Great Value bacon
- Walmart’s Great Value baking powder
- Whole Foods 365 sharp cheddar cheese block
- Walmart’s Great Value mayonnaise
- Target’s Market Pantry mayonnaise
- Costco’s Kirkland Signature mayonnaise
- Whole Foods mayonnaise
- Costco’s Kirkland Signature white cheddar cheese
29. Do your shopping at discount markets
There are no coupons necessary when you do the bulk of your shopping at discount markets such as Save-A-Lot and Aldi. These stores carry a ton of grocery items, and Aldi has even developed their own line of keto snack options.
30. Have breakfast for dinner
This one is an easy one for me because I love breakfast and can literally eat it anytime. For some reason, a lot of people have it in their heads that breakfast is for the first meal of the day and don’t consider it as an option for dinner.
The fact of the matter is that breakfast foods such as bacon, eggs, and sausage, are typically cheaper than most traditional dinner foods by quite a bit.
31. Canned fish makes delicious dishes
Inexpensive canned fish, such as salmon and tuna, can make delicious dishes. Fried salmon patties paired with a homemade tartar sauce is delicious. You can also make a tuna salad with eggs, pickles, mayo, and onion and eat it on its own, eat over spinach, or use it as a dip for pork rinds.
32. Create your own spices
You can save a ton of money by skipping the pre-mixed store-bought spices and making your own. Not only will they taste delicious, but you can control how much sodium is included. Some of my favorite spices to make are Italian seasoning, everything but the bagel seasoning, and taco seasoning.
Sticking To A Budget While Following Keto
It’s always easiest to stick to a keto budget when you have a plan in place. This is especially true when it comes to purchasing the items you’re going to eat over the next week or so. If you’ve never noticed, your grocery stores are always set up in a way to encourage you to spend more money by getting you to make those impulse buys. Having a plan helps keep you focused, avoiding the temptation to buy things you don’t necessarily need.
Making your plan is going to be one of the most frustrating parts of your keto journey, especially when you’re new to this way of eating. Not only will you have to research what you can and can’t eat, you have to try to create a grocery list at the same time. Don’t let this get you down because over time, you’re going to be glad you did it. Not only will the plan keep your budget on track, but it goes a long way to making sure your diet doesn’t go off the rails.
I’d love to be able to post my keto budget for everyone to use, but the truth of the matter is that a budget is not one size fits all. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Instead, we are going to look at individual food categories and try to break it down from there. Some of the things I talk about below may seem repetitive, but I want to touch on a few things in a bit more detail.
Buying Keto Meat On A Budget
When eating keto, you’re going to get the bulk of your calories from protein and healthy fats. The best way to do that is to consume meat. The biggest problem is that meat is often one of the most expensive parts of following a ketogenic diet. Here’s how to save some money:
- Bacon buying tips – As much as we would love it to be, bacon is not cheap. It would be easier to just exclude it from our diets completely. The problem with that is simple: bacon is delicious and who wants to stop eating such a perfect keto food? Instead of buying bacon at regular price, stock up when it goes on sale. If you aren’t picky about what your bacon looks like, find a package labeled odds and ends, or something similar. All it is are the end pieces that are left after the butcher chops it into slices. The fry up just as delicious as the whole strips while costing half of what you’d normally pay.
- Go for the cheaper cuts – When it comes to chicken, breasts are seen as the premium option. I’m not saying they are bad for keto and by all means, if you catch them on sale and can get a good deal, buy them and freeze them. Chicken thighs, on the other hand, are always less expensive and better for keto due to their fat content. I’ve found that they’re also juicier, espcially if you reheat them. As far as red meat goes, things like expensive steaks are going to eat into your budget. Instead, ground beef is your best friend and there is a lot you can do with it.
- Purchase near expiration dates – The last thing a grocery store wants to do is have to throw out meat that has passed the expiration date. Instead, they mark down the items that will be expiring in the next couple of days at a significant discount in order to recoup some of their investment. The great thing about this is that, as long as you keep it frozen, the meat will stay good long beyond the date on the package.
- Don’t let anything go to waste – There is so much you can use from your meat that you might not have considered. You can take your meat bones and use them to create a delicious bone broth. The leftover grease from your bacon fat? Save it in a jar and use it to flavor dishes, such as green beans. There’s no reason you should be throwing anything into the garbage.
Buying Keto Fish And Seafood On A Budget
Seafood is incredibly expensive. For the most part, it costs so much that many people leave it out of their diet completely. There are a lot of health benefits that come from fish and it would be a shame to miss out on things like omega-3 fatty acids. Fortunately, there are some ways to reap the benefits of fish without going broke at the supermarket.
- Shop at wholesale clubs – Wholesale clubs such as Costco and Sam’s Club can be good sources for seafood at more affordable prices, especially considerng you’re buying bulk. From time to time, they’ll have a huge sale and you should pounce on it to stock up.
- Choose fish with the skin and bones attached – Boneless and skinless fish is always going to cost more because of the cost incurred by the manufacturer to remove the skin and bones. The bones and skin provide you with collagen and calcium, both of which do wonders in your body. The skin itself is delicious and it only takes a few moments to remove the bones yourself.
As you can see, keto can certainly be done cheaply and efficiently. Follow the tips above and enjoy the benefits of the ketogenic diet without breaking the bank!
What fruit can I eat on the keto diet? The best fruit options for keto include avocados, lemon, blackberries, watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, and raspberries.
Can I include gluten-free pasta in my keto diet? You can’t eat gluten-free pasta on keto, since keto means low-carb. Most gluten-free pasta is not allowed because gluten-free isn’t necessarily carb-free. However, someone who is following keto is safe to eat certain gluten-free pasta alternatives.
Can I eat cheese on the keto diet? Yes, you can eat cheese on keto. Many varieties of cheese are low in carbohydrates, making them the perfect option for a ketogenic diet.