We all know that keto is more expensive than a normal diet, but would you rather stuff yourself full of high wheat, highly processed foods or eat a clean and healthy diet? Yeah, me too.
You have to ignore the cookies, cakes, chips, noodles, and rice that’s going to knock the socks off any prices we look at for keto. The main goal here is to spend as little as possible while still eating as minimally processed as we can get.
Through a few techniques and methods that I used to buy keto while in college, you should have no problem finding and buying good food for a cheap price. In a nutshell we’ll be:
- Using Coupons
- Searching for Deals
- Buying Bulk
- Freezing Bulk
- Being Wary of What We Buy
Throw a quick search into Google, and you can find local couponing websites and even specific store sales that are going on. Take advantage!
Stores will often discount their meats if it’s close to expiration date. 20% discount isn’t uncommon in the freezer and fridge sections at stores, especially on ground beef. If you’re not too bothered by expiration dates (I don’t follow them to a tee, but more as a guideline), you can buy it and freeze it for later.
Don’t forget about in-store offers! Buy 1 get 1 free, buy 2 get 1 free, special discounts, and manager discounts. These can really add up over time and make it well worth watching out for. I’ve seen managers specials on Kerrygold, letting me get 5 bars for $12.50. There’s quite often manager specials on chicken where you can REALLY stock up on it and keep it airtight and frozen for months at a time.
Do you shop online? Well you should! So many products like Almond Flour, Nuts, Spices, and the like are cheaper online. They can be up to half of the price you see in the stores – even when you compare to the bulk warehouse stores. Are you a student? If so, you can sign up for Amazon Student Membership using your .edu e-mail address, where you receive free 2-day shipping on almost everything for 6 months. After that, it’s $39 a year, but who can complain when that price pays for itself after 2 orders?
Buy Bulk. Make Bulk. Freeze Bulk.
Forget your local grocer, forget Whole Foods, and forget Trader Joe’s. These places charge an arm and a leg for food when you can either make it yourself or buy it elsewhere for much, much cheaper. Don’t even step foot in these places! If you see how much food that’s thrown out by these places at night, you won’t wonder anymore why the prices are so high. All their wasted food is tagged onto your bill at the checkout.
Sam’s Club, Walmart, Costco, and BJs Wholesale normally have great deals on chicken and beef. When you see a good price, buy it, and buy it up in bulk. You can save it, store it, cook it, or eat it straight away; the best way to get a good bang for your buck is to buy a lot. Having a food saver here will save you because it won’t go to waste, and you can save dollars by the pound.
Make your food in bulk, and freeze it or store it. Making your food this way allows you to always have food in the house. It makes it easy to thrive and survive on keto, and it makes it easy for your work week. You can have breakfast, lunch, and even dinner frozen for that day, and all you have to do is take it out of the freezer. No extra work necessary!
Let’s have a game of Jenga shall we? Let’s see how much food you can actually stuff in your freezer! Really, try to cram as much as you can in your freezer, so you can gauge how much food you can actually buy and make.
Get a Food Saver, and get one soon. Buying in bulk will cut costs down tremendously. Not only does it save food, but you’re also removing air from the bags. Air is unused space as far as I’m concerned, and our goal is to stuff our freezer full of food.
A food saver will come in handy for sealing bags of pork rinds or just making a packed lunch even easier. In my eyes, a food saver is a must-have item in a house that is looking to save money.
Making Things Yourself
Make EVERYTHING yourself. Okay…fine, you don’t have to go all farmer status here, but you should make as much as you possibly can. Those high prices at the grocery store are caused by the production costs of the premade foods. They have overheads to cover, so that means making it yourself is making it for cheaper(and usually better, too).
They’ll save you money in the long run by allowing you easily make things that you might not have made before, and they’ll save you time when you cook. It’s a small investment but very much worth it.
That means all the mayo, ranch, thousand island dressings you’ve been buying in a bottle are no longer allowed. Spend the 15 minutes it takes to make it yourself, and save big. You don’t need to stop there either; there’s plenty of things you can make on your own.
Peanut butter is one of my favorite snacks, for example, and I use nut butters on a daily basis. You can make them all yourself. Buying nuts online is the best way to do this. Almond butter is a favorite of mine and I tend to buy my almonds for $7/lb. You can turn this into almond butter in under 25 minutes with your food processor. It comes out to about half the cost as it would be in the store.
Spices & Flavorings
Spices are cheap, and they WILL give you a better overall meal. Buy some decent spices, and buy lot of them: garlic powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, curry powder, oregano, thyme, rosemary. Buy the spices you like and make sure you use them. Just because the meat you buy is cheaper doesn’t mean the flavor has to suffer!
Torani syrups are a great way to add depth of flavor with a splash! Add it to your drinks, add it to sauces, or even add it to desserts. These concentrated flavorings will help you get past your sweet tooth cravings in a cinch, and they taste absolutely brilliant. My favorite flavor? Salted caramel.
Water, Tea, & Coffee
Tea and coffee are both relatively cheap, especially when you buy in bulk. Don’t worry about your freezer, though, these last a long time by themselves!
Try to brew a good amount at once, and take it with you to work or outside in a flask. Carry it around with you everywhere and you’ll drink it.
If you’re not a tea or coffee drinker, then water will be key. Buy a 1 gallon jug and carry it around with you everywhere. You want to finish that gallon by the end of the day. For those of you who’ve done this before, you’ll know that the inside of the jug starts to smell bad after a few days. You don’t have to buy another, though. Just add 3 drops of bleach to it and clean it out with tap water. You can refill it at water fountains, or if you have a water filter then take good advantage of it!
It’s best to keep your vegetables fresh and not freeze them. Don’t buy those frozen packets of broccoli you can steam in 3 minutes, and don’t buy frozen spinach. They’re much more expensive than the fresh vegetables you can buy. If you can afford it, opt for the organic vegetables, if not don’t worry too much. Most studies show that the nutrition content for organic and regular vegetables are the same, but over time try to switch toward organic (due to the toxins that can be in the normal vegetables).
You can make pretty much anything, from faux rice to fried mac n cheese with it. Tell me another vegetable that can do that, will ya?
Green peppers are no longer going to be part of your life, they’re too expensive. They’re almost a dollar each, don’t have great carb counts, and you can replicate or deepen flavors in other ways. Think bone broths and spices.
Onions are another thing that we won’t be buying anymore. While they’re relatively cheap, they’re pretty high in carbs, and they’re not needed. You can get good flavor with garlic in place of it. If you absolutely must have onion, you can add that to your list of spices to buy – just be careful with the carb counts on it!
Fats & Meats
When you’re on a ketogenic diet, you eat a lot of fat – that’s just a fact. You will want to spend most of your money on this. Meat with fats, eggs, butter, and oils.
Buy all of your meat in bulk. If you can get chicken breast at a good deal, snatch it up and freeze it. It lasts for a long time and it tastes fantastic. Just keep in mind with chicken that it’s very high in protein and doesn’t have that much fat. You’ll need to top your chicken with some kind of sauce of cheese to add your needed fats.
If you can get chicken thighs in bulk, even better. They’re cheaper than white meat to begin with, have tons more fat, and end up staying jucier. What’s not to like here?
Better yet, if you can purchase the whole chicken, it will always be much cheaper for you. Pre-packaged and pre-cut chicken will be about double the price of a whole chicken that you can cut up and butcher yourself. Plus, you get the bones and fats to make some spectacular bone broth with it. Take 5 minutes out of your time and look up a video on YouTube on how to butcher a chicken – it’s not hard!
No more chicken wings allowed, though. Last year they were one of the most expensive meats, per pound, out of everything you can buy. Just skip them. They’re too expensive for the amount of meat you get, and you can make just as flavorful (if not MORE flavorful) dishes with other cuts of chicken.
Freezing it, it can last up to 6-8 months at a time. If you see a special, make sure you buy lots. When you cook your beef and have excess fat, save it and use it for frying or flavoring other dishes.
Bacon, bacon, and bacon. Bacon is a bit expensive but it’s a crime not to eat it while you’re on keto. In Sam’s Club I get the Hormel Black Label in packs of 50. They’re pretty cheap for bacon, at only $11 a package! You can pre-cook your bacon and save it in the fridge for quick snacks, sprinkling over food, or making into dishes.
If you want to reduce your cost on bacon, you can search for the “Odds and Ends” of it. Odds and ends are literally the pieces from the end, the ones that the machine can’t cut into neat rectangles. There are 3 differences that I’ve noticed. They’re even fattier, the pieces are irregularly shaped and it is roughly 1/3 the price of regular bacon.
You can really make a huge amount of different meals from eggs, ranging from breakfast all the way to dinner and dessert.
You can normally buy 48 eggs at a time because most recipes will call for them. If not, you can find a way to fit them into recipes to help with fats and protein. I go through around 48 eggs every week or two because they’re in most recipes I make. They can be used as a binder, as a topping, or just mixed into different things.
Coconut oil is the opposite. I use it in everything I don’t cook. From ketoproof coffee to fat bombs, I consume the stuff because it’s healthy and it contains a good chunk of Medium Chain Triglycerides.
Cheese is glorious and most of us already know that. You can top pretty much anything with it, and even make cakes out of it. Buy it in bulk, but buy it in blocks. Pre-shredded cheese not only has corn starch added to it (to stop it sticking to the bag), but it tastes much better when you shred it fresh.
I normally can go through 5 pounds of cheese in 2 weeks, so all of it will keep just fine in the fridge.
Butter goes in everything from my coffee to the top of my meat. I eat a lot of it, and I really enjoy it. It’s a fantastic fat to have in your diet, and you should opt for the good stuff. Paying a few dollars extra per pound makes it worth it for the nutritional qualities alone, but the taste is sublime too!
Snacks and Desserts
You said cheap right? That means no snacks and no dessert. Seriously! If you make your other meals a bit larger, they should be enough to take you through the day. If you’re hungry, drink some water, tea, or coffee. Keeping hydrated is a key way to balance out your hunger issues between meals.
Snacking usually, as you know, leads to more snacking – so just cut it out completely. It will benefit you in the long run! But, if you MUST have dessert, make sure you buy frugally.
If you’re doing keto on a budget, I’d love to hear your own special tips and tricks to make it easier for everyone else out there that has a tight budget. Leave a comment below!