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
Couponing will never get old. The best ways to get coupons nowadays is online. There’s tons of couponing sites that can help you save, but you really have to watch out for when the keto stuff goes on sale.
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.
REMEMBER TO MARK DATES. Marking dates is a crucial aspect of freezing food. You don’t want it to get TOO old where it starts to taste funky.
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).
Do yourself a favor and buy a food processor. They have thousands of uses; they’re cheap, and best of all they make your life easy. Utilize one, and you can make anything from low carb flours to hearty soups with them.
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!
Flavor and food go together as a team – you can’t have one without the other. Sure, chicken tastes good by itself, but why not make it taste better?
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
Stop. Drinking. Diet. Soda. That stuff really adds up in cost, and it’s not really all that great for you. Switch over to water, tea, or coffee. Not only are they healthy for you, but they taste great and you can make different flavors to switch things up.
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 organic and local 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 from pesticides that are typically used to grow conventional vegetables).
I’ve found the best way to get high-quality produce for cheap is by eating locally (from organic farms or gardens in your area) and seasonally (i.e., eating vegetables that are grown at the same time of the year you eat them). Buying directly from the farmer’s farm stand or the farmer’s market is the simplest way to do this.
The cheapest high-quality vegetables I’ve ever purchased were from a local community garden, so keep on the look out for one near you. (You may even be able to volunteer for a few hours a week to get free produce.)
If you need some extra help finding local and seasonal produce near you, these websites will point you in the right direction:
For those of you who’d rather keep shopping at your local grocery store, your staple vegetables should be spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower as they’re some of the best price per nutrient vegetables you can get. Cauliflower isn’t the best price, but it certainly is the most versatile vegetable we have in our keto arsenal.
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 much of 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 are going to be eating mostly fatty foods. You will want to spend most of your money on them. Meat along with fats, eggs, cheese, butter, and oils will be your staples.
This is why it is crucial to 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 high-fat sauce and/or 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 juicier and tasting better. 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.
Just take 5 minutes out of your day and look up a video on YouTube on how to butcher a chicken – it’s not hard! Then, once you have finished all of the meat, throw the leftover bones, fat, and skin in a pot and make some delicious, health-enhancing bone broth (click here if you’d like to see our article on bone broth and how to make it).
Stay away from chicken wings, though. They are notorious for being 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.
Ground beef is a great way to get fatty meat into your diet without having to spend too much on a steak. Don’t go for the lean stuff, either. The fattier cuts, like ground chuck, will be much cheaper and are much better for this diet anyway.
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.
What about Fish?
In general, it will be difficult to add seafood into your diet without considerably increasing your expenses or your toxin exposure (via cheap, farm-raised fish like tilapia). With that being said, I don’t recommend avoiding fish altogether because it can provide us with a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (i.e., DHA and EPA), protein, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, many researchers and dieticians recommend eating two or more servings of fatty fish, such as sardines and salmon, every week for optimal health.
I’ve found the cheapest way get my fish in is by stocking up on canned wild-caught salmon or sardines when they are on sale. Wild Planet is one brand that seems to provide high-quality seafood for a decent price. They have many wild-caught canned seafood products that you can find in various grocery stores, on amazon.com, or on their website.
Eggs are a staple in my diet, and I eat a lot of them. Hard boiled, soft boiled, fried, scrambled, in a quiche, in a fritatta, it doesn’t matter how you eat them; they’re extremely versatile, add tons of nutrition, and best of all they’re cheap.
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.
There are a few things you shouldn’t skimp on, and oil is one of them. Pick up some quality olive oil and some decent coconut oil. The olive oil is heart healthy, has a good Omega-3 to Omega-6 balance in it, and tastes fantastic. I use olive oil in nearly everything I cook.
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.
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!
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.
You should be investing in a food processor already, so you can use it to grate the cheese. Most food processors come with a shredding attachment and will eat a block of cheese in 10 seconds, leaving you with professionally shredded cheese. Buy your cheese in 5 pound blocks or more, and food save half for later.
I normally can go through 5 pounds of cheese in 2 weeks, so all of it will keep just fine in the fridge.
Buying High-Quality, Sustainable Keto Meat and Dairy on A Budget
By now, you probably already know of the horrid conditions that many animals are subjected to just to provide us with cheap meat and dairy and how this contributes to the deterioration of our environment. You may have also heard of how nutritionally inferior conventionally raised animal products are compared to meat and dairy that comes from healthy animals.
Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use to buy keto-friendly meat and dairy products that are healthy for you, the environment, and your bank account. The most convenient strategy is to order your meat, dairy, and other animal products from one of these websites in BULK (and on sale/discounted when possible):
Or — if you are looking for an even better strategy — find a local source of high-quality animal products, and buy them in bulk by using these websites:
Keep in mind, however, that you may not be able to get high-quality, sustainable animal products as cheap as you would get their conventional counterparts. To get close to the same prices as conventional goods (and, in some cases, cheaper prices), you MUST buy in bulk, especially when there is a discount or sale.
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.
Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are out of the window – these places charge far too much for their low carb products…and they’re already quite expensive as is.
Putting It All Together – a Quick Overview of How to Follow the Keto Diet on a Budget
Eating healthy does not have to be expensive. In fact, by using the tips found throughout this post, you’ll be able to get the results you want by spending less than you did before.
As a quick refresher, here are the key principles and strategies that’ll help you follow keto without breaking the bank:
- Search for deals, discounts, and coupons, and plan your meals around them.
- Buy in bulk, freeze in bulk, and make meals in bulk.
- Take advantage of the bulk deals at Sam’s Club, Walmart, Costco, and/or BJs Wholesale.
- Prepare all your meals, condiments, sauces, etc.
- Stick with cheap beverages like water, coffee, and tea. Stop buying diet soda, alcohol, and other drinks.
- Buy vegetables in season and locally when possible and/or stick with fresh spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. Always buy your produce fresh, never frozen.
- Buy all meat in bulk. Avoid more expensive cuts of meat like filet mignon and chicken wings. Stick with ground chuck, chicken thighs, and whole chicken instead.
- Buy canned wild-caught seafood, like sardines and salmon, when on sale. Have no more than 2-3 servings per week to reap the benefits of EPA and DHA without spending too much on seafood.
- Buy eggs in bulk as they are extremely versatile on keto.
- Buy cheese in blocks in bulk, and process it yourself.
- Avoid snacking and eating desserts.
And for those of you who want to increase the quality and sustainability of your food, I recommend checking out Eat Wild and/or Local Harvest to find local vegetables, eggs, meat, and dairy. You can also get high-quality, sustainable animal products shipped to your house for cheap by using U.S. Wellness Meats, White Oak Pastures, and/or Udder Milk.
Even if you don’t implement all of our suggestions, the keto diet can still be relatively cheap. Simply by making all of your meals at home, it is possible make a full week of keto meals for an average of ~$2 per meal.
In other words, many keto dieters will be able to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, a side dish, AND some leftovers for around $6 per day. To find out how this is possible, feel free to check out our free one-week keto shopping list, budget, and meal plan.
Just imagine how much money you can save if you were to combine the power of planning out your meals with the strategies found throughout this post. You’ll probably end up spending less on groceries than ever before while also meeting your health and body composition goals. A win-win situation for you and your bank account.
If you’re already 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. Please leave a comment below!