Cupcakes are Nice

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Keto for beginners on a budget

I’ve been following a keto diet for about a year, and I have managed to do it with minimal effort and low grocery bills. When I lived alone, my grocery budget was about $30/week. Now that I’m married, our budget is $50-$60/week. We’ve been able to have a variety of meals on this budget, and we don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen to make it work.

I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, so I cannot tell you if the keto diet is right for you or give you nutritional advice.  If your doctor is on board with a keto diet, though, you’re not sure where to start, and you’re limited on time and money, I can tell you what worked for me.

First steps:

  • Do your research to find the version of the diet that is right for you – The FAQ section of the r/keto subreddit is an excellent resource for getting started. However, I do not do the precise macro recommendations they call for. I just count net carbs and make sure to get plenty of good fat. Some people prefer the strict macro calculations.
  • Keep it simple to start out – When I started keto, I would have a meat, a fat, a low carb vegetable, and seasonings/sauce for my meals, and it’s still how I dine most of the time. You’ll be tempted hop over to pinterest and fill your board full of 27-step keto cake recipes, but these complicated recipes should not be your staple.
  • Decide what your dietary priorities are – Figure out what your non-negotiables are and budget accordingly. I don’t buy grass-fed beef or organic food because that cuts quite a bit into my grocery budget. I have a brand preference if I’m buying diet soda, though, and will pay extra to not buy generic.
  • Decide what your time priorities are – Know how much time you can devote for meal prep – and don’t be aspirational, be realistic. It’s cheaper to buy a head of cauliflower than a bag of cauliflower rice, but I choose to buy the bag of cauliflower rice because it saves me time, and I’m more likely to use it. I buy pre-cooked chicken even though it’s more expensive because it’s quicker for me to turn into a dish.
  • Find a support group – It’s so much easier to follow the diet if you know other people who are doing it, too. I am a member of a women’s-only keto group on reddit, I’m part of a low carb support group on facebook, and several of my friends on twitter eat keto. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in these groups!

Meal planning on a budget:

There are meal planning services out there with low carb options, but I find that I spend more money on groceries when I use those and that the carb counts are higher, so I plan my own meals. This is my approach to meal planning.

  • Buy staples that you can use in multiple meals – Ingredients that can be used in several dishes can be a time and money saver. With cauliflower rice and chicken as my base, I can make taco bowls, chicken tikka masala, fried cauli rice, faux pasta, and so much more.
  • Plan out how you want to make your meals – Your cooking has to fit your lifestyle, so plan accordingly. Some people like to prep their meals on Sunday and store them in the freezer. I prefer to have meals that I can cook right before I eat them in 20 minutes or less, so I plan meals that are quick and simple. Again, be realistic about the time you want to spend cooking.
  • Buy simple snacks that require no prep work – You won’t be tempted to snack on a non-keto treat if you’re surrounded by quick, keto-friendly options. Almonds and cheese are great for me.
  • Do not spend a dime on ketones or keto products – These products are money. Down. The. Drain. Your body produces ketones on the keto diet, and you’ll just pee out the excess. And that keto coffee I see being peddled? Regular coffee is keto-friendly and costs SO MUCH LESS.
  • Make fathead pizza – Yes, this is worthy of its own category. The recipe is all over the internet, and one version of it is here. It’s a real game changer.
  • Consider free grocery pickup or delivery – Grocery pickup can save you time and money. You’ll save money because you can do price comparison online, and you won’t be tempted to add things to your cart you see in the aisle. You’ll save time because you’re not having to wander through the aisles to find what you want. Click here to save $10 on your first Walmart Grocery Pickup order over $50 (and I’ll save $10, too!).

My grocery staples:

My approach is to keep things simple! I eat a lot of the same staple foods and then change up the spices so it won’t get monotonous.

Meats:
Frozen, pre-cooked chicken
Ground beef
Ground turkey
Turkey pepperoni (regular is fine, I just have a thing about pork after watching an online video with a pig smiling while its hair was being brushed)
Beyond-meat beef crumbles

Dairy and eggs:
Cream cheese
Shredded Mozzarella
Eggs (I get the cheapest ones possible)
Cracker cut cheese

Vegetables:
Frozen cauliflower rice
Frozen broccoli florets
Salad mix
Celery
Avocados IF AND ONLY IF they are on sale or I’m just really having a craving
Zucchini

Pantry/shelf stable items:
Nut butter
Almond flour
Mixed nuts
Hunt’s canned pasta sauce
Coconut milk
Curry paste
Swerve (erythritol)
Raw stevia
Spices
Olive oil
Coconut oil

Beverages:
Sparkling water
Diet soda (some people say to not drink diet drinks, but I drink up)
Coffee

I generally get the cheapest version possible of all these things, and I do not have to buy all of these items every week. However, I find that with the right seasonings and sauces, these groceries can be very versatile.

What works for me might not work for you, but this information might give you an idea of where to start. What about you, keto-ers? What advice do you have?


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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the info Sarah!
    I do intermittent Keto, but feel so much better when I stick to it. Starting again today!
    What do you do with swerve? I know it’s a sweetener, but what do you add it to?
    I’m also going to check out the groups you mentioned. I get bored with my go-tos, and need help with ideas for meals my kids will eat, but that I can adjust for me.
    Perhaps in a future post you can do some samples meals (and recipes!) that you use regularly!

    • cupcakesarenice

      August 5, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Hey Heather!!

      Some of my favorite swerve uses:
      Mix with avocado and cocoa powder to make chocolate pudding
      Mix with peanut butter, protein powder, coconut oil and coconut flakes to make protein balls
      Add to a protein shake
      And as much as I rag against making cakes at first, this recipe is one I make pretty often except I make it in muffin tins instead of donut pans.

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