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Keto Diet on a Budget & Meal Preparation Tips

|Keto Diet on a Budget & Meal Preparation Tips

Before I started working on this post, I asked my readers what was most challenging about going low-carb / paleo for them. Based on their feedback, I offered them a choice of topics to cover. By far, "keto on a budget & meal preparation" was the most popular topic.

If you just started following a low-carb diet, don't forget to read my free Guide to Keto & Paleo Diet which includes a print-friendly PDF version! You will find all the information you need, including the keto food list and tips on how to follow the diet to achieve your goals.

Here is my confession: I hate wasting of any kind. I am lucky that I'm one of those people who don't have to worry about satisfying their basic nutritional needs and food for them is easy to get. Sadly, 870 million (one in eight people) on this planet are hungry every day. My parents brought me up to respect food and not waste it. I grew up in a village and we've always had our own animals: chickens, geese, pigs and rabbits. Taking care of them made me appreciate even more what I have on my plate.

Eating healthy without breaking the bank or spending hours in the kitchen can be a real challenge, especially if you are new to this way of eating (WOE). What is the right balance between quality and cost? Not everyone can afford grass-fed organic beef but does it really matter? Does healthy meal preparation have to be time-consuming?

Keto & Paleo on a Budget: 30+ Money Saving Tips

In the first part of this article, I'll focus on the financial aspects of healthy low-carb / paleo eating and how to keep within your budget. The second part will be devoted to time-saving techniques when preparing meals. As a bonus, I included some additional tips from my readers!

Disclosure: This post as well as my other posts contains Amazon affiliate links (no other affiliations). This is how it works: whenever you buy a product by using these links, I get a small cut from Amazon which helps me run this blog. I never endorse a product or service that I would not purchase myself. I don't own all the kitchen equipment I listed in this post in which case I recommend them based on the reviews on Amazon.

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1. Find your local farmer or shop at farmer's market

I buy meat, eggs and sometimes raw dairy from my farmer rather than a supermarket. My farm is just a 10 minute drive from where I live, so it's very convenient. Here are the main reasons why I almost never buy meat from a supermarket:

  • Quality. You know what the animals are fed and how they live.
  • Price. Buying form a farmer is more economical, especially when buying in bulk.
  • Ethical. I go to a farm I trust, where animals are treated well. Actually, my farmers know their animals by name. They even give you a tour any time you ask them.

Here is a fabulous tutorial from Paleo Plan that explains the whole process of buying local meat. It makes everything so simple - no more excuses!

2. Buy seasonal

If you get your vegetables and fruits from a farmer, they are always seasonal. If you buy your fruits and vegetables from a supermarket, you'll never learn what is seasonal. The only indication will be their price. Crops are usually more expensive at the beginning of their season, as there are not as many available.

Globalisation enabled supermarkets to offer any foods any time of the year. It's not rare to see fresh strawberries in February or pumpkin in June on most supermarket shelves. However, this convenience will cost you extra money. I rarely buy anything out of season - it's too expensive and the produce often lacks quality.

Here is a complete seasonal chart for each month in North America (vegetables, fruits, meats and fish). Here are two charts for the UK: Seasonal fruit chart and Seasonal vegetables chart.

Apart from fruit and vegetables, make sure you also buy fish in season. Here is a list for the UK and for the US West Coast. Depending on where you live, get your fish in season.

3. Buy in bulk

Whatever you can, buy it in bulk! Just make sure you can fit it in your fridge or freezer. If not, get a chest freezer. If you manage your own business, sign up with a wholesale retailer such as Costco and get all the benefits for a just small membership fee.

What to buy in bulk? Any long-life products (almond flour, flaxseed, coconut flour, Erythritol, stevia, etc.) and meat (in the freezer). Sometimes, I buy seasonal vegetables and fruits and freeze them or make preserves. Now it's pumpkin season, so I'm going to make loads of pumpkin puree and use it throughout the year to make delicious keto-friendly recipes. Never buy short-life products you cannot freeze in bulk. Here is a list of foods you should never freeze.

Oils, especially extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil can be quite pricey. Buy them in bulk! Almond, coconut and nut flours are also quite expensive. Buy them in bulk or make them yourself (read further if you want to know how).

4. Shop online, use loyalty schemes, coupons and special offers

I have Tesco and Sainsbury's member cards and use them to get special offers on foods and home delivery. I am not a fan of shopping and spending hours at supermarkets, so I don't mind paying a small fee for home-delivery every week.

Also, shopping online will keep you from buying unhealthy foods or from buying more than you need. Every time I shop online, I get new coupons on foods I frequently purchase and even some additional sales (on cinema tickets, etc.). Wherever you live, find out about the offers at your local supermarket.

Apart from coupons, there are also special offers, such as buying 3 packages of tomatoes for the price of two. Everything counts and you may save 5-10% off your shopping.

5. Try Amazon Prime, Amazon Student, etc.

Because I frequently shop on Amazon, I started using Amazon Prime. It includes free one-day deliveries on selected items and many other advantages as free home movies. Amazon offers a free 30-day trial on Amazon Prime and Amazon Student is free for the first 6 months (50% off Prime after)!

6. Spend some time searching for the best supplier and make a list

This may take a while but it's worth making a list of the best suppliers in your area. Below is what my list looks like. I live in the UK but also included some tips from other countries.

US

UK

  • Meat, eggs, sometimes raw dairy and fish => local farm here in Essex, UK or at Paleo Wales
  • Vegetables & fruit, fish: seasonal from a farm and from my local supermarket
  • Sweeteners (Erythritol, stevia), baking essentials (almond flour, coconut flour, flaxseed, psyllium husks, protein powder), oils (coconut oil, etc.) and other: here are some tips from my UK Amazon Store
  • Nuts & seeds, nut flours, sweeteners, spices, freeze-dried berries and berry powders: Healthy Supplies and Just Ingredients
  • Coconut milk: Oriental Treasure. My favourite coconut milk is Aroy-D which tastes amazing but DOESN'T "cream" in the fridge and is not suitable for all recipes. You can also buy coconut milk on Amazon (apart from Aroy-D coconut milk which is overpriced on Amazon).
  • Pork rinds: I either make my own or get them from The Tapas Lunch Co
  • Lidl, Aldi and other budget-friendly grocery stores have good deals on keto-friendly products such as nuts and full-fat yogurt.

Other Countries

Australia and NZ: Amazon, iHerb, Countdown
Canada: Bulk barn

Please, feel free to leave a comment with your own tips on where you buy keto-friendly ingredients. I'd love to add more sources and tips from other countries!

7. Buy foods that are close to expiration

Many food items are put on sale because they are close to their expiration date. These are often 10-50% off! Even if you cannot use them before the expiration date, you can always freeze them for later (meat, some vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc.).

8. Fast

Whether you follow the fat fast, intermittent-fasting (IF) or a total fast, you are likely going to eat less and spend less in the long term. My favourite way to do IF is to skip breakfast and follow a 16/8 routine.

9. Don't waste food

Food waste is not just affecting your wallet, it's a global issue contributing to environmental damage and increasing carbon emissions. Surprisingly, it's not the supermarkets or farmers wasting most food - it's us, the consumers! I have learnt to use up my scraps and leftovers as much as I can.

If you can't finish what you have on your plate, store it in the fridge for later. Getting a food saver will save you money in the long term. Speaking from my own experience, never buy more food if you have no space for it. Don't be picky and try to finish what you have before buying more. Even if the veggies don't look as appetising as 5 days ago, they are still tasty and nutritious!

I often end up with large amounts of meat gravy and animal fat when baking or slow cooking meat. Compared to lamb, mutton is very high in fat. When baking mutton chops, I get more than a cup of pure tallow! I just pour it through a sieve to remove any pieces of herbs and use it for cooking just like I do with butter, ghee or lard. If there are any meat juices left, wait until the fat solidifies and scrape it off the top. When I slow cook meat, I use the leftover gravy to cook vegetables such as cabbage - just like with bone broth. This adds a lot of flavour to my sides and nothing goes to waste.

Have some slow cooked meat from last night's dinner? Throw it on top of your breakfast omelet! Have some leftover vegetables, broccoli or cauliflower stems? Place them in the freezer and reserve for making bone broth (recipe is here)!

I have a special bag in my freezer and collect all the vegetable scraps and bones until it's enough to make bone broth. Apart from vegetables and bones, I also use herbs, spices and even some oxtail. All these add amazing flavour boost!

Have any egg yolks or egg whites left? Don't waste them! If you have leftover egg yolks: use it for Hollandaise or homemade mayo. If you have leftover egg whites, try my Healthy Low-carb Marshmallows! Even more tips for leftovers are included in my apps and book.

10. Plan your cooking in advance - especially if your cooking skills are limited

Some people can cook anything from available ingredients while others need to make a plan to avoid wasting. Planning what you are going to cook 3-5 days in advance should be enough. Keep in mind that your plans may change from one day to another: You can be eating out or may not be hungry, so always make sure you can use your leftovers.

I do my shopping every 7-10 days from the supermarket, monthly from the farm and whenever needed from online stores (every 2-3 months). Depending on what I plan to cook, I make sure that all the short-life foods (berries, some vegetables, fresh meat) are used within the next few days OR that there is enough space in the freezer to store them for longer. I always have vegetables, meat, fish, cream, butter and avocados and make various recipes by using different spices, pesto sauces, etc. Always remember: keep it simple!

You can also use my iPad app to plan your meals in advance. As a food blogger, I have to plan all sorts of recipes in advance and I find it very useful. Keep in mind that the planning feature is not available on the iPhone yet.

11. Make a shopping list

Make sure that you have space for everything you are planning to buy. While some fresh foods can be left on the shelf, most need to be refrigerated. I sometimes buy avocados that are not ripen and keep them on the kitchen counter for a few days. They don't take any space in the fridge and they last for longer.

Whether you use an app for your shopping list, or a piece of paper, it's up to you - both will do the job. Both KetoDiet apps include a shopping list.

|Keto Diet on a Budget & Meal Preparation Tips

12. Plant / grow your own

Grow your own herbs, vegetables and berries if you can. Herbs and spices are inexpensive when grown at home and add a lot of flavour to foods. I bought a pot of each of my herbs from a local garden store and have been growing them for more than 4 months. You can freeze or dry them for winter.

In fact I've had my oregano, thyme and mint for over a year. There are some herbs that won't last in your garden and you'll have to keep them indoors. Basil and cilantro are very sensitive and I keep them in my kitchen. Either fresh or dried, they are great with meat, in pesto sauces and even some desserts.

I grow basil, parsley, cilantro, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, sage, mint and even stevia. I haven't used the stevia plant yet but I'm planning to try and make my own stevia sweetener. The mint has gone wild and I can't even use it fast enough!

13. Make your own ingredients

I make my own mustard, ketchup, bone broth, pesto, ghee, mayo, pumpkin puree... simply everything I can. It's not only cheaper, but I also have complete control over the ingredients. You can find all my favourite homemade recipes here. Make bacon, pork rinds or sausages yourself from meat you get from your farm. Make your own coconut milk and coconut flour. Render your own tallow and lard. And the list goes on.

Have you tried making your own bone broth? No excuses, Nom Nom Paleo have great guides on how to make bone broth in both pressure cooker and slow cooker. Simply collect all bones from meat in the freezer until you have enough to make bone broth. After 1-2 days in a slow cooker and less than an hour in a pressure cooker, strain and refrigerate or freeze in small containers ready to be used in soups, stews or vegetable dishes (pureed or simply cooked in the broth). Bone broth is the number one essential in my house. All I need is cabbage, a cup of bone broth and a pan to make a delicious side to meat dishes.

Adrianne from Whole New Mom has some amazing recipes on her blog:

14. Avoid expensive ingredients

Almond flour, coconut flour, erythritol, etc. - all these are quite pricey and should be avoided if your budget is limited. Focus on eating simple foods: eggs, meat, butter, cheese, seasonal vegetables and some nuts. If there is something worth getting, it should be stevia. It lasts for months when refrigerated and you always need to use a small amount. I have written more about sweeteners in my post here.

Instead of spending money on expensive ingredients, consider buying a good quality blender like Vitamix as it will pay off in the long term if you make your own ingredients.

  • Nut & seed flours - use a nut grinder or a blender to make your own. I never buy flax meal and instead I buy a large bag of flax seeds to blend or grind until powdered. Whole flax seeds also last longer than ground. I rarely buy any nut flours apart from almond flour which I buy in bulk.
  • Desiccated coconut and coconut milk - Here is a great tutorial from Audrey of Homegrown & Healthy on how to make them from desiccated coconut. You can use the same technique for nut flours. If you are making nut meal (usually contains more fat and moisture than nut flour) like almond meal, pecan meal, etc., you don't need to pour warm water through the nut mixture. You can simply grind them using a nut grinder like this one. Another way to make coconut milk and desiccated coconut is from raw coconuts. I made mine following this video tutorial. As you can see on this photo, my desiccated coconut still has some coconut peel left. This is perfectly fine and doesn't affect the taste.

15. Cook in bulk and freeze if needed

Having a large slow cooker helps. If you have a busy job, you won't have time to cook every day. Cook on a Sunday and have it ready for the whole week - that's what I do! If needed, freeze for longer.

16. Choose frozen over fresh

Frozen berries and vegetables are cheaper than fresh, unless they are in season. Frozen berries work in most low-carb recipes, even sprinkled over your morning low-carb granola! (recipe from KetoDiet apps & book). Frozen veggies are convenient and, especially if you have no time to cook!

17. Free berries in season? Freeze them for later!

I live in the UK and this is the time of year when blackberries are in abundance. I have already picked 20 pounds of blackberries, enough for the next few months! Best of all, blackberries are the lowest in net carbs and I often make a keto-friendly 5-minute ice-cream just like this one from KetoDiet apps (with blackberries instead of strawberries). I've got loads of recipes with berries on my blog, too :-)

18. Buy cheap meat cuts

Not all cuts of meat are expensive. In fact, my favourite cuts include oxtail, brisket or pork shoulder which are all reasonably priced.

To cook these cuts well, you should get a pressure cooker or a slow cooker - that's how you get delicious meat that falls apart!

When cooking in a slow cooker, the order matters. Start by layering the hard vegetables on bottom, top with meat and cover with sauces. If using soft vegetables like zucchini or dairy like cream, add them in the last 30-45 minutes.

Buy offal and marrow bones - they are cheap and high in nutrients. Even if you are not too keen on eating liver, you can always mix some into your minced meatloaf or meatballs! Whenever you've got a cut with bone, don't forget to reserve it for making bone broth later on.

19. No, you don't need to buy everything labeled ORGANIC

Organic produce is often overpriced. Not all fruits and vegetables need to be labeled organic to be safe. Which ones are worth paying for? It's simple, if it's on the Dirty Dozen Plus list, always buy organic. Also, make sure you know what you pay for. Products that are labeled "organic" must be accredited by a certification body and you should be able to find this on the packaging. Also, there are many farmers who follow organic practices without being certified - this article on Mission: Heirloom / In The Kitchen explains what you should be looking for. You will also find some tips for meat CSAs in California!

20. If you cannot afford grass-fed BEEF, buy pastured / grain-fed

Grass-fed, pastured, grain-fed - what's the difference? Animals that are primarily fed grass and additionally grains or silage, especially during winter, can be labeled "pastured" / "grain-fed". Only animals that have been fed grass during their entire life can be labeled "grass-fed." What you really want to avoid is grain-fed meat from confined animals. I have written about the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed meat here. If you cannot afford grass-fed meat and dairy, it's not the end of the world. You can avoid eating too many PUFA by trimming the fat off.

As with all meat, opt for unfashionable cuts which are reasonably priced and delicious when slow cooked - the same rule applies to all red meat (lamb, pork, etc).

21. If you cannot afford outdoor-reared PORK, avoid it

There are several reasons to avoid conventionally raised factory-farmed pork. When getting pork from a farmer, make sure you know:

  • What are the living conditions of their animals? How are they treated?
  • Do they take antibiotics?
  • What do these animals eat?

I buy my meat at a local farm. They let you "adopt" a pig and decide what they feed it and when it gets slaughtered. You can even visit the farm and feed it yourself. Here is a useful guide to help you understand what you should be searching for when sourcing your meat.

22. If you cannot afford wild FISH, avoid it

If you cannot get wild fish, avoid it, you surely don't want to consume PCBs. Also, avoid fish high in mercury and consider sustainability issues - always avoid farmed salmon and think twice before buying shrimp. Melissa from Whole9 has a comprehensive guide to sourcing fish, shrimp and bivalves which explains why wild-caught fish is not always the best choice. It's simply not the only factor you should consider.

23. Be careful when buying EGGS and CHICKEN - know the labels!

Organic eggs and chicken can be quite pricey, especially if you buy them from a supermarket. However, all the commonly used labels may be misleading. Organic, cage-free, free-range, or pasture-raised - which ones are at the best? Here is another great guide from Whole 9 that explains the difference. Ideally, you should get your eggs and chicken from your farmer who raises his chickens according to organic, free-range standards - no need for labelling!

Extra tip: always buy the whole bird rather than the most popular and expensive cuts. You can use any cut-outs with bones for making chicken stock!

24. Beware of oils, not all of them have a long shelf life

Some oils last for a year or more (most saturated fats) while other last for just a few months (most PUFA). Some even need to be refrigerated (flaxseed oil). Keep that in mind when buying oils to avoid rancid oils. When oils get rancid, they don't have to smell but are damaging your health. You can find a complete overview of oils and fats in my post here.

25. If you cannot afford organic coconut oil, use it just as a treat

Coconut oil has a very high smoke point and it's excellent for high heat cooking. On the other hand, using it for regular cooking may not be affordable for everyone.

To get the best value for money, use coconut oil for making treats such as fat bombs or eat it as a supplement - right in your mouth! Instead of using coconut oil for cooking, opt for ghee (find out how to make it yourself) or animal fat such as tallow or lard. The only disadvantage of tallow is that it solidifies fast at room temperature, so you really need to make sure you eat your meal hot.

26. Don't spend money on take-aways and extras

Food and especially drinks can be quite pricey. Forget Starbucks or other "take-away" coffee shops. Their coffee is overpriced, the quality is poor and the serving size enormous (even what they consider "small") making people consume huge amounts of carbs when sugar and syrups are added. In my opinion, the only way to make their coffee palatable is to add unhealthy syrups. This is just another reason to avoid them. Coffee is not the only overpriced extra - don't ever buy bottled water.

27. Make your own tea, coffee and drink water

All these are very cheap when prepared at home. I buy all sorts of tea on Amazon and I even make tea from herbs I collect where I live (rosehip, lavender, lime tree, mint, etc).

If you feel like craving sugary drinks, here is what you can try:

  • water (still or sparkling) with some lemon or lime juice, ice and a few drops of stevia
  • homemade ice-tea (I like hibiscus, lavender and a few drops of berry stevia
  • liquorice tea is a naturally sweet tea (I like this one with liquorice and peppermint)
  • coffee & cream (may be sweetened with stevia)
  • berry lemonade / limeade such as this one: Summer Iced Berry "Lemonade". You can try all sorts of berry & herb infused water drinks - try adding mint, rosemary or basil!

28. Don't buy "convenience" foods

Pre-packaged salads, shredded cheese, trimmed green beans, etc. - these always cost more. What you pay for is the convenience but it's not worth it. It only takes a minute to do the job yourself!

29. Avoid low-carb desserts or make them occasionally

Most keto-friendly desserts use sweeteners and low-carb flours. The less treats you eat, the less expensive your diet will be. Additionally, you will be eating VERY clean, just like if you were to follow my 30-Day Clean Eating Challenge! No sweeteners = no sugar cravings = no weight loss plateaus :-)

30. Avoid popular low-carb products (Carbquick, Atkins bars, Julian Bakery etc.)

It's not just the extra costs but also the misleading labels and unhealthy ingredients these products are often laden with. I have written more about this in my post here.

31. Invest in good kitchen tools - don't buy them again!

Here is my list of good deals in the US and here is one for the UK (my Amazon affiliate stores).

Essentials

  • The absolute essential is a good set of knives and a cutting board. Although I have a set of 8 knifes with a knife sharpener, you won't need so many. The essentials are just a chef's knife, a paring knife and a knife sharpener.
  • Slow cooker or a pressure cooker - both are great for saving time and money. It's one of the best investments I've made. A large slow cooker allows me to cook meat, vegetables and even desserts for the whole week. The options are endless!
  • Cast iron skillets are an essential. I have one medium and one large sized pan. These skillets last a life time if taken care of properly. All they need is to be seasoned every now and then and their surface stays naturally non-stick without all the chemicals of the traditional non-stick pans. To maintain your cast iron skillet, clean with hot water only (no detergent) and wipe with a paper towel until dry. Then, rub a small amount of melted fat on the surface.
  • Dutch oven is a heavy pot made of cast iron. It cooks your meat evenly and is great for meat and vegetable stews. I love using it for making curries and soups.
  • Immersion blender (may not be needed if you get a food processor). An immersion blender is useful not just for smoothies, soups and veggie mashes but even for making mayo!
  • Another must-have is a spiralizer or a julienne peeler. Spiralising vegetables has become my new obsession!
  • Following a keto diet requires exact measuring, especially if your aim is weight loss. Apart from measuring cups and spoons, get digital kitchen scales. Cups are not the same in all countries and it's always better to use scales for certain foods. Slightly wrong amount can ruin your recipe or add extra carbs you didn't count for.
  • Set of saucepans (small, medium and large), ideally with a glass lid. You should also have a few mixing bowls.
  • Steamer basket - steaming is one of the most gentle ways to cook food!
  • Food saver) keeps your food fresh for longer.
  • Baking essentials: baking tray, parchment paper and wax paper, cooling racks, silicone spatula and wooden spoon. These are useful not just for making desserts!
  • Small kitchen tools & other: kitchen shears, strainer, tongs, pepper and salt mills, meat and candy thermometers, oven gloves, cheesecloth and fine-mesh sieve, grater (regular and microplane).
  • Meal prep essentials: glass / stainless steel containers, ice-cube tray

Good to have but not essential

  • If you want to save money in the long term, get yourself a good food processor. You can get all sorts of attachments and won't need to buy multiple gadgets separately. This is great for those who don't have much space in their kitchen. It is fairly expensive but is totally worth the money. A good one (Kenwood or KitchenAid) should last a lifetime.
  • An ice-cream maker. I really enjoy using my Cuisinart ice-cream maker which has a built-in freezer! Do you need it? No. Even if you don't have one, check out these recipes - some of them don't require an ice-cream maker.
  • Other gadgets and tools for making desserts: waffle / panini maker, muffin / cake tins / candy molds, etc.
  • Salad spinner - makes it easier to drain your lettuce but it takes space and may be unnecessary.
  • Other small kitchen tools: balloon whisk, citrus juicer, etc.
  • Sous Vide cooker - quite pricey but cooks your meat and vegetables perfectly.

32. Get an extra freezer

Once you find a good meat supplier, getting a chest freezer is really worth it. You don't even need to buy a new one, just make sure it's energy-efficient. Once you get the meat, don't forget to mark the packages with dates.

33. No space? Share your food with others

Not everyone has space for an extra freezer or room for buying everything in bulk. Share your purchases with your family, relatives or other families. You can buy a whole cow, pig or lamb. This way you can save a lot of money and buy the best quality meat!

|Keto Diet on a Budget & Meal Preparation Tips

More Tips for Healthy Meal Preparation and Saving Time

  • Cook your meat on a Sunday and serve with low-carb vegetables throughout the week: spinach, braised cabbage, green beans or asparagus.
  • Make a batch of cauli-rice. Having your cauli-rice ready in the fridge is very convenient. Simply "rice" the cauliflower, keep in an airtight container in the fridge and cook whenever needed. Cauli-rice is not just a side, it can be used for making a quick breakfast meal! Here are a few recipes on my blog that use cauli-rice.
  • Chop some fresh vegetables in advance. Cut any vegetables and place them in mason jars or other containers to make a simple salad and have them ready in your fridge. When assembling a salad, add some protein (cooked chicken, beef, salmon, prawns, bacon or cheese) and fat (olive oil & lemon vinaigrette, homemade mayo, etc.).
  • Pre-cook & freeze some vegetables. Buy fresh vegetables that are in season (broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, kale, spinach, etc.) and blanch them until half done but still crispy. 1-3 minutes of steaming is enough for most vegetables. Then, rinse in cold water and drain before placing them in freezer. I use zip-lock bags rather than containers and divide the vegetables into 1-4 portion bags depending on what I plan to use them for. Vegetables prepared this way take very little time to cook.
  • Cook the meat in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Whether you use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker (takes significantly less time), you can make large amounts of meat ready to be used throughout the week. I use it in my keto wraps, on top of lettuce leaves, omelettes, in salads and with cooked veggies. The options are endless and you can even freeze it for longer! My slow cooker has literally been a life saver since I've been busy working on my new cookbook, especially on those days I spend in front of my computer editing photos and writing the book.
  • Use bone broth for flavour boost. Apart from spices, use bone broth for making soups and stews. It adds a lot of flavour without any need for extra flavouring. I cook most of my vegetables in bone broth!
  • Make pesto. Always have some homemade pesto in the fridge. It takes just a few minutes to make and adds a lot of flavour to salads, vegetables and meat dishes. I often spread some pesto on top of cooked fish - no need for additional spices!
  • Use a lunch box. Avoiding restaurants and takeaways will not save you just money but also unwanted ingredients. Keep in mind that even if you get a completely low-carb meal, chances are it's cooked in vegetable oil. Apart from regular food containers, Alexis from Lexi's Clean Kitchen shows how to pack your lunch in a Mason jar. Cute and ingenious!
  • Try food delivery service. Depending on the availability of keto-friendly meal plans, you can always pay for a delivery service. Natural Ketosis meal plans which I have reviewed in my post here, are a convenient and affordable option for busy people (beware that not all meals are paleo-friendly).
  • Always have keto-friendly foods at hand to make quick meals: eggs, cheese (if you can eat dairy), cream (or coconut milk), butter (or ghee), non-starchy vegetables, avocados and meat. Here are some of the recipes on my blog that only require a few ingredients and are easy to make.
  • Prepare some keto-friendly snacks and have them ready in the fridge. Hard-boiled eggs, nuts and nut butter, avocados, fat bombs or even homemade keto / protein bars.
  • More quick recipes on my blog and in KetoDiet apps & book. Here is a list of recipes from my blog you can prepare in less than 20 minutes. If you have the KetoDiet iPad or iPhone apps, you can sort the meals by the required time to prepare and get all those quick meals at the beginning of the list! Ultimate keto buns, Chocolate granola, Baked salmon & asparagus with Hollandaise, sweet or savoury waffles and many more are all convenient meals for busy people!

|Keto Diet on a Budget & Meal Preparation Tips

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More tips from my readers

Here are some tips from my readers and from the members of the KetoDiet Support Group:

Meg: "I have a whole Evernote notebook devoted to egg recipes I find around the web just for ideas (even the ones that are not necessarily LC). I always have a couple of dozen eggs, but staring at them long enough sometimes the only thing that comes to mind is omelet or frittata."

Ruby: "Always have basics in your cupboard that many meals or snacks can be created from for example eggs and almond flour, and that many meals don't need fancy ingredients just get back to your basic proteins and vegetables."

John: "Being single and living in an apartment without much freezer space I can't stock up much. My "secret" is planning a menu for the week. Since most recipes feed at least 4 I usually pick 3-4 main dishes and a couple side dishes and make sunday my cooking day. This allows me to buy in regular size portions instead of having to pay extra for single portions. I also buy the unusual ingredients (almond flour, xanthum gum, etc) online as it's cheaper than in the stores."

Love: "Having a role of ground meat in the fridge. When I get home I slice off an inch, wrap that meat in bacon - sometimes stuffing it with cream cheese w onion and cooking it up. Simple and easy once wrapped in lettuce."

Gillian: "I decant melted coconut oil into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, I use two empty coconut oil buckets to keep the coconut oil blocks in. One in the fridge and one next to the stove. That way, I control the amount of oil utilised for frying vegetables and eggs, instead of trying to delve some out with a spoon. This way my coconut oil lasts much longer."

Jen: "I plan meals around sales and seasonal vegetables."

Ashley: "A crockpot, foodsaver, Costco and Amazon Prime!"

See the full list of tips in my post on Facebook!

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Please, note that I do not offer personalised advice. For personalised advice you can contact one of our experts.

Comments (29)

Martina, I love your site and am so excited to discover you live in Essex too!  Any chance you could share the name of your amazing farm where you get your meat and eggs?  I've tried to search but haven't had much luck so far, though I'm lucky to have a really good butcher's on the way home from the school run, which helps a lot!  But buying bulk and saving money would be awesome.

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Hi Anna, I'm sorry for the late reply! Of course - it's called "New Barn Farm" and is located in West Hanningfield. I don't usually get eggs from there because the farm mainly breeds cows, pigs and sheep. They do have eggs every now and then but I usually get most of my meat from there Smile

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Thanks, Martina - that's fantastic!  Will definitely look into that.  And no worries about the delay - I'm impressed you have time to answer comments at all! Smile

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I am finding also that i am eating ALOT less, even of meat n veggies. The FAT is where its AT! I eat mostly coconut oil and its not cheap but cheaper than meat and veggies i bet! Or so it seems. Our meals are lasting alot longer now. I only 2-3oz meat a meal and smaller amts of veggies too.
Eggs are GREAT for cheap, even the pastured ones are cheaper than pasteured meat BY FAR. I eat them everyday for brkfst...3 EACH DAY, kids get 2 a day! Rite now Im not, because im doing an egg challenge on my body to make sure theyre not causing me any problems. I hope they are fine when i reintro them!!! LOVE MY EGGS and sardines and dairy foods...cheap cheap cheap.

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Oh I love sardines too!! Smile

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I rly want ur app for my computer even!! I would pay more than ur charging currently. It would be worth it. Ur site is amazing and the planner and tracker look astounding.

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Thank you Hélène! We have actually been working on bringing KetoDiet to more platforms.

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This must the the most complete guide to eating on a budget I've come across! Thanks so much for your hard work!

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Thank you Heather!! I really appreciate that!

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Ashley 10/12/2014 7:15:28 PM #
Great info!
Do you do the 16/8 rule everyday? If not, how many days per week and how often? Thanks  

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Hi Ashley, on most days I follow the 16/8 rule. I definitely do Monday-Friday (I usually skip breakfast and sometimes even lunch). I may not follow the 16/8 rule during the weekend when my fiancé is at home and we have a big breakfast together Smile

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Great article! Lots of great practical advice.
I thought I would mention some of the great online retailers which can also cut down on the shopping bill - I also like to buy directly from farms but living in London makes it a bit more of a challenge. I buy my meat from Graig Farm in Wales (as well as Paleo Wales) which is a small family run farm with great delivery options. Donald Russell has some okay options. Farmison is also very good for specific breeds. Able and Cole is great for veg boxes. If you are in London, Borough Market is perfect - Ginger Pig is there and you can get organic bones for broth.
Waitrose carries a French unpasteurised butter and RAW unpasteurised sauerkraut (I struggle to make it). Red23 sells unpasteurised raw milk, cheese and cream, and occasionally butter.
I always buy when things are on offer and stock up - I have 16kg of organic mince in my freezer at the moment courtesy of Paleo Wales! And a bunch of steaks and some chicken thighs from Graigs. These form the basis along with added fat (I get beef dripping and pork fat from Waitrose) and veg shopping a couple times a week. I find the cheaper cuts are the tastiest and altogether, things are not costing me anymore than eating the junk down the middle of the supermarket.

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Hi Christine, thanks so much for all the tips! You can try your own sauerkraut, it's SO much cheaper and very easy. Make it in a fido jar - so easy: ketodietapp.com/.../Easy-Home-made-Sauerkraut

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Buying in bulk is a good one, and so is buying the cheapest meat cuts--typically they are the fatty ones anyway, which is perfect!

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I love cheap cuts for slow cooking, especially oxtail!

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Wow your site is the best ever...very new at this way of eating and been searching the web, which can be very daunting...thanks for taking the time to share... Wink)

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Thank you Rene!

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What a brilliant & exciting post.
I'm enjoying your app and blog and trying your recipes. I'm new to this WOE but I love it. I can't believe I've denied myself the joy of fat for so long - decades - and feel sorry for my mother in her eighties who dieted for fifty years.
I made the keto broth last week but felt guilty about discarding the veggies as per your instructions. Could you suggest a use for them (I don't have a garden so composting isn't an option)?
Keep up the good work Martina.

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Thank you so much Jane, I'm glad to hear you enjoy using my app! I know what you mean, I've been on a low-fat diet for years before going low-carb. I was always hungry and craving carbs. Make sure you use oxtail when making the broth, it makes a big difference! I never really use the veggies because I use a slow cooker and often cook them for more than 24 hours. We used to feed these to chicken when I was little. I can't think of any other way to use them because most of the goodness goes into the broth Smile

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Thanks for the reply Martina.
I did use oxtail and it was delicious - in fact I had a cup tonight!
Really appreciate your work

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Thank you Jane!

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People don't even realize the money they can save by NOT purchasing carb-laden foods--that's money that can go toward these new Paleo/keto foods.  You end up spending about the same, but reap so much more nutrition with just a few choice substitutions!  Instead of buying bread, pasta, and potatoes, buy almond flour, cauliflower, and avocados instead, and come WAY out ahead in the nutrition department.
Those of us who are keto and fat-adapted come out even further ahead, because more fat means less protein and carbs--you get to buy even less than before, because you eat even less.
A cost savings side-effect:  health costs.  Your health parameters all improve, meaning less insurance to buy (in the U.S.), less need of insurance, fewer doctor visits, fewer drugs to buy and/or take, and less time WAITING.
Another saver side-effect:  time, money, and space.  More time to do what you want to do as other wait huddled in the hospitals and doctor's offices, more time to spend with family, more time to be out  with nature, more time to make more money, more money to do/buy whatever you want (now that you know what will harm you), more money to seek out better foods, more counter/cupboard space, more space in general (using Mark Sisson's 80/20 plan outside the kitchen), and lastly, more time and space to THINK and be more thought-and-idea productive.
One last thing about the shopping:  shop by price per unit in the stores--this link will tell you all about it.  lifehacker.com/.../look-for-unit-pricing-to-save-money-at-the-grocery-store
This method (for containerized store-bought items) is the biggest boon to a budget-strapped shopper.
A keto tip from Jimmy Moore about boosting the fat without having to boost the quantity of foods you eat:  check the nutrition labels and make sure the item has more fat grams than protein grams.  We're already checking for carbs and ingredients, right?  Now we need to check for fat vs. protein to avoid gluconeogenesis.  The more fat we eat, the less food we have to buy and eat.
THE GOOD NEWS:  fat is FREE.  Water is free (okay, there may be a water bill involved).  Foraging is free.  Gardening and sprouting are low-cost with large yields relative to input.  Eggs are the lowest-cost source of protein, followed by cottage cheese.  Canned sardines are the cheapest fish source.  You just need to fill in the rest here with your shopping and food choices.

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Thank you for your input! Yes, we definitely buy less food than we used to before going low-carb. We don't buy more meat and buy veggies instead of carb-laden foods. Before keto / paleo, I was often ill, sometimes up to 4 times a year - not anymore! When it comes to fat vs protein, it depends. You shouldn't be eating too much protein but you should be eating enough to avoid losing muscles and having hunger issues (protein is the most sating nutrient). Oh and I love sardines!

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Thanks so much for all your effort in putting this together  .. a great skill in my opinion as I have a thousand things in my head but can get very few into enjoyably easy reading!  A brilliant piece to keep delving into!

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Thank you Ruth, I really appreciate that!!

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Loved this article and will share it right away on my personal low-carb page.  I know I have heard so many excuses about why someone won't begin eating this way and you have hit every point!  

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Thank you Jen! Eating well doesn't have to be expensive if you know the tricks Smile

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I haven't even finished reading your post, just read the main points and I'm amazed! I've been waiting for this one ever since you mentioned it on facebook and now I really have to say it was worth all the waiting! Thank you so much for all your work!!! ~ S

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Thank you for your kind words Susan!

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