How do you eat healthy, follow keto / paleo way of eating and and don't spend hours cooking and break your budget at the same time? I am pleased to introduce you to Andrea Singer, who will share her time and money saving tips with you!
Within the last couple of months I stopped eating my bodyweight in carbs. Carbs are easy, convenient, quick to cook, and cheap, so food prep can be less painful when half of what you eat is quick oats and protein powder.
Since I changed my diet from pasta and bread to meat, veggies, and coconut oil galore, I’ve had to readjust the way I prepare for my week. I work in the wonderful world of web marketing for 4 different companies and also as a personal trainer with up to 10-15 clients at a time, so not only is my schedule busy, it’s also a bit scattered and confusing.
Let me explain to you too, I’m a bit on the frugal side. I have a heart attack when my groceries come out to more than $50 a week (a similar amount to what food stamps often provide), which isn’t easy when the healthy foods seem the most expensive. I thought I would share some tips for preparing for a busy workweek without breaking the bank.
1. Know Your Diet
Obviously it’s important to know what the Keto diet is and what it consists of, but it’s also important to adjust that to your own goals. Some people follow the diet because of health concerns, and some people use it to gain or lose weight.
If you are trying to lose weight, your nutritional needs will be different than if you are trying to gain weight. It will also depend on how active you will be during the week. Figuring out how much you will need to eat of which macronutrients before your workweek begins will take out a lot of the guesswork-- and you won’t accidentally find yourself 500 calories behind your goal right before bed wondering how you can possibly fit in another meal.
2. Know Where to Shop
Staying within a budget depends largely on how and where you shop. My main go-to stores are Winco (located in the Northwest U.S.), Walmart, and local produce stands. I first go to one or two produce stands, because I trust that they have the highest quality fruits and veggies-- and they often beat grocery store prices, especially for organic.
Then I go to Winco for my meats and any additional produce that is on sale or looks good. If I need household items like toilet paper or detergent, or cheap clothes like cami’s or socks I will also peek at the produce at Walmart because I am making the trip anyway. If I am at Walmart I only buy local produce, but sometimes they have amazing deals at the end of a particular season (last year I found locally grown pears for $.28/lb and I couldn’t help myself).
Finding meat at a reasonable price can be tricky, especially if you are looking for grass-fed, organic, or hormone-free. Local farms will be your best bet for quality, but with my current income, I just try to get the hormone-free meats. At Winco I can typically get a good quality hormone-free and filler-free chicken breast for under $2/lb. Bone-in pork is also great because some of the stew meats and shoulder cuts are under $3/lb, and they are higher in fat and calories. Bone in chicken and whole chickens/turkeys are also a great cheaper option full of healthy fats, and here I can get them for less than $1.30/lb year-round (cheaper around Thanksgiving!)
3. Have a Shopping Day and a Cooking Day
I have two days (almost completely) off, Saturday and Sunday. I’ll often have to go to a two hour meeting on Saturdays, and I like to work for an hour on Sundays to get my week started early, but it’s the closest I have to “days off”.
Saturdays are my shopping days, and Sundays are my cooking days. On Saturdays I take inventory of what foods I need and what foods I want with consideration of my $45/week grocery budget. I go shopping in the afternoon, getting everything I need for the whole week. If I know that I may run out of a vegetable or meat halfway through the week, I stock up and leave it in the freezer until I need it.
On Sundays I do all of my food prep. I usually chop and store fresh veggies in gallon ziplock baggies and tupperware. I organize my veggies based on how long they take to cook (or separately if I plan on using them raw).
4. Get the Meat Ready
Meats cover a lot of the protein and fat calories that we consume, and it can be the most time-consuming to prepare.I usually use about 4lbs of Meat #1 (pork, beef, or chicken breast), and about 2.5lbs of Meat #2 (pork, beef, or chicken thigh/quarters).
I use Meat #1 as dinner, and I do not cook it until I am ready to use it. Ground beef or pork is a great option for Meat #1 because it is essentially ready to cook. If I am using chicken or pork, I will cut it up into (approximate) ½-inch cubes so that it is quick to prepare for dinner. I store half of Meat #1 in tupperware in the fridge, and the second half in the freezer so that I can take it out to thaw as I run low. This becomes an easy stir-fry, or can be cooked up with eggs as an omelet or frittata.
Meat #2 goes into the crock pot on Sunday mornings, and by evening it is ready to be shredded and/or de-boned. I store this in Pyrex in the fridge with a decent bit of the cooking liquid which gelatinizes as it cools, and toss a serving into tupperware to take to work with me in the morning.
It’s important to prioritize your nutrition, and if you are too busy to cook during the week or afraid of what eating lunch out every day will do to your wallet, preparing your food ahead of time will eliminate a lot of the stress involved with eating healthy.
About Andi Singer
Andi Singer is a health and nutrition writer working with the IHM blog. She recently gave up her carb addiction and has since had to learn how to prepare her food ahead of time to make sure she stays on track.