How to Create Cheap Low-Carb Meals

Save cash on your low-carb meals with these tips

An enamel tray boasting an eggplant boat loaded with fresh roasted vegetables, salad and dips. Eggplant, carrots, avocado, red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, rocket, salad greens, coriander and topped with three types of hummus.
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Low-carb diets like Keto, Atkins and Paleo often include high-protein options like meat, fish, nuts, seeds, and dairy. However, you may find that these ingredients can also be among the most expensive items in the grocery store. This can make the low-carb lifestyle a bit pricier than one would hope. 

There are ways to make cheap low-carb meals without breaking the bank, but it takes planning and preparation. If you’re interested in trying a low-carb diet, here are quick tips to keep your grocery bill—and your carbs—low.

Avoid Packaged Foods

Pre-packaged foods may make eating a low-carb diet easy, but many cost more to purchase than making the meals yourself. 

For example, Rebel makes a low-carb ice cream that sells for about $6 a pint. However, you can make your own low-carb ice cream for about $6 a gallon. That’s eight times the amount of ice cream for the same price. Simply use a sugar-free sweetener in place of the sugar that the recipe normally calls for and you can save over $40 on 1 gallon of ice cream.

The same can be said for low-carb bagels or bread. Low-carb bagels often sell for between $9 and $18 for packages of six in stores or online, which breaks down to about $1 to $3 per bagel. However, if you make them from scratch with “fat head dough” using almond flour and cream cheese, they’ll cost more like 50 cents per bagel. 

By skipping the convenience factor and making your own low-carb meals at home, you may be able to save 50% or more on some of your favorite foods.

Seek Low-Cost Protein Sources

Although low-carb meals require you to eat a lot of protein, you don’t have to stock up on filet mignon to fulfill the diet’s requirements. There are protein sources that cost a lot less than lobster and steak, and those are the ones that you should be eating every day.

For example, canned seafood, ground beef, eggs, deli meats and tofu are great options when making cheap low-carb meals. Eggs can be eaten in a variety of ways on their own, and you can incorporate them into other recipes, too. One package of 12 large eggs often sells for between $2 and $4, and one package of bacon (11 to 12 slices) often sells for between $3 and $5 in stores and online. A meal of one scrambled egg and three strips of bacon has about 18 grams of protein and ends up costing between $1 and $1.50. One 10-ounce strip steak costs between $11 and $12 in stores and online, which breaks down to about $4 for one 3.5-ounce serving with about 23 grams of protein.

Say Goodbye to Pricey Beverages

A low-carb diet could cause you to experience dry mouth and bad breath. This is the result of ketosis, which can happen when you don’t have enough sugar in your diet. You might also feel thirstier when this happens. Rather than quenching that thirst with a coffee-shop beverage or diet soda, try filling a reusable water bottle and sipping from that throughout the day. Water is completely free and often the best hydration source.

If you can’t live without your soda fix, reach for a generic flavored seltzer without sugar. This typically contains 0 carbs and costs less than a dollar a bottle.

Buy in Bulk When Possible

If you’re including ingredients like peanut butter, almond flour, butter, tuna, walnuts, almonds, pecans or macadamia nuts in your low-carb diet, your best bet may be to buy them in bulk. As a general rule, the smaller the package size, the higher the unit price. But you can cut down your food bill by buying in bulk. For instance, almonds could cost over 50 cents less per ounce when bought in bulk: 

  • 1.5-ounce bag: $1.30, or 87 cents per ounce
  • 40-ounce bag: $12.98, or 32 cents per ounce

The savings here comes to about 63% per ounce, which could really add up. Of course, you should only buy in bulk if you’ll actually use all of the product in the larger size. If that’s your plan, then it’s almost always more cost effective to purchase your ingredients this way.

Bottom Line

Smart shopping strategies can help you try the Keto, Atkins, Paleo, or another low-carb diet on a budget. With a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy the cheap low-carb meals you crave while also saving money.

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