Recently a dear friend of mine mentioned that she was doing low carb meals as the budget allowed for and asked if there was such a thing of budget friendly low carb meals. This got me thinking that if my friend thinks this way of life is not budget friendly then I am sure many other people do as well and it may deter them from this healthier way of life. So to my keyboard I sprung to give a few tips on keeping this budget friendly.
We all have food budgets each with their own limits. Some have large families they are trying to stretch the dollar for and others just a couple people. I fall in the former. No one I know of has a money tree in their backyard. I have researched the heck out of how to grow one, but have not found any reputable resources and have failed at each attempt to grow one!
So how do we do LCHHF on a budget? The same way we did the SAD way of eating. The big difference is we are no longer buying processed things like breads, pastas, chips, and bad snacks. These things are replaced with real whole foods. Good fatty cuts of meats, vegetables and good quality oils. Eating these healthier foods you will find you actually eat less because you are satiated with less food and it stays with you longer, thank you good fats!
For those that know me personally, they know I am a numbers nerd. It is just how my brain works. I have a budget spreadsheet for each month, we use the envelope system with cash whenever possible as it’s harder to go over budget that way, when the green stuff is gone for the month you make do. It can be a challenge to fit everything a large family needs into a budget, especially feeding a pack of hungry children. Why do children think they need to eat every day, feed them once and they think they need to come back at another meal time. I am totally joking, but boy some of them can have an appetite! We have 8 children ranging from 20(Ok, she is technically not a child, but she still expects to eat) down to 6 years of age with 3, count them THREE!, teenage boys. Yes, it is true they can eat you out of house and home, they always have their face in the fridge or the cabinet but all they find are ingredients and no food, go figure. But I digress, it can get costly especially when we want to feed them healthy.
Have you ever noticed it seems cheaper to eat a crappy diet than to eat a healthy one? All the junk food is cheaper, you can get cheap breads and pastas, potatoes are cheap. That’s because it’s subsidized by the government. We see the food pyramid with the bottom saying eat whole grains, and the next up are fruits and veggies, meats, and so on. Grains are cheap to make and process and while they may seem cheaper on our budget at first glance they really are not. They leave us hungry and looking for more so we eat more which means more money spent. That doesn’t even count the medical costs that are associated with eating the SAD way of eating(standard American Diet). The food pyramid we see today wasn’t even around until 1977. How in the world did we know how and what to eat before then? Chronic diseases, obesity and metabolic disorders started rising with the release of the food pyramid and the low fat craze. Coincidence? I do not think so, but you can make your own mind.
But back to the subject at hand, keeping things in the budget! As with any way of eating you can make things as extravagant or as simple as you desire and as your budget allows. You do not need to buy the most expensive cuts of meat or have fillet minon every night. Growing up there were five of us kids and one income so budget was tight on many occasions. I can remember on multiple occasions having more month than money and having to stretch what we had in the pantry. Being the oldest I did a lot of the cooking. One time pretty much all we had in the cupboard was egg noodles and canned tomato soup. Guess what we had for dinner that night? Yep, tomato soup with noodles in it. The kids really liked it and it became a regular meal of ours. Looking back that meal now churns my stomach, but we made do with what we had and what knowledge we had. My point is the same thing can be done with low carb. You have more month than money see what’s in your pantry and get creative. Ground beef, some cheese, a bit of egg can be very filling and is well within the low carb way of eating. I am going to share some tips and tricks I have found to make my monthly food budget stretch further.
#1 Meal plan! This is a must, when I fall out of my meal planning I end up blowing the budget. When we menu plan we try to have meals in the same week that share ingredients that we can buy a little more in bulk which typically saves money.
#2 When planning your meals work them around the main ingredient, typically the meat, that you either have on hand or that is going to be on sale. Many times in the fall you can pick up hams fairly cheap and after Easter too and they freeze for a while. You can get a few meals out of them easily.
#3 Know your prices. I shop at 3 stores; Woodmans, Costco and Aldi. Woodmans is for the things I cannot get anywhere else. Costco is for the things I need to buy in bulk. Aldi is for the main things. Bacon is from Costco, chicken is from Aldi. Knowing unit pricing is a very handy thing. Organic Almond Milk at Costco comes in a 3 pack and works out to be $2.99/half gallon. It is $2.69 a half gallon for organic at Aldi. Granted it’s only a $.90 for the 3 and if I didn’t shop at Aldi already I wouldn’t be concerned, but since I am going there already I may as well save the $.90. Plus I may only want 1 or 2 cartons which means $3-4 less spent. Eggs, milk and butter are typically cheaper at Aldi. Knowing stores in your area and which have the best pricing will be in your best interest. Do not spend hours driving to several stores as the amount of gas used up will not make up the pricing difference. Having just a couple stores will work out best.
#4 Buying in bulk, while nice and may be cheaper unit price wise, may not always be best for the budget. A good example, I can get heavy whipping cream cheaper per ounce at Costco than at Aldi, however it is $10 for the whole container when I may only need a fraction of that for my recipes and so for the amount I need I can get for $4 at Aldi leaving me $6 for other things. Almond flour is another great example. Costco has the cheapest unit price around at $12.99 for 3 lbs, Woodmans is the next cheapest at $4.49 for 12oz. If you do not need 3lbs for the month and really need to squeeze the budget go for the smaller package even though it costs more unit price.
#5 Buying frozen is sometimes better price wise and just as healthy for many of the veggies. Don’t sweat not getting organic, do the best you can with what you have. Also it’s farmers market season so hit them up and freeze what you can.
#6 I have to make choices on when organic or certain ingredients are an absolute non-negotiable and when I can forgo the organic. For example, I do not skimp on my salt or healthy oils. I get good quality pink himalayan salt, extra virgin olive oil cold pressed, avocado oil cold pressed and extra virgin coconut oil. These all come in various sizes so you can buy smaller to fit into the budget and you don’t need a lot. For my butter, as much as I would like grass fed butter that is not in my budget, so I get the best quality hormone free butter my budget allows as we use a lot of butter. I will splurge on Kerri Gold butter from time to time when Aldi has it on sale, but I selfishly keep it for myself and Mr. Low Carb since the children do not know the difference! I also cannot afford free range eggs so I do the best I can and I do not sweat it.
#7 Watch for meat sales, very often meats that are close to their best by date will be drastically marked down. Get what you can and freeze it and it could last you all month or longer. Get tougher cuts of meat which are usually cheaper and cook them up in the crockpot, freeze what you aren’t using right away and you will have nice tender meat for many meals.
#8 If you can find a local beef farmer that raises good beef, ask around for references, you can watch for sales they may be running on 1/4 and 1/2 of steers. We get 1/2 steer a year from a very good farmer that happens to also be part of our homeschool group. They have an annual spring sale so we always buy at that time. It is a big up front cost so we budget separately for this and it is totally worth it. For the amounts of ground beef, steaks and roasts you get the per pound works out nicely and if you’re like us it takes the cost of the beef out of our food budget as we have a seperate cow fund. If this is not reasonable for you then just refer to tip #7
#8 Limit the keto breads and desserts. These tend to need more expensive ingredients, so I typically make them only once in a while. I will make buns or bread if I am making something it will go with or if I know I am going to need some easy meals like sandwiches or something and will make a loaf or 2, this is really only like every 6 weeks or so.
I hope you have found these tips helpful. If you have any of your own that help to stretch the budget be sure to drop a comment. We love to hear from you. Remember, keep it simple.