Nov 3, 2017

Saving Money While Eating Keto (or Whole Foods)

Saving Money while Eating Whole Foods
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Last December, when my doctor informed me I had type II diabetes and that if I didn't want to take insulin I needed to go on a keto diet, I was worried this new way of eating would blow our grocery budget sky high. Maybe you're trying to switch to a whole foods diet but are afraid it will cost a fortune. Or maybe you're still eating lots of processed, carb-laden food but need to trim your grocery costs. Whatever the case, the following tips will help keep your grocery budget under control, just as they have mine.

(An important point: Many people find their grocery budget goes down when they switch to a keto diet, even without implementing these money-saving tips. It helps that keto keeps you more full than the more popular high carb, low fat diet, but it also really depends upon how much processed food you're used to buying. Our budget remained about the same; previously we ate a lower carb whole foods diet.)


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Meat

* Keto is a moderate protein diet; it doesn't require huge amounts of meat. That should help your budget, right there!

* Learn which grocery stores in your area have a meat clearance section and what day of the week they mark down their meat. Plan to use that meat the same day, or freeze it for later use.

* Watch for meat sales, via newspaper inserts, store websites, or store loyalty programs. Plan your meals around these sale items.

* But cheaper cuts of meat, and learn to cook them so they taste great. Most cheaper cuts are either less tender (so you'll need to learn to cook them low and slow in a crock pot or Instant Pot).

* Considered canned meat. If you're not used to it, canned meat may seem weird or even yucky. But I assure you that minimally processed canned meat, like chicken breasts, salmon, and tuna, is healthy and delicious! Sometimes it's cheaper than fresh, too - especially if you buy it on sale.

* Prepare your own meat. For example, instead of buying chicken tenders, buy chicken breasts and cut them down to size yourself. Or buy a whole chicken and use the meat for several meals.

Produce
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* Buy what's in season; it's almost always cheaper. For example, asparagus is least expensive in spring, when it's naturally abundant. (Not sure what's in season when? Check out the USDA's website.)

* Consider farmer's markets. Sometimes they are less expensive than grocery stores. (But not always!)

* Compare the cost of frozen vegetables with fresh vegetables. Often, frozen is less expensive, yet still quite nutritional.

* Grow as many of your own veggies as possible. Even having a few pots on your porch or balcony can save a lot of money, especially if you choose greens, which grow and grow and grow until killed by frost. (Some greens, like kale and collards will even stay alive in the snow.)

In General

* Shop around. Familiarize yourself with all the grocery stores in your area, so you know for sure which ones are least expensive for the foods you most purchase.
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* Keep a price book. Don't rely on your memory to know the best price for the foods you regularly purchase or you may end up buying something on sale without actually saving any money. Click here to learn how to make a simple price book.


* Avoid processed food, even if you think it's keto. This will save you a ton of money - and processed food is frankly never as healthy as whole food. The Internet has a wealth of made-from-scratch keto foods. (Check out my Pinterest boards, for a start.)

* Eat simple meals most days. Few ingredients usually means spending less money to make a meal. Focus on one meat and one veggie for most meals.

* Although organic produce and grassfed meat and dairy are ideal for any healthy diet, don't feel you must buy them in order to eat keto. Sure Kerrygold butter and grassfed steaks are awesome, but you can be very successful at keto while eating conventional meat, dairy, and produce.

* Consider buying in bulk. Find local farmers from whom you can buy half a cow or a pig. When you find a good deal at the grocery store, especially on a staple, buy a lot to save yourself money in the future. For fresh foods, freeze what you won't use right away.

* Meal plan. This will save your sanity, as well as your pocket book, and it doesn't have to be complicated. I usually just determine how many days I'm buying for (typically 14 or so - because the less often I'm at the grocery store, the less I'm likely to buy!), pick that many dinners, and choose basics for lunch and breakfast. Make sure you plan around what's on sale and in season.

* Meal prep. Some people find that if they have pre-made, homemade meals at home in the freezer or fridge, they are less likely to grab unhealthy food elsewhere. If grabbing food-to-go is a temptation to you, commit to spending a few hours every weekend to prep the week's meals.
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* Make your own spice blends. Spice mixes can not only have hidden, unhealthy ingredients (including MSG, soy, and flours), but they are more expensive than homemade mixes.

* Grate your own cheese. Do this first because pre-grated cheese has additives that are high in carbs. Do it second because it's almost always less expensive to do it yourself. Hate grating cheese? Buy a food processor! You can also save a lot of money by buying blocks of cheese on sale, grating it, and freezing it.

* Use leftovers. Either freeze them for a future meal or eat them the next day.

* Avoid eating out. Eating at restaurants or grabbing food on the go is expensive! Bring snacks and drinks with you, and eat out only as a special treat.

* Eat eggs. They are a cheap source of protein. (Even cheaper if you raise the hens yourself!)

* Eat enough fat. Natural fats are healthy and make you feel much more full. (Don't overdo it, though, or you may stall your weight loss or begin gaining weight.)

* Fast. Intermittent fasting has health benefits - and it saves your bank account some cash. Don't starve yourself, though. Just skip a meal; you'll probably find that easy to do after a couple of weeks of eating keto. (Diabetics should only fast if they are unmedicated and have their blood sugar under good control.)

* Avoid snacking. Not only do snacks burn your cash, but they slow weight loss, too. Eat enough at your regular meals that you feel comfortably full.

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* Avoid recipes that contain expensive ingredients. This may seem like a big duh, but a lot of low carb or keto recipes for sweets - something every newbie craves - are costly. Keto-friendly, natural sweeteners, for example, and alternative flours like almond and coconut, hike up your budget very quickly. Keep these treats occasional, and you'll save a ton of money while truly taming the sugar dragon.

* Start doing Swagbucks. This is a site that let's you earn points toward gift cards by doing Internet searches, surveys, and other things. Depending upon where you buy groceries, you can earn gift cards to your grocery store. I mostly shop at Walmart, and find I can easily get $25 - $50 off my monthly grocery bill by using Swagbucks

* Consider a Costco or Sam's Club membership - or find a friend who has a membership and go shopping with her! But be sure to compare their prices to those in your price book! Not everything at these stores is a good deal.


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