Don't let concerns over the high price of healthy foods keep you from reaching your weight-loss goals. While it may take a little more planning and effort, you can shed unwanted pounds on a low-carb diet, even when restricted by a tight budget. If you're having a hard time developing a budget-friendly meal plan for your low-carb diet, consult a registered dietitian for help.
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Keeping Costs Down on a Low-Carb Diet
While a low-carb diet includes some of the more expensive items from the grocery store -- meats and veggies -- you can save elsewhere by cutting out useless junk, such as cookies, crackers and other snack foods. Plus, when your food choices are more limited, it will help you streamline your shopping. Examine your grocery store sales flyer, concentrating only on the meat, poultry and seafood sections; the produce section, fresh and frozen; and certain areas of the dairy section, such as eggs and cheese. Create a low-carb menu and grocery list based on the sale items. Stay within your budget by tracking prices and amounts you'll need. For snacks, enjoy nuts in small amounts. Instead of prepackaged nuts in small cans or bags, buy them from the bulk foods section and freeze them, then thaw a 1-ounce serving as needed. Purchase cheese in cost-effective larger blocks. Cut it into smaller chunks and freeze.
For your veggies, buy in season or hit up a farmer's market to get the best deal. If it fits your budget, buy larger quantities of the meat that's on sale and freeze in single-portion containers to use later.
Eggs are an economical source of protein -- sometimes only a dollar a dozen -- and make an easy low-carb choice for breakfast. Whip up a batch of scrambled eggs made without milk, or make omelets stuffed with the veggies and cheese you got on sale. Using muffin tins, you can also make baked egg cups -- beaten eggs mixed with cheese and chopped, low-carb veggies such as onions and green peppers. Freeze the egg cups for those mornings when you don't have time to cook, and keep in mind that you can also freeze beaten eggs.
If you don't like eggs, consider cottage cheese. It's an inexpensive breakfast item, but not carb-free like eggs. Half a cup of cottage cheese has 4 to 6 grams of net carbs, which refers to the digestible carbs used for carb counting on a low-carb diet. Blend cottage cheese with cinnamon and artificial sweetener or sprinkle it with dried herbs and serve with sliced cucumbers or celery.
You can save a bundle on your low-carb plan by packing your own lunch. Grill the chicken you got on sale and slice it into strips to use as the protein for your in-season lettuce greens. Skip the costly pre-bagged salad; just buy a whole head of lettuce and chop it yourself. Freeze extra chicken for the following week's lunch. Hard-boiled eggs with sliced green peppers and radishes makes an inexpensive lunch option. Canned tuna mixed with mayo and stuffed in a tomato will fit your budget and your diet.
For a non-meat meal, use tofu, which has 1 to 3 grams of net carbs per 4-ounce serving. Fry it seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil and serve with broccoli and cauliflower -- warm or cold. Frozen broccoli-cauliflower mix works as well as fresh and is usually less expensive. Beans and lentils are also low-cost sources of protein, but carbs can vary with 4 grams of net carbs in a 1/4-cup of cooked lentils and 10 grams in the same serving of cooked chickpeas. Add these to your salad or puree in a blender or food processor with oil to make a veggie dip.
Low-Carb, Low-Cost Dinner
Create low-carb meals around inexpensive protein items you've snagged. Cheaper cuts of meat include chuck and sirloin, which you can stew or braise. Pork chops and shoulder are also less expensive options and are good roasting meats, and catfish and bluefish are usually wallet-saving choices for seafood eaters. Serve with a salad topped by low-carb ranch or Caesar dressing or frozen veggies.
Ground meat also makes an inexpensive option and can be used to make burgers, meatballs or meatloaf. To keep carbs down, serve your burger in a lettuce leaf and skip the breadcrumbs in the meatball and meatloaf recipes. Serve with zucchini, which you can grill or make into low-carb noodles with a spiralizer.