7 Tips for Low Carb Meal Prep

FT Contributor  | 

The ketogenic diet is a popular culinary regimen that flips the typical American diet on its head. Rather than prioritizing things like sugar, grains, saturated fats, and sodium, a keto diet minimizes carbs and focuses on fats, oils, and proteins.

This typically means a keto diet emphasizes eating meats, certain fruits and veggies, nuts, and dairy products in an attempt to push your body into a state of “ketosis” — meaning, you force your body to burn fat instead of its regular fuel.

Many of the most common keto-friendly foods are iconically expensive culinary staples. However, if you take your time to create a strategy and plan your meals in advance, you can actually stay on the keto diet without spending too much money. Below are seven tips to help set you up for keto success without breaking the budget in the process.

1. Keep It Simple

Let’s start with an easy one: keep things simple. Just because you’re eating keto now doesn’t mean you need to tackle a complex recipe for keto spiced lamb meatballs with walnut romesco sauce or an elaborate ahi tuna poke just because it says “keto” in the recipe title.

If you want to keep things affordable, look for simple, easy recipes with limited ingredients. Salads, baked chicken, and grilled pork chops are all delicious yet simple keto options. The best part is your grocery trips will be naturally streamlined and simplified as you narrow down your ingredients.

2. Buy in Bulk

As you sort through your new diet, it’s important to look for the items that can be purchased in bulk. For instance, if you stumble on a sale for chicken, purchase more than you need and freeze some of it.

Other keto items, like eggs, cheese, and nuts, are also extremely easy to purchase in bulk and then stockpile. Cheese and eggs can last for weeks in the fridge, while a bag of unopened nuts can last for many months. If you’re able to afford the upfront price, try to purchase your staple keto foods in bulk whenever possible, especially if they’re ingredients that are versatile.

3. Look for Sales

Shopping sales can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to dietarily friendly foods. For instance, say you head to the supermarket intending to pick up five pounds of chicken at $2 per pound. Once you get there, though, you find that steak is on sale from $7 per pound to $4 per pound. It may be tempting to swap out your meat selection, but when you stop to think about it, even if it’s an incredible deal, you’re actually spending twice as much on meat as what you planned for.

To shop the sales, it’s important to create a meal plan and then use it to build a shopping list before you ever set foot in a grocery store. Then, look for items on your list that are on sale or that have coupons. You can still shop for different brands, but don’t wander completely from the script just because something is on sale, or you’ll likely just end up spending more money in the long run.

4. Avoid Pre-Packaged Foods

No matter what diet you’re on, if it’s popular, it won’t take long before a slew of pre-packaged options pops up on your radar. When it comes to keto, you can spend a fortune on everything from keto bread alternatives to keto-friendly candy and chocolate.

For instance, you could pick up a bag of “keto-approved pasta” that costs several dollars. However, you can also purchase a veggie spiralizer for $10 and then get the same amount of pasta from a single zucchini that cost a quarter — and then do that again and again. If you’re looking for an affordable diet with longevity, make sure to avoid unnecessary pre-packaged foods.

5. Don’t Waste Food

When you shop without a plan, it’s easy to very quickly end up wasting time, money … and the food itself. If, however, you take the time to create a keto-friendly meal plan, you can make sure to consider ways to use your leftovers.

For instance, rather than purchasing chicken breasts, consider getting an entire chicken. You can cook it in the oven, pop it in a slow cooker, or use an instant pot to make a delicious chicken dinner. Then, pick off the leftover meat for lunch the next day and use the bones to create a batch of broth to drink or to use in soups.

6. Utilize Frozen Options

Whatever specific ingredients you end up buying, always make sure to utilize your freezer as you go along. Check how much space you have before you go to the store, and then put everything that you won’t be eating soon right into the freezer when you get back.

This goes for meats, veggies, fruits, and even nuts. Freezing your bulk purchases is a great way to make sure you save money and have what you need conveniently on hand without going shopping multiple times a week. Additionally, purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables from your local store can be a thrifty way to get produce out of season.

7. Stick to Your Grocery List

Finally, it’s absolutely critical that you stick to your grocery list as you shop. As already alluded to, you might be tempted to swap something on your list out for a more expensive item that’s “on sale.” You also might see keto-friendly pre-packaged options for junk food and snacks that you didn’t realize were even available.

These might seem like reasonable decisions to make. If your goal is to stick to a budget and stay on your diet, though, it’s essential that you maintain the mental fortitude to shop for your list, purchase exactly what you came to get, and then get out of the store without spending any more money than you need to.


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