How to Low-Carb on a budget.
Is it even possible? People will quickly tell you that they’ve tried a low carb high fat diet but it’s too expensive. But is it? If you stick to the basics I can promise you, it might even be cheaper than your current Mediterranean diet.
What we often forget is that we don’t calculate the odd R 20.00 spend here and there when you stop for a cold drink, or a chocolate bar. With a low carb high fat diet you will eliminate all processed food, meaning no pit stops at the corner cafe’ ever! Think how much money you will save on this purchases alone.
Back to Basics
So what is the basics? It’s not almond flour, it’s not psyllium husk, it’s not xanthan gum or flax seed flour and it’s definitely not almond butter!
It’s only once you start to copy cat high carb meals when a LCHF diet really starts getting expensive. Leave the cookies and tarts for later, you don’t need all of that to start a low carb diet.
Let’s be honest, you most probably resorted to LCHF because of the weight loss and health benefits in the first place. Just because you can have cream and cheese and baked goods with almond flour it doesn’t mean you must have it. Stick to the basic meals (fat, protein, carbs) and limit yourself to a really nice meal or treat once a week.
LCHF is not a high protein diet
It’s important that you get this right from the very beginning. You will require moderate protein and the rest of your plate will be filled with beautiful veggies.
You will eat less anyway
The higher fat intake of your meals will keep you satiated. You will quickly notice that you don’t eat all that much per meal anymore. Most people following a LCHF diet only eat two meals per day and maybe a small snack because they simply aren’t that hungry anymore!
Plan meals ahead
I can not emphasize this enough. I have a spreadsheet with all my meals carefully planned for the month ahead and my groceries is purchased accordingly.
Before I even start with my monthly menu I look at all the specials and incorporate them into my meal plan. Cream cheese on special, fabulous we will have more creamed spinach this month, and even a tart or pancakes as a treat. Cream on special, well I guess we will have that delicious steak and mushroom cream sauce for Friday night and how about making ice cream since we can freeze that for later!
The same logic goes for produce that you need to use up quickly. If you’re buying Greek yogurt make sure you use it for at least 3 meals in the week. Tzatziki sauce on Monday, Berries and yogurt for breakfast, Butter chicken on Wednesday.
Specials is your friend
What you can’t finish now you can freeze for later. Bacon on special, buy extra and freeze. Tomatoes on special, buy and freeze, make soup, make sauce and freeze it!
Shop at your local markets
Maybe your lucky enough to have a farmers market in your area, if not, don’t be a snob! the guy sitting on the street corner might surprise you. I bought a bag of avo’s for R40.00 while it was priced R79.00 for 2 at my local supermarket! Besides buying a bargain you will also feel good knowing that you supported a man and his family with your purchase.
Avoid pre-packed, pre-prepared
Pre-packed salads, zucchini spirals, sweet potato spirals, pre- washed cauliflower heads, it’s all pretty and convenient but you can buy it for half the price if you purchase it per unit and cut it up yourself. You can make at least 2 meals from one cabbage for R 15.00 compared to 300 g chopped cabbage for R 22.00.
Tomatoes not so fresh for a salad anymore? make sauce! Green peppers, cabbage, carrots not so crisp and crunchy, use it in soups or a stews.
That 1/2 cup of veggies or drumstick that was left over from last night supper will make a fabulous filling for your omelette tomorrow morning.
Left over herbs, jus chop it up and freeze it for later.
Bacon fat – Keep it! fry your veggies in it tonight or save it to fry your eggs in the morning.
It goes a long way
Tomato passata – Much cheaper than tomato paste, you can freeze left overs but if you plan your meals carefully you can use it in tonight’s Chicken rogan josh and in tomorrow’s veggie lasagna.
herbs and spices – They stay fresh for a long time. I buy mixed herbs for a fraction of the cost in 500 g packets from my local Bakers outlet. Same goes for paprika and dried chilli’s. Instead of buying green curry paste rather buy Thai 7 spice, you can have green Thai curry 3 more times for the same price as a single packet of green thai curry paste without all the preservatives.
They are the cheapest form of quality protein and fat and you can have eggs anytime of the day, not just for breakfast. Not sure what to do with them? here’s a few ideas to get you started.
- Egg omelette – use last night’s left over meat and veggies for a filling.
- Cooked eggs – from egg salads, to devilled eggs and everything in between. This is also a great snack for when you are not hungry enough to cook but hungry enough that you can’t wait for your next meal.
- Scrambled eggs with spring onion and a little grated cheese makes for a great, quick breakfast.
Chicken is your cheapest protein, but buy smart. Whole chickens compared to braai cut pieces might save you at least R10.00 p/kg. Pre-cut your chicken before freezing and use the carcass to cook your own stock. Set aside the chicken fillets for stir-fry’s or kebabs or alternatively cook up your whole chicken for supper and use the fillet breast for a chicken salad for lunch the next day.
Wing it! Chicken wings is another cheap cut and is the perfect weekend food.
Chicken livers is often overlook yet so versatile and super healthy for you. How about peri-peri chicken livers or a chicken liver pate’ for your seed crackers.
Mince – Buy in bulk, it’s much cheaper. Plus you don’t need lean meat anymore! you want the cheaper mince with the fat. Have the discipline to weight and pack your mince in the correct portion sizes.
Cheap cuts like short rib, chuck etc. all have the beautiful saturated fats that you need which means you don’t have to cook it in more oil to get your fat intake per meal plus they make a crazy good stew if you cook them correctly.
Tuna, this is something I only buy when on special. This is my junk food! When ever I don’t have time to cook I grab a tin of tuna. Make a salad, or fish cakes or have it on its own with a little mayonnaise.
Stretchy veggies – Carrots is a bit higher in carbs but I use it mainly to stretch my other vegetables since it’s the cheaper compared to other veggies. Carrots in stir fry’s, carrots with zucchini, green beans and cauliflower for a veggie mix and carrots in stews, soups and in my bolognese sauce.
Gem squash – You can purchase them for next to nothing in bulk, average prices ranging from R 25.00 a bag. Besides being delicious you can litterly have a gem squash with any meal as a side dish.
Tomatoes – Only buy fresh tomatoes when you are making salad or having it with breakfast as a quick convenient carb.
Only buy veggies when their in season, like avo’s and broccoli, again if you plan your menu accordingly you won’t have to bite the bullet by paying higher prices. You will get to eat broccoli soon again when the price drops.
Grow your own – Gem squash, green beans and green peppers is just some of the veggies that’s super easy to grow and will save you truck load of money.
Fresh herbs are crazy expensive, start your own herb garden and focus on parsley, rosemary, spring onions, garlic chives and basil. You don’t need a lot of space and you can even plant them in pots.
Cheese – Cheese is basically on special every month. Buy in bulk, grate and freeze in 1/2 cup portions to use it later.
Garlic butter is oh so delicious but rather make your own and save a few bucks, better yet make your own.
Below is few DIY video’s to save you a bit of money. Although time-consuming, it is still very much worth the effort.
Nuts is not cheap, it only make sense to buy in bulk but make sure you pre-pack it into smaller portions once purchased or you might end up eating a kilogram bag by yourself in no time.
Almond flour on the cheap – Invest in a good quality coffee grinder and grind your own almond and seed flours for a fraction of the cost.
Coconut power – Buy your desiccated coconut in bulk from your local Bakers outlet and make your own coconut milk, coconut flour and coconut butter.