Nine Essential Ingredients for Keto Shopping on a Budget

The keto diet can certainly be attractive to people with diabetes. After all, if eating a very low amount of carbs helps both shed pounds and improve blood sugar levels, why not try a diet that eschews carbohydrates?

What is the Keto Diet?

If you’ve only heard of the keto diet but don’t really know the particulars, in essence, it’s a very low-carbohydrate diet that instead focuses on food high in fat and moderate in protein. This encourages your body to shift from burning mostly glucose to mostly fat. The process of eating very few carbs produces ketone bodies, hence the name. These ketones offer an alternative energy source when glucose reserves are low—and the diet’s advocates believe that ketone metabolism decreases hunger, increases energy, and even improves mental clarity. 

But, check first with your doctor before starting a keto diet to make sure you are a good candidate for it. Remember, it is high in fat, which can create other physical issues, like heart disease, over time. Switching to a ketogenic diet can also dramatically alter your diabetes medication requirements, so it’s important to make the change with the cooperation of your medical team.

Keto Diets Can Be Expensive

How do you construct a food plan that follows the keto precepts? Here’s a primer. But you should be aware that a keto diet can be more expensive than a balanced diet that includes whole grains. According to the University of Kansas Medical Center, you should “be prepared to spend more money on groceries, as carbohydrates tend to be much less expensive than the staples of a keto diet such as meat, fish, avocados, and high-fat dairy items.

It makes sense when you go to the market. Meats fish, and cheese, for example, are pricier than a package of pasta, rice, or oatmeal. And if animal protein is the primary source of a keto diet, you may wonder if it’s going to be affordable.

How to Lower Keto Costs

There are ways, though, to manage your food budget while on a keto diet. For one thing, avoid pricey keto packaged foods you can easily make yourself, like cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles. Don’t spend grocery dollars on prepared snacks and beverages. Take advantage of sales at your grocery story on everything from red meat, chicken, and seafood to seasonal produce and condiments.

And be selective and creative about the food products you buy. Switching out pricey ingredients for those that are less expensive can save you some money; you’ll just have to be thoughtful in how you cook with them. That’s not a hardship if the food you make tastes delicious and you get the physical results you’re looking for.

Nine Budget-Friendly Ingredients

Here are nine essential ingredients to buy to lower your keto diet costs:

Non-starchy vegetables like greens, cauliflower, green beans, tomatoes, and zucchini

Since grains, even whole grains, aren’t part of a keto diet, substitute brown rice or other grains with cauliflower “rice” and make a Cauliflower “Rice” Salad. Create “noodles” with zucchini and make Beef and Broccoli over Zucchini Noodles. Whip up a snack of crispy kale chips or crispy zucchini chips. For even more savings, buy frozen veggies. It also saves waste since you can just cook what you need and keep the rest in the freezer.

Frozen berries

Frozen berries are less expensive than fresh, you can enjoy them off-season, and the quality is just as good if not better than fresh. They’re perfect for smoothies. Make a super quick bowl of berry ice cream. Or try this Keto Berry Crisp made with almond meal (not almond flour), shredded coconut, and chopped pecans. Make a fruit salsa, add to a vinaigrette, or turn your fruit into refreshing ice cubes. 

Almond flour

Meet one of the rare flours that’s keto-approved ( others include coconut flour and sunflower seed flower). Almond flour is perfect for “breading” chicken, fish, or pork or as a binder to replace bread crumbs for dishes like meatballs or meatloaf. Try these Almond Flour Pumpkin Muffins. You can even use almond flour to make “tortillas” or bread

Bulk nuts

Buy bulk bags of nuts at wholesale stores like Costco and Sam’s Club and store in the freezer so they’ll stay fresh. Snack on them, add to salads, or include them in this Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Eggs

Yes, they were pretty pricey earlier this year, but prices are lowering and they’re still a great deal as a source of protein. Make an omelet with dark leafy greens like spinach or Swiss chard (sautéed with sliced onions and mushrooms) and goat cheese. Or make brunch-worthy Egg Muffin Cups filled with roasted vegetables and cheese. 

Whole chicken

Packages of pre-cut chicken can be pricey. Buying a whole, uncut chicken (or turkey) has an up-front cost but look at the price per pound and you’ll find it’s less expensive to buy the whole bird. You can either cook it whole or cut it up, use what you plan to cook immediately, and wrap up the rest for the freezer. The bones can make a great soup stock. If you still aren’t keen on butchering your own chicken, chicken thighs and legs are less expensive than breast meat — and much more tender when cooked. In fact, try this warming Instant Pot Keto Mediterranean Chicken

Flank steak

Because it’s higher in saturated fat,  many diabetes authorities believe you should limit your intake of beef. It’s also pricey. But if you want to indulge periodically, choose leaner cuts like flank steak. On the plus side, this cut is less expensive than well-marbled meats, but because it’s muscley it can be tough.

The great news is that once the muscle fibers are broken down it’s a real treat. One way to do that is to marinate flank steak in a vinaigrette before grilling it or searing it in a heavy skillet (when serving be sure to slice against the grain). Even better? Serve it with chimichurri sauce. Flank steak is also wonderful sliced raw into very thin strips and briefly stir-fried with onions, garlic, green beans, and mushrooms. Serve with cauliflower rice.

Canned fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines

Sure, make a traditional tuna or salmon salad or mash up some sardines with white vinegar and chopped onions to top a bed of butter lettuce. But how about making salmon patties, using almond flour as the binder and your favorite seasonal herbs for flavor? Elevate your tuna salad with canned sardines. Or try this easy sardine sauce from Tasting Table for your zoodles. 

Shrimp

Shrimp is so versatile. You can either feature it as a main course or lower costs by adding some to a larger dish with other ingredients. Look for bags of raw frozen shrimp and incorporate them into stir-frys, salads, soups, and cauliflower rice bowls. Make this Garlic Shrimp on a Cucumber Flower for guests or spoil your family with Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

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