Keto Diet Meal Plan on a Budget

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Written by Bridget Nalwoga, Certified Nutritionist and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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From what you see online and in the news, it is easy to believe that you need to spend lots of money to do the keto diet successfully. However, that could not be further from the truth. 

What makes the ketogenic diet expensive for some is relying on more pricey food items and getting swept away by fancy keto products.

If you stay clear of all the costly foods and supplements, you can successfully eat a ketogenic diet without spending too much. 

There is a wide variety of equally delicious and nutritious cheap low-carb foods. 

If you have been looking for a way to do the ​​ketogenic diet on a budget, this article is for you. You will learn which foods are not only best for your health but also for your wallet. You will also get a free sample low-cost keto meal plan for a day.


What is keto on a budget?

As the name suggests, keto on a budget means eating a high-fat low-carb diet with a limited amount of money. 

How much does keto cost?

It is hard to say exactly how much the diet costs. Many different factors influence how much each of us spends on food. Such factors include where you live, where you shop, tastes and preferences, budget, attitude towards food, and the food available. Even the season and the weather can affect prices!

So while we cannot put a specific price on keto, it is most certainly not as expensive as some believe. If you have been eating a balanced diet low in processed junk food and rich in whole foods, a low-carb diet should cost as much as your regular diet. 

If you have limited money to spend, there are countless affordable keto food options on the market. Depending on how tight your budget is, eating on a low budget may require some more legwork, but it is totally manageable.


How to do keto on a budget 

At the start, eating a whole balanced diet on a budget may be difficult. Here are some tips to help you succeed on the ketogenic diet no matter what your budget is.

  • Stick to whole foods. Contrary to popular belief, most whole foods are more budget-friendly than processed foods. 
  • Skip the fancy keto products and foods. You do not need a low-carb fat bomb to reach your keto goals. Natural sources like nuts and seeds work just as well, if not better.
  • Eat at home more often. Eating out can double or even triple your food budget. Make your own food at home to save money and avoid hidden carbs that can sometimes feature in restaurant foods. 
  • Buy raw unprocessed food. Items like pre-chopped vegetables, cauliflower rice, and mixed vegetables cost much more than whole vegetables. Buy whole vegetables and prepare them yourself to cut on those costs. 
  • Strategically choose your meat cuts. Some cuts of meat cost so much more than others, yet there is barely a difference in taste. For example, a fillet mignon can cost up to $30 a pound, while an untrimmed brisket can be as low as $2 a pound. 
  • Shop at bargain stores. If you have a variety of stores available to you, choose the one with the best prices and deals for the same quality of food.
  • Embrace frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen vegetables are as nutritious (if not more nutritious) than their fresh counterparts. Fruits and vegetables like broccoli, blueberries, and cauliflower can be bought frozen to save some money.
  • Try batch prepping food. It is understandable that many busy people do not have time to cook every day. You can use some time on the weekend to make multiple meals for the week to save some time and money. You can even buy in bulk or take advantage of buy-one-get-one-free sales, then cook a double recipe and freeze the extra portions for later in the month.
  • Shop for fruits and vegetables in season.  Produce that is out of season costs more. By sticking to what is available, you can reduce how much you spend on food.
  • Skip organic, grass-fed, and free-range. Organic fruits and vegetables are as nutritious as conventionally grown produce. To get rid of any extra pesticides that may have been used, remember to wash all your fruits and vegetables under clean, running water. The rest are nice to have, but if you cannot afford them, you can still live a healthy ketogenic lifestyle.




Affordable foods to eat on a keto diet

If you are going to learn how to eat keto on a budget, you need to know which foods give you the biggest bang for your buck. These are the foods that will take center stage in your diet. 

Foods that cost more can make an appearance, but only if your budget allows it. 

Remember, the body cannot tell the difference between nutrients from inexpensive food and those from fancy foods. 

Some of the cheapest keto foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Beef, specifically untrimmed cuts like brisket.
  • Chicken, specifically thighs and drumsticks. Buy a whole chicken to save even more. 
  • Frozen fruit like strawberries, blueberries, and mixed berries. 

Now that you know what you will be eating, what will you be staying clear of? On a budget ketogenic diet, two types of food will be cut from your diet; non-ketogenic foods and expensive ketogenic foods. 

Non-keto-friendly foods include:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Fruit juice
  • High-sugar fruits
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Sugar
  • High-carb alcohol like beer

Expensive ketogenic foods include avocado, steak, and fancy cheeses.

It is important to note that expensive ketogenic foods are not inherently bad. If you find that they can fit in your budget sometimes, then, by all means, enjoy them. Otherwise, try to stick with the affordable options.


Cheap keto grocery list

To help you make a keto grocery list on a budget, you can follow this template. Knowing what types of food you are shopping for can help you easily decide what to buy.

On a regular diet, one has to cater to four food groups; carbs, protein, fat, and fruits and vegetables. On keto, carbs are off limits. This means you only have to cater to four categories; fat, protein, fruits, and vegetables.  

If you keep these groups in mind when shopping, keto shopping on a budget will be a breeze.

  • Fat: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, olive oil, butter, coconut, coconut milk, and cheese
  • Protein: eggs, chicken, beef, pork, canned tuna, and Greek yogurt
  • Fruits: frozen mixed berries, frozen strawberries and other berries, kiwi, cantaloupe 
  • Vegetables: zucchini, cucumber, frozen broccoli, frozen cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, bell peppers

Whenever you shop, choose a couple from each category. Switch the foods up every time you shop to ensure variety in your diet.


1 full day of cheap keto meals

If you carefully plan for what to eat, it should not be that difficult to come up with budget-friendly keto meals. 

As long as you learn what and where to shop, your cheap low-carb meals will come together in no time.

Here is a sample inexpensive keto meal plan for a day that you can try.

  • Breakfast: 2 hard boiled eggs
  • Morning snack: Celery sticks and peanut butter
  • Lunch: Bunless burger with arugula
  • Evening snack: Walnuts
  • Dinner: Chicken thighs and roasted broccoli

Calories: 2,051 | Macros: 19.9 g net carbs, 75.9 g protein, and 185 g fat.

BREAKFAST Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Hard boiled eggs Egg 2 144 0 12.2 10
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
144 0 g 12.2 g 10 g            
MORNING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Celery sticks Celery 10 4-inch sticks 5 0.6 0.3 0
Peanut Butter Peanut butter 2 tablespoons 204 5.6 7.2 16.4
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
209 6.2 g 7.5 g 16.4 g            
LUNCH Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Burger patty Ground beef 150 g 320 0 28 23
Arugula Arugula 2 cups 10 0.8 1.2 0.4
Olive oil Olive oil 3 tablespoons 345 0 0 38.4
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
675 0.8 g 29.2 g 61.8 g            
EVENING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Walnuts Walnuts 1 cup 523 5.6 12.2 52.2
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
523 5.6 g 12.2 g 52.2 g            
DINNER Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Chicken thighs Chicken 100 g 440 0 9.6 44.2
Broccoli Broccoli 2 cups raw 60 7.3 5.2 0.6
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
500 7.3 g 14.8 g 44.8 g            
DAILY TOTALS   2,051 cal 19.9 g net carbs 75.9 g protein 185 g fat




FAQs on keto on a budget

Many budget-friendly ketogenic recipes can be built around eggs, such as omelets, frittatas, quiches, egg salad, hard-boiled eggs, and egg muffins. 

Eggs are very cheap in most places. And since they do not spoil easily, you can buy a fairly large amount to get a bargain. Be sure to store your eggs in the fridge if you buy many at a go.

The cheapest food depends on where you live. In general, chicken is the cheapest keto fast food in most restaurants. 

However, fried chicken should not be a staple in anyone’s diet, even if it is inexpensive and possibly ketogenic (depending on the batter). Grilled chicken is a much healthier option and usually goes for a similar price. 

Some restaurants offer ketogenic versions of cheap fast food options, for example breadless burgers and bunless sandwiches.

A whole food LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) diet is the cheapest keto diet plan. The diet plan relies on eggs, inexpensive cuts of meat, and frozen produce and does away with more expensive processed keto-friendly foods and products.

Some of the most affordable keto meal delivery services include FreshlyFit, Snap Kitchen, and Sun Basket. Unfortunately, most of these services are not available everywhere.

The most affordable keto meats are whole chicken, untrimmed brisket, beef sirloin, and pork loins. If you do want to buy a whole chicken, bone-in chicken legs and thighs are the cheapest cuts.

According to a study by Dunnhumby, the cheapest grocery stores are Aldi, Market Basket, WinCo, Lidl, and Food4Less. However, the ranking changes from year to year, and you should also factor in things like convenience (how long it takes to get there) and food quality.


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