Whether you're aiming to do healthy Keto on a budget or simply increase the amount of fresh food at the family dinner table, accessing a nutritious diet can be extremely challenging.
While we’re aware that deep, systemic changes are required to close the food poverty gap, below we’ve collated a series of tools and resources with one aim:
To make good quality nutrition as accessible and affordable as possible.
You’ll find actionable money-saving tips, a budget Keto grocery list, a three-day meal plan and more.
Let’s start with the Keto basics:
Keto (short for ketogenic) is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that moves the body towards the natural metabolic state known as “ketosis”.
Here, you switch from burning carbohydrates as your primary fuel source to using fats - breaking them down into ketones for usable energy.
Potential Benefits of a Keto Diet
There are a whole host of reasons why you might be interested in pursuing a Keto or low-carb diet, including but not limited to:
1. Healthy, Sustainable Weight Management
Many people turn toward Keto for the potential weight loss benefits.
It’s true that when combined with a caloric deficit or other lifestyle adjustments, body fat can become a more prominent fuel source on Keto.[*]
Increasing fat intake can also help you stay fuller for longer, potentially reducing overeating and providing a sustainable way to manage body composition.[*]
2. Improved Energy and Mental Clarity
Once the body becomes ‘fat adapted’ on Keto, many people enjoy more stable energy levels and clarity of thought.
One proposed mechanism is that Keto minimizes the peaks and troughs in blood sugar levels often associated with the consumption of higher-carb foods.
3. Supporting Therapy for Medical Conditions
There is a whole body of interesting research surrounding Keto and the potential role it can play as a support therapy for various mental and physical health conditions, including:
Read more: 7 Benefits to Keto Beyond Weight Loss
What Foods are Keto-Friendly?
The main Keto food groups include:
- Healthy Fats. Meats, eggs, fish, olives, plant oils, animal fats, dairy.
- Protein Sources. Meats, eggs, fish, dairy.
- Low-Carb Plants. Greens, avocados, non-starchy veg, dark berries.
- Flavor Enhancers. Herbs, spices, sweeteners.
What Does a Nutritious Keto Meal Look Like?
A Keto diet can come in many shapes and sizes.
From a macronutrient perspective, we’re typically looking at a ratio of around 5% carbs, 25% protein, and 70% fats.
Some people tend towards a higher fat or protein intake, others a higher carb intake. It’s all down to personal preference.
With that in mind, a typical Keto meal may look something like:
Can You Really do Healthy Keto on a Budget?
Unfortunately, data suggests that access to nutritious food is a widespread issue - irrespective of it being Keto or low-carb.
The 2021 Broken Food Plate Report contains some shocking statistics surrounding access to a healthy, sustainable diet, including:
- Healthier foods are nearly 3x as expensive as less healthy options calorie for calorie.
- The poorest fifth of UK households would need to spend 40% of their disposable income on food to meet the Eatwell guide recommendations.
- Children in the most deprived fifth of households are almost twice as likely to be obese as those in the least deprived fifth of households by age 4–6.
The ideal Keto diet promoted in the health space is often one rich in whole foods, grass-fed meats and expensive supplements.
In reality, eating low-carb, nutrient-poor processed foods is much more financially viable for a huge portion of the population.
While this “Dirty Keto” approach is more convenient, it may not provide the same potential benefits as a more balanced, whole-food-based Keto diet.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Dirty Keto
15 Tips to Manage Healthy Keto on a Budget
While we may not be able to change policies or systems overnight, we can provide a few suggestions that will hopefully empower you and make a healthier Keto diet more accessible.
1. Keep it simple
While elaborate Keto dishes are enjoyable if you have the time, budget and energy, know that you can still gain many of the potential benefits of Keto while sticking to simple, more affordable foods.
Like these Carb Manager favorites:
2. Bulk buy where possible
As a general rule of thumb, stocking up on bulk Keto staples can be useful for saving money long term.
Low-carb staples that you can often purchase in bulk include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butters
- Keto flour substitutes such as coconut and almond flour
- Larger cuts of meat & fish (see the next point for more details)
An unfortunate downside of bulk buying is that it requires a larger initial spend compared to shopping little and often.
That’s where subscription services can sometimes come in handy, such as Amazon’s subscribe and save scheme.
3. Switch up your meat intake
If you consume meat or fish as a part of your Keto diet, there are a few ways you can save money while still getting good quality produce:
- Shop for offal and fattier cuts of meat. Organs and fatty meat joints are often cheaper and more nutrient dense than leaner cuts.
- Connect with local meat providers. If available in your area, forming connections with local butchers, farmers and hunters can give you access to larger joints of meat, sometimes at more affordable prices compared to the supermarket.
- Shop the deals and freeze. Hunting for deals in the reduced section of the supermarket can be another useful way to get perfectly good food at a reduced cost. Many cuts can be frozen on the same day and then thawed whenever you’re ready to feast.
4. Get plant-based protein from lupini beans
Lupini beans are an increasingly popular, low-cost protein source in the Keto community.
While most legumes are unsuitable for Keto due to their high carbohydrate content, lupini beans are low-carb, high-fiber, and Keto-friendly.
Thought to originate from the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East, they’re available to buy in bulk from various sellers online and can be found in certain specialist food stores.
A typical serving comes in at:
- 6g total carbs
- 0g net carbs
- 4g fat
- 10g protein
- 112 calories
5. Eggs can be super affordable
Eggs are widely available and can be a good source of fat, protein and fat-soluble vitamins.
You may be able to purchase them in bulk, but they can often be affordable from local farmers and markets.
6. Oils are often cost-effective
While not everyone responds well to a high intake of concentrated fat sources like oil and butter, they can be an affordable source of calories on Keto.
Oils that can help increase your caloric intake and help you stay in ketosis include:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- MCT oil
- Grass-fed butter
Read more about the Best and Worst Fats to Consume on Keto
7. Meal planning may help reduce food waste
Meal planning is an excellent way to save time, reduce waste and bring down your Keto food bill.
That being said, it takes an initial investment of time and energy that not everyone has access to!
Check out our in-depth guide to meal planning for some actionable tips.
And if you want to take away the hassle, Carb Manager Premium allows you to create custom meal plans tailored to your individual needs, goals and dietary preferences.
8. Repurpose those tasty leftovers
One of the most simple but effective budget Keto hacks is bulk cooking certain meals (or components of meals) and repurposing the leftovers.
A few creative ways to make your tasty Keto dishes go further:
- Add leftover cooked veggies to your breakfast omelet, soup, stir fry or fajitas.
- Wrap your dinner leftovers in lettuce wraps for lunch the next day.
- Use leftover cauliflower mash to make veggie fritters or a pie topping.
Be sure to check out the next section on how to structure leftovers into an actual meal plan.
9. Bargain hunting can work for Keto too
While hunting for bargains can sometimes take a sizable chunk of time and energy, there are a few shortcuts you can take to make things a little easier.
A few ways to get Keto staples at a reduced rate:
- Use a browser plugin like Honey to automatically search for the best voucher codes and cashback deals when shopping online.
- Consider joining reward schemes for supermarkets or online retailers that you frequent.
- Take advantage of supermarket deals and multipack discounts whenever possible.
10. Go seasonal with your fruit & veg…
Fresh vegetables and small portions of dark berries can be an important part of a well-rounded Keto diet, but they can be difficult to access for many people.
A potential solution is to look towards local suppliers or subscription boxes that often sell fresh, seasonal produce at a reduced rate.
Maintaining a small allotment or getting involved in a community garden may also be viable options for easier access to fresh produce.
11. …Or opt for frozen
Stocking up on frozen food can be a great way to save on Keto.
Mixed veggies are often frozen close to their pick date, maintaining higher levels of certain nutrients when compared to fresh.
Frozen meats, fish and certain healthy ready meals can also be more affordable than their non-frozen counterparts.
12. Skip the pre-packaged Keto-friendly foods
While it’s fantastic to see the growth in the availability of products geared specifically towards low-carb and Keto, they often come with a hefty price tag. From bars and powders to gourmet Keto meal deliveries, there are some delicious products out there that can definitely make low-carb more convenient.
But the reality is:
You don't necessarily need to regularly consume ‘Keto’ products to reap the benefits of a Keto diet and lifestyle.
13. Opt for homemade snacks when possible
Limiting more expensive Keto products doesn't mean you have to go without snacks!
A few simple, nutritious options:
14. Embrace pot-lucks and cookouts (if safe for you)
If, or when, it’s safe for you to do so wherever you are in the world, collective cookouts can be a nice way to split the costs of healthy foods with loved ones.
Food is and has been, for a long time, more than just about nutrition. It’s a chance for us to gather, bond and share stories around a fire.
That being said, rest assured that if you don't have a big tribe right now, solo Keto is still an option!
15. Consider a more flexible low-carb approach
In some areas, it’s undeniably more challenging to get access to certain Keto staples, whereas certain higher-carb foods (such as rice, yams or oats) may be more plentiful and affordable.
If you find yourself in this challenging situation but you still want to experiment with some aspects of Keto, a modified, slightly higher carb version is still possible.
This could be in the form of a low to medium carb diet or through something like cyclical ketosis.
Read more: 6 Types of Keto Diet and How To Get Started
Feeding a Family Vs Solo Keto
Moving towards Keto can present different challenges depending on whether you're going completely solo, with your family, or somewhere in between.
If you’re shopping for one, habits like looking out for deals, staying on top of meal prep and freezing leftovers can become especially important to make Keto workable.
When feeding a family, you may find it’s cost-effective to buy larger joints of meat and sharer-sized portions of other foods.
With the simple addition of grains, starchy veg or legumes, many Keto meals can be tweaked to suit anyone with a higher carb preference. A plus point in this scenario is that these foods are an inexpensive calorie source in many areas.
Keto on a Budget Grocery List
- Healthy fats - eggs, olive oils, nuts and seeds, coconut milk, coconut oil.
- Protein sources - tinned sardines and tuna, organ meats, higher fat joints.
- Non-starchy veg - frozen mixed veg, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, spring greens, onions, garlic.
- Low-sugar fruits - frozen mixed berries.
3-Day Sample Budget Keto Meal Plan
Breakfast: Best Keto Breakfast Meat Egg Cups
Lunch: Low Carb Canned Salmon Plate
Dinner: Keto Cabbage and Beef Soup
Breakfast: Best Keto Breakfast Meat Egg Cups
Lunch: Keto Cabbage and Beef Soup
Breakfast: Best Keto Breakfast Meat Egg Cups
Lunch: Low Carb Canned Salmon Plate
We truly appreciate that it can be extremely difficult to access a nutritious, budget Keto diet, and much more needs to be done to improve the situation.
In the meantime, we hope that some of the ideas shared above will at least, to a small degree, provide some relief and make nutritious food that little more accessible.
Any tips you’d add to the list?
Let us know down in the comments section below!