There's a false misconception that keto diet is expensive.
The reality is that it's as expensive as you make it.
You can follow keto on a budget, enjoy ketosis and burn fat at the same time.
These $$$ budgeting hacks are based on
- my personal experience (from 2.5 years of keto),
- tips from my family, and
- tips from Bodyketosis readers.
If you think there's something missing from this list, then please share them in the comments section.
Burning fat on a budget just got easy.
Let's budget in.
Tip 1. The fat adaption - Your grocery bill may increase when you are just starting out with keto diet - depending on where you live and your eating habits. Once you are fat adapted (deep in ketosis and burning fat for energy), your grocery bills will decrease, and you don't have the hunger nor cravings you had before.
Tip 2. Bouillon cubes - Hack I wish I knew when I started out. Bouillon cubes are the easiest and cheapest way to get into ketosis. Depending on the brand, it contains from 0 to 30 grams of fat per 3.5oz/100g and is dead cheap. It also provides the sodium you need during the transition so that you won't experience the keto-flu so badly. You can either make soup or drink it on its own. PS! Obviously, read the label and choose the high-fat, low-carb cubes.
Tip 3. Tuna and sardines - There's too much month to the end of the money? Yea I feel you. The best menu at the end of the month is canned fish. Base all your meals around cans of tuna and sardines. Just add some veggies, sour cream, or whatever rocks your boat - create "everything that's left in the refrigerator bowl". It's a super cheap protein source, and full of healthy fats.
Tip 4. Measuring ketone levels - Sooner or later you would want and need to know if you are in ketosis or not. If what you ate was keto friendly or not. If it's your first trip into ketosis, don't buy fancy equipment which you may never use again. Instead, use cheap urine strips. They cost less than 10$ and are enough, in the beginning, to show you if you are on the right path or not.
Tip 5. Electrolytes – The most important thing to eat during the first transition into ketosis are electrolytes. In my opinion, the cheapest way is to get it through bone broth. It’s not necessarily my favorite form of food but heck, it’s way cheaper than buying supplements.
Tip 6. Cheap calories - Butter is surprisingly cheap per calorie compared to other foods. In the beginning, it’s extremely important to ramp up your quality fat intake, so add it to everything. PS! Although grass-fed sounds good, it’s not vital if you are on a budget.
Tip 7. Keep it simple – The more ingredients a meal contains, the more costly usually things get. Simplicity is the key to cheap and healthy keto meals. I suggest separating your food into 3 categories - protein, non¬starchy vegetables, and healthy fats. When cooking then just pick one product from each category and you are good to go.
Tip 8. Go-to meals - I suggest you find 3 dead simple go to keto meals and rotate between them – I usually eat the same dish 3 days in a row and then switch to a next one. It’s just simpler; you make fewer mistakes, it cheaper, easier to plan and you will enter ketosis quicker. PS! Use different types of meats (e.g., chicken, pork, canned tuna), so you don’t get bored of the taste.
Meat buying hacks
Tip 9. Odd cuts – Probably the cheapest parts of meat are the odd cuts. You will be surprised how much more expensive perfectly cut meat can be. You might have to get them directly from a rancher if your local grocery store doesn’t have this choice.
Tip 10. Bacon – Don’t buy the perfectly cut bacon, instead go to the bacon section and look for ends and pieces. You get a lot of bacon for much cheaper, and the only difference is it doesn't look as pretty. But it still tastes like heaven, is full of keto fats and can last a while.
Tip 11. Organ meats – I admit, it took me a while before I got used to this. I’m not a big organ meat fan, but it costs a fraction of the cost of beef or chicken. If it’s your first time buying organ meat, then check out the beef liver. It’s nutritious and quite easy to find in most stores. If you don’t like the taste of organ meat, then one trick is to cut it into small pieces and mix it with keto chili. The smaller the pieces, the less you will feel the specific flavor. And you can always go all in with cayenne pepper, which will kill every “odd” taste you detect otherwise.
Tip 12. Buy whole chicken – If you like chicken, then the best deal you can get is to buy the whole chicken and cut it into pieces by yourself. A whole chicken is waay cheaper than buying it piece by piece. And do not throw away the carcass. You can later use it to make chicken broth which is the perfect way to replenish your electrolytes. Learning to butcher will save you lots of money, and it’s way easier as one might think.
Tip 13. Almost expired - Go for almost* expired meat. Now I’m not suggesting you to eat expired meat, but most grocery stores have “use by” or “best before” counter. Products there are often on sale for 20-50% off. Now that’s a measurable bargain. The best part is that you don’t need to eat it right away, just freeze it, and you are set.
Tip 14. Sales - Another idea to save money is to ask the manager when they run their sales on different meats. Most stores rotate sales once or twice per month if not more often. It's the perfect time to buy your meat in bulk and freeze it. This is a dead simple tip but worth your time if you really are on a low budget.
Tip 15. Personal butcher – Many grocery stores have an in-store butcher that may sell their own bacon and meat which is often waay cheaper than packaged ones. For example, I think Safeway butcher sells bacon around 5$ a pound. Another reason is that instore butcher usually sells you fresh meat and bacon. It’ may not be a priority while on a budget, but definitely worth the bargain.
Tip 16. Meatless Monday – Now before you go all emotional hear me out. Yes, protein is important during keto, and no I’m not saying that you should go all in vegan. But, having one meatless day per week can really cut your grocery bill.
Buying eggs in bulk and using as a meat substitute for one day can help to save some money and add some variety to your diet. Just boost your meals with healthy fats and high fiber veggies. It’s just something to consider if you feel that your diet is boring.
What to buy
Tip 17. Whole vs. chopped - Always buy food in a whole form vs. chopped. Buy the whole chicken instead of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Buy the whole stalk of celery instead of chopped up celery. Buy the whole cheese and shred yourself, instead of the shredded cheese. Buy whole almonds instead of an almond trail mix. Buy food that is NOT “convenient” is the cheapest way to save money across all food categories.
Tip 18. Quantity over quality - You don't need to buy everything labeled organic. Don’t feel pressured to purchase the grass-fed, organic beef, or the pasture-raised eggs that every food blog out there says you must do. At the end of the day, it comes down to your budget. In my opinion, temporarily eating meat and eggs without the organic mark, is still better than a nasty Big Mac, family sized pizza or any other cheat meal especially if this is a temporary solution.
Another alternative is to choose leaner cuts of meat and fatten them up with high-quality butter or oil. This because most toxins are stored in the fat of the meat, so choosing leaner cuts will reduce the amount of it. If you are doing anything on a tight budget, you need to make some compromises.
Tip 19. Regular cheese - Cheese is THE staple food during the keto diet. As you will be eating loads of it, buy the regular one not specialty cheeses which are usually quite pricey. Also, always buy cheese in bigger pieces and shred yourself - preshredded cheese is just another "convenience" food where you pay the difference in price.
Tip 20. Cheese on sale - Because I eat cheese with almost every keto meal, I always buy cheese in bulk and only when it's on sale. The reason is that cheese lasts FOREVER on the shelf until it's opened. In general cheese has 6+ months shelf life and usually, during half of that, it will be put on sale. Of course, always look at the date, but it's just a smart way to stock up your cheese reserves.
Tip 21. Almond meal - Have you ever tried to do keto cooking? Then you probably know that almond flour (a staple in keto cooking) is quite expensive. But, almond meal is cheaper and interchangeable in most recipes. And if you don't want to buy premade one, you can make your own ground almonds in your coffee grinder.
Tip 22. Avocados - As avocado is another keto staple and you will eat loads of it, I suggest buying avocados and berries only when they are on sale and in season - depends where you live. If there are no ongoing sales, then another tip is to buy avocado oil. You will still get the benefits of monosaturated fat and save some $$.
Tip 23. Frozen and canned fish - Tasty fish is expensive, especially salmon. Rather than spending your hard-earned money on the expensive fillet, choose a canned tuna, sardines or mackerel. All of which are full of healthy fats, quite cheap and perfect for keto pantry.
Tip 24. Shop brands - Whatever you are buying, always prefer the shop brand products. For example, butter is sold the cheapest if you get the Walmart brand. Usually, they sell them in packs which will last forever. It's worth giving the store brand version a shot if you buy the product often. More than often the product itself is the same, just without the fancy logos and packaging.
Tip 25. Seasoning - Seasoning is expensive. It's one of those products which I never see being on sale. My best tip is to buy one seasoning a week, till you have around 10 of them which will cover most of your needs. My favorites are salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, cumin, thyme, garlic powder, lemon pepper, paprika, cayenne.
Tip 26. Canned vegetables - Canned tuna is not the only keto staple. Also consider buying spinach, turnip greens, and green beans or whatever else canned veggies you can find. They don't go bad, so there will be no wasted money. Just keep your eye on the carbohydrate amount.
Tip 27. Eggs - Eggs are probably one of the cheapest protein sources available. They have great value for money, and you can use it in almost any keto recipe. Make scrambled, hard-boiled eggs or mix them with veggies. Also, perfect if you would want to test limit your meat intake but still stay in ketosis.
Tip 28. Nuts and seeds - Nuts and seeds truly are a must have keto staple. The problem is that they can be costly. The cheapest places I have found nuts and seeds are warehouse stores - where I always buy them bulk (as it's my staple snack). If you don't have a warehouse store nearby, then check the bulk section of your local supermarket.
Timing and planning
Tip 29. Intermittent fasting - This is definitely not for everyone, but the easiest way to save around 30% of your budget is by doing intermittent fasting. If you get rid of snacks and eat 1-2 meals per day, both your body and your wallet will thank you. It's actually way easier than most people think, just skip one meal and eat during 8-hour window.
I have done intermittent fasting for 2 years now, and I got to say, my life got way easier when there was one meal less to think about. If you have experimented with 16/8 fasts, you may want to take things to the next level and try out OMAD (one meal a day). This can save you ~50-60% of a three-meal budget.
Tip 30. Meal planning - Probably the most obvious and well-known tip but it's highly effective. Planning meals for the week and sticking to it helps you enter ketosis waaay faster, burns fat and saves you a ton of money. By shopping every day and thinking about what to eat on the go, you will set up yourself for failure. Keto diet is already quite restrictive and can be difficult if you are just starting out. You need some structure and planning to get the most for your time and money.
Tip 31. Avoid temptation - The supermarket is THE place where everything is placed strategically to get you to buy more. The music, the colors, the product placements - it's endless. Never visit the supermarket when hungry, and if you go then avoid the aisles that are full of temptations. If this has been an issue for you in the past, then order everything online, and you will probably save more money during the process.
Tip 32. Loyalty programs - No matter where you live, almost every supermarket has loyalty programs and special offers. I get new coupons on foods I often buy and in the long run the savings are huge. In addition to savings, there are also special offers, like buying 3 packages of whatever for the price of 2. These things add up, and you can save a lot.
Tip 33. Amazon Prime - If you frequently shop on Amazon, then it's definitely worth signing up for Amazon Prime or Amazon Student. It includes free one-day deliverables on selected items and many other perks like free home movies. Amazon offers a free 30-day trial on Amazon Prime and 6 months free for Amazon Student. Definitely check that out.
Tip 34. Shop Online - I can't say this enough, ordering online everything will save your money and burn more fat. Why? Because you are in control of the whole process. You can compare prices, choose only the things you want and hunt for coupons like there's no tomorrow. Buy online to avoid the marketing traps and "specials" which lure you into buying more.
Also, many common keto ingredients (e.g., almond flour, nuts, and seeds) are way cheaper when buying online. Depending on where you live, the delivery charge is usually cheaper than the petrol (or even free from a certain total price) and the cost of the items you have avoided buying.
Tip 35. Shop big - Have you found yourself hitting the supermarket every day? It's virtually impossible to save money that way. I usually shop once a week and make one big trip. This obviously requires planning and following your premade grocery list. Also, as previously mentioned, in my opinion, the best way to do it is online. You can comfortably pick and choose every product, and they bring everything to your door.
Now if you have a bigger family, then I suggest splitting into 2 days as we always forget stuff and the more people surprising things you may need. In this case, I would suggest making a bigger shopping spree on Monday and a smaller one on Friday.
Tip 36. Go alone - Never take family members or kids with you to the grocery store. It's impossible to shop with kids (the nag factor) as the product placement is always at their eye level and all the colorful advertising is directly aimed at them. Shopping without kids will be cheaper, faster and will save you more functioning brain cells.
Tip 37. Visit different stores - I'm surprised how uncommon this is. I asked my friends, and every single of them shop only 1-2 staple shops. If you really want to save money you need to hunt for sales and bargains, this means checking different stores. The best part is that you can find the prices and deals online. Consider it research and make it a habit.
Snacks & sweet tooths
Tip 38. Make your own sweetener - If you can't find keto sweeteners on sale, you can make your own instead. Spend some extra and buy pure sucralose powder and make your own liquid "Splenda" but with 0 calories, 0 carbs and keto friendly (in general Splenda is not keto friendly). Another great way to spice things up is to buy dried stevia leaves - grind them or add them straight to your coffee or tea.
Tip 39. Cheap dessert - My favorite childhood dessert was jello with heavy whipping cream. Can you imagine how happy I was when I found low-carb jello? It felt like Christmas. And the best part is that heavy whipping cream is as keto as it gets. I just added some Monk Fruit into the mix and voila.
Tip 40. Keto subscription box - Snacks have always been a difficult topic for me. It's easy to binge-eat. It's easy to buy non-keto friendly snacks and so on. That's why I love keto subscription box idea. A fixed amount of "verified" keto snacks delivered to you monthly. My approach is that I can eat only that amount of snacks and that's it. And I don't allow myself to buy any snacks from the store.
In that way, I still get that emotional boost and can satisfy my mental cravings, but also stay in ketosis, burn fat and don't waste my money on emotional snack sprees. I tested a couple of keto subscription boxes, but right now I have stayed with Keto Krate, as they will include sweet and salty snacks.
Tip 41. Use MCT oil - Want to boost your ketone production and energy levels? Buy a quality MCT oil instead of BHB ketone salts or ketone esters. While BHB salts will improve your ketone levels, MCT oil goes straightly into your liver where it will be used for energy. You will get all the benefits cheaper. I love MCT powder more than MCT oil, as it doesn't make my coffee "oily" and it mixes better with virtually everything. You read more about MCT oils here.
Tip 42. Electrolytes - The only keto supplement everyone should have at home. It's important when you are starting out as well as important during it. The fact is that during keto you need to replenish your electrolytes. I prefer capsules as I can take them with me whenever I need them and I plainly just don't like bone broth. Taking electrolytes will be cheaper for you in the long term - you will save yourself a lot of time and headache dealing with keto flu and everything that comes with that.
Tip 43. Track your minerals - It's no secret that during keto you will lack certain minerals, especially if you don't like your veggies. The best way to track your vitamin and mineral intake is to use a diet app like Cronometer and fill in the gaps with different foods or specific vitamins and minerals that you may not be getting enough of. This is a relatively accurate way to assess your vitamin and mineral supplement needs without having to waste money on capsules or powders that you don’t need at all.
Tip 44. Cheap bulletproof coffee - Unlike every Instagram influencer will say, to enjoy a bulletproof coffee you don't need to use the expensive Bulletproof brand MCT oil and coffee beans. The truth is that any coffee and MCT oil, or butter will do the trick. You can even mix them all together. I suggest using MCT powder instead of oil, so your coffee or tea will not get "oily".
Tip 45. Keto Chow - Now this is a keto meal replacement shake. I don't think this is for everyone, but if you are on the run most of the day and don't have the time to shop and meal prep, then this can be a lifesaver. It's 100% keto friendly, packed with MCTs and quite cheap for the value provided. Also, a smart thing to have at your office.
Tip 46. The KISS principle – The Keep It Simple * principle. Keto gets expensive when you start experimenting with almond flour and sugar substitutes in an effort to recreate low-carb versions of high carb comfort foods. Usually its quite expensive and can also make cravings worse for some. You can’t go wrong with protein and veggies as your main base for most meals. Portioning and freezing family packs of everything is another great option for getting the most out of your dollar(s).
Tip 47. Drink tap water – The easiest favor you can do to yourself and to your wallet is to replace any other drink with tap water. If your tap water tastes bad, a home filter is cheaper than bottled water. Refrigerating tap water in a covered pitcher and even a slice of lemon can boost the taste. Also, I prefer eating my calories in not drinking them.
Tip 48. A crockpot is your secret weapon – Odd and fatty cuts of meat are the cheapest, but they are also quite tough cuts. And the best way to make it tender is to use the Crockpot. Just slow cook the hell out of them, and it will turn out delicious every time.
Tip 49. Track your food – Using a proper food tracker app forces you to think through your menu, plan out what and how much you eat and as a result, you know exactly what you are paying for and why. What gets measured can be improved.
Tip 50. Grow your own vegetables – Have you ever thought of growing your own veggies and spices? It’s easier than you can think and for spices, you don’t even need a garden. If you do have a garden and more time, then plan your own veggies. The food tastes 100% differently when you have put your own heart and soul into it.
Tip 51. Choosing veggies – When shopping veggies, then prefer the ones that are in season and thus way cheaper. And buy frozen veggies for the rest of the year. A quick Google search will reveal what veggies and fruits are in season and go for them (as long as they are keto-friendly). The easiest rule of thumb is that most veggies grown above the ground are keto friendly, and everything below the ground should be avoided.
Tip 52. Freeze everything – This may also sound obvious but extremely effective. If you buy “best before” meat, or have ingredients that are about to go off, the easiest way to get extra mileage out of them is to freeze them. Whenever you need it again then just defrost it on the day that you will eat it.
Tip 53. Use bacon fat – Oil is expensive, good oil is even more expensive. Fairly simple but very effective trick is to save and use bacon fat instead of olive or coconut oil. Using oils is expensive because you need to use it often. In my opinion, bacon fat adds a good flavor to food and saves a lot of money. Always save your meat fat to continue cooking in it later on.
Tip 54. Cook once, eat twice – The more meals you prepare upfront, the cheaper it generally gets. It not only saves you money but your time as well (which can be used to make money). I usually make three to four meals at a time take leftovers for lunch. If I haven't eaten it in a few days, I pop it in the freezer, so nothing goes to waste. The more you prep, the easier it gets, and now I can’t imagine a life where I would need to cook every single day.
Tip 55. Ferment, Freeze, Dry, and Can Foods – Now this is a good tip if you are savvy in the kitchen. The easiest way to enjoy delicious homemade food year-round (even out of season) is to ferment, freeze, dry and can foods. For example pickles, kombucha (keep it extremely low in sugar), sauerkraut and kimchi. All of which are extremely good for your gut as well. Also if you have a dehydrator or oven, you can even dry your own meats, veggies herbs, and even fruits. Herbs and Jerky is waay cheaper to make your own.
Tip 56. Use cheap meat – We all have seen those fancy recipes with expensive cuts of meat. You do not need to buy that expensive one. Just buy a cheap cut and slow cook the hell out of that, and it will be tender and delicious. If you use a slow cooker then it’s extremely easy and requires less time – just add some broth and seasonings and forget about it.
Tip 57. Cabbage is a great filler – When you are on a budget, you need to get creative. I have found cabbage to be one of the cheapest fillers out there. You can grind it in a food processor and add it to soups, chili or eat it raw. Typically it costs around a dollar, so it’s quite affordable.
Tip 58. Make your own coleslaw – Premade coleslaw is another convenient food you usually buy, but it can get expensive. Also, premade coleslaw often includes unhealthy oils. It’s actually incredibly easy and cheap to make by yourself in a food processor.
Tip 59. Spinach, Broccoli, and Cauliflower – These are my keto staple veggies. They are high in fiber, low in carbs, relatively cheap, work great as a filler and is full of healthy nutrients. Okay, cauliflower may not be the cheapest, but it’s quite versatile. You can turn in into pretty much everything from pizza crust to rice to “low-carb mashed potatoes”. You can always replace it with cabbage as well.
Money wasters to avoid
Tip 60. Recipes with lots of ingredients – As stated before, the best way to save money in every area of life is to keep things simple. Avoid recipes that call for lots of ingredients you may not use up before they go bad.
Tip 61. Stop snacking – Now this is something I have fought a lot in the past. Snacks aren’t necessary for you to lose weight. Snacks can easily add up to a fourth meal and can get expensive rather quickly. If you have a history with snacks, then try to calculate how much you spend on snacks daily?
The good thing with ketosis is that once you are fat adapted your hunger and cravings will go down a lot. This is the easiest time to wean yourself out of this habit. The lack of eating things here and there, and eating only during your main meal times, will make a huge difference in your weight loss efforts.
Tip 62. Stop food waste – Don’t throw your hard-earned money away - stop food wastage. When you plan meals ahead, think about what you are buying and when it will be eaten. Stop wasting food, stop impulse buys, stop throwing away ugly or misshapen produce, stop throwing away leftovers. One study found that Americans waste nearly a pound of food per day. Plan your meals advance, meal prep, buy online and take a grocery list with you when shopping.
Tip 63. Don’t buy pre-packaged salad bags – It’s another convenient food. Buy lettuce, spinach, and other salad ingredients and make your own bowl of salad mix every few days. Whole lettuce seems to last longer than the bagged mix. In this way, you can make it more keto friendly by combining it with more high-fiber veggies.
Tip 64. Stop buying drinks - Stop buying diet drinks, smoothies, juices, and bottled water. Instead, start drinking tap water and save big time. Or make flavored water yourself by adding a slice of lime, berries or mint leaves for a fresh, natural refreshing drink. A medium Starbucks latte is around 4$, but homemade bulletproof coffee can cost as cheap as 0.2$ a cup. Tap water is free. Cut out sodas, and you will lose even more weight – it’s actually way easier than you might think. After a couple of weeks you get used to the water.
Tip 65. Skip buying things you can easily make - There are a lot of items that you can buy in the store that are time savers, but they are expensive. Switching to making your own keto friendly items will cut down on your costs and actually taste better. Making ghee at home is much cheaper than buying it.
Tip 66. Ditch the lean meats - You want all the fat you can get on the keto diet. Lean meats like chicken breast, 90% or more ground beef, fat-free ground turkey and the like are way more expensive, and it doesn’t give you the benefit. During keto, you need to eat loads of fats. This means fatty meats are the number one keto fat source. Go for chicken thighs and fattier mince when you can for big savings.
Tip 67. Do not eat out - Although fast food is convenient, the cost of eating out regularly can and will add up quickly. It's a matter of choice really. Meal prepping and planning will go a long way helping you to lose weight and save on your dinner. Always have emergency snacks and meal replacement shake in the office. If you are stressed out or your plans change you have a quick keto friendly bite, and you will thank yourself later on.
Tip 68. Don't allow cheat days - This is a big one. As you may or may not know, there are no cheat days during the keto diet. The problem is that you will be jumping in and out of ketosis and this is not something you want to do. Also, cheating will end up being waaay more costly. Why? Because of all the high carb fast food and everything that comes after. Also, you will be experiencing keto flu every time, and this can be unmotivating for your wallet as well as mentally.
Tip 69. Food that looks "non-keto food" - I suggest avoiding every food and recipes that look like "non-keto food". This means take a break from Instagram as well. That's really where the expensive ingredients are, and they are just not worth the money and the effort. There are so many delicious and easy to make keto foods and fat bombs that you probably haven't tried yet.
Tip 70. Don’t Buy Any Fancy Equipment - If you haven't bought already then don't buy them now. It's easy to get carried away and to justify yourself why you need that shiny bulletproof blender or crockpot. Although they can be handy during keto diet, you do not need them to enter ketosis and burn fat. If you get really into cooking, you can invest in some of these things later but don’t buy them when you’re just getting started.
Tip 71. Cut back on alcohol - Alcohol is already a quite controversial topic when it comes to the keto diet. As you know during keto, you can drink mostly hard liquor in reasonable amounts, but 40$ whiskey bottle can get quite expensive rather quickly. You know best your drinking habits, but try to calculate how much you really spend on alcohol per month, this could be the biggest source for your savings.
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Alex is editor in chief of Bodyketosis, an author, low-carb enthusiast and a recovering chubby guy who reclaimed his health using the ketogenic lifestyle. The need for the keto life began after his aunt and cousin were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and he was next in line. Through personal experience and extensive scientific research, Alex offers insightful tips for everything keto.