In comparison to high carb foods, low carb foods seem expensive, but this is because high carb/highly processed food is so cheap. For example, a cheeseburger from McDonald’s costs 99p in the UK, whereas a McDonald’s grilled chicken salad would set you back £3.39.
Although this is frustrating, you are your greatest investment. If you are going to spend your money on anything, real food should be at the top of the list. Your body needs highly quality foods such as meat and vegetables, rather than highly processed products. Low carb doesn’t have to be expensive either – there are plenty of tips and tricks to keep costs down!
1. Buy In Bulk
I used to buy ground almonds from the baking aisle at the supermarket, which are around £2.80 per 200g bag. Then I realized you can buy a 1kg bag of ground almonds online (or at a worldwide supermarket) for just £8.50. That’s a saving of £5.50! Now I do the same for coconut flour, nut butters and cacao nibs too. They usually come in large bags which I then transfer to airtight food storage jars or containers.
Some low carb foods that are cheaper to buy in bulk:
- nut butters
- ground almonds/almond flour
- coconut flour
- cacao nibs
- protein powders
2. Choose Homemade Over Store Bought
This has to be my biggest money saver. While I absolutely love low carb protein cookies and protein bars, they get expensive pretty quickly. I treated myself to some low carb granola recently too, but it was £4.75 for a very small box. Then it occurred to me that I can just make these treats at home!
What I do is I look at the ingredient list on the back of the product (most of the time the ingredients are items that I already have at home) and then I search for a low carb recipe online e.g. ‘low carb peanut butter granola’. Most of the recipes are super easy to make and while it does take more time, you do save a lot by making low carb treats at home versus buying them all the time. There are a few exceptions to this – I successfully made low carb tortillas once but my other attempts haven’t been that great, so now I just buy low carb wraps to save time and effort.
Another benefit to making your low carb treats at home is you know exactly what goes into them and you can choose the exact flavor you would like. I also find homemade low carb goodies don’t spike my blood sugar as dramatically as store bought low carb products.
3. Budget Supermarkets (Aldi/Lidl)
I started shopping at Aldi and Lidl when I was a student, and I was amazed at the price difference. A weekly shop that would set me back around £60 in one of the main UK supermarkets was less than £30 from Aldi/Lidl! I’ve found the quality of the food to be just as good – most of the time you are just paying for the brand name in more expensive supermarkets. I tend to buy my vegetables, berries, cheese, free range eggs, low carb pasta and fish from Aldi or Lidl.
4. Buy Local
I live in a small village and I’m lucky to have a fantastic local butcher who is always very generous with my cuts of meat. I would say the prices are similar to supermarket prices, but you can always haggle or ask for cheaper cuts! The meat tastes so much nicer than supermarket meat, and it’s great to know you are supporting a local business too. Many butchers will also give you leftover bones for free, which you can then use to make chicken or beef stock. The local fresh produce market is usually great for more unusual vegetables such as purple cauliflower, which I use to make a delicious breakfast smoothie bowl.
5. Visit The Library / Buy Preloved Books
Although I tend to use free recipes online, it is always nice to have a recipe book at home too. Some recipe books can be quite pricey, so I usually look for secondhand books online that are in good condition – some of them can be half the price of the brand-new version! A library is also a great place to find recipe books, and you can always take a photo or scan of a recipe you want to keep.
6. Make The Most Of Free Online Resources
There are thousands of brilliant free low carb recipes online. You could probably type anything into Google with the words ‘low carb’ at the end and a recipe would appear. I even found a recipe for low carb cookie butter recently which blew my mind. Some of my favorite low carb recipes websites are:
A helpful tip would be to make your own low carb recipe book/folder. I print out any recipes that I love (most websites have a ‘print’ button) and put them all into a folder. That way you can keep all of your tried and tested recipes in one place. The best part of a printed recipe is you don’t have any pop up ads!
YouTube is another fantastic resource for in-depth recipe videos and step by step tutorials. Dr Bernstein has a channel called ‘Diabetes University’ which has been incredibly helpful for coming to grips with low carb and type 1 diabetes.
7. Look Out For Special Offers
Many low carb food websites periodically have special offers, generally around Christmas or on payday. This is when I stock up on the products that I can’t make at home, such as low carb tortillas / protein powder / almond flour etc.
When I’m out shopping, I also make a habit of popping into health food shops to see if they have any reduced items – sometimes they have low carb goodies that are near their sell by date and have been reduced by half or more!
8. Check Amazon/Ebay
Before I buy anything online, I always check if I can buy it cheaper anywhere else. Low carb high protein snacks tend to be cheapest on Amazon or eBay. Most of the time eBay has the most competitive prices, but before you buy anything from these sites always double check the reviews.
9. Meal Prep
I cannot stress how important this is! Meal prepping does not mean you have to have every meal and snack in a Tupperware container, but it does help enormously if you can plan what you will be eating and make food ahead of time. For example, I spend every other Sunday making low carb goodies such as chaffles, sweet waffles, cookies and peanut butter squares, which I store in the freezer. Then during the week when I am busy working, I can grab a quick low carb snack without having to make it from scratch. It’s also handy to have ready-made things ready to go if someone invites you over for a picnic or barbecue, or you’re heading out on a hike. Chaffle sandwiches are my go-to packed lunch for a hike!
10. Start Small And Gradually Build Up Your Stock
Finally, it can be quite overwhelming when you first hear of all the low carb ingredients. Xanthan gum? Psyllium husk? Erythritol? Ground flaxseed? These sounded alien-like to me in the beginning! It would cost a lot to get every product at once too and to be honest, you don’t need them all at once. I would suggest starting with a few ingredients that you think you will need before slowly building up your stock. For example, when I first started eating low carb, I just bought ground almonds and granulated stevia, before buying coconut flour and the rest. You’d be surprised at how many recipes just use ground almonds and sweetener as the ‘special low carb ingredients and the rest are typical ingredients such as butter, cocoa powder and dark chocolate.