Are you looking for ways to drop a few pounds? Heard about the Ketogenic Diet – affectionately known as Keto – but you’ve heard it’s expensive? Here’s the thing – you can actually eat Keto on a budget.
You’ve heard correctly – it can be expensive if you follow all the guru’s advice. But it doesn’t have to be!
And it’s not hard to do it – at all.
Other posts in this series:
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Keto on a Budget is Completely Manageable
I’m assuming you already have an idea of what the Keto diet is and the types of food you will – and won’t – be eating. It’s essentially low carb with moderate protein and higher fat.
Remember: don’t fear the fat!
I still remember the first time I tried Keto. I was preparing to do the HCG Protocol and I needed to ‘load’ for two days to prepare for three weeks of 500 calories daily. I didn’t have carbs at all – I ate really high fat. I had all high-fat foods and protein shakes made with half-and-half and a full jar of macadamia nuts and lost 5 lbs in two days. Stunning. It helped me have an easy three weeks to lose 20 lbs, then I went low-carb to keep it off and increased my fat ration to keep it off. It really worked. And then I got lazy. Plus cake.
You’ve seen all the gurus and purists say you MUST eat this or you MUST drink that to be successful on Keto. And everything is expensive.
Well, I call BS on all that.
The truth is this: You CAN eat Keto on a budget.
You don’t need all those specialty ingredients. You are not required to bulletproof your coffee.
You don’t have to become a meat-atarian, either. Too much protein isn’t good for you anyway – it can actually hinder your progress on Keto.
And your fat macro isn’t a GOAL. It’s a limit.
The best advice I was ever given about Keto is this: Start with real food. You can experiment later when you know how your body responds to Keto.
Eating Keto on a Budget Does require Planning
I know I just heard huge groans all over.
Here’s another truth – you got where you are quite by accident unless your goal was to gain the excess weight of a 5th grader. If it was, well then – KUDOS to you! I know it wasn’t in my plan, for sure. Getting out of this mess – and this unrecognizable body – is going to take planning on my part. Yours too, I’d wager.
You also need to set your expectations. Keto has been like a miracle to some people but you have only yourself – and your body – to work with. Don’t compare yourself – or your weight loss – to anyone else. Focus on YOUR health and how you feel.
One of the great things about eating Keto style is that you usually get some results quickly. If you can see results quickly you are more apt to stick with it. That being said, you may not lose quickly right out of the gate. Rather than focus on the scale alone, focus more on how you feel, your energy level, and how your clothes are fitting.
Someone else may be able to eat a low-carb bar or shake and stay in fat-burning mode but it might halt your progress. See, I can say that because every time I am on a low-carb protocol and I try a bar – so far ANY low-carb bar – I stall, get discouraged, and quit. I know me and that’s what I do. And why do I do that?
Poor planning. (That’s code for NO planning)
When I have a plan and a pen I do fine. It’s when I get lazy and a know-it-all attitude about what I’m doing that I fall off the edge. I’m preachin’ to myself here too. I need help.
One thing to note: You WILL fall off the edge. If you don’t you must be super-human. It’s almost inevitable. It’s common to tell yourself that you ‘just blew it so the rest of the day is shot and SHOOT it’s Friday so I may as well stay down here in the mud until Monday and start over then’ but restrain yourself from that. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and climb back up on that wagon. Right away. One off-plan meal will not derail you unless you let it.
Know Your Macros
The first step of your plan is to know your macros.
Look, there are tons of people out there giving advice on HOW to eat Keto. Choose one that makes sense. Follow their guide for your macros to start but pay attention to your body signals. The macros that you start with may need adjustment as you progress forward.
Know Your Triggers
I’ve already mentioned my unhealthy relationship with low-carb bars.
No, I mean NUTS. You can have them on Keto. They are super easy to overeat, though. If they are a problem for you either buy the smallest size you can or don’t buy them at all. If you do buy them (because you can, ya know) store them in the freezer so they are out of sight and they’ll last longer. I’ve hoarded nuts before to find them much later and gleefully tearing open the bag to be greeted by a rancid odor. Devastating.
When I do buy nuts now, I get the ones that are chopped up for salad garnish. Small bag. As a treat.
Again, these are two of my triggers – they may not be yours. Know yours.
Another potential trigger I’m exploring is dairy. It’s all trial and error at this point.
Use a Tracker
I like to use My Fitness Pal. I can change the goals for nutrition to fit my macros and track properly. And it’s free. I love the sound of that word!
I’ve tried changing my way of eating without the tracker on my own but I prefer using a tracker. It takes away a level of stress for keeping track of my targets. I just let it figure it out.
Tip: Plan your meals ahead and enter tomorrows meals in your tracker TODAY. You can see where you may need to adjust in advance. It keeps you from freaking out at 10 PM because you need more of something to hit your target and are too exhausted to make it – so you reach for something easy. Trust me, no good decision was ever made when you’re unprepared. Or maybe that’s just me.
Another tip: remember that My Fitness Pal doesn’t use net carbs so subtract your fiber.
Track More Than Your Weight
Don’t focus on the scale.
I could really stop there but that wouldn’t be fair.
The scale doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s like watching Gone With The Wind and turning it off when Scarlett says, “With God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” You’re just left hanging.
Get out the measuring tape and pay MORE attention to it than you do the scales.
Measure weekly. Weigh weekly.
Don’t beat yourself up because you’re retaining water today. You have hormones, too, and they are responsible for a lot of that.
Start a journal.
Use it to track habits, food, sleep, mood, hydration, thoughts, tips, recipes, wins, goals – let it be your best buddy. You can use it for comparing good loss weeks to poor ones and see where you may need to make changes. Track vitamins, salt baths, everything. Yes, even your bowel movements. (Did she really say that?) That may sound a bit much but it may be good to know if you are having an issue with water retention or dehydration. By tracking foods you can see How you’re doing with Keto on a budget too.
Be brutally honest in your journal – it’s not like it’s going to be published or seen by millions. It can seriously be the best tracking tool you have.
Here is a great inexpensive one to start with for a bullet journal, or use any notebook you already have.
Know Who You Are Listening To
I once joined a Facebook group for Keto and the owner had a wacky take on macros – like way too many calories. And rules like never using any sweeteners at all and “follow my dietary rules or get out”. After a few weeks of the overbearing attitudes from the owner and the group (because they trickled down to the group members too) I decided I’d had enough of that. So I took his advice and got out. It was pure stress!
I’m listening to the folks over at Keto Dash. They have a common sense approach to Keto and I appreciate that it’s realistic and completely doable with great support.
Make sure the advice you are getting isn’t all hype. I know how hard it is to be in a group and in a stall and have a group member say something like, “I’ve lost 50 lbs in the last 2 months!” It can be disheartening. It’s hard to be excited for someone else when you feel like you’re getting nowhere.
Sometimes there is something you can do about it and sometimes not. Review your journal and check. Compare times when you were losing to when you stopped losing. It may be lack of sleep – or lack of RESTFUL sleep. It may be that you need to recalculate your macros or change up something else. It can be an external issue – are you super stressed right now? Those pesky stress hormones may be to blame.
I know we didn’t actually talk about eating Keto on a budget yet, but we will shortly, in part 2. I wanted to be sure you’re prepared mentally before we get into the money aspect of it. I hate calling it a diet because it’s really a lifestyle. There is no sense in running off to buy food for Keto without knowing WHY. I could give you a list and say, “Buy this.” But that isn’t fair to you without telling you to prepare your mind for it. They say abs are made in the kitchen but I believe weight loss is as much a mental thing as a food & exercise thing. It starts with your beautiful mind!
Let’s move on to saving money!
Other posts in this series:
When your budget can handle it, here are a few cookbooks to make it more interesting: