Dana, how can you follow a low carb meal plan if you are on a tight budget?
Well, first, you’re going to have to cook. 🙂
A year or two after I went low carb, my husband started grad school, and had to reduce to part time hours. I was not yet writing for a living. The budget was definitely slim.
I find the greatest friend my food budget has is a freezer. Even a little one, maybe 5 cubic feet, lets you take advantage of loss-leader sales and markdowns. As I type this, mine is full of chicken thighs I bought at 49c/pound and pork shoulder I bought for 99c/pound – oh, and bacon that went down to $1.99. I am not above buying meat that’s been marked down because it’s nearing the pull-by date; that’s how we afford rib-eye steak now and then. One delirious day I got 10 pounds of bacon and 8 pounds of pork sausage because they’d all been marked down to 99c/pound for clearance. Indeed, I rarely buy meat at full price. Heck, I have a turkey in there that was marked down to 79c/pound after the holidays. It’ll be great smoked on the grill this summer.
You’re thinking “How do I afford a freezer?” Check Craigslist; our big chest freezer (and by “big” I mean I could fit a body in it if it weren’t full of marked-down meat) cost us $125 and the hauling; it has saved us that many times over. It’s run beautifully for 6-7 years now. Do shop for one that’s fairly recent vintage; it will cost you less in electricity. You can also shop scratch-and-dent stores. Prices run higher, but you may get a warranty.
Keep in mind that your body doesn’t care if you get your protein from those 49c/pound chicken thighs or from lobster tail. It will be just as happy with cabbage as with out-of-season lettuce. Speaking of seasons, even today there is some seasonal variation in food prices. Take advantage of them. We just stocked up on eggs when they were cheap at Easter; eggs are great any time of day. When Kerrygold butter went on sale, I bought 6 packages.
I’m a dinosaur; I still get a dead-tree newspaper daily, so I see the weekly grocery store flyers. As a result, I know when Aldi has avocados at 49c a pound, and when Lucky’s has a sale on prime rib – yes, I got a prime rib roast for $4.99/pound. That’s roughly half the usual price. I also try to be aware of who has the best prices on what on a day-to-day basis. We go through a lot of pork rinds, so it’s more than worth it to drive 20 minutes across town to Aldi, where they cost 99c a bag, instead of $2.99 a bag at the nearest grocery store. I buy them a case at a time. If you don’t get a paper, see if you can get the local grocery store circulars online.
Don’t waste food. As I said above, I eat leftovers a lot. I also save the bones from my chicken and steaks in plastic grocery sacks in the freezer, and turn them into broth when I have a bagful.
Most low carb speciality foods are pricey, and none of them are essential.
Two more thoughts:
One, many carby foods are expensive. I have long thought of cold cereal as a conspiracy to get suckers to pay $4 for 15c worth of grain. How much did the potatoes in that bag of chips cost? Why do you think pizza places keep bragging about their crust, or offering “free” Crazy Bread? They can appear generous while sucking dollars out of your pocket for something that cost them pennies. Cut the expensive carby junk out of your food budget, and you’ll have more money for bacon and eggs.
And two, any food that makes you fat, hungry, tired, and sick wouldn’t be cheap if they were giving it away.
Dana Carpender is the author of nine cookbooks, including the best-selling 500 Low-Carb Recipes.