Friday, January 19, 2007

Low carb, less money

So many of you have written to ask me about cooking low carb on a budget. There's no magic answer, except to take your grocery superpowers to a more creative level. Yes, there will be more money spent overall; the meat's a killer. Yet, the low carb menu packs in far more nutrients than a budget menu dependent on rice and bread. Off the top of my head:

Bulk up the dinner plate with cheap green vegetables. You don't have to buy expensive low carb tortillas for every Mexican meal. Last night we had fajita salad over a bed of shredded romaine. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and green beans are staples of my daily cooking. Find a grocer with reliable cheap produce--it might be an Asian market.

Instead of coating entrees in pricey melted cheese, use sauces and salad dressings to get quick, low carb flavor. I like Southwestern-style ranch for 2 g carbs. It gives you the smoky taste of chiles and the tang of sour cream, but in a tiny amount of a $1.50 bottle. We like Ken's blue cheese dressing over steak salad (Black and Bleu) and as a side dip for hot wings and celery sticks. With coupons, you can get as many free bottles of Frank's Hot Sauce as your pantry can hold. Just read the labels carefully and avoid low-fat dressings doctored with sugar.

On the sweet side, make your own. The South Beach treats are tempting, but they will kill your budget. Stock up when Philly cream cheese hits 99 cents a bar, or do like Tammy's cheesecake expert and use the Aldi brand for only 69 cents. Find the low carb puddings and pie recipes that use silken tofu (ultra cheap) as an alternative to heavy cream or whey protein powders. Eliminate the expense of low carb crusts--I've learned to sprinkle the tops of desserts with chopped nuts for a cheaper "crunch."

Any cheap tips from my low-carb readers?


Anonymous said...

I've blogged about frugal low-carb eating some myself...partly because it's a new concept for me and I'm convinced it can be done without absolutely killing my budget.

Unfortunately, I don't have many suggestions for you that you haven't already mentioned. We buy meat when it goes on sale, and stock up as much as our budget allows each week. That allows us to be able to eat from the pantry more on weeks where the sales aren't as good.

Coupons definitely. I buy coupons off ebay - but only for items that we go through quickly (like Splenda and Scott toilet paper) or for things that are normally splurge items (like the Stash tea that I only buy when it's on sale). If you'll actually use them and not throw them away it can be worth several times what you pay for the coupons.

We also make all our bread products - I do keep some in the house for our little boy to eat. Homemade tortillas taste better than store-bought ones and you can make them as small or as large as you like. We make them whole-wheat. Yum.

Oh - for sweets, we eat a lot of sugar-free jello and fruits, especially berries.

Anonymous said...

Meredith - if you've never tried to make your own tortillas, I posted the recipe on my blog.......

TheNormalMiddle said...

We're not following low carb but we are eating much healthier now as opposed to our "old ways". I've found organic/fresh/etc is SO MUCH more expensive but when you quit buying cookies, crackers, soda, and JUNK you have the wiggle room in your budget!

I shop for fresh produce, veggies, meat, cheeses, milk, and things like that. I very rarely buy anything in the "center" of the grocery store anymore. I frequent our farmers market and I'm even finding room for expensive hormone free meats in our budget due to the junk being cut out!

Where there is a will, there is a way! :) has some great resources on finding farmers, markets,CSA's and things in your area that can help cut down costs.