When you think low carb, do images of luxurious meals of steak and lobster come to mind? Or perhaps you first think of low-carb snacks that are priced like precious jewels? Watching carbs to stay healthy or lose weight doesn’t have to cost you a mint. Here’s how to do it without breaking the bank!
Some people mistakenly assume that watching your carbs is expensive—the rich man’s way to lose weight. If you make filet mignon a staple food, then yes, you’ll probably need deep pockets (or a good friend at the meat counter). But regularly including such high-priced foods in your eating plan is far from necessary—there are countless inexpensive and delicious options that are low in carbs.
Believe it or not, some people even find that controlling carbs means spending less money on food, since they’re no longer stocking up on the heavily processed junk foods typically found in the center aisles of the supermarket. And when it comes to convenient low-carb products and snacks, there are strategies for shaving off some of the cost there, too.
Let’s take a look at how you can fill your fridge and your cabinets with the basics more economically:
Meat for Less Money
Meat is a good place to start. We all know beef tenderloin is a wonderfully tasty cut of meat (with a price tag to match), but have you fully explored the delicious benefits of chuck and sirloin? Cuts like these contain more marbling (streaks of fat that run throughout the meat), which makes them über flavorful, tender and juicy. They’re best suited to slow cooking, so think stews, soups, roasts and braises.
The choices are truly endless, whether you have time on your hands or are rushing to get dinner on the table: prepare meltingly tender braised lamb shanks for Sunday supper, or instantly pan-fry a ham steak on a hectic weeknight, for instance. Don’t forget about sausages, which are flavorful and affordable, not to mention extremely versatile.
Slice some up and sauté with peppers and onions, or enjoy one on a low-carb bread with grainy mustard and sauerkraut. And of course, it’s always a smart strategy to buy meat in bulk when it’s on sale and then freeze what you won’t use. If you’re a club shopper, you can find great deal on most weeks.
Protein Priced Right
It’s time to consider the incredible world of protein sources out there—there’s more to controlling carbs than meat, so avoid falling into a supper slump. Dinner doesn’t have to consist of one fish or animal protein plus vegetables, so shake things up by preparing eggs in any number of ways: scrambled, poached, in an omelet or even a crustless quiche. Tofu and other soy foods can stand in for the usual protein sources of chicken and turkey to break up the monotony, while providing a variety of nutrients as well.
Be “In” This Season
You wouldn’t wear your wool sweater and down jacket in December, so avoid buying fruit and veggies when they’re out of season—that’s when they’re the most expensive. When produce is flown in from other countries, it necessarily costs more. If you can get into the habit of blanching in-season vegetables and then freezing them, you can have your favorites year-round. Berries and some other fruits freeze well, too.
Snacks and Goodies
When it comes to low-carb snacks, like nutrition bars and shakes, and other convenience items that fit your healthy lifestyle, look for store specials and shop in bulk. Get to know the Web sites that sell your favorite products and sign up for the company’s newsletters to get a head’s up on sales.
Smart Shopping Strategies
Buy whole chickens. They’re almost always less expensive than prepackaged chicken parts; learn to cut up your own chickens and you’ll save money.
Get to know pork. Inexpensive cuts like rib chops, shoulder and but are very tasty when properly prepared. Latin recipes are famous for making the most of these cuts and can add variety to your meal plans.
Skip the salad-in-a-bag. Greens that have been washed, chopped and sealed in a bag will always be far more expensive than those that are sold as individual heads.
Keep a variety of oils. Oils run the gamut when it comes to price and quality, so it’s wise to use them accordingly. Buy the larger containers of less expensive oils—canola oil, pure olive oil, peanut oil—to use for stir frying and sautéing, and keep smaller containers of flavorful, high-quality, cold-pressed oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, walnut or hazelnut oil, to drizzle on soups, salads and veggies.
Shop in the bulk food section. Even some of the larger grocers now have bulk sections in their stores. This is a great way to get nuts, seeds, beans and grains at lower prices, because you’re not paying any premium for fancy marketing or packaging.
Expand your horizons. Here are some not so obvious, affordable foods that are lower in carbs:
Cottage cheese (full fat)
When you find beef tenderloin, lobster or shrimp on sale, indulge yourself. But for everyday fare, rest assured that there’s plenty that won’t break the bank.