If you think following a program like Atkins means breaking the bank on your food budget, think again. Watching carbs to stay healthy or lose weight doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Sure, if filet mignon and lobster are your low-carb staples each week, it’s going to cost more. But regularly including such high-priced foods in your weekly meal plan is not necessary—there are countless inexpensive and delicious options that are low in carbs. Here’s how you can start saving:
Packaged food is pricey. You could end up saving money (and your waistline) when you swap out heavily processed and pre-packaged junk foods and fast food meals for home-cooked dishes made from fresh vegetables and tender meats.
Plan, plan, plan. You’ve heard this before, but if you take the time to plan your meals and recipes for the week, you will always be prepared. Having your low-carb meals and snacks readily at hand prevents you from taking that extra trip to the vending machine, hitting the drive-thru or ordering takeout for dinner.
Love the leftovers. Make dishes that can serve double-duty as lunch the next day or double recipes so that you have dinner for one or two extra nights.
Meat for less money. 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 super 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 crust-less 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. Check your freezer section for vegetarian protein crumbles—they make a great foil for ground beef and transform into chili or Bolognese in no time.
Be “in” this season. You wouldn’t wear your wool sweater and down jacket in August, 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.
Save on snacks. 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 websites that sell your favorite products and sign up for the company’s newsletters to get a heads up on sales. And don’t forget to check circulars in newspapers for coupons. In fact, check out our Low-Carb Living Newsletter for special deals on Atkins products in each issue. You can also like Atkins on Facebook and get even more up-to-date info on Atkins product deals.
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. You can also roast a whole chicken and use it for multiple meals and snacks throughout the week.
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.
Make pitchers of soft drinks. Low-carb beverages like lemonade, iced teas and coffee drinks are expensive to purchase but easy and inexpensive to prepare at home. Get in the habit of making up batches once a week (using sugar substitute, of course). Even better, just invest in a water bottle, keep it filled at all times and add flavor to your water with fresh herbs like mint or basil or slices of cucumber or fresh fruit.
Expand your horizons. Here are some not-so-obvious, affordable foods that are lower in carbs:
Lentils, chickpeas and most other legumes
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.