Inexpensive low carb eating
Cutting the Carbs
Processed Food Alternatives
'Real Food' on a Budget
Editor's note: This article is neither an endorsement for nor an indictment of low-carb diets. We do not proclaim to be nutrition experts, and therefore, we encourage our readers to seek their physician's advice before starting any type of diet. Our only goal is to help you save money if you decide to try the diet.
Low Carb (High Cost?) Lifestyle
I've had a lot of success losing weight with the low-carb recipe and menu options available. Unfortunately, I've also seen my grocery budget double in the past several weeks. Do readers have any suggestions on how to stay on a low-carb diet without shrinking my wallet?
Avoid Processed Foods
I, too, have had great success by limiting carbohydrates in my diet. Here are some tricks for keeping the cost of groceries reasonable:
- Avoid processed "low-carb" foods. Not only are frankenfoods less healthy than real foods, they also cost a lot. Just because something says "low carb" on the package does not mean you need it in order to eat a healthy, low-carb diet.
- Spend some time in the kitchen. With a quick search for low-carb recipes online, you will find formulas for shakes and protein bars that you can make yourself. These are much cheaper than those you find at the grocery store, and you will know what has gone into them, unlike many of the processed "low carb" foods.
- Emphasize in-season produce. One of the beautiful things about low-carb plans that even those most opposed to low-carb eating have to approve of is the focus on fiber. If you are eating proper vegetables, berries, melons, and nuts and choose those that are in season, you will get year-round variety and see your grocery bills go down.
- Make friends with your freezer. Having recently graduated from college and just learning to live on my own, I really didn't know much about what could and could not be frozen. Low-carb diets, when done right, involve many foods that need refrigeration (meats, veggies, fruits, etc). Buy in bulk and freeze individual servings. This is helpful for avoiding the winter prices of summer produce. It also makes sure that you are only eating one serving of whatever it is you have frozen. And if you belong to a wholesale club, you can get great deals on big boxes of turkey burgers or other meats.
Share Lunches with Co-Workers
It's easy and fun to eat low carb if you can share lunches with co-workers. At my job, a lot of us are on low-carb diets. You can take turns bringing in lunch for each other to share. If there are enough of you in the group, you will only have to bring lunch one day. Plus you can get some good ideas from the others in your group.
The low-carb diet is getting a lot of unnecessary hype, and the proponents, who push this diet and products, are getting rich off of this pseudoscientific diet. Although people do lose weight on the low-carb diet, it is at the long-term expense of their health. Low carb equals low nutrients.
My suggestion, as a cancer researcher, is to eat a diet rich in unprocessed complex carbohydrates and no trans-fats. This means lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. This is also a lot easier on the pocket book.
Cheap Low Carb Eating: Stay Away from Refined Foods
The best solution is to come up with your own recipes. Low carb bake mix is soy flour, shortening, baking powder and salt. It is very cheap to make at about $1 per use compared to $5 at the store. I recommend that you read 500 Low-Carb Recipes: 500 Recipes from Snacks to Dessert, That the Whole Family Will Love by Dana Carpender and the The Low-Carb Comfort Food Cookbook by Michael R. Eades/Mary Dan Eades. These are so great and have wonderful recipes. Also, check out atkinsdietbulletinboard.com.
There are so many "normal" foods that are low carb. Just remember that anything refined is not good, such as refined sugar, flour, bread, etc.
Arm Yourself with Sale Ads and a Carb Counter
I have been on the Atkins' diet for over a year and have successfully and easily lost over 30 pounds. One thing I have personally learned as time has gone by is that you don't need to follow the menu plans exactly. Learn your carb counts for various foods, keep a chart or carb count book handy, and then pull out your newspaper sales ads. Buy whatever is cheapest and in season. These foods will be the most nutritious and tastiest, also.
If your menu plan calls for steak, do a pot roast instead. If the menu calls for lobster, substitute salmon patties or a fish that's on sale. Right now, bag lettuce is reasonable. If another vegetable is on sale, just look up the carb count and go accordingly! Watch for Jell-O on sale. Basically, the sale ads determine my weekly menu. Bagged chicken quarters are on sale right now, so I think I'll marinate an eight-pound bag, grill them all (saves propane to fill the whole grill), and then freeze most of them for future easy meals! Atkins actually is an inexpensive way to eat because we aren't buying cookies and potato chips! Instead, we are buying just healthy, raw, unprocessed foods.
Cheap Low Carb Eating: Grow a Garden
Here are some ideas to help reduce your grocery bill when on a low-carb diet:
- Grow a garden. Plant plenty of vegetables that you can eat on your diet. Include green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, etc. in your garden. These can be grown at home for pennies and can be frozen or canned. If you plan ahead, you can freeze and can enough to get you through until you plant your garden next year.
- Check out your local health food store. Where I live, soy flour at our local grocery store costs $2.38 a pound. At our local health food store, it only costs 98 cents per pound.
- Check out discount food stores. We have an Aldi's and a Big Lots. They have great discounts on food items that are much cheaper than at a regular grocery store.
- Check out butcher shops where they actually process the meat. You can usually get meat less expensively there than you can at the grocery store, especially if you are willing to buy a large quantity of meat.
Even though I use these tips to try to bring down the cost of a low-carb diet, I think I still spend more money at the grocery store than I did before the diet. However, I am eating much healthier, and hopefully, having fewer medical will offset some of the cost of the diet.
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Learn about the GI Food Index
Instead of resorting to pre-packaged, high-priced diet-guru-named products, just eliminate your own carbs by eating more veggies (preferably raw and organic).
Another method is to learn about the GI food index (low GI foods have fewer carbs and put less sugar into the system), and incorporate these foods into your diet. This is what the Atkins and South Beach diets do (or did before the mass-merchandising bonanza hit).
To avoid the eventual demise by heart disease, simply include fish and orange juice into your diet. Omega-3 and folic acid help clean out the oxidized plaque from your arteries that lead to heart disease and artherosclerosis/arteriosclerosis.
If you're buying Atkins products, you only serve to keep his estate funded (in my opinion). Just eliminate your own carbs by not buying or eating them. Find other alternatives. Instead of tacos, serve taco salad (doing without the tortillas). Serve brown rice or barley instead of potatoes. Instead of bread, eat more salads and/or finger foods (cold cuts can be rolled up and eaten out of hand, or served as part of snack plates). Eat more durum wheat (check the label), whole wheat, or artichoke varieties.
With the GI Index list, there are plenty of ways to get around the carb dilemma without resorting to pre-packaged convenience purchases.
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