These budget-conscious, low-carb recipes save on money — but certainly don’t skimp on flavor.
A secret about the keto diet: It’s actually perfect when you’re on a budget. That’s because many keto-friendly foods, such as chicken, ground beef, eggs, cheese, cauliflower, and greens can be relatively inexpensive if you know how to shop for them. They can also be used in a variety of creative ways. When you’re aiming to save money on a keto diet, remember:
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When you’re developing your keto pantry, there are some foods you’ll want to have on hand, including:
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Now onto the recipes! Here are 10 dishes you can make for less than $5 per serving (not including basics like salt, pepper, olive oil, and conventional spices). Each recipe includes info on nutrients and net carbs, which you can roughly calculate by taking the total carbs minus the fiber grams and sugar alcohols, according to Atkins. Bonus: Many of them make awesome leftovers.
The folks at Ruled.Me call this marriage of buffalo chicken and jalapeños “a flavor explosion.” It certainly helps that there’s also bacon and three cheeses (cream cheese, cheddar, and mozzarella) thrown in in for good measure. You can make this recipe easier — and faster — with boneless, skin-on chicken thighs. This pan meal makes six servings, so your dollar is going to go a long way — especially when you realize that the flavors really meld (and intensify) as any leftovers hang out in your fridge.
Per serving: 782 calories, 67 grams (g) fat, 4.6 g net carbs, 38.6 g protein
Here’s the brilliant thing about this meal: There are five ingredients, including salt and pepper. Chicken tenders and asparagus spears are wrapped in bacon and then baked in the oven until juicy and crispy. It’s the type of meal you serve to guests — supplement with a fresh salad of mixed greens and a vinaigrette — and they’ll think you’re all fancy.
Per serving: 377 calories, 25 g fat, 2 g net carbs, 32 g protein
It’s hard to ignore the Instant Pot — it produces such stellar results, especially when you’re looking to make certain cuts of beef incredibly tender. You’ll love how this recipe uses ingredients you probably already have in a well-stocked keto kitchen (garlic, coconut, aminos), so the only item on your shopping list is the beef — and maybe some beef broth. If you’re making this for a special occasion (or Sunday supper), serve these short ribs on top of a creamy cauliflower mash.
Per serving: 226 calories, 13 g fat, 1 g net carbs, 23 g protein
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Stuffed peppers may have been a staple at your home when you were a kid, and it’s time to bring them back for the regular weeknight rotation. This easy recipe has you stuff peppers with ground turkey, bake, and then top with ricotta and mozzarella and bake again until they’re gooey and bubbling. It’s the type of meal that everyone in your family — keto or not — will love, and you get the benefit of eating an entire half of a pepper (which, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, contains a respectable 1.5 g of digestion-friendly fiber) in each serving.
Per serving: 281 calories, 14 g fat, 6.5 net carbs, 32 g protein
There’s a chance that, since you’ve gone keto, you’ve eaten a lot of ground beef. After all, it’s certainly a budget-friendly source of fat and protein. If you’re nearing boredom and looking for new, inventive ways to eat it, let us introduce you to the "Big Mac" bowl. This recipe combines ground beef with the famous burger fixings, like diced onions, shredded cheese, dill pickles, and a homemade special sauce. Best of all, it’s served on top of a bowl of shredded cabbage, a brassica with cancer-fighting compounds, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Per serving: 581 calories, 44 g fat, 7 g net carbs, 34 g protein
They may be called breakfast tarts, but don’t let that stop you from eating them for dinner. The egg and cheese get a spin from zesty seasoning, hint-of-spice green chilis, and the rich taste of roasted peppers. Make a bunch, freeze the leftovers, and pop them out when you need a superfast meal or snack. To round out this dish, you can serve it with a side of greens tossed in your favorite keto-friendly dressing. (Primal Kitchen’s line of dressings are a tasty option.)
Per tart: 146 calories, 10.5 g fat, 4 g net carbs, 8.5 g protein
When you began your keto diet, you may have assumed that pizza was off-limits. Turns out there's a creative workaround! This low-carb pepperoni pie uses a base crust made of almond flour, psyllium husk powder (upping the fiber and decreasing the net carbs), plus cheese. It’s then topped with tomato sauce, more cheese, and pepperoni. This recipe calls for a specific brand of tomato sauce, but you don’t have to be limited by that. To save money, purchase a jar of your grocer’s own (generic) line (be sure to read the ingredients label to look for added sugar).
Per slice (⅙ pizza): 335 calories, 27 g fat, 3.2 g net carbs, 18.2 g protein
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If there were a veggie that could be crowned the king of keto, it would be the cauliflower. It’s not only a lower source of carbs (one cup of florets has 3 g of net carbs), but it has the perfect mild flavor that allows it to masquerade in a host of recipes. And this is the mac and cheese you were missing. The yummy dish not only makes a hefty six servings, but is a great way to sneak an extra veggie into your day.
Per serving: 220 calories, 14.8 g fat, 4.8 g net carbs, 13.3 g protein
Eggs are the budget-conscious keto-er’s best friend. They’re a cheap but important source of nutrition, offering 6 g of protein and 5 g of fat in each large egg and almost no carbs. This recipe will help you meet your fat quota, as it contains heavy cream and two types of cheese, plus sausage (for more filling protein) and baby spinach (to get something green in your diet).
Per serving: 429 calories, 38 g fat, 2 g carbs, 18 g protein
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Think of these as creamy meatballs. Ground pork sausage (feel free to sub in turkey or chicken sausage if you prefer) adds another layer of flavor to the traditional meatball, and cream cheese gives these an awesome moist texture. Almond flour is the secret ingredient that holds it all together. A word on that last ingredient: You can buy almond flour in the amount you need in the bulk section of some grocers, which makes it more affordable. Or you can invest in a larger amount — not a bad idea, considering it’s a cornerstone ingredient in the keto diet. This entire recipe makes 14 servings, so you can halve or freeze the leftovers for easy dinners in the coming weeks.
Per serving: 313 calories, 27 g fat, 4 g net carbs, 13 g protein