Keto on a budget: a handy guide.

When I first started my adventure with ketogenic diet, I was worried it’s going to be an expensive one. After all, meat costs a pretty penny, and it’s the basis of many keto-friendly recipes.

A few months in, and I am happy to report I was wrong. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat one, not high-protein. In fact, unless you have a hardcore workout regime, too much protein can kick you out of ketosis. You don’t need to eat steak every day; hell, you can even stick to vegetarian diet AND the keto way of eating at the same time. If you’re willing to give keto a try, but are worried about the financial impact of the diet, fret not. The good news is, keto can be done on a tight budget, as long as you know some basic tips and tricks.

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  1. You don’t really need to increase your meat consumption. Yes, you might end up buying more meaty snacks (I’m thinking salami sticks and deli meats), but they will replace crisps and sweets, so it should all even out nicely. Also, chances are you won’t be hungry all the time, so you’ll end up snacking less than you used to on a standard diet.
  2. If you’re a meat eater, buy your meat when it’s on offer. Check the current deals in supermarkets (this website is a great tool for this), or, if you’re lucky enough to have a great local butcher, see if they can offer you any discounts if you buy in bulk. When buying chicken, get a whole bird rather than portions; it’s much better value, and should last you for a few good meals and some bone broth or stock.
  3. Fattier cuts of meat are cheaper than lean ones, and so is beef mince with a higher fat content, so you might end up paying less for your meat than you do now!
  4. Think of all the things you’ll never need to buy again. Bread, pasta, biscuits, chocolate bars, cereal – you name it. I still buy dark chocolate every now and again; you would think the more expensive brands would be best, but, in fact, this one is my absolute favourite, with this one being a close second.
  5. Meal prep is key. If you have a busy week ahead of you, try preparing your meals in bulk on Sunday. I usually make a bacon and cheese frittata and grab a slice for breakfast, and it tides me over until Thursday. I also prepare some meat for salads. Pulled pork and beef brisket are my personal favourites. I use a slow cooker, but you can easily prepare it in the oven. Then, I just assemble the salads on a daily basis. For dinner, you can make a large casserole or aubergine/courgette lasagne; many of the recipes available online make 8-10 servings, so you can freeze the leftovers and use them as needed.
  6. Snacks. As I’ve mentioned before, you might end up not snacking as much as you used to, but when you need a little something, try bacon crisps: grill or fry rashers of streaky bacon until crispy, then store in the fridge and nibble on them whenever you feel like it. Try dipping them in cream cheese – divine!
  7. Frozen broccoli and cauliflower is just as good as fresh, and much cheaper. Same goes for spinach.
  8. If you can’t afford organic eggs, go with free-range ones. It’s cheaper to get bigger boxes, so go crazy and bulk up. Chances are you’ll be eating a lot of eggs anyway, so it’s well worth it.
  9. When it comes to cheese, check the label. Own brand often beats branded products, and helps you save some money, too. Example: Philadelphia has 4g  carbs in 100g, but Tesco’s own brand cream cheese only has 1.8g, and it’s half the price.
  10. Fats. You’ll be spending a bit more on butter, cream and oils, but as long as you steer clear of fancy brands, you shouldn’t spend much more than you already are

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So, realistically, going keto should not burn a hole in your budget – and who knows, it might even save you some money in the long run!

Have you got any tips for LCHF eating on a budget? Any favourite recipes you’d like to share?

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Ketofy this! Nigella’s baked egg custard

It was raining all morning yesterday, so I decided to spend some time in the kitchen. I tend to prepare at least some of my meals for the week ahead, so that I can devote fewer weeknights to cooking (and more of them to doing other fun stuff). I made cheese and bacon frittata for breakfasts, bacon wrapped stuffed pork tenderloin for lunch, some delicious fat bombs to snack on (which deserve a separate post, so they will soon get one).

And then I made dessert.

I mentioned before that I have a big cookbook collection, and I promised to try and ketofy one recipe a week, but I’ve been sidetracked by all the lovely, keto-friendly recipes readily available online, so there.

I really felt like treating myself to something sweet, though, so I thought this will be perfect. The original recipe was published in Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home, which is still one of my favourite books by Nigella, and making it keto-friendly was actually very easy. I just needed to replace the regular milk with a mixture of unsweetened almond milk and double cream, and swap sugar for Truvia, which is my sweetener of choice. Instead of baking it in one big dish, I used smaller ramekins, and while the book states the custard serves 4 people, I ended up with 7 smaller portions. I adjusted the baking time, and so should you, if you’re planning to use individual dishes.

The custard is extremely easy to make, and the only tricky bit is preparing the water bath. Other than that, it’s plain sailing.

The custard tastes best I had mine with no extras, but I imagine it would taste amazing with some berries.

Keto-friendly baked egg custard

Ingredients:

  • 400 ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp Truvia (or other sweetener of your choice)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated nutmeg, to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sweetener and vanilla extract. Meanwhile, mix the milk and the cream, and heat it in a pan or in a microwave until almost boiling. Slowly pour the warmed milky mixture into the eggs, whisking continuously.

Butter a large round dish, or a few smaller ramekins, and put in a baking or roasting tin. Pour the custard into the dish(es) through a sieve, then sprinkle the top with freshly grated nutmeg. Prepare the water bath: boil some water, then gently pour it into the baking trays, and put them in the preheated oven. If using a large dish, bake for 1.5 hours; for smaller ramekins, adjust the baking time (I needed about 45 minutes).

When done, remove from the oven. Tastes best when warm, but not piping hot.

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Nutrition (if divided into 7 portions): 127 kcal, 11 g fat, 1 g carbs, 6 g protein.

Livin’ la vida low carb.

Never forget breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Smoothies are good for you. Avoid fat at all costs, stick to low-fat dairy. Cholesterol is bad for you. Your body needs carbohydrates to function.

Got it? Of course you do. You’ve heard it all before from experts, read all about balanced diets in magazines and on healthy eating websites, you got it all covered.

Now forget everything you think you know. Clear your mind and take a deep breath, because shit’s about to get real.

What if I told you you can eat eggs, cheese and bacon, and still lose weight? What if it turned out you didn’t have to starve yourself, or replace meals with liquid food, or never ever have butter again, and still lose weight? What if you found out you don’t even have to give up booze – and still lose weight, albeit a bit slower?

Impossible, you’d say. I used to think the same.

And then I discovered the ketogenic diet.

Low-carb diets have gained popularity in the past few years, and it seems like everyone who had ever tried to shift a few kilos knows that giving up bread, potatoes and pasta will work wonders. Well the ketogenic diet takes it a bit further. You know how it is said the human brain and body need fuel from carbs to function properly? Well, in a way, it’s true – carbs are the most easily accessible fuel for us. But what happens if you ditch the carbs and drastically limit their intake?

The answer is: your body will start looking for alternative sources of energy. Enter fat, every dieter’s nemesis. Turns out we can switch our bodies from burning glucose, which is produced when you eat something carb-rich, to burning fat. When you deprive your body of carbohydrates, it will go into a state known as ketosis, and start producing and using ketones as the main source of energy. Basically, it will turn into a lean, mean fat-burning machine. And that’s the basic science of it all.

Curious? Have a look here for more details.

I didn’t really believe it would work for me, but it does. A few months in and 7 kilos down, I’m feeling great, exercising as much as always, my stomach is flatter and my energy levels are constant (and constantly high).

I’m not condemning other diets, and I know it’s all about energy intake vs. output. After all, every body is different and there’s no universal way of eating that would suit everyone. All I know is, I’ve never before been on a diet and not felt hungry or deprived of something. It’s almost like I’m not on one at all.

Chances are you’ll miss carbs a lot at first if you decide to follow the keto diet. For the first few days, you might experience the keto flu, with all the lovely flu-like symptoms, including headaches, nausea and muscle aches. You might feel like throwing in the towel. Then, one day, you’ll wake up feeling like you’ve just had a super strong coffee. That will mean your body is starting to get used to the new energy source.

Meal prepping is important, especially at first. Stick to simple foods: meats or fish with a side of leafy green salad for lunch and/or dinner, eggs and bacon for breakfast, cheese and cured meats as snacks. Read the labels; in time, you’ll learn how to make the right choices for you and it will come naturally. Eating out can be a minefield, but it’s perfectly doable, just steer clear of pasta, rice, starchy vegetables and bread. Alcohol is not off limits, but instead of beer or cocktails, sip on spirits (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) with sparkling water or diet mixers. I didn’t know how good vodka with sparkling water and a slice of lemon was until I went keto.

Once you’ve found your feet, you might want to experiment a little. As a former food blogger, I was eager to try new recipes, and surprised to find how easy it all was, how simple and sustainable. To me, it’s no longer about reaching that target weight. It’s pretty much a way of life, and I could easily stick to it forever.

So I think I will.

I have a mahoosive collection of cookbooks I hardly ever use anymore, so I thought I’d challenge myself a little. Starting next week, I’ll be adapting one recipe per week, and posting a keto-friendly version here. After all, a girl’s gotta eat, right?

Hunger games, or why some wars cannot be won.

Last week, I decided that it’s time to lose a bit of weight.

The nagging thoughts of summer and bikini season (although I don’t really intend on going to the beach), and having to wear fewer layers of clothing in the summer, made me think that perhaps it would be nice to get in shape, and besides, I’d be so proud of myself once I’ve reached my target weight.

So I started a diet.

Fast forward to now, and I’m sitting at my desk, listening to my stomach grumble (and what a sorry grumbling it is!), sipping on water and pretending that no, I’m not hungry at all. I’m doing quite well, actually. Believe it or not, but I’m even smiling.

No one knows I’m smiling at pictures of salted caramel chocolate brownies, a lovely pizza with gooey cheese, and delightful burgers accompanied by thick cut chips…

Seriously, if you’re trying to lose weight, get away from the Internet. There’s food porn everywhere.

So I look at the pictures, drooling, and my stomach keeps grumbling, and I suddenly realise that life is not worth living without a bit of pleasure. And because food gives me pleasure, it wouldn’t be wise to deny myself that, would it? Who knows, maybe I’ll get knocked over by a car on my way home today and die on the spot, my last thoughts being that I should have eaten that praline or devoured this ice cream…

And so, I lose again. Or win, depending on how you look at it.

Here’s a thought: maybe, instead of dieting, I should sign up for a class in self-acceptance.