You Don’t Have to be Rich to be Thin
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. 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.
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. And don’t forget to check circulars in newspapers for coupons.
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. (For more, read Bacon and Beyond: A Guide to Pork)
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).
Expand your horizons. Here are some not so obvious, affordable foods that are lower in carbs:
- Canned tuna
- Lentils, chickpeas and most other legumes
- Feta Cheese
- Bean sprouts
- 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.
This makes for a very moist, tender meatloaf. If you prefer yours drier, drain some of the liquid after measuring the tomatoes.
3 slices low-carb white bread, toasted (3 net carb per slice)
1 ½ pounds ground meatloaf blend (veal, pork and beef)
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 cup green beans cut into ¼ inch pieces
1 large egg
1 medium carrot, grated (3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup no-sugar-added ketchup
- Heat oven to 375ºF. Pulverize toast in a food processor to make fine crumbs; transfer to a large bowl. Add ground meat, tomatoes, beans, egg, carrot, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper; mix gently until just blended.
- Spoon into 5- by 9-inch loaf pan, pressing firmly. Spread ketchup over top. Bake 60 to 70 minutes, until cooked through. Transfer to a platter, discarding any fat left in pan. Let stand at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Per serving. Net Carbs: 5 grams; Carbohydrates: 8.5 grams; Fiber 3.5 grams; Protein: 20 grams; Fat: 11 grams; Calories: 217; Prep time: 15 minutes; Cook time: 70 minutes; Servings: 8
Tip: If you don’t have a loaf pan this size, bake a free-form meatloaf. Line a jelly-roll pan with foil. Put the meat mixture on the pan and shape it into a 5- by 9-inch rectangle.
Crustless Broccoli Quiche
If you routinely discard broccoli stems, you’re missing out on potent nutritional benefits–broccoli stems are rich in vitamin C, folate, and fiber. Because the skin can be fairly tough, peel it of with a vegetable peeler or very sharp knife––take care to remove just a thin layer––then cut the tender stems into slices or chunks.
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more for pie plate
½ cup finely chopped onion
4 large eggs
1 cup reduced-carb, whole-milk dairy beverage
4 ounces sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup), and divided
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon chopped dried rosemary
1 medium bunch broccoli, cut into florets, stems peeled and cut 1/3 inch thick (4 cups)
- Heat oven to 375ºF. Brush a 9- or 10-inch pie plate with olive oil.
- Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; let cool.
- Add eggs to onion and lightly beat. Whisk in dairy beverage, ½ cup of the cheese, water, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and rosemary to blend.
- Cover bottom of pie plate with broccoli. Pour cream mixture into pie plate. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese. Bake until a knife inserted in middle comes out clean and quiche is golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes.
Per serving. Net Carbs: 3 grams; Carbohydrates: 4.5 grams; Fiber: 1.5 grams; Protein: 12/5 grams; Fat: 12 grams; Calories: 173; Prep time: 15 minutes; Cook time: 1 hour; Servings: 6
Tip: Dried rosemary can be hard to deal with: Its texture is like pine needles, and when you try to chop it, it can fly all over. Moisten it with a few drops of oil, which will soften the dried herb and help it stay on your cutting board.