Quick & Cheap Low Carb, Keto Friendly Meals on a Budget

14 minute read • by Lindsay Malone 04-14-2020


Quick & Cheap Low Carb, Keto Friendly Meals

Lindsay Malone MS, RDN, CSO, LD
10 - 12 MIN.


Are you looking for keto friendly cereal? At HighKey, our cereals are $1.50 per serving! 0 Net Carbs* - 10 Grams Protein - 90 Calories - Grain Free - Gluten Free


  • Cheap Low Carb Meals
  • Cheap Low Carb Shopping
  • Cheap Low Carb Dinner Recipes
  • Cheap Low Carb Lunch Recipes
  • Cheap Low Carb Vegetarian Recipes
  • Carb Free Meals On a Budget
  • Quick Low Carb Meals In 30 Minutes Or Less
  • Quick Low Carb Meals In 15 Minutes Or Less
  • 5 Ingredients Or Less Low Carb Meals

Easy, Cheap Low Carb Meals & Recipes on a Budget


You can have your zero carb cake and eat it too with quick and cheap low carb meals. It is possible to eat delicious, low carb food (even cake) while maintaining a budget and without being chained to your kitchen.

Cheap Low Carb Meals

Low carb meals don’t need to break the bank. Sure, some ingredients can be a little pricey but there are plenty of cheap low carb foods you can bring together for a healthy, affordable meal. 

Save Money by Planning Ahead

Yes this does sound like something your mother would say but, it's true! Plan ahead to save time and money. When you plan meals you won’t need to grab takeout as often and you’ll also avoid overbuying at the store. Once your meal plan is laid out, you can also take advantage of buying in bulk which is typically less expensive.

Cheap Low Carb Meal Staples on a Budget

After you plan and before you shop, scan your pantry and refrigerator to see what you have on hand. Don’t buy what you already have. Just getting your low carb pantry set up? Make sure to stock up on these kitchen staples:

  • Frozen low carb vegetables
  • Canned tuna and other fish
  • No sugar added peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Leafy greens, celery, onions, zucchini, cauliflower
  • Frozen berries
  • Broth
  • Organic butter 
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados 
  • Coconut oil
  • Nut pieces instead of whole nuts
  • Canned coconut milk
  • Protein powder (seems expensive at first but is less expensive per serving than meats and poultry)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sea salt (get those electrolytes!), pepper and dried herbs
  • Vinegar
  • No sugar added marinara
  • Chia seeds

Cheap Low Carb Shopping

Low carb is not  a fad diet, it's a way of life for many people. Nowadays many budget and bulk grocery chains are picking up on the demand and offering low carb ingredients like almond meal and cauliflower waffles. We’re not kidding, it’s a thing! Some of the retailers that are worth checking out when shopping for cheap low carb meals include:

  • Aldi
  • Trader Joe’s 
  • Walmart
  • Kroger
  • Costco
  • Sam’s Club


Once you’re shopping, skip convenient pre-cut/packaged items and go for whole foods. What does this look like? Buy a whole chicken instead of boneless skinless chicken breasts, whole cauliflower instead of pre-riced cauliflower. The exception to this rule is convenience frozen and bulk items, frozen vegetables are often on sale for less than $1 a bag at many grocers. 

Buying in bulk will be more expensive up front but will usually save money in the long run, especially on commonly eaten foods like eggs, peanut butter, and tuna. To compare, calculate the per serving cost (price/servings = per serving cost). Some of the normally more expensive items like almond flour, whole nuts and meats may also have a more reasonable per serving cost at a bulk retailer.

Cheap Low Carb Dinner Recipes

Trying to figure out how to make a low carb dinner on a budget doesn’t have to be intimidating. Use cheaper cuts of meat, in season produce, frozen foods and pantry staples like dried herbs and spices. If you don’t have an ingredient on hand, consider if it's truly necessary for the recipe or get creative by substituting something you do have.

  1. Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Soup

Net Carb Count: 6 g

Save More: Rao’s marinara sauce noted in the recipe is delicious but it’s also around $8 a bottle, swap it out with a store brand marinara with no added sugar to cut the cost.

  1. Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms

Net Carb Count: 12 g

Save More: Swap the mini pepperoni for red pepper flakes or chopped broccoli. 

  1. Zucchini Noodle Carbonara

Net Carb Count: 4 g

Save More: Use ham instead of pancetta.

  1. Shepards Pie with Cauliflower Mash

Net Carb Count: 7 g

Save More: Skip the lamb and use whatever ground protein is on sale, beef, chicken, turkey, etc.

  1. Paprika Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprouts

Net Carb Count: 10 g

Save More: Chicken thighs are cheaper and more flavorful than boneless skinless chicken breasts. To make this recipe even more budget friendly, swap the shallot for an onion. 

Cheap Low Carb Lunch Recipes

Wraps, salads, and soups are easy and these cheap low carb lunch recipes will keep your day moving without breaking the bank.

  1. Greek Style Tuna Salad

Canned tuna is a cheap low carb pantry staple. We all know how to make classic tuna salad but this recipe takes it up a notch by skipping the mayo and adding olives and fresh herbs.

Net Carb Count: 3g

Save More: Fresh herbs are a nice flavor addition to this tuna salad but if you’re trying to cut costs, the dried versions will work well too. More flavor from the dried herbs will infuse if you let the salad sit for a few minutes after making.

  1. Hamburger Lettuce Wraps

Net Carb Count: 2g

Save More: Swap bibb lettuce for iceburg or romaine lettuce, use 85% lean ground meat instead of 90% (leaner is more expensive)

  1. Easy Egg Salad

Net Carb Count: 1g

Save More: Swap the fresh herbs for dried to save on this recipe. 

  1. BLT Lettuce Wraps

Net Carb Count: 8 g

Save More: Skip the chives and opt for onion powder in the mayo mixture. 

  1. Turmeric Cauliflower Soup

Net Carb Count: 6g

Save More: Coconut milk is a bit pricey per can, but since it is used in a lot of keto recipes, buy it in bulk to save a few bucks.

Cheap Low Carb Vegetarian Recipes

Vegetarian and vegan low carb recipes are not as easy to find but they are out there! Veggies, eggs, nuts and tofu are familiar favorites among this round up and some do have cheese. To make completely vegan, leave the cheese out (if possible) or replace it with a vegan cheese alternative. 

Before replacing glance through the recipe notes, chances are, someone has tried it already and may have some advice that will save you time and money.

  1. Keto Mushroom Omelet

Net Carb Count: 5g

Save More: Eggs are a pantry stable for cheap keto meals. Since you will likely go through them quickly, buy in bulk to save money.

  1. Chocolate Chip Pancakes

The idea of low carb pancakes is simply mind boggling. Who doesn’t love a fluffy plate of pancakes? This is one of those recipes that will help you stick to eating low carb.

Net Carb Count: 3g

Save More: For a convenient option, that will save you from buying multiple ingredients, try HighKey’s own Pancake Mix!



  1. Vegan Vegetable Soup

Net Carb Count: 8 g

Save More: Short of drinking plain broth, this soup is about as cheap and nutritious as it gets. 

  1. Stir Fried Zucchini Noodles

This noodle recipe is take out worthy and has only 6 ingredients so it comes together quickly with very little mess. 

Net Carb Count: 10g

Save More: Spiralizing your own veggies is less expensive than buying them already prepared. You can get your own for as little as ten bucks!

  1. Baby Arugula Salad

Net Carb Count: 6g

Save More: Arugula is a great leafy green that will last in your refrigerator nearly the whole week. It has a low moisture content so it doesn’t go bad as fast as other leafy greens like spinach and spring mix. It sounds fancy but, arugula is usually the same price as other prewashed salad greens and it brings a unique, peppery flavor to this salad.

Carb Free Meals On a Budget

Carb free meals do exist and almost all of them can be prepared on a budget. Carb free foods include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, butter, ghee, oil, herbs and spices. 

  1. Zero Carb Egg Drop Soup

Net Carb Count: 0g

Save More: Regular broth can be replaced for bone broth but that does reduce the nutritional value of the recipe. Cup for cup, bone broth has more protein than regular broth. Make your own bone broth to save money or look for store brand bone broth. Aldi and Target both have organic bone broth at prices comparable to regular broth. 

  1. The Best Cloud Bread

Carb free bread? Bread alone is not really a meal, let alone when you are a low carb keto dieter. But this Cloud bread is worth a  try!  Top it with zero carb additions like egg, chicken or tuna salad, smoked salmon, butter or a fried egg and you’ve got yourself a carb free meal.

Net Carb Count: 0g

Save More: It’s definitely not bread, but if you are looking for a cheap bread alternative for your chicken salad etc. simply use a leaf of lettuce.

  1. Roasted Paprika Wings

Net Carb Count: 0g

Save More: Make this recipe with whatever wings are on sale, chicken and turkey will both work. 

  1. Bulletproof Coffee

Alright, so technically coffee is not a meal but Bulletproof coffee is a little different. Typically this coffee is blended with butter and MCT oil to provide satiety and energy during a fast. So, it does take the place of a meal and it is delicious. If you’re not a coffee drinker, try it with chai tea or Bengal Spice herbal tea. Intermittent fasting not only saves money but it comes with health benefits too.

Net Carb Count: 0g

Save More: Skip the MCT oil and drink it straight with butter.

  1. Mustard Roast Beef

Net Carb Count: 0g

Save More: Use a cheaper cut of beef like chuck roast.

Quick and Easy Low Carb Meals

Whether you are on a budget or not, you probably don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. Low carb eating is so popular now that you can find almost any recipe you want customized to be quick and easy to whip together. 

Have 30 minutes and a few brain cells? We got you covered. Even less time? That’s ok too. Believe it or not, there are quick and easy low carb meals that can be made in 15-30 minutes! 

Quick Low Carb Meals In 30 Minutes Or Less

  1. Fried Cabbage with Bacon

Net Carb Count: 7g

Save More: Use whatever smoky meat you have on hand or skip it all together as the onion and garlic will add plenty of flavor. 

  1. Korean Ground Beef Bowl

Net Carb Count: 9g

Save More: It will be tempting to skip the sesame oil but don’t do it! The sesame oil makes the recipe. While it is on the expensive side, you will literally have the bottle forever. Instead swap the coconut aminos for regular soy sauce for your $$ saver.

  1. Cilantro Lime Chicken

This is a truly simple one pan dish that can be paired with cauliflower rice, a salad or steamed broccoli. Cilantro is one of those foods that you either love or hate. If you’re in the hate cilantro camp you’ve probably skimmed over this recipe but just in case you’re still reading, fresh basil would substitute nicely in this recipe.

Net Carb Count: 5g

Save More: Chicken thighs are typically a bit less expensive than breasts, plus they are less likely to become dry. Buy the skin on option and remove the skin yourself for additional savings!

  1. Spicy Ground Pork and Zucchini Stir Fry

Net Carb Count: 4g

Save More: Any ground protein will do in this recipe so shop the sales or buy in bulk to save some dough on this one. 

  1. Keto Pad Thai with Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles are made from the fiber of a konjac yam. They are virtually carb free and are a good stand in for rice noodles. They are found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, typically near the deli or prepared foods. 

Net Carb Count: 5g

Save More: Shirataki noodles can be a bit pricey for single serving. Make this recipe more budget friendly by subbing out shirataki for cauliflower rice or spaghetti squash. Coconut aminos can also be swapped out for regular soy sauce or tamari. 

Quick Low Carb Meals In 15 Minutes Or Less

  1. Buffalo Chicken Celery Sticks

An everyday way to enjoy buffalo chicken dip without the hassle of dipping! Pure genius.

Net Carb Count: 1g

Save More: Save time and money by roasting your own chicken for dinner, then make this recipe for lunch the next day with the leftovers!

  1. Smoked Salmon and Hard Boiled Egg Plate

Net Carb Count: 3g

Save More (Time): Buy your eggs hard boiled, find them in the dairy case.

  1. Samoa Hot Cereal

Hot cereal is not off limits when eating low carb. Add in some chocolate and coconut and you’ve got yourself a bowl that rivals the famous Girl Scout cookie (now called Caramel deLites®).

Net Carb Count: 5g

Save MoreHighKey’s hot cereals are available in three delicious ready-to-eat flavors, the  additional ingredients added to the Samoa version make it a bit more fancy but I think you’ll agree with our customers that it is amazing (and cheaper) to prepare as directed on the package.

  1. Rotisserie Chicken Salad

Using rotisserie chicken for recipes is a time and money saver. A pre-roasted whole chicken is often around $6 or $7 and can provide protein for several meals.

Net Carb Count: <1g

Save More: Of course, you can save more $$ by roasting your own.

  1. Vegan Keto Scramble

The vegan keto scramble is a great meal, anytime of the day. It is one of the fastest and most flavorful ways to cook tofu. Turmeric in the recipe provides a bright yellow color so it does look nearly identical to scrambled eggs.

Net Carb Count: 5g

5 Ingredients Or Less Low Carb Meals

The final frontier in quick and easy low carb meals is to create meals with as few ingredients as possible. With these recipes on hand, you can enjoy a low carb meal with virtually no headache. The recipes are simple, use very little equipment and are surprisingly delicious.

  1. 4 Ingredient Crock Pot Mexican Chicken Soup

Net Carb Count: 5g

  1. Keto Fried Salmon and Green Beans

Pan fried protein and low carb vegetables is a winning combination for any keto meal. While this recipe includes salmon and green beans, almost any protein and vegetable will work. Cooking times will need to be adjusted to ensure food safety and doneness but overall it's a pretty easy swap. 

Net Carb Count: 6g

  1. Italian Sausage with Roasted Peppers and Onions

This recipe calls for mini peppers. I’ve found that not all stores have the mini peppers. Sliced, full size peppers would work just as well. 

Net Carb Count: 5g

  1. Baked Eggs in Avocado

Once you try this you will never go back to plain fried eggs again. You’re welcome. 

Net Carb Count: 3g

  1. 3 Ingredient Keto Meatballs

Net Carb Count: 1g

Cheap Low Carb Meals Aren’t Magic

Cheap, quick and easy are not words commonly associated with low carb eating, but meals that fit the carb free lifestyle truly don’t have to be complicated or expensive. With a bit of planning and a few staple recipes, putting together healthy meals on a budget will feel like a breeze and won’t leave you with an empty wallet.

  Lindsay Malone, MS, RDN, CSO, LD

Lindsay Malone is a Functional and Integrative Medicine dietitian empowering individuals to take charge of their health with evidenced-based nutrition information.

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