Keto On The Cheap: A 3-Day Keto Meal Plan For Under $30

Functional Medicine Practitioner By William Cole, D.C. IFMCP
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr. Will Cole IFMCP, DC, is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Cole is also the bestselling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum
collage of budget keto foods

Illustration by Megan Doty / mbg Creative

This January, we at mbg are all about cleaning up your diet, just a little bit. Instead of restricting your food to a narrow window, we're encouraging you to eat more—more plants, more fiber, more protein. We're encouraging you to sharpen your knives and dust off your pots and cook at home. We want you to reconnect with just how good healthy food makes you feel—and how fun it can be to eat. Join us for the next few weeks as we solve every problem that's getting in the way of you cooking and eating in a way that's truly nourishing for your body and your soul. You'll find recipes, tips, and tricks; advice from the world's best doctors; and more (check out the easy-to-follow rules of the plan here). So, what are you waiting for? Pull up a chair—we're so happy to have you at the table. Up today: We're answering one of your most common questions.

The ketogenic diet is having its pop culture moment. But it's no food fad or trend—this high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb way of eating has been shown in numerous studies to help people achieve restored energy, enhanced brain health, stabilized blood sugar, lowered inflammation, and so much more.

While a traditional ketogenic diet is meat- and dairy-heavy, in my functional medicine clinic, I often hear that eating this way can become a very costly endeavor—especially when clients choose to buy all organic, grass-fed sources of meat and dairy. And beyond cost, many people would rather stay more plant-centric.

Not only can a more plant-based version of the ketogenic diet help your health and the environment—it's a lot easier on your wallet as well! Beyond all the cool health benefits, trying a more plant-based version of keto is just one way to save money if that alone is your particular goal.

For just around $10 a person each day, two people can eat clean, whole-food, plant-centric keto for three days' worth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To stay within budget, I started my shopping at ALDI and ended at Trader Joe’s, comparing prices and availability as I went along. While some things I chose to buy organic, other things I bought conventional (consult the Clean 15/Dirty Dozen list to make good choices in this realm). I also had some things on hand such as pantry staples and spices.

Pantry staples

I had these all on hand, so you'll need to purchase them if you don't.

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Hot sauce
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Avocado oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Coconut aminos
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Ras el hanout seasoning
  • Ground ginger
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Budget keto shopping list for 3 days

The items on this list totaled about $60, or $10 per person for two people. Again, I started at ALDI and ended at Trader Joe's, but the prices should be fairly comparable at markets local to you!

ALDI

  • 1 dozen cage-free eggs
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 container vegan cheese
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 1 carton organic almond milk
  • 1 container Kalamata olives
  • 1 bunch organic kale
  • 1 bunch snap peas
  • 1 bunch asparagus

Trader Joe's

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 12 ounces of baby spinach
  • 1 bag walnuts
  • 1 container black olives
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 3 to 4 radishes
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh basil 
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Day 1

Breakfast – Egg-o-cado

All you need is one avocado with the pit removed and 2 eggs. Crack an egg into each half of the avocado, season with sea salt and pepper, and bake at 350 until the egg is cooked to your liking.

Lunch – Creamed Kale

Heat up some avocado oil in a skillet with some minced garlic and shallots until soft. Add in a can of coconut milk and heat until it starts to thicken. Toss in 5 cups of kale and some ground ginger and cook until the kale wilts for a quick and delicious lunch.

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Dinner – Pesto Zoodle Bowls

Ingredients, Pesto

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1½ cups baby spinach
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt

Ingredients, Zoodle

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Dash of ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces vegan cheese
  • ¼ cup pitted black olives

Method

  1. In the container of a food processor, combine all of the pesto ingredients. Cover and process using the metal blade until nearly smooth, stopping and scraping the sides as needed.
  2. Using a julienne peeler, make long slices along one side of each zucchini until you get down to the seeded core. Rotate the zucchini and continue to peel until you've done all four sides. If you have a spiralizer, you can use that instead of a julienne peeler. Discard the core.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the zoodles and pepper; cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove from the heat; add the pesto and toss to coat. Divide the mixture between two serving bowls. Top with cheese and olives.

Tip for any of the three days: If you have some nutritional yeast on hand you can sprinkle some in just about any of these meals to up your plant protein. Also, for an in-budget snack if you have any plant protein powder in your pantry you can make yourself a quick keto smoothie with the leftover almond milk and coconut oil you will have.

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Day 2

Breakfast – Intermittent fast

Not only does intermittent fasting obviously save money, but it also helps increase autophagy (your cells' self-cleaning process) and helps you reach ketosis faster. You'll also find that once you've been eating this way for a while you will become more keto-adapted. This means you will get less hungry (and hangry!) since you will have a more sustainable fat-burning metabolism (in addition to eating more filling healthy-fat-rich meals!).

Lunch – Roasted Cauliflower With Hot Sauce, Olives & Lemon

This is one of my favorite lunches for how simple it is to make yet still packed with flavor. All I have to do is roast up some cauliflower florets and mix them up with some hot sauce and olives drizzled with fresh lemon juice.

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Dinner – Spicy Frittata Pizza With Spinach & Olives

Eggs are one vegetarian keto food that I like to include in my mostly plant-centric diet for how many valuable nutrients they contain at such a low cost. As they are extremely versatile, I like to eat them for dinner as well as breakfast. Frittatas are one easy way to make eggs, as you can add whatever ingredients you have on hand and bake—in this case baby spinach, kalamata olives, basil, and a little vegan nut cheese.

Day 3

Breakfast – Asparagus Scramble

Scrambles are yet another way to customize your eggs. I like to switch up my veggies with some asparagus, red bell pepper, chives, and more vegan nut cheese for some additional healthy fats.

Lunch – Cucumber Radish Snap Pea Salad

Salads are perfect for lunch as they don't have to be reheated so you can enjoy them wherever you are.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons coconut aminos
  • 1 cup sliced English cucumber
  • ½ cup fresh sugar snap peas, sliced crosswise
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced radish
  • 1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and coconut aminos.
  2. Add the cucumber, sugar snap peas, and radish; toss to coat.
  3. Gently stir in the avocado. Serve cold.

Dinner – Grilled Cauliflower Steaks With Romesco Sauce & Toasted Nuts

This is a staple in my house for a super filling, decadent family dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 2¾-pound head cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ras el hanout seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Method

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Hold the cauliflower head stalk-side down on a cutting board. Cut the cauliflower into 1½-inch-thick slices all the way across, yielding two large "’steaks" from the middle of the head, and florets from the edges. Trim and discard the green parts from the steaks and the bottom inch of the stalk. Reserve the florets for another use.
  2. Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, the ras el hanout seasoning, and ¼ teaspoon salt until thoroughly combined.
  3. Brush the cauliflower steaks with approximately half of the olive oil mixture.
  4. Grill the steaks, covered, on well-oiled grill grates for 8 minutes, until slightly charred. Turn and brush with the remaining oil mixture. Cover and continue to grill for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy. Remove from the grill; cover with foil and keep warm.
  5. Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 tablespoons walnuts, bell peppers, garlic, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to the container of a small food processor and puree until almost smooth, about 1 minute.
  6. Divide the sauce between the steaks. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped walnuts and parsley.
William Cole, D.C. IFMCP
William Cole, D.C. IFMCP
Dr. Will Cole, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a Doctor of Chiropractic. He received his...
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