A critical component to stay in budget when shopping for any lifestyle is to have a rough meal plan ready. For Keto, this is especially important since many products are dairy-based which could go bad and get wasted if you don’t plan properly. Also important is to plan meals according to what is more expensive each week, for example strawberries are not on sale all the time and can be expensive as a regular purchase. I only buy a box if it is less than Dh5 for 400gm.
The following are my Keto essentials for a basic meal plan for two weeks, for less than Dh220. I don’t buy organic – so if you want to go organic, that will drive costs up. The Keto-friendly I buy is the supermarket variety – usually by local bakeries which are cheaper than imported versions, and I have found keeps me in ketosis and tastes good. This list is based on the assumption that you have all basic spices, salt and condiments at home.
Eggs (30 medium or small) Dh11
Full fat milk (2 litres) Dh10.50
Fresh whole Chicken (2 kilos) Dh24
Cream (250ml) Dh13
Butter (200 gm) Dh3
Coconut powder (400 gm) Dh9
Almond powder (200gm) Dh16
Frozen chicken breasts (2 kg) Dh25
Coconut oil (300 ml) Dh9
Keto sliced bread (1 packet) Dh8
Keto wrap (1 packet) Dh8
Peanut butter (half a jar) Dh8
The key to staying on a diet that is restrictive like Keto is making improvised versions of things you know you love, like laddoos. A laddoo is a sphere-shaped sweet made of flour, sugar and fat – only one of these three are allowed on Keto. For my Keto laddoos, I use desiccated coconut, almond powder, powdered Stevia and coconut oil. This is not only cost effective but literally takes 10 minutes of your time for a nice after-meal sweet treat for up to a week.
Add one cup of desiccated coconut, a 1/3 cup of almond flour, 1/4 cup of coconut oil and one or two tablespoons of stevia-based sweetener (use more if using other kinds such as erithrytol or monkfruit) into a blender or food processor. Pulse until it starts to look like it’s coming together. Add more oil if you feel it won’t hold a shape and pulse again. Make spheres out of the mix and chill. They taste best after an hour in the fridge. You could even dip them in some sugar-free melted chocolate.
In most stores here in the UAE, desiccated coconut is called coconut powder. I usually buy local brand packets, which come at around Dh9 for 400gm or you could buy by weight at supermarkets. The thing about desiccated coconut is that you only need a little bit at a time and lasts quite well in the fridge.
Regular food grade coconut oil is easily available and affordable or you could use unsalted butter. Get good quality butter – a little bit goes a long way. Don’t get spreadable butters, which are usually mixed in with unhealthy oils.
Sweeteners can be really expensive, especially if you get the ones with the nice packaging and branding. I try to find sweetener brands within my budget by paying attention to the ingredient lists and make sure nothing I use has aspartame, sorbitol, or sucralose in it. Another pro of sugar-free sweeteners is that most of them are much sweeter than sugar, so a little will go a long way. Getting bigger quantities can get you better deals and bargains on shipping costs.
Cauli ‘mac’ and cheese
There are always going to be cravings whichever diet you follow and this recipe hits all the right notes for me, while staying in ketosis.
Take half a head of cauliflower and break it apart into florets. Boil these for 5 minutes until fork tender. Meanwhile sauté a quarter of a medium onion in a pan with some oil. Add in some garlic powder, chilli powder and turmeric. Cook off the spices and add in the cooked cauliflower. Add in 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, 50 gm of cheddar cheese, 50gm of mozzarella cheese and cook until all cheeses melt. Serve immediately. Spring onions or roasted nuts make for a delicious crunchy garnish.
The budget-friendly aspect comes in the choice of cheeses you use. Use the more budget friendly cheddar and mozzarella cheeses available in supermarkets, trying to avoid the extra processed versions. I buy cheese by weight and get them shredded or sliced at the store, this is available in most supermarkets in the UAE.
Cheaper non-processed yellow cheddar and mozzarella would be around Dh9 for 200gm in supermarkets. A head of cauliflower could range from Dh4 to Dh8 depending on when you buy it. 125gm of heavy whipping cream would cost around Dh6 depending on the brand. This whole dish would cost you less than Dh8.
Microwave Keto ‘bread’
This recipe takes one minute and three ingredients. Anything you add over that is for flavour and you can go savoury or sweet. Grab your microwave-friendly mug, add in three tablespoons of almond flour, one egg and a pinch of salt. Mix well with a fork and pop it in the microwave for one minute and there you have it – Keto-friendly ‘bread’. I slice it up horizontally for a ‘sliced’ version
For a sweet version, I add a pinch of baking soda, sweetener and two chopped berries, or you could add cocoa and some butter. After baking, add a tablespoon of sugar-free peanut butter on top for a nice warm treat. To go savoury, add in garlic powder or onion powder before baking. Once done, I like to top mine with schezwan sauce. You could also top with mozzarella cheese and give the mug another 10 seconds in the microwave.
All the ingredients used in this one are budget-friendly in the UAE. The only one that could end up costing more is the almond flour. As with all things Keto, going branded is going to be more expensive – but you don’t have to do that. Almond flour is nothing but powdered almonds, which is sometimes blanched. Get local brand almond powder instead or get the powder in the dried fruits and nuts aisles of UAE supermarkets.
Want to splurge?
Sometimes we all crave something sweet and luscious, and I always make sure I splurge on Keto-friendly treats and trust me, they are really good. You could get a 400ml tub of Keto ice-cream in Dubai for around Dh40, which is pricey but perfect for a treat day. You could also get Keto-friendly shakes and juices starting at Dh12 for a bottle in supermarkets.