Saturday, August 30, 2014

$33 keto challenge - days 4, 5, and 6

Over the past three days, I've had lunches at work, and social dinners that don't allow me to keep up with this challenge.  Next week, I am travelling for work so there's no way I can try it again.  I don't know what to do, but I'll try to think of something.

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I've been frustrated with my situation of not being able to do this properly.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

$33 Keto Challenge - Day 3

Today's lunch is basically a mirror of yesterday's, but I've added one hard boiled egg for a little more substance.







DINNER UPDATE:

Dinner will also look eerily familiar to yesterday's since it's exactly the same, only with an extra egg on the plate.  Sometimes this is how things go when you're short on time and on a budget.  The food still tastes great and is fantastically inexpensive.  There's no room here for complaining.  :)



Monday, August 25, 2014

$33 keto challenge - day 2

For lunch today, I'm going super simple chicken salad.  Chopped romaine lettuce, half of a sliced cucumber, a little bit of the italian seasoning, and 5 ounces of thigh/leg meat.  I pulled all of the meat that I roasted yesterday and put it into a glass lock in the refrigerator.  It makes putting together a salad really easy.  Tonight, I'll chop up the romaine, and another cucumber the same way so everything is ready to go for tomorrow.  I'll bring some mayo along and use that as dressing at lunch time.




DINNER UPDATE

For dinner, I had more chicken.  Yay.  This time, I simply rubbed a tiny bit of oil so the seasoning would stick, and sprinkled on some of the new cajun spice I got from the dollar store.  While the chicken was cooking, I chopped up a couple stalks of celery and a green bell pepper to eat as a little salad.  I'm rationing my lettuce and cucumber for lunches at work.


After baking in a 400 degree oven for about 35 minutes, the chicken came out looking and tasting fantastic.  With a little mayo, a couple hard boiled eggs, and a dusting of cajun spice, dinner was served.  




I know I just wrote this recently, but it bears repeating: baking/roasting chicken with a simple spice mixture is unbelievably simple and tastes fantastic.  There is no reason the collective 'we' can't be eating healthy even while on a tight budget as long as we're able to buy these foods so cheap.  I have no excuses.  "We" have no excuses.

$33 keto challenge - day 1

I started the day by roasting a couple leg quarters to use for salads on Monday and Tuesday.  I'd like to take this opportunity to put on the record that roasting chicken is so simple and yields fantastic results with very little effort.  At only 89 cents per pound, I can't imagine getting a better meal at this price point with the amount of work involved.

All it took was to rub a little oil on the chicken quarters, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and finish by shaking on some of the fancy $1 italian seasoning I just purchased.  I cooked it in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, and then increased the temperature to 400 and cooked for an additional 35 minutes or so.





My lunch was one of the leg quarters pictured above, two hard boiled eggs, and two celery stalks.

For dinner, I wanted to try frying chicken on the bone the same way I fried the boneless chicken breast last time; using pork rinds as breading.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work quite as well because of how long the chicken needs to be cooked.  The pork rinds burn a little, and it leaves a slightly bitter taste to the chicken.  I'm wondering if I par-cook in the oven for 10-20 minutes, I could have better results.  Maybe I'll try that later this week.

Anyway, the meal was a cucumber and bell pepper 'salad' with mayo and italian seasoning with black pepper.  I wanted something cool and refreshing to go along with the salty, crunchy chicken.




Sunday, August 24, 2014

$33 keto weekly challenge - shopping list

Like most everything in life, practice makes perfect.  This certainly applies when shopping on a strict budget, and my experience doing this before makes a world of difference.  The first time I went shopping for a $30 weekly keto challenge, I felt like I had everything under control and my shopping list was as good as it could possibly be.  Fast forward a couple of weeks, and the difference in the amount of food I've purchased for the same amount of money is incredible.  Last week, for example, most of my protein came from 7 pounds of chicken breast.  This week, I bought 20 pounds of chicken leg quarters.  Even after de-boning, that will come out to almost 50% more meat.



My shopping list this week is far more complete and includes additional spices to use other than salt and pepper.  The reason I have extra money this week is because the last time I went shopping, I bought a large container of mayo.  That mayo will last through this week, and allowed me to buy some spices that will last for at least a month.  I think it's important to spend extra money on things that will last a long time and bring some much needed variety to your diet.  I learned my lesson the last time around buying peach iced tea mix that, while delicious, didn't even last the entire week.

Below are the weekly shopping list and pictures of everything.  I have receipts too, if anyone is interested in those.







$33 keto challenge

If you've been keeping up with the blog entries over the past couple of weeks, you'll know that I tried to eat every meal in an entire week with a total budget of $30.  While I was mostly successful, I wanted to try again with a slightly higher budget to account for my higher-than-normal protein needs.  My goal is to eat the entire week for $33, giving me an extra 43 cents per day for protein.

As it turns out, I only needed about half of that extra money this week.  There were a couple of very nice sales at both the grocery store and the farmer's market that gave me substantially more food this week than the previous challenge.  I took more time researching prices, and I learned plenty of lessons to apply to my shopping this time around.  I'll be posting the shopping list and menu plans shortly.

As always, thanks for reading and please don't hesitate to ask any questions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Finding affordable meat for keto

Lately, as you may have noticed, I've been trying to figure out ways to eat well while spending as little as possible.  I'm convinced there have to be creative ways to create meals that basically everyone is able to afford, and still enjoy the benefits of maintaining keto eating principles.
It's easy to overlook important factors when pricing meat.  For example, most people believe it's always cheaper to buy the whole chicken instead of buying a boneless, skinless chicken breast.  While I'd agree that sometimes that's true, often a boneless chicken breast will be the better value.  There's a great article that covers the true cost of several different meat options.  In that article, the author concludes that a whole chicken's true cost, without bones, is 1.76 times the price you pay at checkout.  If you remove the skin as well as the bones, it jumps to 2.39x your purchase price.  That means, if we take a whole chicken priced at $1.49 per pound, the real price we're paying is actually $2.62/lb for boneless, or $3.56/lb for boneless and skinless.  Last week, my local grocer was carrying boneless skinless chicken breast on sale for $1.98/lb, which is a dramatic 45% discount over what the whole chicken in this example provides.

This evening, I went to two stores to look around and see what sort of deals I could find.  While none of the sales were noteworthy, it was fun to look around and I did find something new to me; a stew chicken for only $1.19/lb.  I'm hoping this will work well in a crockpot soup or maybe just for a broth.  I'll come up with a recipe and keep this blog updated with my findings.





One last thing to note is when you have a bone-in chicken costing roughly the same as a boneless piece.  For example, I just finished looking through the weekly ads for two grocers that I didn't visit today and I see one store has boneless skinless chicken breast for $2.29/lb and the other store has whole chickens for $0.99/lb.  Using the above numbers, we know whole chickens are about 2.39x the price if we don't eat bones and skin.  Using that calculation, the whole chicken and the boneless breast are within 3% of each other in price.  For me, I treat these as equal numbers and it comes down to what do I want to make with the chicken.  If I'm going to be stir frying something, or if I want to make some pork rind 'breaded' chicken tenders, I'll go with the boneless breast.  If I want to make a soup, or if I want to make a twist on classic fried chicken, substituting coconut flour, I'll prefer to buy the whole chicken.

Don't be afraid to get lost in the store and look at stuff you may otherwise never see.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had fun reading labels and seeing what my local stores have available.  I usually know what I'm going to shop for, so I very rarely visit more than the fresh produce and fresh meat sections.  Of course, I found this frozen stew hen in a section I never visit, near the frozen vegetarian/natural foods.  Like Wayne Gretzky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."  Take a shot at finding something new.  What's the worse that could happen?


Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts on the keto challenge

I was on budget for 5 of the 7 days, and I think I've taken the first steps to prove to myself it's mostly doable for a person my size.  I require more protein than the average Joe, and a pound of raw chicken breast per day, along with a few eggs doesn't cover that requirement.  As I get more active and start going to the gym, that requirement is just going to get higher.  My estimated protein requirement for lightly active is somewhere around 170-200g.  Unfortunately, a pound of raw chicken breast checks in at only about 100g protein, and an egg is around 6.  I was able to get around 140g of protein with pork rinds, eggs, and chicken during the week.


The obvious solution is to add a protein powder to the diet.  I have whey protein that I purchased before I decided to embark on this $30 weekly adventure.  In the spirit of being frugal, I wanted to compare the price of protein in chicken breast versus that of the protein shake.

  • chicken breast: $2 per 100g, or about 50g/$1 
  • whey powder: $30 per 672g, or about 22g/$1

Well, the protein powder is twice as expensive as the chicken, tastes much worse, and it carries 3g carbs per serving.  When I do this again, I will have to add more chicken.  Unfortunately, this will add around $1 per day for 8oz of chicken breast, or about $3.50 per week.  In order to accommodate this, my next challenge will have to be $33/week.

There have been lessons learned and a ton of potential unearthed with this exercise.  I'm going to be more strict, and much better about blogging exactly what I eat the next time around.

Thanks for reading!

$30 weekly keto - day 7

Well, I have learned that if I want to do a $30 challenge, I can't eat according to budget for some meals, and then go out for others.  I end up eating some of my budgeted food for one meal, but then I can't count the day because I went out in my personal or professional life for another.  It has to be all or nothing.  I'm going to start this challenge again in the next couple of days with this in mind.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

$30 weekly keto - day 6

Last night I made soup.  The recipe is almost exactly like the dinner update on day 1, and it really couldn't be simpler.  The last time I made it, I didn't explain it well, so here's how it goes.


  • 2 green onions - the entire green onion except the very end root part.  I need as much flavor as possible.
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 romaine leaves
  • 3 basil leaves
  • 3 little parsley branches
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 large chicken breast (mine was 18oz)
  • oil/butter -- whatever you're cooking with
  1. Heat your sauce pan over medium-low heat.  
    • I use a 3 quart sauce pan over #4 heat, on a scale of 1-10
  2. While your pan heats up, chop your green onions, garlic, romaine, jalapeno, and herbs.  
  3. When the pan is hot, add your oil 
  4. Once oil is hot, add green onion and garlic and stir a couple times for about 3-4 minutes. 
  5. While the aromatics are heating up, slice your chicken up into about bite-sized pieces.
  6. After those 3-4 minutes are up, add your chicken, and season generously with salt & pepper
  7. Sautee chicken until it starts to get white on most of the sides.  Then add the jalapeno and herbs.  
  8. Season lightly again with salt & pepper.  
    • The majority of the tasting and seasoning will happen after we add water.   Be careful not to over-salt at this phase when you can't taste the food.
  9. Sautee the chicken with the herbs until the chicken looks all white, but not quite cooked through; about 2-3 minutes.
  10. Depending how much soup you want, add water accordingly.  I happen to like more broth with this soup, so I added about 7 cups of water.
  11. Increase heat slightly to medium and bring water to a boil.  (#6 on my stove's scale)
  12. Let the water boil for about 30 seconds, and then decrease the heat all the way down to simmer, or whatever your lowest setting is.  
  13. Now is the time to taste and season.  Since I only have salt & pepper, and the soup should have a spicy hint from the jalapeno, I only add a little bit of pepper compared to salt.  This is my preference, but yours could be different.  Add a little at a time, stir, and taste.  It's always easy to add more, but it's impossible to take it out if you add too much.  

For lunch today, I had a bowl of this soup without the pork rinds.  I'm saving the rest of those for another breaded chicken day... I think.  


Dinner Update

I went to dinner last night so I couldn't stick with my meal plan.  The worst part is the dish I specifically ordered without sugar, I think it came with some sugar because I gained 5 lbs overnight.  (It was a Thai shrimp & broccoli stirfry with garlic, and it's very common for Thai dishes to include sugar to help balance the flavor. )

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