Keto on the Cheap: Update and Strategies

I know that I haven’t posted an update in a while, but I’m still here kicking butt and taking names.  I have been on track without a “relapse” for 69 days now, and while progress on the scale is slow, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way things are going!

Here are my stats as of today.

  • High Weight: 290.2lb (May ‘17)
  • Start Weight: 259.4lb (9/1/19)
  • Current Weight: 243lb

On day 66, I hit a new low of 241lb, so I know I’ll be seeing the 230s before I know it.  I just have to be patient with myself and understand that my biggest victory is that I’m more than halfway through day 69 of NOPE (no off-plan eating).  It definitely feels good to have that accomplishment under my belt (that happens to be about 2.5” smaller now than it was 69 days ago.)

As for my budget, we’ve completely blown it.  I’m just being honest. But as I was discussing that fact with a friend yesterday, he asked me to consider some other victories and metrics in the challenge that I set for myself.  Sticking to a budget isn’t the only point of “keto on the cheap”.

Bulk and Case Pricing on Meat

I have an immersion circulator for cooking sous vide style that I absolutely love.  On of the benefits of cooking sous vide style is the fact that I can take less expensive pieces of meat and turn them into incredibly delicious meals.  For us, the jackpot has been the purchase of whole sirloin tips at our local Sam’s Club. These cuts cost about $3.25 per pound. We bring them home and cut them into thick, amazing steaks and one nice-sized roast, and we pay an entire dollar less per pound compared to buying the steaks and roasts that have been cut from the whole sirloin tip.

And there’s something else I learned that might help folks.  If I had enough money to buy a whole ribeye, I’d save about a dollar per pound on that cut also, but the meat guy at Sam’s Club will cut it for me for FREE! That means that by buying whole cuts, regardless of the type, I can same money when compared to the pre-cut and pre-packaged steaks.

Similar money can be saved by investigating case pricing.  Most items at my local Sam’s Club are discounted by about 10% if you buy by the case.  I can’t think of anything specifically that my family uses where that kind of discount would benefit us, but the option is there.

Macronutrient Density

Another strategy that we use around here is the choosing of foods for their macronutrient density.  While I don’t count anything at this point, I can tell you that I experience more satiety when I choose foods that are nice combinations of proteins and fats.  For instance, today, I have eaten three roasted chicken thighs. I didn’t discard the delicious crispy skin, and as a result of that, I don’t know that I’ll eat anything else today.  It’s not because I’m trying to count calories or follow some sort of time-restricted eating regimen. I’m simply not hungry. And if I do get hungry later, I’ll have something, but since it’s after 6:00pm as I write this, I doubt there’ll be more food for me today.  That means my food today will have cost us $2.18. (Don’t worry! They were enormous chicken thighs.)

I have definitely noticed though that if I nibble and graze, even on foods that fall in line with my way of eating, I consume more food which can cost more money.

Lastly, I want to remind folks.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it as long as it needs said.  Don’t let perfection be the enemy of “good enough”. If you have to start out with ground beef, chicken legs, and store-bought eggs, then start there.  Just start SOMEWHERE because your health depends on it. Your eyes depend on it. Your kidneys and your feet depend on it. Don’t put it off because you can’t be “perfect”.  None of us are perfect, but a lot of us are still changing lives!

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If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)

There is a concept to which some cling in the “diet” world that says, “Eat whatever you want ‘if it fits your macros’.” While this might sound appealing to some, I contend that it’s a terrible idea, and I’ll share my rationale below.

This concept isn’t new, sadly.  I remember a time in the late ‘90s when my best friend was following a popular calorie restriction program that required you to “count points”.  Fiber grams allowed you to offset some of the calories, thus fiber-rich foods tended to be worth less points. Eventually, folks started trying to “work the system” by eating whatever they wanted alongside fiber supplements.  In essence, they were the early adopters of the IIFYM eating model.

Then, in the early 2000s as low-carb eating became more popular, I saw people doing things like “saving” carbs so they could continue to put sugar in their coffee or eat junk food in place of nutrient-dense carbohydrates like vegetables.

Since my experience over the last 20+ years has been primarily keto, I want to discuss IIFYM in that context, although I’m sure many of these points will apply to whatever eating plan a person chooses to follow.

IIFYM in the Context of Grief and Loss

A lot of folks have a pretty strong emotional attachment to food.  It’s human nature, right? We celebrate with food, we reward ourselves with food, and the process of eating can be a very social experience.  When we change our meal plan though, some folks, especially those who have an unhealthy relationship with food, will experience feelings of grief and loss.  This is where the idea of IIFYM comes in.

The five stages of grief and loss are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I’ve personally experienced all these stages at one time or another when I’m trying to make positive changes in my life, but denial and bargaining are often paired with the IIFYM way of eating.  “Well, this way of eating doesn’t have to apply ALL the time, so I can keep eating bad stuff as long as I’m still playing by the rules.” In reality, that’ll only set you back in the long run.

Inflammatory Effects of Poor Food Choices with IIFYM

The ketogenic way of eating is inherently an anti-inflammatory diet.  When we choose foods that simply fit the macros though without paying attention to food quality, we increase inflammation, glycation, and sometimes even stress hormones as a result.  Claiming that a jelly donut counts the same as an entire day’s worth of vegetables is flawed logic. It relies on the idea that a calorie is a calorie regardless of where it comes from, and both anecdotal and scientific evidence have shown that this simply isn’t the case.  Quality does matter, regardless of what eating plan you’re following.

Way of Eating vs. “Diet”

I’ve seen it so many times.  “I’m going to go on this diet and then when I lose my weight, I’ll eat ‘normal’ again.” IIFYM fits perfectly into this logic because folks are simply looking for a way to make it through until they can go back to the terrible habits that made them unhealthy in the first place.  Looking at a healthy human diet like keto as something that’s temporary though means you’re likely to end up right back where you started — sick, fat, and miserable.

“Diets” sell products and make people lots of money.  A “way of eating” requires nothing but smart choices at the grocery store or farmer’s market.  “Diet” in the commercial sense implies an intervention that’ll end when you’ve met your goal. A way of eating implies something that’s sustainable for a lifetime, and IIFYM has no place there in my opinion.

IIFYM is Like Heroin Instead of Methadone

As I discussed earlier, the IIFYM model is often used by those of us who have unhealthy relationships with certain kinds of food in certain situations.  I can tell you from my own experience though that using IIFYM when you’re trying to deal with food addiction is one of the quickest ways to guarantee failure.  It’s like saying to a drug addict in rehab, “We’re going to let you have a little bit of your drug of choice as long as you can fit it into the program.” It makes no sense.

Some will contend that food addicts should quit cold turkey without any sort of methadone, and that’ll be a topic for another day.  Using “just a little bit of heroin” while you’re trying to quit heroin essentially guarantees failure or relapse. Ask me how I know because my drug of choice has always been food.

The whole concept of IIFYM encourages backward thinking and I would strongly advise anyone who’s serious about their health and longevity to avoid this trap.  It’s usually just the grief or the addiction talking, and those guys can say some pretty convincing stuff sometimes when you’re vulnerable. If you’re going to put in the effort to make your life better, don’t short-change yourself.  It’s not worth it!

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Apples, Apples Everywhere

Fall in my neck of the woods means apples and lots of them! They’re in grocery stores, orchards, roadside stands, and produce auctions.  While I don’t eat apples personally because they don’t fit into my eating plan, I love a good deal that allows me to put some food into the pantry.  Fortunately for us, my mom found such a deal at a produce auction, so we ended up with two bushels of apples for $24.

So what did we do with all those apples? We made applesauce, apple butter, and dried apple rings.  And as I started to put back food with my mom for the great apple push of 2019, we even canned some apple jelly.  (She already had juice that she’d canned, so that made the jelly really simple.)

It had been a long time since I’d made applesauce, so I appreciated Mom walking me through that.  Canning was usually something that I did with my dear friend Sue who passed away last year, so doing it with another special person in my life was so nice.  We used a standard recipe and we did not add sugar. When I brought it home for my family to taste, my son said to me, “I didn’t think I liked applesauce, but this is AMAZING!”

We also made some no-sugar-added apple butter that was pretty delicious.  A little of that stuff goes a long way, and it’s a thousand times better than the garbage that you buy in the store.  My family will eat it on toast and sandwiches, but the best way to enjoy it in my opinion is by stirring a bit of it into plain yogurt.  Mom and I also discussed using it to make a glaze for pork. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’d imagine that thinning it with a little apple cider vinegar would make a tasty glaze indeed.

My favorite method for putting back apples though is drying.  My 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator can dry about 18 large apples in 7 or so hours, and drying those apples makes the house smell so good! I use a tool that cores and spiral-slices the apples, I place them on the trays, and in about seven hours, you have dried apple deliciousness.  After the apples are completely cool, I pack them into freezer bags and keep them in the freezer until they’re needed.

My family loves to snack on them, but I was also considering a caramel apple cinnamon roll attempt (for folks who eat that sort of thing.) We’ll see how that goes.

Of course my family enjoyed some of the apples for fresh eating as well, but temperature conditions in my house aren’t that great for apple storage apparently.  I ended up having to feed some of them to the chickens, but that’s OK. Maybe I’ll end up with some apple trees later.

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Keto on the Cheap: Day 40

I’m forty days into my “keto on the cheap” reset and I couldn’t ask for things to go better! I’ve accomplished so much over these past weeks, and I figured it was time to do another update.

First of all, I’ll share some stats.

  • High Weight: 290.2lb (May ‘17)
  • Start Weight: 259.4lb (9/1/19)
  • Current Weight: 244.8lb
  • % of Total Lost: 5.63%

I also thought I’d share how my macros have averaged out of the last forty days.  There were three out of the last forty days that I wasn’t able to track for one reason or another, but I still ate on plan, of course.

  • Calories: 1286 kcal
  • Fat: 102 g
  • Net Carbs: 12.4 g
  • Protein: 77 g
  • % Fat: 69.4% calories from fat

And since I haven’t done an update in a while, I’m sure you’re also wondering about the money side of things.  You might remember that I set a budget of $300 per two-week pay period for our family of five. Tomorrow marks the end of the third pay period since I started this challenge, but I already have the numbers.  On average, we have overspent our budget by 11%.

Over the first four weeks, there were only two of us following a ketogenic way of eating.  During this pay period though, we added a third family member, my daughter, to the mix. And interestingly enough, this last pay period was the only one where we didn’t overspend our grocery budget.

Observations After the First 40 Days

Regarding my budget, I may have to increase it a bit, but I don’t think I’ll consider that until I have at least another two pay periods worth of grocery expenses.  My original grocery budget of $400 per pay period may be more realistic, especially when my husband starts eating on plan again, but I’m not giving up. I really think this level of spending can be sustainable for my family.  Time will tell though.

As far as my stats go, I want to make a couple points.  First, I am absolutely thrilled that I’ve lost 14.6lb in forty days.  I was looking at my data, and I’ve lost 6.4 of those pounds in the last thirty days.  After the initial water shed, I think 6.4lb per month should be a perfectly sustainable weight loss for me, and it means that I should be in the low 230s by Christmas.  Considering I haven’t been below 233.8 since September of 2013, this is huge for me.

I’m also amazed by how easy it has been this time around to stick to my plan.  I’ve done this enough times to know that the first couple weeks are quite a challenge, but it didn’t work out that way this time.  I was able to fall into a pattern quickly, and I’m feeling fantastic. I have a lot more energy this time around, and I seem to be sleeping better too.

Lastly, I want to talk about my macros.  I’ve tracked my macros all along because I’m a numbers gal.  but I haven’t been concerned about the macros that some folks would say matter.  My plan requires that I stay under 20 grams of carbohydrates each day, and ideally, I’d like to see my percentage of calories from fat around 70-75%.  My carbs have been spot on, but I’d like to see my fat percentage a bit higher. The problem is, eating this way is self-limiting, so I’m just not hungry.  It’s been suggested to me that if I increase my activity, I’ll be hungrier, but that simply hasn’t been the case so far.

Honestly, I feel best eating ribeye, butter, and eggs, but since I’m trying to keep costs down, I’m not doing that right now.  I might see what I can do later on to accommodate that tendency, but right now, I’m going to just keep plugging away at things and making slow but steady progress.

The online community I’ve found has been so helpful.  And the fact that more folks in my house are focusing on their health helps me too.  I got to go back to the gym this week for the first time in ages, and I can’t tell you all how amazing I felt.  My daughter has a complicated schedule for one more week, but once she finishes one of her college classes, we’ll be able to go to the gym twice a week.  That may not sound like much to some, but I couldn’t be more thrilled!

If you’re enjoying these updates and want to be part of the conversation, don’t forget to join me over on my Claiming Liberty Facebook page or my Claiming Liberty Discussion Group.  I’m planning some content for YouTube and I’m always available to chat on social media.  In the mean time, remember that what we do matters! We can get busy livin’ or we can get busy dyin’, and I think you know which one I’ve chosen.

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Keto on the Cheap: First Pay Period Food Costs

One of my goals with my keto reset has been getting a handle on food costs.  So often, I hear things like, “Keto is so expensive! I could never afford to do that.” In reality though, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and I hope to illustrate that over the coming weeks.

When I first designed this challenge for myself, I set a grocery budget of $150 per week.  Since we get paid every two weeks, that means that to meet my goal, we need to have spent less than $300.

So how did we do? Well, we spent $317.96 last pay period, so we didn’t quite make the goal.  That being said, I’m still ecstatic because I can’t remember the last time we spent that little money on groceries.  What’s more, we only spent $13.90 eating out which is also an amazing improvement over the pattern we’d established for ourselves.

To give everyone some context, there are five of us in the household.  My 11-year-old son and I are the only ones eating low-carb; my husband, my 14-year-old son, and my 17-year-old daughter are not.

As I look back at the grocery expenses, there are some places where we could do better.  We spent $10 on ice cream (before I had started my challenge), we spent $10 on sushi, and we probably spent about $30 on diet soda.  (It’s store brand soda, but that’s still a LOT of money to spend on zero-calorie beverages. That’s 10% of my budget.) Lastly, $17.49 funded my 14-year-old’s school meal plan for September.

You can see that there’s room for improvement, definitely, but overall, I’m pretty happy about the first pay period.i

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Blind Lady Anecdotes: Feeling Green

At some point in the early ‘90s, I decided to make a batch of peanut butter cookies.  I had a recipe that was amazing, and I thought that the family would appreciate some home baked cookies, so I started making them.

Unbeknownst to me, my dad wasn’t feeling well.  He was having some sort of stomach trouble, and the smell of the cookies was making him feel worse.  He came out into the kitchen to talk with me about it, and out of nowhere, he asked, “Why are those cookies green?”

I was confused.  “What do you mean, green?”

He answered, “I mean they’re GREEN.  They’re very, very GREEN.” Then he walked away disgusted.

Apparently while making the cookie dough, I grabbed the bottle that I thought was vanilla.  With my limited vision, it looked like vanilla, and of course, it was shaped like a vanilla bottle so I thought I was good.  For some dumb reason that I’ll never understand to this day, I didn’t smell it though; I just added an entire teaspoon of green food coloring to my cookie dough!

Honestly, if Dad hadn’t told me that the cookies were green, I never would have known.  They tasted great, Of course, Dad was put off by the color, and as I recall, the rest of my family was concerned too.  As I recall though, my siblings helped me eat the cookies and we all got a great laugh out of the whole thing.

Needless to say, I ALWAYS smell the vanilla before I add it to my recipes now.

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New “Blind Lady Anecdotes” Series

In August, I  started writing a book.  I love to write, and I’ve dreamed about writing my own book since I was in middle school.  Until recently though, my problem had been inspiration. I couldn’t think of anything that I thought would interest other folks.

Fast forward to August.  I was sharing one of my humorous “blind lady anecdotes” with friends when it hit me.  I could make a compilation of these stories and publish it for folks to enjoy. After discussing it with family, I decided to start writing.

I have already immortalized a number of these short stories in the cloud for future editing and publication, but yesterday, I got to thinking.  What if I published a few of these stories on my blog? In doing that, I could get some interest going and maintain extra content for other endeavors (like ebooks or a members’ area on my blog.) And with that thought, an idea was born.

On Thursdays, I will share one of my blind lady anecdotes.  I’m not doing this to encourage folks to laugh at blind people.  I’m doing this because I believe keeping things light helps us find a common ground.  It helps folks feel more comfortable about asking questions, and it keeps folks from thinking they have to avoid us because they’re going to say something to offend us.  Everyone who knows me know that I can’t live life taking myself too seriously, because if I do, I’m just unhappy. That’s not helpful at all! I tell my kids all the time that you can laugh or you can cry and laughing’s a heck of a lot more fun! Life’s too short; let’s enjoy it!

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Keto on the Cheap: Week 1 Summary

Although I’m already into week two of my “keto on the cheap” challenge, I thought I’d post a summary of week one.  Overall, I’m thrilled about the way things went!

First, for folks who are numbers folks like me, here are some stats.

  • Highest Weight (May 2017): 290.2lb
  • Challenge Start Weight: 259.4lb
  • Loss in Week 1: 8.2lb

As some of you might remember, I’ve also been tracking my food with Cronometer.  I’ve been doing this for two reasons. First, I want to keep myself honest and avoid carb creep.  Second, I’d like to have numbers to look back on if I have to do some troubleshooting later on (which ALWAYS happens eventually.)

As I’ve mentioned in previous updates, I expected to be a lot more hungry over that first week.  I wasn’t though. And as I look back at my data, I think two things were at play there. First, week one happened to coincide with week two of my cycle.  This is typically the time that my eating and weight seem to be least affected by annoying girlie hormones. Second, I did a pretty good job of keeping my macros decently balanced.  I was staying full because I kept my carbs low and I didn’t overdo on the protein. I was pretty happy with that, for sure!

I experienced some of the GI stuff that’s usual for me when I change my eating, and I’m still dealing with some occasional reflux although that seems to be clearing up quicker than is typical for me also.

Overall, week one was surprisingly outstanding for me, and that makes it easier to stay motivated.  Community helps too, so don’t forget to come on over to the Claiming Liberty Discussion Group on Facebook and tell me about your journey.  I’d love to hear from you!

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Keto Strawberry Mug Cake

This moist, flavorful, low-carb mug cake cooks in less than two minutes, and my son thought it was made with wheat flour and sugar! This is a perfect addition to the menu for an occasional treat.



  1. Place butter and cream cheese in a microwave-safe mug and heat on high for 20 seconds.  Stir with a fork to combine.
  2. Add coconut flour, baking powder, Truvia, and vanilla to the butter/cream cheese mixture and stir again ’til well blended.
  3. Add egg.  Stir.  Add frozen strawberry slices and stir one last time.
  4. Microwave mug cake on high for 1:30.  Check for doneness.  Invert onto a plate and allow to cool.  Serve with whipped cream if desired.


This recipe made two servings for me.  After we discovered how amazing it was, we tried to make a quadruple batch in a measuring cup.  When it seemed done, I turned it out onto a plate, and the whole thing fell apart on me.  It was liquidy in the center from the strawberries but it was completely cooked on the outside.  Next time, I’ll split a quadruple batch into silicone muffin cups and cook it that way to ensure doneness.

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Keto on the Cheap: Day 3 & Food Cost

I’m still kicking butt and taking names even though yesterday was a hard day to push through because of some pretty rough fatigue.  When I stepped on the scale this morning, I was down another .8lb for a total of 6.6lb lost.

I’m still quite surprised about my lack of hunger.  Usually at this point in a reboot, I’m starving and I’m eating frequently.  As I shared in a previous update though, lack of hunger continues to be the norm this time around.

I’m also continuing to struggle with some GI issues.  I don’t have a gallbladder, so adjusting from a lower fat, crappy carbage diet to a higher fat, nutrient dense diet is giving me a little trouble.  It always does, but I know it’ll settle down soon, and it’ll be well worth it when I’m back in the swing of things and my body has had time to adapt.

Day three’s macros were good.  I ate around 1300 calories with 77% of those calories coming from fat.  For a time, I was worried that I’d only have one meal yesterday, but I did end up having a small snack of salami and cream cheese around 8:00pm.

Lastly, I wanted to share the financial cost of one day’s food since this series is called “Keto on the Cheap”.  On day two, I had loaded scrambled eggs for breakfast. I used 3 eggs, 4 pieces of bacon, an ounce of spinach, an ounce of cheese, two ounces of mushrooms, and 2 ounces of pico de gallo.  That meal cost a whopping $3.24.

For supper, I had a cheddar and bacon angus patty, 2 slices of provolone cheese, and 2 ounces of hard salami.  That added another $2.21 for a daily total of $5.45. I’m picking inexpensive foods for the most part, so relatively speaking, I’m not doing too bad.  I can’t wait to see how our grocery spending looks after the first two weeks!

I’m plugging away and I’m staying focused.  I can do this!

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