The keto diet two ways: 1) easy, simple and cheap or 2) processed, packaged and expensive

Veggie market

I love grocery shopping on the ketogenic diet. It is so simple and fast.

I stick to the rim of the store. If I am in a rush I might pick up a small piece of organic chicken or beef for my husband and me from the butcher counter and make sure they wrap it in paper. These days, however, I generally skip the grocery meat section. We now buy most meat products at a neighborhood butcher who has grass-fed, local selections and who doesn’t use the ubiquitous Styrofoam trays and cling wrap. I can’t stand plastic and I want to do my bit to support local farmers doing holistic husbandry.

Next stop may be the fish counter for a piece of wild west coast salmon or farmed trout. I might stock up on smoked lox, too.

Then it’s the dairy section for butter, cream cheese, whipping cream, aged cheddar and mozzarella.

We have backyard chickens now, so I no longer need any eggs — but in my first few years of ketogenic eating we’d go through almost two dozen free-range eggs a week.

I skip the enormous sections of fat-reduced milk, flavoured yogurt and juice and go right on to the produce section. No more need for potatoes, yams, oranges, apples, bananas and other fruit which used to fill my cart. I now stock up instead on avocadoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, scallions, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. I get most of my salad greens and herbs from my own backyard veggie garden — I specialize in kale! — but if my own varieties are low, I’ll top up with something green and leafy.

Then it is on to the deli section for olives and parmesan cheese and maybe, if I am feeling extravagant, some prosciutto, liver paté and a few pungent European cheeses.
Last stop is bulk foods for almonds and pecans. And then I am done!

So simple, so fast, and actually pretty inexpensive if I don’t splurge on pricy cheeses or venture into any of the processed food aisles.

Real-food keto

Of course, every-so-often I need to top up on good quality coffee, olive oil, coconut oil, almond flour, chia seeds, sesame seeds and other staples of ketogenic baking, but that is less than once a month and usually done at a chain bulk food store. In the early keto years, I used to constantly bake replacement keto bread products, from the Diet Doctor recipes, but now, three years into keto eating, my need for something bread-like has greatly diminished, too.

Making meals is equally easy. I skip breakfast almost every day now, but if I do have something it is usually one of my own backyard eggs fried in butter with a slice of tomato and a sprig of greens. Fresh, fast and tasty.

Lunch is often leftovers from the night before. Dinner used to be, often, one of the fantastic casseroles from Diet Doctor (yum crack slaw!) These days it is just as apt to be a simple, small piece of grilled or baked meat, poultry or fish with a tasty fat adornment — chive butter, cream sauce, homemade aioli — some roasted or steamed veggies (also with fat) and a big salad with homemade vinaigrette. Some nights it might be spiralized zucchini with meatballs and a homemade tomato sauce.

Dessert, if we have it, will be a few frozen blackberries (I have a big berry patch, too) with some whipping cream. Just as often now we have no dessert at all. No need.

I remember, in the pre-keto days, I would be so ravenous when I came home from work and was getting food on the table for the family that I thought I would faint. It almost felt like a form of barely controlled panic. (Keep it together, mom!) I’d be shoving down crackers and cheese just to make it to serving out the dinner.

Now it is feels relaxed and unstressed. I am never hungry between meals and I no longer feel any need to snack during the day. Food prep occurs without frenzy. My portion sizes are smaller; I never need seconds. There are always leftovers. My husband, too, loves the simplicity. We waste less food, too. Food packaging is almost non-existent.

In all, it is simple, fast, and almost effortless. Combined with the impact on my weight (down 17 lbs [8 kg] with no effort to keep it there) blood sugar (no longer pre-diabetic) and health (feeling fantastic) it makes the keto diet so easy to sustain over the long term. That general simplicity now is the thing I love best about this way of life.

Do we really need keto products?

That is why it always surprises me, on various ketogenic Facebook forums, all the posts by others about new keto products, pills, powders, supplements, zero-calories sweeteners, and no end of commercially-made replacement breads, chips, crackers, protein bars, cookies, ice cream, fat bombs and more.

I don’t want to sound — or be — judgemental or sanctimonious. I know that each person’s keto journey is their own to travel. We all have to figure out which way of keto or low carb eating makes us feel our best, what gives us the best health and weight results, what makes this big change to one’s old way of eating the easiest to navigate and sustain. Those choices do have align, of course, with one’s values, needs, taste buds, desires — and pocket book.

There is nothing more irritating, I know, in what is supposed to be a supportive group when someone is telling you that you are not doing LCHF or keto “right” and that they know so much better what to do and how to do it. Alas, no one likes a know-it-all. I don’t want to be that person.

But I have to restrain myself from piping up and being that person (and sometimes alas, I fear that I cross a line in pointing out how unnecessary these keto products are.)

I am a member of about 10 different Facebook ketogenic or LCHF groups. I’ve joined because I like to see what people are posting, what questions they are asking, what aspects of the diet they are rocking and what parts they find hard to do. It gives me ideas for research and columns to write.

I really do want to be supportive and encouraging of people’s struggles and triumphs. It does truly befuddle me, however, when people post pictures of some new unnecessary (at least to me) keto product, especially something that is a replacement for the high-carb food that was making us sick and fat for years.

I just don’t understand why people still need it. I am so elated to be free from its hold! They will say, “Look what I found!” They’ll show a label that says “LOW CARB” or “KETO.” It often has a list of ingredients that is as long as one’s arm. Or it is a low-carb version of some high-carb treat, like candies, syrups, sweets or desserts. Artificial sweeteners abound. High-priced supplements, MCT oils and exogenous ketones are common.

“Where did you get it?” others will post, excitedly. The answer is usually Costco, Walmart, the high-end health food store, or some online portal. “Wonderful! I’m going to get some tomorrow” others will say, honestly and authentically enthused.

I guess these products may indeed help some on their journey to keto success. They are certainly helping some keto entrepreneurs on their journey to financial success. I’ll admit, I even thought at one time that I, too, would try to cash in and bring keto replacement bread products and cauliflower pizza crusts to market — picture them in freezer cases across North America! (No doubt someone is already doing this.) I did buy up a bunch of creative keto domain names just in case.

That urge of mine, however, to make low carb replacements for high carb food items has now passed. I realize I don’t need it or want it. It doesn’t align, anymore, with my values, needs, and desires.

I realize I truly revel in the freeing simplicity of minimal packaging, of food with no labels and no list of ingredients. I love the feeling of supporting local hard working farmers by consciously choosing to buy their produce.

Nothing makes me happier than to collect eggs and vegetables from my own urban back yard. I know I am very fortunate to even have such an opportunity. Not all can, of course. I am grateful for the ability to taste the hint of sweetness in kale from my garden that has come through a winter frost. I never knew such sweetness existed, back when my taste buds where obliterated by sugar and artificial sweeteners.

I am honestly no longer interested in any food or supplements, keto or not, that come packaged off a product line in an industrial plant somewhere.

I likely won’t share this post to the keto Facebook groups I belong to. I don’t want to imply that I am critical about other’s postings that happen there. Their journey, their needs.

For me, however, simple easy keto, with real food as close to nature as possible, is the most freeing, easy and joyful part of this way of life.

Anne Mullens


A keto diet for beginners

Keto recipes


All earlier posts by Anne Mullens



Cooking Keto with Kristie


Earlier with Anne Mullens

All earlier posts by Anne Mullens


Older posts