Cheap, healthy, low carb?
I'm not a low carber, and you're probably noticing that I distinguish between 'healthy' and 'low carb'. I do, however, control my carbs (and the rest of my diet) fairly rigorously as I'm an endurance athlete training for a busy year. Most cheap eats threads and recipes I've encountered rely on a starch or high carb base. I'm looking for something that keeps it more in the protein and veggie categories, which, of course, is difficult to keep cheap. Any tips? I don't have any restrictions other than lactose intolerance, so milk and cream are generally out, while cheese is OK. Thanks!
Any stir fry dish with brown rice would fit the bill. You can use cheaper proteins like chicken or flank steak and stretch them out with lots and lots of veggies.
"Egg Beaters" also take whatever you have leftover or on hand and stretches them out. I've been making omelets and scrambles for breakfast quite a bit more since starting to buy cartons of the stuff at Costco. The protein keeps me full for hours!
Quinoa! quinoa is terrific in place of starch. I make several "pilafs" with it, and again, it stretches your proteins and works well with vegetables. You can make it with and Asian slant by adding scrambled eggs, veggies and stir fry pork and what do you know? A healthy "fried rice" dish.
I've been making use of squash and beans to stretch out dishes such as chillis and stews. They're not low carb-but they're lower in carb than the equivalent serving of say, rice, and higher in protein.
Last night I made a curry-style stew with some cheap stewing lamb, onions, garlic, ginger, spices, cubes of butternut squash, a tin of tomatoes and various herbs and spices. Had intended to add some red lentils but discovered I'd already finished them. The squash and lentils make it hearty enough not to need rice.
Also chillis can easily be bulked out with beans and lentils, and this allows you to reduce the amount of meat protein to become more of a flavouring than a main ingredient. I often but chargrilled chopped aubergine into chillis to replace some of the meat but this isn't the cheap option.
If you have any south Asian shops near you, the spices and legumes and veg tend to be far cheaper than in supermarkets, and if there are halal butchers too they're often cheaper.
I'm thinking that, as an endurance athlete, you probably don't eat more than a mouthful or two of beans and rice. Zat right? Here's a thread you might want to look at. There are some posts about high carb starches and about high carb veggies, but some good ideas as well.
Quinoa, beans and brown rice aren't low carb, and starches are the least nutritious, calorie per calorie, of all carbs. To keep costs down, you could buy large bags of chicken parts at Costco or your grocery when on sale. Trader Joe's has great prices on high quality, wild caught frozen fish and other farmed stuff as well. Whether you buy the cheaper farmed stuff is a matter of personal priority. If you buy veggies in season in their whole form and do the washing, cutting and prep yourself, you can reduce costs enormously. You can also buy quality protein powders in large, bulk containers and make very good shakes with some frozen berries, yogurt and almonds or walnut oil for a great pre or post workout meal. Whole eggs are a nutrition powerhouse, too, just make sure you buy high quality ones with high omega 3s, they're still a nutrition bargain per piece. Greek yogurt, too, (I like Fage), either full fat or 2% fat will keep you feeling full and has much more protein than traditional yogurt. I like it mixed with a drop of liquid sucralose (generic Splenda), some vanilla extract and walnuts.
Some threads on this topic from the very active years of alt.support.diet.low-carb with a lot of budget low carb tips:
How about something like chicken sausage with white beans and roasted tomatoes. This is a staple in my weeknight rotation.