I follow the keto diet and shop at Trader Joe's using food stamps. Here are 12 of my favorite things to buy.

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I follow the keto diet and shop at Trader Joe's using food stamps. Here are 12 of my favorite things to buy.
  • I shop at Trader Joe's with food stamps, and I'm sharing my favorite keto-approved products.
  • I pick up plenty of easy meals, like shrimp burgers, riced-cauliflower stir fry, and seafood stew.
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I had to get creative to stretch my dollars and meet my weekly net-carb goals on the keto diet.

I had to get creative to stretch my dollars and meet my weekly net-carb goals on the keto diet.
I shop at Trader Joe's on the keto diet.Winter Breedlove

Carb-counting is relatively easy. So during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, I forked over gobs of unemployment money on popular premade meal plans and lost 10 pounds pretty quickly.

Fast-forward to 2021, and I started thinking about the keto diet again while living in an LGBTQ+ homeless shelter in Los Angeles. The vast majority of shelter-prepped meals consisted of starch-heavy pastas and greasy frozen pizzas delivered as an afterthought by the weekend cook.

The electronic benefit transfer (EBT) hot-food program in California wasn't much help either. My options ranged from Louisiana Fried Chicken to Denny's — the Subway protein bowls were my only oasis in an otherwise fried food-stamp desert.

Instead, I've turned to Trader Joe's for carb-conscious staples. Read on for a list of my favorite products.

The store's hard-cooked eggs make for a quick and protein-rich breakfast for $3.99.

The store's hard-cooked eggs make for a quick and protein-rich breakfast for $3.99.
Trader Joe's cage-free hard-cooked peeled eggs.Winter Breedlove

Trader Joe's preprepared and peeled hard-boiled eggs pack a punch.

With zero carbs, the chilled eggs make a great high-protein breakfast or post-workout snack.

A Trader Joe's bagger added that you also can't beat the convenience.

"I like that you don't have to peel the eggs yourself and you can take them to work," he told me during a recent visit.

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Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel salmon feels fancier than its $5.99 price.

Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel salmon feels fancier than its $5.99 price.
Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel smoked salmon.Winter Breedlove

There's a lot for keto dieters to love about Trader Joe's farm-raised fare, including the flavorful presliced layers of salmon encrusted with Everything But the Bagel seasoning.

Compared to the lox you might get in Manhattan, Trader Joe's salmon is somewhat high in sodium. But it's still the perfect garnish for egg whites for a keto-friendly breakfast.

I can't stop snacking on the Thai lime-and-chili almonds, which go for $5.49 a bag.

I can't stop snacking on the Thai lime-and-chili almonds, which go for $5.49 a bag.
Trader Joe's Thai lime-and-chili almonds.Winter Breedlove

The low-carb dieting path is marked by nuts, and these tangy almonds are a great source of energy.

The light, lime-dusted coating has a unique yin-yang aspect when paired with the spices.

Word of advice: Have a water bottle on standby for the spicy aftermath.

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Trader Joe's oven-baked cheese bites are a cheap and easy snack for $2.99.

Trader Joe's oven-baked cheese bites are a cheap and easy snack for $2.99.
Trader Joe's oven-baked cheese bites.Winter Breedlove

Although they're a little high in saturated fat, the oven-baked cheese bites are still one of my favorite keto-approved snacks.

With less than one carb, the cheese bites are dusted with parmesan and a small hint of cheddar. There's a nice crunch, too.

Trader Joe's shrimp seafood burgers are a summer staple for $6.99.

Trader Joe's shrimp seafood burgers are a summer staple for $6.99.
Trader Joe's shrimp burgers.Winter Breedlove

The seafood burger is filled with gorgeous bits of farm-raised shrimp and wild-caught pollack with a sprinkle of sunflower oil and garlic to give it a summery feel.

It's also gluten-free, and it pairs nicely with a bag of mixed greens.

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Cooking for one is easier with the store's $6.49 fully cooked pork belly.

Cooking for one is easier with the store's $6.49 fully cooked pork belly.
Trader Joe's pork belly.Winter Breedlove

For a perpetually single person with an EBT budget such as myself, Trader Joe's fully cooked pork belly is the perfect substitute for my ma's home cooking.

Everything's tender, but the included hunks of fat work well in my keto-diet plan.

The hot-and-spicy chicken wings only cost $5.99, and they remind me of Nashville hot chicken.

The hot-and-spicy chicken wings only cost $5.99, and they remind me of Nashville hot chicken.
Trader Joe's hot-and-spicy frozen chicken wings.Winter Breedlove

The bits of pepper and the tangy undercurrent of the frozen wings give me visions of Nashville hot chicken.

Plus, the bag comes with enough wings to make two complete meals.

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For $3.29, the riced-cauliflower stir fry makes a great quick meal.

For $3.29, the riced-cauliflower stir fry makes a great quick meal.
Trader Joe's frozen rice-cauliflower stir fry.Winter Breedlove

The rice-cauliflower stir fry is a simple frozen dinner that hits all the right notes: It's moderately priced, easy to prepare, and has great nutritional value.

If I have leftover food stamps in my budget, I like to pair this dish with a block of tofu for extra protein.

Even if you're not vegetarian, you should try the Lightlife veggie Smart Dogs for $2.99.

Even if you're not vegetarian, you should try the Lightlife veggie Smart Dogs for $2.99.
Lightlife plant-based Smart Dogs.Winter Breedlove

The Lightlife Smart Dogs are one of the only non-Trader Joe's branded product on my must-buy list.

I appreciate Lightlife for making vegan hot dogs that taste like the real deal.

Whenever I ran out of keto meal ideas and needed to tighten up the wallet, hot dogs were my bridge over troubled water.

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Although I'm not the biggest fan of Trader Joe's prosciutto on its own, it pairs incredibly well with brie for $3.99.

Although I'm not the biggest fan of Trader Joe's prosciutto on its own, it pairs incredibly well with brie for $3.99.
Trader Joe's prosciutto.Winter Breedlove

Shaved, salty, and very thin pink shards dangle on wisps of white paper in a package of Trader Joe's prosciutto.

Truth be told, it isn't my favorite item. But it pairs well with creamy brie cheese for an afternoon keto snack.

I could eat a whole wedge of Supreme brie cheese, which costs $5.41.

I could eat a whole wedge of Supreme brie cheese, which costs $5.41.
Supreme brie cheese.Winter Breedlove

As someone known for devouring an entire cheese wheel in a grocery-store parking lot, I try to limit myself to smaller wedges of brie.

The Supreme cheese is gooey, buttery, and high in fat. I can finish a wedge in about two days.

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If you're a seafood fan, try Trader Joe's cioppino stew for $5.99.

If you're a seafood fan, try Trader Joe's cioppino stew for $5.99.
Trader Joe's cioppino seafood stew.Winter Breedlove

There's a heavy tomato flavor in the cold-weather standout.

The cioppino doesn't skimp on the protein either — seafood lovers will rejoice at the clam, cod, shrimp, mussels, and scallops.

But, as I've found with many of Trader Joe's keto-friendly products, this stew is pretty high in sodium.