Bulking on a Budget: How to Build Muscle Without Breaking the Bank
Eating healthy has become a rather expensive investment in the past few years, especially when you want to build muscle. But is all hope lost for those on a tight budget? Certainly not, if you’re smart about how you grocery shop. Here’s how to maximize your food budget while looking to build lean mass.
HEALTHY EATING FOR SIZE: IS IT TOO EXPENSIVE?
Packing on muscle without breaking the bank is absolutely possible no matter what your food budget is like. Vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, healthy fats, and lean protein sources may be more expensive, but there are plenty of ways to cut cost and still include them in your diet.
We will cover cost-saving tips by macronutrient group. This way you can pinpoint sources of proteins, fats, and carbs rather than wandering the aisles of your local grocer and wasting time. Also be wary that groceries fluctuate in price based on location and supermarket.
The best thing to do is look for local grocery store ads in your area and find out what stores offer the best/cheapest prices. Also keep an eye out for weekly sales that may be going on for foods recommended below. Buying in bulk when there’s sales going on is key to maximizing your food budget.
Here’s how to select quality foods that are the best bang for your buck when it comes to building muscle.
Animal Meats: When looking to build muscle, animal meats, such as poultry, pork, beef, and fish are going to be the most expensive portion of your grocery bill. The good news is there are still plenty of ways to cut cost here. Generally, lean poultry is much more affordable than beef (especially lean cuts) and seafood. If you are craving a good steak or some ground beef, it might be worthwhile to find a local butcher shop that will cut you a deal for buying in bulk (and storing whatever you don’t immediately use in the freezer). Also consider buying organ meats, like beef liver, which also contain a good amount of fat and tend to be more affordable.
Whole Eggs: If you want to build muscle on a budget, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than whole eggs (especially when you can find them in bulk). Whole eggs keep for months and are loaded with micronutrients, protein, and healthy fats. Be sure not to worry too much about dishing out extra cash for farm-raised, “organic” eggs if you don’t have room in the budget. While they may contain a better essential fatty acid profile, they won’t make or break your muscle-building efforts.
Protein Powders: Many gym-goers look assume those 5lb tubs of protein powder are a rip off because of their price, but when you break down the cost per gram you’re actually getting quite a deal in most cases. Whey protein is definitely the best bang for your buck. Also, plant-derived protein powders are usually generally very affordable and can make a great addition to other protein sources.
Vegetables & Fruits: Bar-none the most cost-effective way to purchase fruits and vegetables is through frozen varieties. Don’t fret, frozen fruits and vegetables are still packed with micronutrients and fiber, and they keep for longer too. For fresh produce, keep an eye out for sales, as things like carrots, cabbage, leafy greens and celery can be very affordable options. Fresh potatoes and root vegetables are also great, fibrous carb sources that won’t break the bank.
Grains: These are a great option when you’re looking to build muscle on a budget. If you buy in bulk, oats, corn, rice, pasta, etc… are all very cheap and quality carbohydrate sources in bulk. Many grocers have a bulk-food section where you can bag your own grains and they will charge you based on the amount (weight) purchased. Often times you can get 5lbs of oats for $5, which is a steal.
Legumes: These are often overlooked by gym-goers despite being a superb fibrous carb source, and incredibly cheap. Better yet, most legumes are loaded with micronutrients, protein and healthy fat sources, making them an all-around great food for building size.
Oils: Most cooking oils are plant-derived (corn, palm, soybean, etc…), making them quite cheap, but these should not be your primary fat sources. Instead, olive, safflower, and nut oils are healthier options that are still easy on your wallet.
Nuts (and Nut Butters): Pretty much all nuts and nut butters are great options for building muscle thanks to their healthy fatty acids, calories, and micronutrients. Peanut butter is by far the most affordable though, so don’t go for things like almond, cashew and macadamia nut butter unless you have some spare room in the budget.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to eat healthy and build muscle while on a limited budget is purchase “organic” foods (especially produce) and grass-fed animal products. Not to digress, but the food industry often uses terminology like “natural”, “grass-fed”, and “organic” to manipulate health-conscious consumers and increase revenue. At the end of the day, the difference between organic fruits and vegetables and “regular” fruits and vegetables (which are still natural in most cases) is trivial, especially in the context of building muscle.
Moreover, it goes without saying that brand-name products will run up your grocery bill significantly compared to their generic/off-brand counterparts. Most all grocery stores carry their own house brand of pretty much every food product you can think of, which cost considerably less than name-brands.
Lastly, eating out while trying to build muscle is far from cost-efficient in this day and age. That being said, if you have no choice but to eat out for a meal, opt for affordable restaurants/diners as opposed to five-star steakhouses.
Hopefully after reading this article you are more confident about packing on some slabs of muscle with a tight food budget. There’s no excuse for not making progress in the gym, even when money is limited. Rest assured, by using the tips in this article and keeping an eye out for deals at your local grocer, you can add quality lean mass to your physique without breaking the bank.