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Building Mass on a Budget

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Shannon Clark

Do you believe your muscle building potential is limited due to your bank account’s balance? Maybe you’ve been putting off your growth phase until you see more growth in your wallet first.   

While building muscle means that you need to consume more food, this doesn’t necessarily have to mean your grocery bill needs to be overly inflated. If you know a few tricks of the trade, you can build muscle on a lower budget without succumbing to your old college diet of canned tuna for every meal. 

Here’s how to eat big on the cheap – working from two different budget examples.

Prime Protein Sources

First, let’s start with the most expensive food in your diet: protein. Chances are, you’ll pay more per 100 grams of protein than you will for either carbs or fats.

Protein is also the most important nutrient required in a muscle building diet, thus it’s essential to be getting in. You’ll want to devote as much of your grocery budget to quality protein sources as you can, as these will make a large difference in your progress.

$50/Week Budget Options

Your best options within this price range will include canned tuna, but you’re also able to branch out to chicken breasts, eggs and egg whites, extra lean ground beef (which is typically cheaper than steak), and milk if you wish. Insider tip: buy larger packages/boxes of chicken to save on the cost per breast.

$100/Week Budget Options

If you have a little more to spend on groceries, you can venture out to leaner cuts of steak, ham, as well as ground chicken or turkey breast. Frozen fish fillets may also be an option for you if you purchase the cheaper varieties. 

Cost-Effective Carbs

Fortunately, carbs will be mere pennies a day, even for quality sources. The main thing you want to avoid when choosing your carbs is resorting to overly processed varieties. It may be tempting to purchase that family sized box of Kraft Dinner because it’s only a few cents per box, but you need to also think about what this will do to your body composition. 

$50/Week Budget Options

For this lower budget range, oatmeal should top your list. Buy it in bulk and your wallet will thank you for it. Additionally, brown rice is a very cost-effective solution for those on a tight budget.

Produce-wise, bananas tend to be your least expensive option and will provide you with a good dose of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Frozen vegetables also tend to be cheaper than fresh, so head to the freezer section to keep your wallet from running low. 

$100/Week Budget Options

If you have a little more to spend, you can branch out and pick up some sweet potatoes or yams, add in some berries, apples, or oranges, and venture into the fresh produce section for broccoli, celery, and spinach. These tend to be the more cost-effective vegetables. Insider tip: be sure to watch for sales and make good use of them when you can to add more variety to your diet plan. 

Best Deal Fat Sources  

Finally, let’s talk about the fat in your meal plan. Dietary fat is an essential part of every diet to build muscle and, just like with carbs, you must resist the temptation to choose unhealthy sources in an effort to keep your costs down.

While you can definitely buy butter on the cheap, that doesn’t mean it should be used to fulfill your dietary fat quota.

$50/Week Budget Options

The most cost-effective sources of fat for those on the $50/week budget will be peanut butter, olive oil, and a couple of avocados for variation. Eggs can also contribute a good dose of fat as well as protein to your diet, and are only pennies per egg. 

$100/Week Budget Options

If you have a little more to spend, you might opt to purchase some coconut oil, cheese, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. Dark chocolate can also be served as a treat from time to time and provide a healthy dose of dietary fat coupled with antioxidants.

Eating healthy on a muscle building diet doesn’t have to break the bank. It should go without saying that you should always make a shopping list before heading to the store to avoid putting any unnecessary items in your cart. This can easily increase your grocery bill! 

Additional cost-saving tips include shopping in bulk whenever possible, and stocking up on non-perishable items in larger containers. These two tips can really decrease the total cost per serving of the food.

Beyond that, scan the weekly flyers for sales on protein options. Remember that you can easily freeze chicken breasts or steak prior to cooking (or after, if you prefer) so don’t think you only need to purchase what you can eat when a good sale is on. Buy enough to last for the next few weeks, or even months if you have the freezer space to store it. Over time, that will help to keep your grocery bill down.

Whatever you do, don’t let a tight budget get in the way of your muscle building goals! With a little bit of pre-planning and price-watching, you can include plenty of variety in your diet throughout the year.


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