Any professional trainer will tell you: bulking up is 10% exercise and 90% nutrition (or some other made up statistic). The main thing to remember is that if you want to get big, you need to eat A LOT. Your body needs to have some materials to work with, right?
The problem: times are tough, and eating a lot of good calories is not easy to do on a tight budget. Most people agree that the ideal nutrition plan for people looking to bulk up is to eat six 4-500 calorie meals a day for a total of 2400 – 3000 calories. You can do this one of two ways – stock up on Lean Cuisines and other frozen instant dinners when they go on sale, or you can create balanced meals using just the bare essentials.
Note: if you want to eat a lot for cheap, be prepared to sacrifice taste. The staple foods you’ll need to eat are going to be things like brown rice, oatmeal and beans – it’s not exciting, but it’ll work.
1) Buy in bulk – as often as possible, buy your staples in bulk. When you want to buy things like chicken, do so infrequently and only when it goes on sale – any type of meat is likely to be the most expensive thing you buy. Do the same with your protein powder, buying unflavored if you have to (I know that sounds gross, but hey – we’re trying to save money here).
2) Buy store brands – do you really need the Tropicana orange juice (maybe that’s a bad example, since you should just be drinking water!)? Buy as many store brands as possible. Think about it – even if you only save 50 cents per item, you’ll slash your spending over time.
3) Avoid eating out – this one is a given for anyone serious about losing weight and getting fit, but it bears repeating here to: eat out as infrequently as possible. The average trip to a restaurant is going to cost you between $10 – 12 every single time – the average meal cooked at home will cost around $2 (assuming you’re following the above advice). Its more economical, its healthier and it keeps occasional trips to Chipotle exciting.
4) KISS – you’ll hear this in everything you do, and now I’m going to tell you it again – Keep it simple, stupid! You don’t need the latest diet weight loss hundred-calorie pack BS – all you need is your basic fruits, veggies, grains and proteins. Minimize your food costs (and the amount of packaging you throw away) by sticking to the essentials as much as humanly possible. Like Michael Pollan says: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
5) Avoid supplements – going along with the last one, stay away from dietary supplements. Like, completely. They’re not going to get you any real results, they’re going to probably more than double your food costs each month, and if you’re eating all the right stuff you shouldn’t need them anyway.
Alright…I’ve hemmed and hawed enough. Those are my tips for how to eat well on a budget, but what can you actually eat? For the sake of brevity, I’ll tell you one meal you can make on an extremely limited budget that won’t taste horrible:
1 cup black beans
1 cup brown rice
1 cup shredded green leaf lettuce
1 tbsp Olive Oil (for the salad…er…lettuce)