In order to gain new muscle mass, you need to train hard and eat lots of quality food. Taking in all the nutrients to support growth can be tough when you’re working with a limited budget, though, so you might have to get a little creative.
Here are six ideas to help you eat for size, when you’re bulking on a budget.
Shop In Bulk
Aside from special sales or bargain prices on expired food, buying at bulk shopping sites will yield the best food prices you can find on a consistent basis. You can usually buy large quantities of bodybuilding staples like rice, oats, frozen vegetable, and frozen chicken breasts at deep discounts from the prices you’d find at a typical grocery store. So, depending on which part of the country you live in, look for your nearest Costco, Sam’s Club, or even Aldi’s and start stocking up.
Use Your Freezer
Even if you can’t figure out a way to make it to one of the “big box” food stores, you can still buy your meat in bulk when more traditional stores have sales. Either way, you’re going to have to buy more than you can eat in a few days in order to get the best prices savings, and that means long-term storage becomes an issue. Because meat only stays “good” for a short while at normal refrigeration temperatures, you’ll have to freeze your excess to ensure that it’s still safe and nutritious when you ARE ready to eat it. Most fridges have at least small freezers, and you might also consider investing in a bigger deep freezer. Besides meat, you can pack in bags of frozen veggies and be eating “fresh” for months on end.
Hit the Farmer’s Market
The past decade has seen an explosion of farmer’s markets, from small communities to large cities, and they can serve you well in your bodybuilding efforts. Although many people think of farmer’s markets as being more expensive than Wal-Mart or your local grocery store, the truth is that you often end up spending LESS money for the same produce, and it’s usually more nutritious, to boot.
Focus on Calorie-Dense Foods
If you’re really tight on money and have trouble taking in enough food to grow, then one good option is to focus on foods that provide a lot of calories at a reasonable price. The list of foods that fit that category include nuts and nut butter, whole-fat dairy products, ground beef, and other high-fat fare. Depending on your health and family history, you MAY need to avoid this approach, but your doctor can help you figure out if bumping up your fat calories will pose any risks.
Eat What You CAN
While you want to eat fresh foods whenever possible, frozen fruits, vegetables, and meats can be almost as good and dramatically extend the period that your goodies stay, well, good. A notch behind freezer fare is canned food.
Many will tell you that canned foods are vastly inferior to fresh or frozen and that they should be avoided at all costs, but that’s not necessarily true. While the canning process MAY reduce nutrient counts for some vegetables, there are still plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in that can of green beans or mixed veggies. And thousands of up-and-coming bodybuilders have fulfilled their protein needs primarily through canned tuna, which you can still find for under $1 per container at many stores. Just be sure to choose water-packed foods and wash them thoroughly after opening to remove as much excess sodium and other preservatives as possible.
Use Supplements Wisely
Usually, supplements are luxuries that can wait until you’ve built some serious muscle and have a bit more expendable income, but there are a select few that can help you even when finances are not a strong point. Whey concentrate, for example, is a high-quality protein supplement that you can usually buy in bulk for prices that work out to just a few cents per gram of protein. Likewise, if you can’t always afford a variety of fruits and vegetables, a solid multivitamin can be an economical way to take in the trace nutrients you need to grow.
Just because funds are limited does NOT mean you can’t eat for size. Follow these ideas to help you get the nutrition you need when you’re bulking on a budget.