I was inspired to write this article by taking a look back at my college days. It wasn’t necessarily in college that hurt me, but the year after college. I was jobless, and had just entered the repayment period on my loans. So, how was I supposed to gain muscle without having really any extra money to spend on food? All it required was some extra time and planning. I sat down for about 3-4 hours one morning and just thought about how I was still supposed to make progress despite being in such a tough position financially.
The answers didn’t pop up in my head right away, but I began researching and slowly gathered the answers. I took a look around the grocery store (without buying anything that day) and realized a lot of the healthier stuff was actually cheaper. I just needed to shop at the right time, at the right place, and for the right stuff.
This is almost the exact list I made a few years ago with a few added tips I have gained since then:
1) Don’t shop for name brands.
Name brands are always much more expensive despite producing nearly the exact same product. You have to swallow your pride and just go for the cheaper, off-brand product. If it is not the exact same quality, chances are that it is at least at 90 percent of the quality of the original brand name product. You’re on a tight budget, right? You have to sacrifice a little bit, so save some money and shop for the off-brands.
2) Compare prices at the closest three grocery stores.
Make a list of your top 10 foods that you buy. Then go around to every store and write down the prices. You can add them all up and make an average for every store. It might only be a $20 difference between the cheapest and the most expensive store for a week’s worth of groceries. However, that adds up to $80 per month! Every dollar counts when you are truly on a tight budget. You will thank me for this later…
3) Buy a membership to a wholesale store (Sams Club, Costco).
This may seem like a controversial tip given that it costs money to even shop at the store. However, you can buy products in bulk at these stores like no other stores. If you are truly looking to gain muscle chances are that the membership will pay for itself within three months. A lot of meat, poultry, dairy, oatmeal, and nuts can be bought extremely cheap and in bulk at these places.
4) Shop often for hot deals at local grocery stores.
One thing I learned about local grocery stores is that they often have discounts / deals. I found a lot of the meat section to be discounted when it was getting close to outdated. Of course, you don’t want to buy anything that is outdated. However, you can still buy food at almost HALF price if you buy it within a few days or a week of its expiration date! You just have to spend five minutes in the grocery store every couple days to shop for these deals. I used to have a store I shopped at that I swear never sold an ounce of round tip steaks. They would then mark them down to almost half price, and I would come swoop them up! I think since it showed that they still sold them, they would go back and buy the exact same amount for the next shipment. Things like this do happen a lot, but you just have to be opportunistic and on the watch for these deals.
5) Eat a LOT of eggs!
This was easily the food that I ate the most when I was on a super low budget. Make sure you limit your yolks to about half. So, if you have a 6-egg omelet it is best if you take out three of the yolks. Anyway, if you use tip #3 well and shop at bulk stores you can get 5-10 dozen eggs for an incredible price. Chances are that a 3-6 of them will come broken in the package, but it is worth losing a half dozen for saving $2-3 on the whole case. There is no muscle-building food cheaper than eggs! This is almost universal across all states. Of course prices will fluctuate, but cooking eggs is super fast, easy, and cheap. You can eat a lot of scrambled eggs. If you want to make fancy omelets then you will most likely have to buy cheese, deli meat, and maybe even some tomatoes or mushrooms (now, you are getting into a higher budget). Stay simple and make either scrambled eggs or cook them over easy to save the most!
6) Ditch all of the “extras.”
You are going to have to trim the fat on your diet…not literally, but all of the additives. You will have to stop buying extra seasonings, sauces, and toppings. This means less salt, pepper, meat and chicken seasonings, and less ranch and ketchup. You can easily spend $20 per month on these “want” items. They do make it taste a little better, but it’s actually healthier to ditch them anyway! Take the extra time to cook the food right and it will taste the exact same without all of the extra sodium.
7) Buy a protein powder that tastes good and that is cost effective!
How often do you see protein that tastes good and is good bang for your buck? Not very often. A protein that fits this mold is Body Mechanics® Whey Protein. Not only does it taste amazing, but you can also receive 33% off your entire order! Just check MuscleDog.com’s official Facebook and Twitter pages for promo code details!
Body Mechanics® also contains an enzyme called Aminogen® that has been proven in multiple studies to triple the rate of protein absorption. Yes, you read that correctly - it triples it! This means you can start recovering much faster, and still build lean muscle. It also contains Carbogen®, which is an enzyme that helps reduce blood lactate build up in your muscles. This helps you delay fatigue in your workouts and allows you to get that extra rep! It contains approximately 24g of protein, 5.5g of carbs, and 1.5g of fat, making it ideal as a workout nutrition shake and a snack or meal replacement.
If you want to save a lot of money on groceries, then you are going to have to make some sacrifices. You are going to have to spend more time shopping and looking for deals. You are going to have to take the time to compare prices and even buy a membership at a wholesale store. You are going to have to learn to love eggs, and eat without all of the costly seasonings and toppings. Do yourself a favor and put together your own budget plan. Lay out all of the food you need for the week. Still buy in bulk, but shop at local grocery stores to try to find the biggest discounts for that week. You are going to have to buckle down and watch every single penny.
Getting huge doesn’t have to cost you a lot. It just requires extra time, effort, and cooking time!
Jared Enderton – Jared is a weightlifter, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and a nationally ranked weightlifter in the United States. He has earned his Bachelor’s Degree (with honors) in Exercise Science from the University of Northern Iowa. His certifications include: ACE-PT, CrossFit Level 1, and USAW- Sports Performance. He is also a former State Champion and All-American wrestler in the state of Iowa. In addition to working as a weightlifter and a personal trainer, Jared also has an extensive background in researching and selling sports supplements.