Don’t think you can afford to eat a bodybuilding diet? Think again…
The fallacy of “I can’t afford to eat like a bodybuilder” is just that – a fallacy. Most people don’t realize how inexpensive it is to eat healthy. Nor to they realize how much money they blow on eating out, gas station food/snacks, Starbucks or other quick coffee joints, and on junk food in general. If you hone in your diet, pull back the reigns on the eating out, and stick to our guide on a bodybuilding diet on a budget – you’ll make some serious gains.
When your trying to have a bodybuilding diet on a budget, buy everything you can in bulk. We are going to be consuming massive amounts of food and you need to consider the price per unit instead of the retail price. In most cases, it’s going to be ounces or pounds that you’re looking at. We are a California-based company, so our team shops at Costco. A perfect example is their Kirkland Signature Boneless/Skinless Chicken Tenders, 6 lbs bag. It’s about $15.99 a bag which works out to be $0.17 an ounce. That’s $0.02 per gram of protein. It’s lean and I know that three of these little tenderloins is about 50 grams of protein. That’s all I need to know since that’s my personal protein goal for each of my 7-8 meals per day.
The cost of your major protein sources will be way cheaper if you buy in bulk. The price of eggs, which you should be eating a boat load of if you’re serious about bodybuilding, drops exponentially when you buy in bulk.
Say “no” to packaged foods
Packaged foods are a huge no-no for any bodybuilding diet on a budget. The cost increases exponentially when some company does the extra work of cutting, chopping, and prepping your food for you. As a bodybuilder, you need to basics to grow and stay lean. You don’t need all the added crap and sodium that’s in pre-packaged foods. So stay the eff away from Hamburger Helper or anything remotely resembling pre-made packaged foods.
What to eat on your budget bodybuilding diet
Here’s our shopping list. It’s going to vary depending on your individual needs but the basics are all there:
- Ezekiel bread
- Flax seed/whole wheat tortillas
- Organic corn tortillas (small yellow ones)
- Ground beef (80% lean)
- Frozen, cooked, tail off shrimp
- Frozen Atlantic Salmon
- Red potatoes or white potatoes
- Green beans
- Frozen chicken tenderloins (mentioned above)
- Kirkland Turkey Bacon
- Eggs (in the huge box/crate)
- Almond milk (no bovine milk)
- Brown rice
- Organic, brown rice pasta noodles (penne)
- Shredded cheese
- Almonds butter
- Almonds or walnuts (for healthy fats)
- Quaker Oats – old fashioned
- Coconut sugar
- Olive oil
- Any seasonings you want (garlic salt, lemon & pepper, chili powder).
We can grab all of these items (give or take a few) for well under $250. The only items on this list that’s a bit pricey is the shrimp and salmon. If it’s too much, simply swap them out for This will last at least two to three weeks depending on your caloric intake. For me, it’s more like two weeks but I’m pushing down close to 8,000 calories a day, 400-500 grams of protein a day, and close to 800 grams of carbs each day. For someone who’s goals are any less than mine, this shopping list will last most of the month. Some of the items like the olive oil and the brown rice will last a few months too.
Tips for bulk foods when you get home
Keep things frozen. The first thing I do is bust open the 80% ground beef flat and get the scale out. I put 10 oz of ground beef in small zip lock bags and toss half of them in the freezer. The other half go in the fridge. Chicken, shrimp, and salmon can stay frozen until it’s time to defrost them. Immediately after I get the meats taken care of, I put the rest of the refrigerated items away.
As soon as that’s done, I move right on to meal prep and start a huge pot of brown rice. It takes close to an hour to simmer so I’d rather get it done right away than get hungry and freak out when I need it later.
Recipes for the bodybuilding diet on a budget are below! But first, if you like this workout, you need to try our 12-week program:
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4 quick meals for bodybuilding diets on a budget
Chicken, rice, and veggies
Take 3 chicken tenderloins, frozen, and toss them in a saucepan with about an 1/8″ of water at the bottom. Turn it to high and cover. The steam from the water will defrost and cook the meat in about 3-4 minutes. When you see that the meat is white and mostly cooked through, strain the water out into the sink and drizzle about an eight cup of olive oil in the pan, throw some seasoning salt on there too, cover and cook for a few minutes on each side – just until the outside is a little brown and crispy.
While you are cooking the chicken, take another saucepan and put another bit of water in the bottom, drop in a handful of green beans, asparagus, or broccoli and cover. Turn on high for a few minutes. The steam will cook them through. Add a bit of salt to taste at the end.
If your nutrition plan calls for carbs, toss in the brown rice you already have made (hint, hint), or cook up some of the brown rice noodles.
You’re at about 50 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, and whatever you choose for your carbs.
Salmon and asparagus
Preheat your oven to 435 degrees F.
Take as many of the frozen salmon packs as you need and fill up a bowl full of hot water. Drop the packs in and let them defrost for about 10 min, or until soft. Cut them open and place them in a Pyrex pan where they will fit flat, side by side. Drizzle some olive oil over them, some lemon & pepper, a little bit of garlic salt, and some dill weed (if you have it). If you have a lemon, squeeze lemon juice over the fillets. If not, don’t cry about it and move on.
Cover the salmon with foil and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes. I usually check on them at about 32 minutes.
While you are cooking the salmon, take another saucepan and put another bit of water in the bottom, drop in a handful of asparagus and cover. Turn on high for a few minutes (about 5-7 max). The steam will cook them through.
Carbs can be the brown rice, penne pasta noodles, or sides of toasted Ezekiel Bread with olive oil and garlic salt in a side bowl to dip.
Salmon is rich in protein. Each steak fillet is about 35 grams of protein. You’ll be around 20-30grams of fat with this meal but it’s all olive oil and fish oil so it’s extremely healthy.
Eggs, Bacon, and Oatmeal
Yeah, it’s exactly what it sounds like. 3 eggs, 3 egg whites scrambled. 3 pieces of turkey bacon, and a cup of oatmeal with a little bit of coconut sugar to taste. The whole thing takes 10 minutes to prepare and cook. If you don’t know how to cook eggs and bacon and oatmeal, I’d suggest calling your parents. You want a bodybuilding diet on a budget? This is the epitome of it. You can eat this every meal and grow.
Protein: 52 grams
Fat: About 30 grams
Carbs: 60 grams
Simple soft tacos
Cook up 10 oz of the 80% ground beef in a saucepan. Cook with your favorite taco seasoning or chili powder. If you’re macros are calling for low fat, then once cooked, dump the meat into a strainer in the sink, push on it with a spatula, and watch all that fat and grease go down the drain.
Heat up 4 of your corn tortillas in a separate pan or skillet until they are hot and soft. Set them on your plate side by side. Add equal portions of your meat to each one. Add salsa, avocado to taste. If your macros allow for cheese, toss a LITTLE on top for taste. Chow down!
Protein: 50 grams
Carbs: 60 grams
Fat: Varies from 20-60 grams depending on whether or not you drained the fat out, used avocados, and/or cheese. When in doubt, cut it all out and just have the meat and salsa.
Other tips for a bodybuilding diet on a budget
Stop eating out. End of story. We as Americans WASTE our money on things like Starbucks, gas station food, fast food, and the like. We go through way more of our monthly salary and credit usage on these items than most of us are even aware. Plus, if you’re short on cash and you’re serious about making a change in your physique, there’s absolutely no reason you should be eating out unless it REALLY fits your nutrition plan. The results from eating out will be no where near what you have when you cook at home, do your weekly or bi-weekly meal prep, and get the proper nutrition.
Heck, if you ditch the eating out and coffee out, you’ll probably have plenty left over for some well-needed supplements like protein powder and creatine.