Tips for Building Muscle on a Budget

Budget Friendly Foods for Lean Mass Gain

I grew up where money was tight and the food was still quality.  I thank my parents for showing me the art of how to shop on the cheap and maintain a healthy body.  

Build Muscle on a Dime

Man lifting weights in gymnasium
Inti St Clair / Getty Images

 Eating out was not an option and the importance of learning to be creative in the grocery store and kitchen were a priority. I still maintain a frugal personality when it comes to purchases and strive to find the best deals on healthy foods.  I am now in a position to write about one of my favorite subjects and excited to provide helpful information for those trying to eat healthy on a dime. 

Healthy Foods are not Expensive

Roasted chicken
Iain Bagwell/photolibrary/Getty Images

 Organic foods to gain lean mass are always the best way to go, but in times of financial strain may not always be possible.  I was raised on beans, potatoes, rice, powdered milk, whole chickens, ground beef, garden vegetables, fruits and canned foods. I was an active girl and young woman who felt good and with great strength development entering high school as an elite athlete.  My body was maintained by a wide variety of food groups that were not expensive but wisely purchased and prepared. This food philosophy can still be applied today to achieve lean mass gain and strength.  

Create a Budget Friendly Menu

Stick to Your Budget
Smart Food Shopping Means Sticking to Your Budget. londoneye/Getty Images

 The body requires nutrients from lean proteins, good carbohydrates, and healthy fats for overall health, optimum fitness, and lean mass gain.  Knowing what the body needs is the first step to creating a budget-friendly menu.  Strategize food shopping by locating discount food stores, bulk purchase outlets, and even clip coupons for extra savings.  Organics and canned food items will be cheaper in discount food outlets. Compare prices and reduce stress by locating one or two favorite stores that will meet your needs to save on transportation cost.  Prepare a food budget ahead of time and do not be tempted by impulse items that will take away from the healthy stuff.  Remember money is critical, healthy food is a priority, and goals to gain lean mass important.  

Best Healthy Foods on a Budget

Buy Chicken In Bulk to Save Money. YinYang/Getty Images

 The best healthy food items on a budget will be beans, rice, lean meats on sale, low to no sodium canned food items, eggs, peanut butter, oats, low-fat dairy, and seasonal vegetables and fruits. Chicken is often cheaper purchased whole and cut up at home, but is also a savings to buy the breasts on the bone with the skin intact.  De-boning and skinning the chicken can happen in the kitchen and part of the meal prep.  The same goes with lean red meats and buying a larger cut on sale trimming the fat off at home. Become a deal seeker and jump on any lean meat items with a low price per pound.  This will be the time to buy in bulk and freeze the portions.  Dairy items like low-fat milk and cottage cheese can be purchased in a larger container which is usually cheaper.  Anytime individual size packing is included think more money.  It is cheaper to buy a larger container and separate the serving sizes at home.  Have small reusable storage containers at home so food can be portioned, frozen, refrigerated or carried in a cooler.  

Buy in Bulk for Lean Mass Gain

Oatmeal and Eggs
Oatmeal and Eggs is a Bodybuilding Meal. John E. Kelly Photolibrary/Getty Images

Beans can be purchased whole and cooked at home which will be for better saving, but for convenience canned varieties can also be bought fairly cheap at discount food stores and bulk food outlets.  Look for organic when possible and at the very least low to no sodium. Bulk brown rice is inexpensive and when combined with a serving of beans creates a complete protein and good carbohydrate meal.  Oatmeal is another fabulous good carb and a favorite among lean mass gainers.  Oats are inexpensive, easy to cook and can be topped with fruits and even mixed with peanut butter for a power meal.  Canned tuna will be a life saver when shopping on a dime.  Chunk light tuna in water will be the best deal and an excellent source of protein that can be mixed with brown rice, topped with spices, or eaten straight from the can. Peanut butter is the cheapest of the nut butters, and look for all natural staying away from hydrogenated sugar-filled products.  Natural peanut butter typically has oil at the surface, requires stirring to blend the product, and an excellent healthy fat that supports lean mass gain and fat loss.  Eggs are inexpensive especially when bought in bulk and are among the top listed easy assimilated proteins for the body.  Egg whites and oatmeal is probably one of the most popular lean mass building meals in the fitness industry. 

Stock Up on Healthy Canned Foods

Canned Vegetables and Fruit
Stock Up on Healthy Canned Foods. Brian Hagiwara Photolibrary/Getty Images

Vegetables and fruits are better purchased fresh, are cheaper when in season, and the best time to stock up. However, buying fresh or in season may not always be possible and frozen or canned would be the next healthy option.  Look for minimally processed, in natural sugars, or flash frozen in their raw state.  Canned items will need to be low to no sodium, packed in natural juices for preservatives and can be bought on the cheap.  Stock up during a sale and keep the pantry full of healthy canned food selections.  Vegetable side dishes accompanied by a lean protein is one of the best meals to gain muscle and shred fat.  

Condiments are Budget Friendly and Necessary

Mustard is Budget Friendly and Spices Up Healthy Meals. Joy Skipper StockFood Creative/Getty Images

 Condiments are inexpensive and must haves to spice up healthy meals.  Mustard, hot sauce, salsa, ground pepper, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and non-white sugar are a few great examples.  Stay away from creamy dressings, margarine and anything high salt and fake.  Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars for salads and vegetables will be a mainstay in the pantry and budget friendly. 

Eating on a Budget and Fitness Goals

Darla Leal, Master Fitness Trainer
Darla Leal, Stay Healthy Fitness, Fit over 50. Darla Leal/Orange Photography

 Eating on a budget doesn’t mean that health and fitness goals need to be sacrificed.  What it does mean is implementing a wise shopping strategy and sticking to it.  Eating a wide variety of healthy foods will maintain a healthy body through muscle gain and fat loss.  All this can be accomplished on the cheap while providing quality nutrition on a daily basis. 


USDA,, healthy eating on a budget

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