How to Build Muscle on a Budget

Budget Friendly Foods for Lean Mass Gain

Are you trying to build muscle but think quality food to reach this goal is unaffordable? Honestly, most of us are on a budget and with the same desire to get lean and muscular. The great news is we can achieve a lean and muscular body and purchase nutrient dense foods on a dime. 

Eat at Home

Couple shopping together in grocery store
Buy in Bulk to Save Money and Reach Fitness Goals. Dan Dalton / Getty Images

Dining out will not be an option when on a budget. You are on a mission to save money, lose fat and gain muscle. What will be a priority is learning how to purchase nutrient dense foods and how to cook the stuff. Cooking skills will become your fitness success. You will appreciate the control of knowing what you're eating to achieve a lean and healthy body. 

Maintain a frugal personality when it comes to food purchases and strive to find the best deals on healthy foods. Remember to stick to your budget and resist the temptation to stray even when friends come calling for that dinner out. 

Healthy Foods are not Expensive

Organic foods are the best way to go but not always possible on a budget. Doing the best you can during times of financial strain is what matters and a necessary strategy. You can still eat right and reach fitness goals using alternatives. Other options include buying dried beans, potatoes, rice, whole chickens, ground lean beef, frozen vegetables, fruits and canned foods. These foods provide a wide variety of nutrients that are not expensive and easily prepared. 

Create a Budget Friendly Menu

The body requires nutrients from lean proteins, good carbohydrates, and healthy fats for optimal fitness. 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 to food shop and save on transportation cost. Prepare a food budget ahead of time and don't be tempted by impulse items. These are typically processed and unhealthy. Remember money is critical, healthy food is a priority, and goals to gain lean mass important.  

Cheaper but Healthy

The following foods are typically cheaper but healthy nutrient sources to reach your fitness goals: 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 less expensive purchased whole and cut up at home. Buying chicken breast on the bone with skin intact can also be a cost saving. De-boning and skinning the chicken can happen in the kitchen and part of your meal prep.

The same applies to 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 large container which is usually cheaper. Anytime individual size packing is included think more money. It's less expensive 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

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

Buying healthy food in bulk is a great way to save money.

Dried beans can be purchased in a large bag and cooked at home at a cost saving. However, and 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 healthy carbohydrate food 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. It can be mixed with brown rice, topped with spices, or eaten straight from the can.

Peanut butter is the cheapest of the nut-butters. 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. Research indicates peanut butter as a superior superfood linked to 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 one of the most popular lean mass building meals in the fitness industry. 

Canned Foods

Vegetables and fruits are better purchased fresh, cheaper in-season, and the best time to stock up. However, buying fresh or in-season may not always be possible. 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 reduce body fat.  

Condiments are Necessary

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

Fitness Goals

Eating on a budget doesn’t mean health and fitness goals have to be sacrificed. Consuming a wide variety of nutrient dense foods will enable you to gain muscle, reduce fat and maintain good health. All this can be accomplished on a dime while providing quality nutrition on a daily basis. 


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