Each and everyone of us live on a budget of some sort and many times we need to make sacrifices to cover other financial priorities in our life. Food is a large part of that budget. Especially when many of us are looking to take in 3500-6000 calories per day to obtain the physique we are looking for.
A good bodybuilding bulking diet can be very expensive but do not be discouraged because below is a list of ideas to control those costs while limiting the impact on quality. We hear so much emphasis placed on the term ‘macro’ nutrients we tend to overlook the just as an important term ‘micro’ nutrient when making our purchase decisions.
Foods that are processed, in general, will be weak in the micro nutrient category and are typically more expensive for the convenience. These foods place our growth at a disadvantage. Sure they might fit into our macro dominant diet but they miss the mark in the unseen micro nutrient category. I encourage when you are shopping on a budget to avoid most, if not all, of the processed food options. Particularly prepackaged foods or frozen complete meals.
Here are my suggestions for shopping on a budget while maximizing affordable quality nutrients and at the same time avoiding processed foods.
Proteins generally make up the biggest portion of our shopping bill since protein is the major nutrient in packing on lean muscle. When it is possible or when you find a decent sale buy in BULK! Meat freezes well and if packaged correctly in air tight packaging it will last 6 months or longer. Beef and seafood can be expensive. Fortunately there are options that we can look for. Looking for leaner cuts of meat is not that hard. In fact, many of the leaner cuts like london broil or round steak are the least expensive. They are not the most tasty cuts but with proper preparation you can get quality beef protein and micro nutrients without sacrificing flavor. Shopping for seafood at a club card warehouse store like Costco or Sams Club are good choices when looking for seafood. I regularly can get wild alaskan cod in the freezer section at Costco for around $5.40/lb. Chicken is cheap and is protein dense. Buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk when on sale and repackage in normal portion sizes with a freezer vacuum sealer. Do not avoid chicken thighs just ensure you remove the skin and trim before freezing. No need to include the extra fat unless you need it to fit your diet.
I am not a fan of dairy for my personal diets but a low fat cottage cheese is an inexpensive and good source of casein protein. I am not suggesting you avoid dairy. I simply don’t use it regularly in my dietary needs or wants.
Two of Costco biggest sellers and two that will save you a bit of change is extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil. These are my choices for most times when I am looking to add healthy fats in cooking or meal prep. I personally do not cook with olive oil and use avocado in 95% of my cooking needs. Many plant oils, soy, corn, canola, etc., tend to be high in omega-6 essential fatty acids, which can throw off our EFA balance and induce low-grade inflammation. Your best bet is to stick with olive, avocado and maybe coconut.
Go to the bulk grain section of your preferred grocer. Most supermarkets have a bulk-food section where you can bag your own grains; you pay according to the amount (weight) purchased. This is usually much cheaper than buying pre-packaged grains. I prefer whole oats and brown or black rice. When it comes to carbohydrates it is easy to get caught into the spiral of processed carbs. Processed carbs are generally loaded with cheap additives and sugar and are a more expensive route for carb choices. They are also missing many of those micro nutrients we were discussing earlier. Whole grains are cheap, simple and overall a better choice to serve our purposes.
Fresh produce is expensive and the quality in most areas of the country is very low. Keep an eye out for sales on things like cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, salad mix, and others as they can be very affordable options. Fresh root vegetables (like turnips) and potatoes are also healthy fibrous carb sources that won’t put much of a dent in your pocket book.
I avoid canned vegetables because they can be loaded with added salt and lose a large amount of nutrients in processing. When looking for prepared vegetables a better option is the freezer section. Frozen vegetables are more nutrient rich and contain more micro nutrients than their canned counter parts.
I personally avoid fruit juice. It is concentrated fructose and lack the fiber and other nutrients that the whole fruit provides. Again if buying fresh is cost prohibitive look in the freezer section. Costco’s has frozen fruits and can be very affordable when you average the price per pound of the fruit you are buying. Fresh is a better way to go but frozen prevents spoilage and in many cases are less expensive.
When shopping on a budget we have to be hawks. Always look for coupons, sales and bulk purchasing opportunities.
Avoiding brand name items is also a good way of controlling costs. The majority of supermarkets have an exclusive house brand that is considerably cheaper than brand-name options. At the end of the day, it’s the same food, so go with the cheapest option when there’s more than one choice of brand.