Image credit: Jaako
To build muscle and lose fat, you need lots of healthy foods. Proteins to build & maintain muscle. Carbs for energy. Fruits & veggies for vitamins, minerals and fiber. Water for hydration & recovery. And healthy fats to help fat loss.
Unfortunately, the rising food prices make it hard to eat healthy. Your paycheck is most likely not rising as fast. Worst case you're student which makes it even harder. These 20 tips will help you eat healthy on a budget.
1. Buy Whole Foods. Unprocessed foods are cheaper and more nutritious than processed foods. They also give you total control over the ingredients. Avoid anything that comes from a box 90% of the time.
- Proteins. Ground beef, frozen chicken breast, tuna cans, calves' liver, cottage cheese, plain yogurt, eggs, milk, whey, ...
- Carbs. Pasta, rice, oats, potatoes, beans, apples, bananas, raisins, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, ...
- Fats. Olive oil, fish oil, flax seeds, real butter, mixed nuts, ...
2. Buy Cheap Proteins. You need 1g protein per pound of body-weight per day to build and maintain muscle. Eating whole protein with each meal also helps fat loss as protein has a higher thermic effect than other foods.
Keep the steaks & salmon for special occasions. Buy eggs, milk, whey, mackerel, tuna, calves liver, frozen chicken breast, cottage cheese, ... Read the post with the 10 cheapest sources of protein for more ideas.
3. Buy Frozen Fruits & Veggies. Unfreeze berries in microwave and eat warm with cottage cheese. Put frozen spinach in a colander the night before and try one of these recipes the next day. Try also frozen beans & broccoli. Benefits:
- Save Money. Often half the price of fresh. Almost infinite shelf life when kept in freezer. And you can buy in bulk to get more discount.
- Save Time. Frozen fruits & veggies are pre-washed and pre-cut, which saves preparation time. Time is money.
- Nutrient Dense. If frozen right when picked, frozen fruits & veggies can contain more nutrients than fresh ones.
4. Buy Generic Food. And store brands. Raw foods like rice, pasta, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, frozen fruits/veggies, ... taste like brand name foods once you get used to them. But they'll save you money on packaging & advertising.
5. Buy Supplements. They're cheap and make your life easier, however whole food is better. You can use supplements, but make sure the bulk of your diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods.
- Whey. Cheapest protein you'll find. 1 scoop ON whey is 24g protein/30g serving. At 2 scoops/day, a 10lbs bag will last 10 weeks for 84,99$.
- Fish Oil. Cheaper than fish. 1tsp Carlson Fish Oil is 1600mg omega-3. At 1tsp/day, 1 bottle will last 40 days for 23,04$.
- Multi-vitamins. Vitamin deficiency is common. 1 bottle AST Multi Pro 32x contains 100 servings and will last 6 weeks for 17.03$.
6. Buy in Bulk. Especially when you have promos running. Foods like pasta, rice and oats are easy to stockpile. If they're on sale, buy as much as you can afford & store to last you until the next sale. More ideas.
- Side of Beef. Not necessarily cheaper, but you have better quality meat. Buying a side of beef gets you 100lbs meat at 3,60$/lbs.
- Supplements. You often get free shipping and discounts when buying in bulk. Make a 4 month order for you, friends & family and split the costs.
- Frozen Fruits & Veggies. Check tip #1. Saves money, saves times and nutrient dense. Buy mixed berries, spinach, broccoli, beans, etc.
7. Buy In Season Fruits & Veggies. Food grown in season tastes better and is cheaper. Root vegetables in the Winter. Apples & squash in the Fall. Broccoli & berries in the Summer. Check this, this & this guides for more info.
8. Buy Calorie Dense Foods. Whole milk, potatoes, rice, pasta & oats are filling, healthy and easy to stockpile. They'll help you get your daily caloric needs fast & cheap, and make gaining weight for skinny guys easier.
9. Buy Discounted Meat. Grocery stores often discount meats by up to 70% as they approach expiration date. Buy several pounds and store in your freezer.
10. Buy From Local Farmers. Or farmer's markets. They aren't always cheaper, but you get tastier & better quality food and they often give you free stuff when you buy a lot. Find local farmers in your area here & here.
Image credit: chad
11. Buy Everything from 1 Place. Time is money and fuel is expensive. Stop shopping for sales going to 10 different places. Find 1 or 2 places that get you cheap prices for most foods you need and buy everything there.
12. Drink Tap Water. Get a brita pitcher and filter your tap water. It's cheaper than bottled water, soda or orange juice. One $8 filter cleans 40 gallons water and makes it taste a lot better.
14. Get The Customer Card. Many grocery stores hold sales for customer card holders only. Some cards save AND give you money, like gift certificates once you've spent a fixed amount. Signing up takes 5 mins and is free.
15. Check the Unit Price. But also how the big the servings are. Big packages are often, but not always cheaper than small ones. Sometimes 2 small boxes are cheaper than 1 big one although there's more packaging.
16. Eat Less Total Calories. Lose the fat if you’re over-weight: it will save you money and improve your health. If you want to bulk up, decide what’s more important to you: gaining weight or saving money.
17. Avoid Impulse Buying. "Failing to plan is planning to fail". The best way to avoid impulse buying is to prepare yourself before you do the grocery.
- Makes a List and Stick to It. Plan your meals ahead, including portion size. List all foods you need for the next 7 to 14 days. Go the grocery store, get what's on your list and get out.
- Eat Before You Go Shopping. This prevents buying foods not on your list because you're hungry. Eat a solid meal before doing the grocery.
- Shop Alone. Prevents impulse buying from wife/husband and/or kids. Leave them home. Take them to more fun places when you get back.
18. Stop Buying Food Outside. Preparing your own food gives you total control over the ingredients and is cheaper than buying food at work/school.
- Take Food with You. Food containers for work/school, protein shake for the gym, bag of nuts when you go to the movies, ...
- Eat Before Leaving Home. Eat breakfast, eat before doing the grocery, eat before going out with friends/family, ...
19. Prepare Your Own Food. Cook all your meals for the day on waking up or before going to bed. It takes 30-40mins, saves you stress about what you'll be eating the rest of the day and you eat healthy while saving money.
- Stop Buying Processed Food. Buy oats instead of cereals, make home made protein bars, home made tomato sauce, home made pizza, ...
- Keep it Simple. Make double portions, take leftovers with you, use cans of tuna & mackerel, rice & pasta, frozen veggies, ...
- Learn to Cook from Scratch. Learn to work with spices & herbs. Try the recipes on this blog. Invest in a cook book like Gourmet Nutrition.
20. Grow Your Own Food. Cheaper than frozen, tastes better and you control what you put on them to keep bugs off. Plant your own trees that grow berries, walnuts & apples. Buy chickens for free eggs & meat. More ideas:
- Square-Foot Gardening. Build a raised bed and divide it into sections of 1 square foot. Check Mel Bartholomew’s site & book for how to's.
- Container Gardening. Grow vegetables in containers on your balcony or doorstep. Check this & this guides.
- Rent Garden Plots. If you don't have a yard, some cities rent garden plots. Just google rent garden plots in your state.
Bonus Tip. Healthy & budget don't mix well. If you really want to eat healthy you'll have to put money down. Get a job if you don't have one. Work on a salary increase or additional stream of income if you do.