Building Lean Muscle, Part 8: How to Build Muscle on a Tight Budget

If you’re looking for the fastest way to build muscle but don’t have a million bucks to spend on food each week, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to see real results. You know that building muscles is going to require a higher food intake than what you normally consume, so what can you do to ensure that you get those calories  and that the calories you get are high in quality  without breaking the bank?

Let’s go over 4 quick tips to remember when you’re grocery shopping for your muscle-building diet.


1. Shop the Bulk Bins

Make good use of the bulk bins. Most if not all grocery stores have a bulk bin section, where you can get many of the best foods for a muscle-building diet: brown rice, quinoa, barley, dried fruit, nuts, and more. You’ll also pay less for these items from the bulk bins than you would for packaged versions of the same products, so it will keep your grocery bill down.

2. Hit the Sales

Next, when foods go on sale (especially meat products), stock up! Meat can easily be frozen for later use, so you don’t have to worry about it going bad if you can’t eat it in time. When you notice a sale on free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, or non-farmed fish  all excellent sources of quality protein for building lean muscle tissue  buy as much as you can store in your freezer.


3. Consider Frozen

The cold never bothered meat anyway.

The cold never bothered meat anyway.

Another way to save some big bucks at the grocery store is to consider frozen foods. Frozen fruits and vegetables, for instance, typically cost less than fresh produce  and are flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, so they’ll still contain all their beneficial nutrients. Frozen meats may also cost less than their fresh counterparts  just make sure the frozen meat doesn’t come with any additives or other added unhealthy ingredients, and always avoid breaded meats of any variety.


4. Choose Wisely

Finally, the last way to keep your budget down as you shop for your muscle-building diet is to choose cheaper healthy options. For example, regular oats are very cheap to buy and are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates  whereas fancier or steel-cut varieties may be more expensive without adding much nutrition-wise. Some healthy, inexpensive food choices include brown rice, barley, canned tuna, skim milk powder (which can be added to shakes to boost their calorie content), nut butters, and oils. All these foods are very calorie-dense, and will help you get your calorie intake up without costing you a fortune.

Do you have any tips for healthy grocery shopping on a budget? Share your advice in the comments section below!


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Mike Bewley, MA, CSCS, C-SPN, USAW-I is a guest contributor to the Volt blog. He is a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Clemson University, a specalist in sports nutrition, and the founder of online nutrition platform NutraCarina.