***Today’s blog was inspired by the Animal series “Big on a Budget” on YouTube, where pro bodybuilders were given $50 and bought a week’s worth of food that could support an aspiring bodybuilder on a budget***
When bulking, we need to eat more to put on the mass - which means more meals and tasty treats -
More food shopping -
And a bigger food bill -
That last one isn’t so fun, but there’s a few ways to ease the blow.
BUY IN BULK
Just about everything bought in bulk or in larger-than-normal quantities offers a reduced price per item when it’s totalled up. This goes for small things sold individually or in multipacks (the multipack is almost always cheaper per item, or advertises that it contains an extra amount “for free”).
While it’s a bigger initial expense, we’ll be saving money in the long run. Just make sure there’s enough room in your fridge/cupboards to store everything, and for any extra most foods can be safely frozen and defrosted later on.
There are some companies, such as Muscle Food and Costco, that are solely bulk buy places - meaning you can get some great deals and lots of food for your bulking season.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK NUTRIENTS
Walk around any supermarket and you’ll see there’s about a gazillion different food options.
Some are tasty without much nutritional value, some are packed full of macro and micro nutrients without much flavour value, and some are middle of the road.
Since we’re on a budget, we’re going to have to make some sacrifices. This means flavour will take a hit, in order to get all the nutrients we need for a successful mass building. Variety is also going to take a hit, ideally we’ll still have more than just one source of each nutrient each week but it won’t be much of a flavour adventure.
As we’re looking to save money, ready meals are also out. It might not seem a big expense buying a ready made meal, but your paying for both the ingredients they use and the time/effort they’ve put into making the dish. By buying our own ingredients and making our own meals, we don’t have to pay the extra money for “time/effort spent”.
What we have left are mostly natural whole foods, which might not be as cheap as sweets and processed food, but their macro and micro nutrient value are much higher and they contain less dodgy additives that could be wreaking havoc on our insides.
Here’s a few go-to items:
If you’re looking for a quick guide on what quantity to buy of each, you’ll need to either work out your macro splits (using an online calculator, app, or a qualified nutritionist) and check the nutrition labels of the foods (working out how much each portion will get you of each macronutrient), or you can check out the Quick Portion Size tip in my 12 Days of Liftmas: 2017 Edition (click here to open in a new tab, and scroll down to Day 10).
Supplements are just that: supplements. Yes, they can help improve performance and recovery, but not by a huge margin. For this reason, if you’re on a tight budget I’d just cut them and spend the extra money on whole foods. Whole foods will contain a range of micronutrients and amino acids naturally, and if you’re a meat eater you’ll likely be getting a decent amount of creatine in any red meats you consume. So instead of forking out for extra tablets or powders, think about if you really need them or if the money could be better spent.
The only exception I’d have to this would be your basic whey (or whatever source you prefer) protein powder. This is because eating a high protein diet can be filling (as protein takes longer to break down, so spending more time in our digestive tracts making us feel fuller for longer), so consuming it in shakes can help reduce your feeling of “fullness”, meaning you can eat a little more to keep the gainz train rolling. Also, depending on your food preferences, getting some protein powder could potentially be cheaper than extra food sources of protein, or at least break up the monotony.
Either whey (way, get it? Ahahaha), this is just doing a few extra calculations to factor it into or out of your nutrition budget, so choose wisely.
Home cooked meals are great, but consume time and energy. I know I can’t be bothered cooking up meals from scratch after a long day, and with ready meals and snacks everywhere the temptation to splash the cash is always present.
To counter this, we can batch cook a bunch of meals and store them in the fridge/freezer for later. This is easiest with rice or pasta dishes, just cooking up a bunch of your base carbs and adding protein/veggies/sauce on top. Tupperware up, and chuck into fridge/freeze for later.
When the time comes for a meal or snack, just whip them out, heat them up (if safe to do so - some foods are not great reheated, taste or bacteria wise), and chow down. It might not be quite as convenient as grabbing a takeaway or a snack from the shops, but this way we know exactly what’s going in to it and that it’s help us on the way to bulking on a budget (roll credits).