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Bulking up on a tight budget may seem like a challenge, but it’s actually possible to eat the way you need to without breaking the bank. Follow these 5 tips below to eat well and on a budget.
1. Consider Your Protein Options
Instead of going for protein like steak, go for cheaper options. Family packs of ground beef are cheaper and will usually last for up to a week. Another good choice is canned tuna. Each can contains around 30 grams of protein, and you can eat it quickly with no cooking required. Add it to a salad, eat it out of the can, add it to leftover rice for a quick fried rice dish, or mix it with tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, green beans, olive, and vinaigrette for a salad in hot weather. You can find packs of tuna on Amazon for less than $1 each.
Eggs are also a cheap and healthy option. At 6 grams of protein per egg, a quick 5-egg omelet will net you 30 grams of protein. Chug them Rocky-style if you wish, as you’ll still be getting the same amount of protein. Eggs are versatile, and like tuna, portable and easy to eat. Boil up a few dozen and you have a portable meal or snack ready to go. Add to salads, eat in an omelet or frittata, or make egg salad.
Buying protein in bulk is the smartest and cheapest option. It is a little bit more money up front, but will always help your budget long term. Wholesale membership clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco usually have the same brands and products your usual grocery store carries, but in larger amounts at a much lower cost.
If you don’t have the freezer room to store large amounts of meat, it may be a good investment to get a deep freezer. Not an option? Think about going halves with a fellow bodybuilder or if you have space, think about a “cow share.” This involves buying part of a live cow and picking up your share, typically half or a side of the meat when it’s processed.
This is an economical way to get your grass-fed beef fix for half the price you’d usually pay. An alternative to buying in bulk is to be a regular customer at your local butcher shop. These shops are starting to make a comeback, and the meat is usually fresher and less expensive. If you buy regularly and in large quantities, most butchers will give you a discount.
2. Get Sauced
Eating the same meals every week or even every day can become monotonous and demotivating. Use sauce to jazz up meals and add extra carbs and vitamins. Canned sauce is usually cheaper. It’s at least a dollar less in most cases, but you can get high quality jars of sauce in bulk at even cheaper prices.
It’s easy to store the sauce or even make meals ahead of time and freeze them for easy meals. You don’t have to stop at pasta sauce. Go for salsa, add some hollandaise to eggs, and don’t forget barbecue sauce. If you like to cook, you can make sauces for a fraction of the price.
3. Learn To Cook
It seems more time consuming, but if you cook several meals ahead or cook several weeks’ worth of meals to store in the freezer, it actually ends up saving you a lot of time and money. It’s healthier and more versatile. You can throw in leftovers or adjust meals to what you have left over in the refrigerator.
Epicurious.com will give you recipes for the ingredients you have at hand-just type them in and see what comes up). You can also find some great cook books for cheap on Amazon. There are thousands of websites, blogs, and books which will provide cheap, tasty and easy-to-make meals for less than a few dollars a meal. This will seriously reduce your weekly or monthly shopping budget as well. You can also read our article on how to eat under $3 a day.
4. Consider Your Carbs
Pasta is always an economical choice. A pound of pasta will give you at least eight meals with each serving totaling approximately 40 grams of carbs and 200 calories per serving (an average of 2 ounces per meal).
Rice is also a good staple for bulking up. You can eat it on the side, add it to meat for meatballs or meatloaf, fry it, eat it cold with other salad items, or pretty much do whatever you want with it. Have a cup or two for each meal. A cup of white rice is about 40 grams while brown rice is at about 50 grams. There are different varieties, but plain white rice tends to be the cheapest and even cheaper when bought in bulk. If you have a local Asian grocery, check it out. The prices for bulk tend to be cheaper than most regular grocery stores.
And don’t forget about bread. Lots of stores have sales on day-old bread. You can stock up and freeze loaves for a dollar (or less) a loaf. Bagels are also a good option if you hit the sales or buy in bulk (Costco has an ongoing 2 for 1 on bags of bagels). They tend to have a higher amount of carbs than break-most bagels contain around 30 grams of carbs per bagel.
5. Learn Where To Shop
In addition to your local butcher’s or the wholesale stores, figure out where to shop for maximum savings. Going to the local farmer’s market towards the end of the day will net you savings since most sellers will want to get rid of leftover produce. If you start shopping regularly and the sellers get to know you, you are more likely to get bargains. Remember to bring your own bag and a supply of cash. Figure out which stores have the best prices for what products.
The local megamart might not have good produce but may have good meat for cheap. That’s why we suggest ethnic grocery stores since they typically have good prices on certain kinds of produce such as cabbage or mushrooms. Your wholesaler may have great sauces or pasta in high quantities to keep you going for months, while the local farmers market may have seasonal items or fresh eggs for reasonable prices.
Don’t completely ignore your local grocery store, but shop wisely. Check online for coupons. Regularly check The Krazy Koupon Lady, Money Saving Mom, Hip2Save, and even your local Groupon. Many stores will match retailer coupons if you ask, even if you don’t find them on display. Get the store savings card and check their specials regularly, and be sure to stock up on sales such as the 10 for $10 many stores have. You can even stack coupons, or use receipt scanning apps to reduce your cost.
Bulking up on a budget is not hard and it does take some planning, but once you get into a routine and are aware of the bargains out there, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner. Have any more tips to add to the list for bulking up on a budget? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!