When it comes to finding nutritional advice online, the cost of food and supplements tends to be disregarded by a lot of sites. If it’s a food blog, generally you’ll find that quality is of the utmost importance, while most bodybuilding and workout sites are pitching their own supplements and books.
While in a perfect world we’d all be eating sirloin prepped by our own private chef, but in reality most people find their budgets stretched sometimes and, as often as not, one of the first things to take a hit is the food budget.
For anyone taking their nutrition seriously, particularly those looking to build muscle, hitting your macros on a budget can be a little challenging. With quality protein sources particularly expensive, hitting your macro targets requires a little smart shopping. Fortunately, with a few compromises it should be within the budgets of most people.
Buying in Bulk
The first thing to consider is the savings that can be made by buying in bulk, as there’s often a pretty substantial saving to be made if you buy more at one time. Obviously this isn’t a viable approach for things like fresh fruit and vegetables, but for items with a longer shelf life the savings over time can really add up.
Check out places like Costco if you’re offline, or if you’re online sites like Amazon sometimes have great deals on larger packs of food.
In terms of what items to buy in bulk, think carb sources with long shelf life (oatmeal, rice, pasta etc), frozen meat and supplements like whey protein.
Pricing by Efficiency
If you’re really looking to get the most for your money, pricing by nutrient can also help stretch your budget even further. It’s probably one of the least exciting approaches to food out there, but in terms of efficiency it works well.
Work out your daily macro breakdown for each day, then figure out exactly what you need from your food shopping.
Protein sources, particularly quality sources like organic meat, are typically the most expensive part of your diet. Fortunately there are a few decent sources of protein which are relatively inexpensive and are pretty flexible when it comes to including them in a variety of dishes.
One of the most efficient sources of protein in terms of cost is whey protein, and while it shouldn’t be your primary source it can be a highly cost-effective way of hitting your targets.
In terms of real food, there are a few staples of cheap protein that should earn a place in every financially conscious fitness buff’s cupboards – eggs, canned tuna, chicken, ground beef and ground turkey are all solid protein sources, and most can be used in a huge range of dishes.
Inexpensive carb sources are reasonably easy to find, and as with the protein sources listed they can be used in a ton of different dishes. Wholegrain rice, pasta, oatmeal and potatoes are the classic sources of cheap carbs, and you can load up on them for very little financial outlay.
Like carbs, cheap fats are pretty easy to come by and are really simple to incorporate into your diet. Grass fed butter and olive oil can be included in tons of meals, and nut butters like peanut butter and almond butter (natural, not the sugar filled crap!) work well as a quick, tasty snack if you’re looking for that extra hit of healthy fats.
Another often overlooked solution is to buy fattier cuts of meat, as you’ll get some quality fats without changing your meals at all. Your average shopper tends to instinctively avoid these cuts, so you can usually pick them up a little cheaper at the end of the day from the discount fridge.
Eat the Same Meals Regularly
This is something I advocated in the hitting your macros post, and it’s also applicable when you’re trying to save some money on your food. Choosing a few simple meals that you enjoy eating and which fit your macro targets makes everything much easier, and will typically involve buying less ingredients and will allow you to buy in bulk. This will end up saving you money in the longer term.
It may not be the most exciting approach to food, but it’s more than possible to get everything you need to fuel your body when your budget’s a little stretched. Just make sure you plan things out and with some smart shopping it’s pretty easy to stay on track.