By Nick Nilsson
Author of Time-Volume Training
Getting big on a budget is VERY possible...you just need to learn how to get as much quality protein and as many quality calories as you can from inexpensive sources.
Here are 10 tips for how to buy food for muscle growth without blowing your food budget.
1. You need to get your training in order.
This one isn't specifically a food tip but it's EXTREMEY important. Even with a quality diet, if your training isn't targeted to the goal you want to achieve, you're not going to get the results you want.
In my experience it is true that you can't out-train a BAD diet but you CAN out-train a decent diet, IF your training is good. This means you shouldn't think you'll never get the results you want just because you can't buy the expensive foods you want...a reasonably good diet is fine if your training is effective.
2. Get a membership at a bulk store...
You'll find cheaper prices at stores like Sam's Club and Costco. You'll also be pleased to find a lot of organic options available at these stores. For these stores, it's marketing...people want this kind of thing so they're selling it. WalMart and Target are jumping on this bandwagon, too, and can have some good options on quality food.
3. Buy frozen whole turkeys and learn how to cook them.
For about 20 bucks you can get at least 10 lbs of quality meat out of one turkey. The reason they're cheaper is that you have to do a lot of the work yourself, obviously, but it's worth it. Whole chickens can be good like this, too (not the rotisserie pre-cooked ones, though - you'll pay for the convenience on those).
4. Frozen veggies can be used in place of fresh ones.
Fresh is sometimes not as good in terms of vitamin content and frozen veggie bags often give you better variety because they mix it all up for you.
5. Use Coconut and Olive oil
There are both a healthy fats and a great way to increase your caloric intake...and they're relatively cheap. Use them generously. Stay away from garbage fats like canola oil and vegetable oil as much as possible, though.
In addition, use REAL butter (preferably from grass-fed cows) instead of margarine. Margarine is almost plastic (seriously). Kerrygold is an excellent brand of butter to use.
6. Don't buy boxed cereal
If it's a decent quality cereal, it'll cost you a lot of money. If it's garbage, it'll be cheap and not be something you actually should eat. If you want to eat cereal, get a big container of oatmeal instead. For the price of one box of cereal, which lasts you maybe a few days (less if you eat it for dinner, too), you'll get enough oatmeal to last a few weeks.
7. Look for sales on meat and produce that's getting close to it's expiration date.
In the words of Homer Simpson..."Woohoo! Cheap meat!" Obviously, you'll need to use it or freeze it right away, but you can find some great deals when you're willing to get things near the dates - stores have to sell them or toss them away the next day so the price comes down.
Don't be unsafe with food, of course, but don't be shy about buying close to the date.
8. Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes are very good.
Sweet potatoes are low-glycemic and have a great nutrient profile. Regular potatoes are higher-glycemic, which I find very useful for post-workout meals. With regular potatoes, go with red potatoes...they can't be stored as long as other varieties so you'll get relatively fresher potatoes.
9. Invest in Tupperware.
You can cook in larger quantities, which is more cost-efficient (and time-efficient). Plus, burping that Tupperware will give you something to do if you find yourself bored on the weekend.
One thing to be aware of...don't put hot food directly into plastic containers. Let it cool down first. You don't want to melt the plastic or leech chemicals into your food.
10. When making eggs, use the yolk.
It's where all the nutrients (and calories!) are. If you have a genetic cholesterol issue, that's one thing...and generally speaking, it's actually the cholesterol your body makes ITSELF that's the problem anyway.
If you don't have an issue, then eat the yolk.
And take the words "free-range" with a grain of salt. By law, a chicken can be described as free-range if the barn door is opened for a few minutes each day (and yeah, I'm not even making that up - it's real). They don't have to leave the barn...just opening the door is apparently free enough.
The point of this is buy the best level of quality egg that you can afford at the store - organic is best, but don't be fooled by just seeing free-range. If you can buy direct from a farmer you trust, that's the BEST way to go.
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