Cheap muscle-building foods: bulking on a budget

Cheap muscle-building foods: bulking on a budget

5 min read


20 Jan 2023

Straight to the point…

  • How much protein do you need to gain muscle?
  • How do I keep my protein intake high at a low cost?
  • What about whey protein?
  • How to build muscle on a tight budget.

  • The cost of gas, our weekly grocery shop, and, let’s not even get started on how much it costs to heat our homes… our budget is having to stretch further than ever. 

    That’s a real problem for those trying to gain muscle mass: protein isn't cheap! 

    And if you believe the social media hype, you need five different supplements daily to achieve those shredded abs.

    So what if you aren’t an influencer who gets free products and a gym membership in return for a couple of Instagram posts?

    How do you bulk on a budget?

    How much protein do you need to gain muscle?

    The average adult needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to maintain a balanced diet. 

    However, if you are reading this, you probably aren’t the average adult. You have been following an intense resistance training program and are worried that your reduced spending power could hamper your progress.

    Those following a training program that includes three or more strength sessions per week should be aiming for 1.2 - 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

    Some believe that more intense athletes or muscle-building programs require up to 2g of protein per day to achieve optimum results. 

    How much protein is this in practice?

    If you are a man weighing 85 kg and aiming for 1.7 grams per kilogram, you will have to eat 145 grams daily. 

    For context, a large egg only has 6.5 grams, the average chicken breast has 54 grams, and a slice of salmon filet has around 23 grams. 

    Two eggs for breakfast, a chicken breast for lunch and two salmon filets for dinner will only give you 113 grams. And if you want fresh, high-quality products, that will cost you a lot. 

    At this time of writing, buying all three from Walmart will bring your grocery bill to a daily total of $13.50 before you even think about your fruit, vegetables or carbs. Yikes!

    And you’re not even at the level of protein that you need to consume yet. 

    So, how do you increase your protein intake without blowing all your budget on food? 

    How do I keep my protein intake high at a low cost?

    So, how can you keep your protein intake high while not splashing all your cash on a healthy diet? 

    Taking care of yourself is essential, but it would be good to have some money left to enjoy. 

    So here are out tips…

    Make your meals at home…

    While the price above might seem daunting, it is much cheaper to cook at home than go out for meals or order a takeaway. Cooking meals from scratch is also more cost-efficient than buying pre-made microwave meals (healthier too). 

    Consider making high-protein snacks at home, such as no-bake whey protein balls. Or purchase large bags of different nuts and seeds and mix these into small Tupperware tubs, which you can rely on when you are out and about.

    It might not seem like a big deal to pick up a protein bar for a few dollars at the gas station, but those small purchases add up if you do it a few times every week. 

    Buy in bulk

    Generally, the more you buy, the more you save. You might not get through that pack of 12 chicken breasts by the sell-by date, so cook it and then freeze some or freeze it raw. 

    It won’t affect the nutritional quality if you only freeze, defrost, and reheat your food once.

    Do be careful of freezing chicken cooked in a tomato-based sauce; however, while it is perfectly safe, it can taste a little funky once reheated!

    Nutrient Dense Foods…

    Focus on buying inexpensive, nutrient-dense whole foods. If you are looking for a very cheap source of quality protein in every meal, then try the following:

    • Canned tuna
    • Lean ground turkey
    • Lentils
    • Green beans
    • Peanut butter
    • Low-fat milk
    • Cottage cheese
    • Egg whites.

    You also need a variety of healthy carbohydrates in your diet to help you build muscle. The following are all full of nutrients and budget friendly:

    • Oatmeal
    • Pasta
    • Potatoes
    • Whole grain bread
    • Bananas
    • Brown and white rice.

    While getting lots of fresh fruit and vegetables is ideal, it can be fairly expensive. We recommend having a couple of fresh portions daily and topping this up with canned food items and frozen fruit and vegetables. 

    Frozen berries are great and can be shaken up with other healthy ingredients such as whey protein, milk and spinach. You could purchase a large bag of fresh spinach fairly cheaply and freeze most of it for your smoothies. 

    Finally, don't forget your healthy fats!

    • Olive oil
    • Whole milk
    • Avocado 
    • Dark chocolate 
    • Greek yogurt

    Plan you meals…

    If you go to the grocery store without a plan, you’ll likely throw a lot more in your basket that you don’t need. 

    Sit down and plan your meals for the week!


    Not only will this ensure that you stick to your macro goals to help you fuel your muscle growth, but you will be able to figure out where you can get the best deals and buy accordingly. 

    What about whey protein?

    Hold on, protein powder is expensive, right? 

    Well, not necessarily. One serving of the Crazy Nutrition TRI protein shake costs $1.21 when you subscribe to regular purchases. 

    This is roughly the same price as two large eggs. However, our protein has 23 grams compared to the 13 grams found in two eggs. 

    Adding protein powder, either why or otherwise, into your diet is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to increase your protein intake without adding too many extra calories. 

    Shakes are easy to make: mix your whey powder into water or milk. This will be a big relief for those of you faced with doing a lot more cooking over the next few months! 

    How to build muscle on a tight budget.

    Bulking on a budget can be tough; for many, going to the gym is easy. So we recommend that you find some quick, tasty, high-protein recipes which you can use on days when your motivation is low. 

    Plan and aim for plenty of variety, as it prevents you from getting bored.

    Whey powder supplements are a convenient source of protein, they are cost-effective and can help you control your calorie intake. While it is easy for us to tell you not to compromise on quality regarding your diet, we know that many people struggle to afford their weekly grocery bills. 

    So we will keep our prices fair while ensuring that every gram of our protein powder gives your muscles the nutrients they need to grow.

    If you want to increase your protein intake, then introducing whey protein powder is an affordable way.