Many of the athletes we work with are in high school or college. High school athletes benefit and also suffer from the fact their parents buy the grocery's. They aren’t the ones buying the groceries so they have limited control over what is found in their house. They don't have to spend the money, but parents control what's in the cupboards and t youngsters need to communicate what foods to get.
College athletes on the other hand control what's on the shelves, but as we all know from college, money is often tight.
So grocery shopping on a budget is a must!
Below is an outline of 10 simple strategies and foods that are great for bulking on a budget. Have these in the kitchen and watch your gains grow!
1. Olive Oil
You want an easy way to add calories?
Add olive oil to anything and everything you can.
Not only does olive oil bring many different health benefits, but it's also a fat, so it adds easy calories. Sprinkle it on pastas, salads, pizza, dip bread in it, and use it for all the cooking you can.
Just 1tbsp of olive oil adds around 120 calories. Adding 100 calories here, 100 calories there can really add up. Plus for many athletes today, this will be their best source of healthy fats.
Estimated Cost: Bottle of Olive Oil = $5.00-6.00
2. Trail Mix
Trail mix is the one of the easiest and cheapest ways to bulk up, especially homemade trail mix.
Throw in some almonds, semi-sweet chocolate chips, craisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, or whatever your heart desires and voila, you have a recipe for packing on muscle.
I tell all my athletes looking to gain weight, to make a batch on Sundays and put it in their locker on Monday morning. Then between classes, they should grab a handful of the mix and chomp away. This can easily add up to an additional 3,000 calories throughout the week.
Estimated Cost: Weeks worth of trail mix = $8.00-10.00
3. Fruit Dip
A favorite recipe we like to recommend is fruit dip.
At one point or another, everybody has slabbed some peanut butter onto apple slices; well we take that classic and jack it up! Mix Greek yogurt with peanut butter and protein to get this souped up version.
From this bad boy you can expect to add an additional 550+ calories and about 50 grams of protein to this simple snack. Plus you knock out a serving a fruit, tons of quality protein, healthy fats, and some solid calcium and probiotics.
Estimated Cost: $1.75
Anything smothered in guacamole and salsa, then wrapped in a tortilla is delicious, and that's exactly what fajitas are.
You may think you're cooking impaired, but anybody, I mean anybody, can cook fajitas!
Literally the only skill it takes it to be able to cut meat and veggies. From there just throw everything in a big pan and sauté it up. Load up tortillas with guac, salsa, cheese and you've got yourself a damn good muscle builder! Down a couple of fajitas and you're looking at about 1,000 calories and 50-70 grams of protein.
Estimated Cost: $5.00-7.00
5. Snack Scramblers
Snack scramblers are a concoction for the creative souls.
I think we created this sucker while being broke college kids. Hungry, we used to scour the kitchen for anything and everything, and then combine it all in a big bowl.
We've tweaked it over time, and everybody's tastes are different, but here's the jist.
- Grab a big bowl
- Throw in a big scoop of Greek yogurt
- Follow it with a scoop of protein (I prefer chocolate)
- Next, a handful of granola
- Then, some banana, apple, strawberry, blueberry, or melon slices
- Chuck in a big scoop of peanut butter
- Finally top with some sweet thangs... chocolate chips, oreos, nuts/seeds, candy bars, or our personal favorite chex mix (or even puppy chow for the mass gainers).
You get a sweet mixture that may not sound all that great, but truly is wonderful. Plus the added bonus is that it's basically a mixture of leftovers that are in almost every kitchen. You don't really need to buy anything, just search the cupboards for things to add.
You'll be looking at 800+ calories, and you can make this snack as "clean" as you like and omit some of the simple sugars.
Estimated Cost: $2.50-5.00
6. Peanut Butter Protein Balls
These little bites are the perfect snack to have waiting around during the day. You have to constantly be putting down calories, and these power balls are an easy and effective way to do just that.
Be warned, they are addicting! It's pretty easy for 10 of these guys to quickly disappear, but that's ok, you're trying to pack on some beef!
Heck, just one of these little guys is around 100 calories and about 8 grams of protein!
Estimated Cost: $4.00-5.00
I always tell our athletes who are trying to gain weight, that the first thing they need to do is starting taking control of breakfast. I find most skimp on this meal and might only grab a granola bar or a small bowl of cereal. This isn't going to cut it. This meal needs to kick of the day with a lot of protein and calories. It's as easy as waking up 10-minutes earlier and actually preparing and planning this meal.
Just like our snack scrambler, the breakfast scrambler is a hodgepodge of anything in your kitchen - onions, hams, peppers, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes, broccoli, cheese, avocado, salsa, potatoes... all mixed with eggs! It's really quite delicious and the perfect way to start off the day.
Estimated Cost: $2.00-4.00
For some reason pizza gets a bad rap as being a junk food. The truth is, pizza CAN be a very healthy food, and great for gaining weight.
Just think, a pizza with fresh tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese, onions, broccoli, chicken, green peppers, and olives.
Sure some store bought pizza's can be a little greasy, have crappy dough, and lack some quality meat and veggies, but in terms of cost per calorie, pizza is dynamite!
Plus, more and more I get young athletes with very sensitive taste buds. By sensitive I mean, THEY DON'T LIKE ANYTHING!
It's a battle to get them to try anything new, but I have yet to find a kid who doesn't like pizza. So I'll recommend downing pizza whenever possible.
The only thing I recommend is to always add a veggie and to try different variations. Also, whenever possible make homemade versions. Plus if you tell parents how easy it is to make homemade pizza, their eyes light up!
All in all, don't fear the pizza!
Estimated Cost: $5.00-10.00
9. Protein Pancakes
Protein Pancakes should be a weekend staple for all trying to pack on muscle.
Without getting to in-depth, making protein pancakes is as easy as adding protein to the batter or using Kodiak cake mix.
Plus pancakes are one of the easiest foods to try different variations... banana, chocolate chip, blueberry, pumpkin, oatmeal, etc.
We recommend using whole wheat flour or even using a batter that it 1/4-1/2 oats. The other recommendation we make is to slather peanut butter on top.
Now we're talking tasty!
Heck, 3-4 pancakes, topped with peanut butter will close in on 1,000 calories pretty fast and add over 50 grams of protein!
Estimated Cost: $2.00-4.00
The Idaho spuds should be called Ida-Grow.
Potatoes are dense with calories, not to mention one of the least expensive foods out there.
These suckers are great for pre or post workouts or to add to any meal for some extra calories.
Breakfast Scrambler... add some cooked potato wedges
Protein Pancakes... how about potato protein pancakes
Olive Oil... soak some cooked potatoes with olive oil
Having a big Steak?... add a side of sweet potatoes
What version is best?
To be honest, it's not a real big deal.
Sweet taters add some more nutritional benefits in terms of vitamin and mineral content, but white potatoes unrightfully get a bad rap.
So have a little of everything... sweet potatoes, russet spuds, red taters, purple taters, etc... they're all good.
Also try cooking them as many different ways as possible... twice baked, fries, hash browns, wedges, mashed, baked and loaded, chips... the possibilities are endless.
Estimated Cost: 1lb = $1.00-2.00
There you have it. Now there is no reason you can't add weight, no matter your budget. Take the time to plan and prepare. Focus needs to be taken to gain muscle and make sure all the odds and ends are met. Follow these 10 simples steps and foods, and you'll quickly be on your way to adding impressive muscle.
Go Get 'Em!