12 Ways to Build Muscle on a Budget

12 Ways to Build Muscle on a Budget

John is a college student looking to make some gains off of the little bit of money he makes working part-time at a pizza shop.

John is your normal college student, eats out mostly, trains hard at the gym, and doesn’t have a clue how to be frugal… hell he’s probably never even heard of that word before.

He’s making good progress while following a great muscle building program but he knows he could be doing better.

Ask any top-level bodybuilder or powerlifter and they will tell you that you build muscle in the kitchen. Sure, if you don’t train properly or consistently you won’t build muscle very well, but you can’t out exercise a crappy diet.

Below you will find 12 tips that you can use starting today that will help you build more muscle and help you build up your savings account.

12 Ways to Build Muscle on a Budget

From ways to save money on what you buy to immediate actions you need to take, these tips are going to help you immediately.

Utilize protein supplements properly

Adding some cost-effective foods to your protein shakes will add calories, improve their protein content, and help keep you fuller for longer.

Adding foods like oats, peanut butter, cottage cheese, heavy cream, whole milk, and nuts are all ways you can easily ramp up the nutrition and flavor.

There are a lot of articles with different protein shake ideas, I highly recommend trying them all out.

Check out one of my favorite super shakes that I make:

Champion Performance Pure Whey Plus

Click on the image or click here to buy some of Champion Performance’s products.

Check out my product reviews on Champion Performance:

Learn to Cook

Step 1 is to learn how to cook. No, microwaving a burrito is not cooking… even if you’ve figured out how to heat up the middle and keep the outside from being lava hot.

If you have access to a kitchen, it is only your fault that you don’t learn how to cook. The internet is full of so many tutorials, recipes, and how-tos that you simply don’t have any excuse not to learn.

One of the easiest things I learned how to cook first was ground beef. You put it in a pan and brown it, mix in some seasonings, and eat it. Simple as that. Another somewhat easy thing to make is stir fry. Both of these are cheap and easy to make.

Seriously though, check out resources on the internet (I will link a couple below) on how to cook and get some recipes. Once you learn the basics of cooking, you’ll be able to make some amazing recipes like this chili lime chicken with potatoes and green beans.

A pretty good place to visit to learn cooking techniques and more is over at Reluctant Gourmet. I have been there before and I will be visiting them more shortly especially once I move and have a kitchen back to myself.

Like I said, once you are able to do the basics like cooking any meat, learn basic knife skills and cutting up vegetables to cook, and learning to try new seasonings, you’ll be able to make recipes like these.

Yeah, muscle building can be much more tasty than boiled chicken and steamed broccoli.

Learn to Love Leftovers

Once you learn how to cook, the next step is to learn how to love left overs.


Instead of spending time each day to cook (I like cooking but some days it just not going to work) and you prepare extra food from your dinner, package it up and eat it for tomorrow’s lunch. I personally like a lot of food left over more than fresh because flavors really develop.

Meal prep is something I don’t really get into in detail here, but cooking in bulk and breaking down into serving sizes into Tupperware will save you time and money.

Be a one (or two) Trick Pony

Learn how to cook one or two things really well. Having a couple of dishes that you can nail consistently and you like to eat will help you with your budget and with your taste buds. I’ve had to eat some disaster meals in my day and it isn’t fun.

Like I said above, if you have a meal or two you can eat every week, that makes shopping for it much easier. You will be able to buy in bulk your ingredients when they are on sale and then use them when needed.

Create a Budget

So you’ve learned how to cook finally and you have a couple of meals you like to cook. The next step is going to be to budget and plan out your meals.

If you spend an hour or two a week preparing a list of what you want to make and the ingredients you are going to need, making a budget is simple.

Here are 2 hard learned lessons that I’ve personally learned from budgeting:

  • ***Don’t go shopping when you are hungry***
  • Create a list and stick to it

The next tip ties into budgeting as well.

Learn How, When, and Where to Shop

Learning the best times, the best places, and learning how to find the best deals will give you an advantage to building muscle on a budget.

Lets go with how to shop first

Making a list and sticking to it is the first biggest tip I can give for learning how to shop. Of course this sounds simple but just wait and see when your favorite junk food or something that’s not on your list is on sale. If you don’t buy it, I would be surprised.

The next how is to save money while shopping

Grab the newspaper, other ads and circulars, and even online for coupons and sales going on in the stores around you.

I’ll admit I’m not much of a coupon clipper, and I lose out on a lot of savings there… but I do still look for ads. Shopping around for different ingredients is smart and as long as you aren’t spending hours going to 5 different stores to save $1, it is certainly worth it.

The last how is to avoid name brands when possible

I’m no stranger to trying “off brand” foods. Sometimes it turns out that I really like this product, other times… not so much.

There are a lot of seasonings and other foods I like to buy off brand because you can’t really go wrong with ground up oregano.. why would I spend an extra $1+ on a bottle of it?

On the flip side if you try out some “off brand” cheese or ranch, be prepared to be upset. (ugh) Save up some extra money and shop some different brands and see if you can find something you do like to replace your name brands. It’ll seriously save you some money.

Lets learn where to shop.

Farmer’s Markets are a great place to pick up locally grown fresh produce. Learn to haggle and support your local farmers by buying their products.

Wake up early on the weekend and go pound the pavement and get some great deals. This is probably going to be the best tasting produce you’ll ever get to eat.

Community Supported Agriculture is something that I’ve not participated in yet but I’ve known about it for years.

Basically, you pay a local farmer money to deliver you food from their farm… usually vegetables.

This supports the local farms, you get the freshest food available, and you both win.

If you’re interested in learning more about CSAs, check out this link.. it will help you locate any that may be around you.

Butcher shops are a great source of protein.

While butcher shops kind of got phased out some by these big box grocery stores, they are making a comeback. Their quality meats are superior to what you can buy in the grocery stores and you can find some great deals.

Buying a deep freezer is not a bad idea so you can store excess meat you buy when it is on sale.

Bulk food stores such as Sam’s Club, Costco, and GFS are all great stores to buy certain products in bulk.

When shopping at those stores, be sure to break down the cost per item; you would be surprised to see that sometimes you spend more per item than at a regular store.

These stores are great to buy certain types of foods from. The next tip is a list of foods that I would recommend buying.

Discount stores such as Aldi are great places to find some pretty good deals.

The problem with places like these are that most food is nearing its sell-by date. That doesn’t mean the food is going bad, it just means that it needs to sell quick and be consumed or frozen…that’s why the food is so cheap.

If you are looking for food to cook relatively quickly (within a couple of days) then these stores are great. You save a lot of money and you can try out some of the off brands that they carry.

Lastly, learning when to shop is a tip that most people skip over.

If you’ve not read my 11 cheapest good protein sources article, check it out. Other than giving you ideas on the types of protein that help you get the best bang for your buck, there’s a section about saving money:

When purchasing meat of any kind, the leaner the cut the more expensive. I made this mistake with ground beef; I would buy the 93% lean/7% fat ground beef and paid $4.99 per pound. I notice that the 80/20 is around $2.99 per pound. It cooks the same and you can drain the fat.

Buy meat on short sale. Fresh meat has a shelf life and stores have to sell it or throw it out if it goes bad. If meat is close to the sell by date, stores mark it down to help move the product. Finding meat marked down $0.50 to $2.00 or more is not uncommon and you can buy it all and freeze it. The closer to the sell by date, the more they will cut the price down so check frequently. Stock up on this meat when you see it on sale and freeze it.

The topic I wanted to hit on here is learn when your store puts things on clearance or short sale. If you know that every Tuesday your local grocery store puts meat on short sale, making that extra trip that day to buy as much meat as possible will drastically cut your bills.

When I lived in Oregon there was a local grocer that would sit aside short sale meat for me since I bought so much of it. I would save at least $1-$2 per pound and sometimes more.

Buy in bulk

Buying certain items in bulk will help you cut down on costs. Generally if you buy more of something (say at Costco) you are going to spend less per item than you would if you only bought 1 or 2.

There are a few staples I would suggest buying in bulk if you see them on sale at the store:

  • Oatmeal – Easy to store and has a long shelf life
  • Beans – Canned beans are much easier to work with and with so many flavors and types, you can’t go wrong. Dried beans are much cheaper but more labor intensive
  • Rice – Rice is pennies on the serving cheap if you buy in bulk. Store it properly and you will have an unlimited supply
  • Meat – Buy meat when it’s on short sale or a really good price. Have the freezer space and you’re golden
  • Vegetables – Buying frozen veggies and keeping them on hand is cheap and easy. You can buy pounds of vegetables for $1-$2 a bag. Keep a variety around for any meal
  • Nuts – Nuts have a pretty long shelf life. They are a big expensive and they are calorie dense

Get a grocery discount card

Some stores will give you customized coupons and specials if you use their discount cards.

For those who don’t, they generally have something else they will offer you instead.

For instance the store I like to shop at is called Kroger and they will give you coupons and give you money off of gas. It’s common for me to get $1 off per gallon of gas if you spend enough money there.

I hate having to keep track of those cards, but you can’t argue with savings.

Cut down on eating out

Eating out is great but it is really expensive.

Cutting down on the money spent eating out will give you more money to buy groceries.

If you are like me it probably wouldn’t hurt the waistline to cut out the extra calories too.

Learn to like eggs

I’m not necessarily a fan of eggs, but I will eat them because they are cheap and healthy.

An egg white has roughly about 6 grams of protein and is only about 20-30 calories. This is one of the best sources in terms of a protein-to-calorie ratio. Hell you can make a 3 egg-white and 1 whole-egg omelet for about 75 cents… add some salsa on top and you have a winner.

Learn to like tuna

Tuna is another extremely cheap protein that you should learn to love.

Tuna is full of solid amino acids and fatty acids that your body needs so it’s a win-win.

Tuna is very versatile – you can eat it straight out of the can or you can make whatever you would like out of it.

My favorite is to put a small tablespoon of mayo, relish to taste, and some pepper into a drained can. You can mix it up and eat it out of the can, put it on crackers or make an easy tuna salad sandwich.

Buy a variety of spices and seasonings

So this isn’t something that will necessarily save you money, but your taste buds will love me.

Invest in some dollar store seasonings and spices to try on your meats and vegetables. I’ve been able to bake a lot of chicken breasts and season them all in different seasonings and it was like I had a new meal every time. Add in a bag of frozen veggies and you can change the whole profile of your dish.

Try new things, you’ll never know what you like until you try it.

Lastly, try some vinaigrettes… they are packed with flavor and are very healthy for you.


Saving money while building muscle is not hard, it just takes some effort on your part.

If you were to act upon one thing on this list I would say to learn how to cook. It is therapeutic and will save you money. From there you can branch out into these other tips.


Do you have any tips on saving money while building muscle? Leave them in the comments below!

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