Bodybuilding on a $7 Per Day (Or Less) Budget
Dead broke? Have no fear. I’m going to show you how to build muscle using a puny wallet. I’ve been there, done that.
My college years were lean. I learned a lot during this time. You might think it’s impossible to pack in calories and protein while being a poor son of a gun, but I’m going to show you otherwise.
First, we’ll put together a shopping list. You’ll need about $200 to $210 per month (USD).
If you can’t scrounge up this much cash, don’t fear. I’m going to list the cost per 100 calories for each carb and fat source. For protein, I will list cost for 30 gram serving. By using the cheapest foods you might lose out on variety, but you will still be able to hit your macros and make gains.
So let’s roll (that grocery cart) and get to eatin’.
Building Cheap Bodybuilding Meals
Alright…so there are 3 macronutrients. They are:
- Protein – 4 calories per gram of protein
- Carbohydrates – 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate
- Fats – 9 calories per gram of fat
The average male will need 180 to 220 grams of protein per day. The average female will need 100 to 120 grams. The rest of your calories will come from fats and carbohydrates.
Now remember our focus…building muscle on a budget. I don’t care what percentage of carbohydrates or fats you are eating as long as at least 20% of your daily calories come from fats. Understand that this is a minimum. 30% average fat intake is a better goal for most of you.
Don’t fear quality fats. Your body needs this macronutrient for organ health, brain health, skin health…well, for everything. The only fats you’ll really want to avoid are trans fat. Abstain from using these health-destroyers at all costs, even if they are cheap and tasty.
When it comes to carbohydrates, you might be tempted to rely on foods that contain a lot of sugar and flour. While this is great for the wallet, it’s not the best option for health and muscle building. I’m going to provide you with better options.
Budget Protein Food Choices
Listed cost is per 30 gram serving. Men will need 6 to 7 servings per day, and women about 3.5 to 4 servings. When and how you eat your protein doesn’t matter much. Just get it in. Protein is the fuel that helps your muscle tissue to repair and recover.
- Chicken Legs, Bone In – $0.524 per 30 grams of protein. 
- Peanut Butter (Generic brand) – $0.535 per 30 grams of protein.  **
- Eggs – $0.593 per 30 grams of protein. 
- Black Beans (Generic brand) – $0.765 per 30 grams of protein.  ***
- Whole Milk – $0.789 per 30 grams of protein. 
- Cottage Cheese – $0.833 per 30 grams or protein.
- Tuna (Generic brand) – $0.927 per 30 grams of protein. 
- MTS Whey Protein – $0.985 per 30 grams of protein.
- Muscle and Brawn Huge Gainer – $1.00 per 30 grams or protein. **
* Peanut butter also contains a quality number of carbohydrates and fats per serving, making it a must-have pantry item.
** Huge Gainer provides 90 grams of carbohydrates per 30 gram serving of protein, making it a wallet-friendly grand slam.
*** Black beans are packed with carbohydrates.
Budget Carbohydrate Choices
Listed cost is per 100 calories. Men on a 3,000 calorie diet that is comprised of approximately 30% fat intake will require about 1,380 calories from carbohydrates. Women on a 2,000 calorie diet that is comprised of approximately 30% fat intake will require about 960 calories from carbohydrates.
- Rice (Generic, 20lb bag) – $0.031 per 100 calories of carbs. 
- Oats (Generic) – $0.077 per 100 calories of carbs. 
- Ramen Noodles (Maruchan) – $0.08 per 100 calories of carbs.  *
- Spaghetti Noodles (Generic) – $0.087 per 100 calories of carbs. 
- Instant Mashed Potatoes (Generic) – $0.31 per 100 calories of carbs. 
- Cream of Wheat – $0.382 per 100 calories of carbs. 
* Each pack of Ramen noodles also contains 8 grams of protein and 14 grams of fat.
Budget Fat Choices
Listed cost is per 100 calories. Men on a 3,000 calorie diet that is comprised of approximately 30% fat intake will require about 900 calories from fats. Women on a 2,000 calorie diet that is comprised of approximately 30% fat intake will require about 600 calories from fat.
- Olive Oil (Generic) – $0.07 per 100 calories of fats. 
- Butter (Generic) – $0.098 per 100 calories of fats. 
- Heavy Cream – $0.183 per 100 calories of fats.
- Almonds – $0.451 per 100 calories of fats. 
You can also look for deals and coupons on sour cream and cheese. Cheap cheese is a budget shopper’s dream, as it is rich in protein, fat and good nutrition.
Fruits and Veggies
There is more to nutrition and an eating plan than just macronutrients and calories. A well-balanced diet must also include a wide variety of micronutrients. While fat, carb and protein sources provide some micronutrient diversity, it’s good to add fruits and veggies into your meal plan to cover all your bases.
Here are some quality choices. Cost is not listed, but per-serving cost is relatively low.
I strongly recommend purchasing frozen bags of these items. They will last longer, reducing waste.
- Mixed Veggies
- Mixed Berries
Budget Bodybuilding Meal Plan
What follows is a sample meal plan. It serves one purpose: To show you what can be done on $7 a day, or less.
It is obvious that if a man can eat 3,000 plus calories per day for only $7, a women can eat 1,800 to 2,000 per day on less.
Men – 3,170 Calories for $6.28 a Day
- Meal 1 – Oats (15 ounces), 4 eggs cooked in one pat of butter. Nutrition: 646 calories, 36g protein, 53g carbs, 31.7g fats. Cost = $0.764.
- Meal 2 – 1 scoop of MTS Peanut Butter Fluff whey in 12 ounces of water blended with 1 ounce of peanut butter. Nutrition: 315 calories, 32.1g protein, 10.5g carbs, 18.3g fats. Cost = $0.948.
- Meal 3 – 5 ounces of canned tuna mixed in with one pack of Ramen noodles. Nutrition: 540 calories, 46.1g protein, 51.4g carbs, 15.0g fats. Cost = $1.419.
- Meal 4 – (Immediately Post-Workout) 1 scoop of Huge Gainer. Nutrition: 470 calories, 25g protein, 75g carbs, 9g fats. Cost = $0.833.
- Meal 5 – 6 ounces of chicken legs with 10 ounces of cooked rice and one cup of black beans. Nutrition: 800 calories, 56.1g protein, 121.9g carbs, 8g fats. Cost = $1.099.
- Meal 6 – 1 scoop of MTS whey in 8 ounces of whole milk and one ounce of heavy cream. Nutrition: 399 calories, 33.4g protein, 18.6g carbs, 22.9g fats. Cost = $1.214.
The total cost investment for this meal plan is $6.28. This leaves you extra pocket change to spend on fruits and veggies, which can be added to any meal as needed.
The nutritional breakdown of this eating plan without the addition of fruits and veggies is as follows:
- Calories = 3,170
- Protein = 228.7g (28.9%)
- Carbohydrates = 330.3g (41.7%)
- Fats = 104.9g (29.4%)
Women can simply scale back portions and ounces by 40%. This would cost about $3.77 per day (sans fruits and veggies), and provide the following calorie and macronutrient breakdown:
- Calories = 1,902
- Protein = 137.2g
- Carbohydrates = 198.1g
- Fats = 62.9g
1) “U.S. Egg Prices to Hit Record High Due to Bird Flu: USDA.” Reuters. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
2) “Great Value Light Tuna Chunk In Water, 5 Oz.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
3) “Great Value Peanut Butter Creamy, 40 Oz.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
4) “Great Value Black Beans, 15.25 Oz, (Pack of 4).” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
5) “U.S. Department of Agriculture.” U.S. Department of Agriculture. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
6) “Monthly Data – Fresh Whole Milk Retail Price (Gal).” Understanding Dairy Markets. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
7) “Great Value: Long Grain Enriched Rice, 20 Lb.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
8) “Great Value: Oven-Toasted Old Fashioned Oats, 42 Oz.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
9) “Maruchan Instant Lunch: Flavor 12 Ct Chicken Soup, 36 Oz.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
10) “Cream Of Wheat: Original Instant 12 Ct, 12 Oz.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
11) “Great Value Mashed Potatoes, 26.7 Oz.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
12) “Great Value Spaghetti, 1 Lb, 4ct.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
13) “Great Value: 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 51 Oz.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
14) “Great Value Salted Sweet Cream Butter, 16 Oz, (Pack Of, 2).” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.
15) “Blue Diamond Whole Natural Almonds, 14 Oz.” Walmart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2015.