College is one of the most exciting times of your life. For many of you, it’s the first time you’re truly on your own, living where you want, how you want, and doing what you want. You’re also in the prime of your muscle-building life. Testosterone is at an all-time high, which sets you up for the best fat free, mass gains you’ll ever experience, bar none!
However, while college is great for many things it’s certainly not kind on your wallet — textbooks, tuition, lab fees, supplies, the list goes on. College can be a HUGE drain on your bank account, leaving you little room to purchase the food you need to make those massive gains.
That’s where we come in. We’ve got all the grocery shopping hacks you need to get big gains even on the tightest budget!
Getting Big on a Budget
Getting big while not having access to unlimited monetary funds isn’t easy, but it’s far from impossible. Put these tips to use on a weekly basis, and you’ll be amazed at how much food you’ll be getting for the little amount you’re actually spending.
It all begins with:
- Knowing your macros
Before you ever make a grocery list or set foot in the store, you MUST know your macros, without knowing how many calories you need on a daily / weekly basis, you have no idea how much food you need to purchase.
So, before thinking about what you’re going to cook for the week, spend some time calculating your macros to figure out how many calories you need to consume each day to successfully bulk up.
Then, you’ll be able to formulate a meal plan for the week to know which foods to buy when you hit the grocery store, which brings us to our next point…
- Making a list
Never go grocery shopping without a detailed list of what you need to get, including quantities of key big dollar items like protein, fruits, and veggies. Think of grocery shopping as a mission — your object, should you choose to accept it, is to get in and out of the grocery store as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“Attacking” the grocery shopping with this mentality ensures you won’t waste time that could be better spent studying or money are impulse purchases. Having a list of exact quantities also prevents you from spending too much money by purchasing excess amounts of food, which could just end up spoiling before you get to use them.
- Buy in Bulk
Club stores like Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s, etc are primetime locations to stock up on proteins canned goods, and really anything else. The whole concept of these stores is to buy in bulk, which means you pay a cheaper price per unit at the club store than you would at a grocery store.
While the membership fee will cost some extra dollars up front, the savings you’ll get buying proteins, spices, cooking oils, and canned goods in bulk will pay for itself several times over.
What if you’re not able to go through all of your fresh proteins in a week? That’s what a little thing called the freezer is for! Freeze any unused meat before the expiration date, and you won’t have to buy as much fresh meat the next time you’re at the store.
- Go Generic
When strolling up and down the aisles of the grocery store, opt for the store brand / generic products instead of the name brand ones. You’ll get the exact same product for a fraction of the cost!
- Watch for sales
There’s a reason grocery stores send out ads every week — there’s always some kind of sale going on! That means you need to start doing your “grocery homework” to find out what’s on sale, and then plan to buy that at the store.
Ground beef on sale this week? Then consider making meatloaf, meatballs, burgers, tacos, etc. Sure, you might really be craving chicken or fish, but chances are likely those will be on sale next week.
Shopping by the weekly sales will help you save big on your weekly grocery bill and help you get creative in the kitchen by forcing you to try new dishes based on what’s cheap that week.
- Clip coupons
Yes, you’re going to have to embrace your inner old lady. Coupon clipping might seem like a tedious, menial task, but all of those “buy 1, get 1 free” or “save $0.50” add up rather quickly, which means more food in our stomach and more money in your wallet.
Take the extra 10-15 minutes each week to go through your weekly grocery ad and clip out the coupons you need for your weekly grocery haul. Better yet, there’s numerous smartphone apps that have the coupons already built in, saving you the hassle of having to clip physical coupons!
- Ask about student discounts
This is a bit of a long shot, but you can check with your local grocer to see if they offer any discounts for students. Given the fact that there’s thousands of other college kids in your position going to the same grocery store, chances are slim that you’ll get discounted groceries, but it never hurts to ask!
- Cheap Eats
Protein is the cornerstone of any proper muscle-building diet. And when you think of protein in regards to bodybuilding you almost always think of chicken breast, steak, and protein powder. While these are certainly exceptional options of protein, they’re not the cheapest options for protein by a long shot.
Rather than shell out big bucks for these higher dollar proteins, consider some of the cheaper cuts of your favorite proteins like chicken thighs, ground beef, and milk. Aside from being cheaper, these economy cuts also pack a whole lot more flavor due to their increased fat content. This also means they’re more calorically dense than leaner cuts of protein which helps you get in those crucial muscle-building calories without shelling out any more money!
- Calorie Dense Foods
Building off the previous point, if you’re trying to get maximize your dollars, don’t buy a bunch of low calorie foods. You’re in muscle-building mode right now, which means you need to be packing in the calories. Fortunately for you, some of the best bulking foods are also some of the cheapest at the stores.
Foods such as eggs, oatmeal, peanut butter, whole milk, and potatoes are packed with the essential nutrients you need to build muscle while at the same time also being extremely economical! Load up on these foods to save big and have an easier time pounding away those necessary extra calories.
- Load up at the dining hall
Most universities require students (freshmen at the very least) to have some sort of meal plan. Use this to your advantage!
Most dining halls are buffet style where you can eat to your heart’s content. There’s two ways you can go about this — eat a larger portion of your calories while at the dining hall, which means you have to buy less food to eat at your dorm or apartment, OR grab a few “freebies” from the dining hall like hard-boiled eggs, mini-boxes of cereal, cartons of milk, etc. We’re not saying load up an entire duffel bag worth of food (they won’t let you do that by the way…we’ve tried!), but grabbing an extra apple (or three) and a ziploc baggie full of hard-boiled eggs can provide great snacks help save on your weekly grocery budget.
- Dirty it up
Eating clean 100% of the time can be stressful, and costly, for college students, so don’t be afraid to “dirty it up” with your diet if it helps you hit your macros and save a few bucks here and there.
We’re not saying going ham on the buffet is good everyday, but the occasional candy bar or ice cream can do a world of good to hit your numbers for the day, save some money, and provide the necessary mental break you need during the more stressful times at college, i.e. FINALS week.
As you can see, it’s not impossible to bulk on a budget, it’s actually pretty easy! We’ve presented a plethora of pointers to help you save big bucks at the grocery store while enhancing your muscle-building aspirations. Put these pointers to the test and watch your gains (and bank account) soar!