Expert Author Marc David
Many people bust their butts in the gym but when it comes to making the right food choices or getting enough of the good stuff, they simply fail.
FACT: The average grocery bill has risen 5.7% in just 2 years since 2007.
I'm going to give you some budget stretcher tips and tricks so you can shop like a pro when you are bodybuilding on a budget. You'll save money and get more food for your dollar. This is even more important for you skinny guys and gals that need to eat and just can't seem to keep the cupboards stocked with enough food.
Sit tight and take notes.
Budget Stretcher Foods to Buy:
Meats:
Chicken:
Bulk frozen individual packs, or just get them with the skin and bone. Skin them yourself. It doesn't take too much time and you save quite a bit on the whole package. A whole chicken is a good option as you can BBQ it and carve it up for the rest of the week. Grilling all your chicken in advance is a super simple way to to have 1-2 chicken breasts a day without adding to your cooking time.
Tuna:
In water.
Turkey:
Turkey burger or lean ground turkey. Adds well to pasta dishes.
Lean Red Cuts of Meat:
Get to know your local butcher if you can. Sometimes they can package a smaller cut if you'd like or run the cheaper, tougher cuts through a tenderizer at your request. Some stores do markdowns to get rid of meats that are closer to expiration. It might be possible to ask them when they time is so you can schedule your shopping at the markdown times. You can check the "sell by date" and if it's today, ask if they will mark it down for you.
Dairy:
Eggs (Omega 3 if possible)
Milk
Yogurt
Cheese
Breads/Grains:
Bagels
100% Whole Wheat bread
Oatmeal (not the quick oats)
Cream of Wheat
Brown Rice
Whole Grain Pasta (watch out for mixed sources, you want the whole grain version)
Vegetables:
Broccoli
Asparagus
Kale
Spinach
Potatoes
Yams
Sweet Potato
Salad Fixings (lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, hickima, etc)
Fruits:
Bananas
Apples
Blueberries
Pear
Grapefruit
Before You Go On The Budget Stretcher Trip:
* Take a list. Don't start your grocery shopping trip off without a clear cut idea of what it is you want to purchase. Far too many times I've gone to the store and loaded up on chicken only to discover I had plenty of frozen breasts and I was completely out of brown rice and oats. Developing a list of foods you need to replenish weekly will aid in saving money on excess foods and keep you from buying impulse items you didn't need.
I'm going to say this is probably the MOST IMPORTANT tip on this list. Going to the gym with a plan is the surefire way to make progress. It is the same with grocery shopping. Knowing what you need for the week will save you gasoline in terms of multiple trips and you'll know exactly what types of food you need for your stated goals.
When I was bulking and trying to gain weight, having a list before I went shopping ensured that I got all the food I needed in order to gain healthy weight. And I saved money because I didn't end up buying impulse items.
* Spend 20 minutes a week and save 20% off your grocery bill! Clip coupons, watch for sales and pay attention to your local grocery store. Many people just "shop." But you'll save quite a pretty penny if you save some of those ads and watch for sale items. If you are looking to bulk up, a 2-for-1 offer is hard to pass up. A little here and there can add up to $1000's of dollars in a year with savings.
* Don't discount those high end stores. I love my local Safeway and Costco. They have bulk items and their deals are super. Whole Foods (Whole PayCheck as I call it) sometimes has deals on particular items that are even cheaper than the regular discounts at those bigger chain stores. My point is... Don't stick to a single store and ignore the other savings that might be happening in your area. Just keep an open mind.
What To Do While You're There:
* Shop on the border first. Many of the items I've listed above are found on the borders of the store and not up and down the aisles. Usually higher priced items are in the middle. If you start off your shopping around the borders of the store, you'll fill up your cart quickly with the most healthy items and the ones you need to have and spend less time on the higher priced stuff. Almost always, the pre-packed, high priced, more unhealthy stuff is in the middle. Tackle those aisles for the remainder of the stuff on your list.
* Look Up and Then Down. You won't notice this as much unless you are into advertising or have somebody point it out but many times, the best priced items are NOT at eye level! More often than not, the higher priced items are right where you can quickly stop them. If you take a second to glance up and then down, you'll find alternatives, smaller sizes and discounts that aren't quite as visible. Take a second to look around before you just grab what you think you need.
For example, in most stores I've shopped at the very best cereal item you can purchase in that particular aisle is whole oats. Are the oats right at eye level? Of course not. They are most likely on the very bottom shelf, where you have to look and bend down to grab. One of the BEST things in the morning for breakfast is not at eye level and you must look for it in order to find it.
* Sign up for the Program. I'm a Safeway shopper. Naturally I've got the Club Card. I save money every time I shop. I signed up for any other program the stores around me offer not because I want to be spammed with their ads (although coupons are nice) I simply want all the savings that I can possibly get without having to do a thing. Some stores will match competitor's offers. You'll only know this is you get those type of notifications.
* Look for discounted vegetables and fruits. Sometimes at the last minute, the grocery store needs to get rid of some items, maybe tomatoes, because they are going soft and will spoil in a few days. You might stumble across a good sale if you snag those items quickly before a new shipment comes in and you pay full price. Instead of buying bagged salads, you can pick up all the veggies yourself and make your own! In fact, you'll probably make enough salad to last a week and at half the price of most packaged salads.
* Avoid too many frozen foods. They are usually pricey. I keep a few on hand for emergencies. When I don't want to cook a darn thing, I've got nothing in bulk ready to go and I'm not about to drop money on eating out, having some healthy frozen dinner sure can be handy. Just keep them to a minimum as they can be expensive. They can actually save you money if you are just too tired to cook and don't want to spend money on eating out.
* Match em' Up! Remember the coupon lecture a bit ago? Take that coupon and combined with a great sale, you are really going to save a bundle. Not always but many times, the store will let you use a coupon in addition to an item that is already on sale. Even if you don't need it and it's something you can use later, you'll save money buying it now vs. waiting until it's at regular price and you lost that coupon or it expired. Combinations, just like in video games, can pack some amazing punch if used in a timely fashion.
Additional Budget Stretcher Tips:
* Tupperware is your friend. It will extend the life of some items like salads and chicken if you are able to vacuum seal the item. Storing it will be easier. Taking it for lunches will be simple.
* Check the expiration or sell by dates. It does happen that you can purchase meat items and they are best used by the very next day. If you don't ask for a discount in this case, you just paid for items that are not going to last all that long. Check the dates if possible and make sure the food you are buying isn't about to go bad tomorrow.
* Freeze the meats. When I purchase chicken, if they are not individually wrapped already as in the case of some Costco items, I'll unpack them immediately. Then I'll wrap them up and freeze them. This way they will last much longer and I can pull out however many chicken breasts or other meat items I need and cook them quickly.
If you follow these tips, you'll almost guaranteed to save money on your grocery bills. This is especially important for those of us who are trying to gain weight and food is a premium. If there's only one thing you remember, please shop with a list and know before you go.
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Marc David is a bodybuilder, writer, and author of the e-book "The NoBull Bodybuilding Program, he also has experience in sports nutrition and supplementation.