Times are tough right now. Money is tight. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly close to double digits.
You don't feel lean? Don't worry. Your wallet probably does.
But back to you: How you can afford to eat healthy when healthy foods are much more expensive than cheaper fare? Go to Whole Foods, and then go to check out the 99¢ menu at Wendy's, and tell me which is cheaper.
The good news is that you don't have to spend your life savings on healthy alternatives. You just have to be smart about what you buy. For starters, make eating out the exception rather than the norm. And prepare your own meals hours or days in advance.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. I'm here to share different and unique ways to make your money work for you while keeping yourself healthy and bodybuilding on a budget.
Lesson 1: What's in a Name - The High Cost of Buying Popular Brands
Your shopping locations don't matter as long as you don't step foot there without a grocery list of what you need - and then stick to it. Most grocery stores offer both mainstream brand items and generic brands. The generics are easier on your wallet and usually offer the same nutritional value. (I'll touch more on the specifics of what to purchase later.)
If you plan to buy products in bulk, look for wholesalers such as Costco, BJ's or Sam's Club. These goliaths allow you to purchase large quantities of items at a discounted rate compared to most grocery stores.
Unless compelled to step inside for some dire reason, steer clear of convenience stores. The corner store will generally be more expensive than the local grocery store for just about every product.
Lesson 2: Learn How to Shop
The inner area of a grocery store is mostly full of junk, so steer clear. Focus instead on the periphery, where you find grains, lean protein sources, produce and dairy products. If you must shop among the inside aisles, look for the less-expensive generic versions. The name brands will be strategically placed at eye-level to entice you to purchase them.
Buy everything possible in bulk - as long as you can use it before it spoils or expires. Buy protein sources that can be frozen if possible. This is an easy way to keep food fresh when you need it.
Look for sale items and take advantage of coupon savings. Be prepared to take a few minutes out of your day to look through ads and find coupons for items that you regularly use. Ever wonder how grandma socked away so much cash over the years. Simple, she clipped coupons as religiously as Charlie Sheen avoids sanity.
Try to buy produce in season. Out of season means a lot of money out of your pocket. Frozen versions keep longer than fresh. Just make sure the frozen version doesn't contain other ingredients like sugar, syrup or cream. You might have to go back and forth from the produce section to the frozen foods to check prices.
Organic versions are normally more expensive, but surprisingly, some of the prices are not far off. You can go with the organic option and not break your bank.
Lesson 3: Learn What To Buy
A little piece of helpful advice: Never shop on an empty stomach! It's like going to a strip club - er, never mind. Shop on an empty stomach, and it won't matter what's on your grocery list. If you're hungry, you'll buy whatever looks good.
Here Is The Checklist For Bodybuilding On A Budget:
- Look for lean meats on sale. Many grocery stores offer a certain type of meat at a discounted price to keep the customer coming back.
- Buy your protein sources in bulk when possible. Freeze anything you aren't going to eat in the coming days.
- Buy 90%-lean meat to save money. Drain out the extra fat after cooking.
- Don't buy ready-to-cook meats. They're not worth the added expense. Instead, buy your lean protein source and skin/season it yourself.
- Eggs are a fairly inexpensive protein source and can be prepared in many different ways.
- Purchase fresh fish as a lean protein source or utilize the canned version. Make sure it's canned in water.
- If ground beef isn't on sale, look for ground turkey.
- Purchase brown rice instead of white rice.
- Whole-wheat English muffins are a great replacement for breads and can be used to make many different meals.
- Whole-wheat tortillas can also be substituted for flour or corn.
- Purchase the biggest container of plain oatmeal you can find and make your own. Avoid buying the expensive flavored versions. Give your oatmeal some pizzazz with honey, nuts, fruit or cinnamon.
- Last but not least, stop buying soda and start drinking more water!