The hardest part for me growing up wasn't the lifting or the eating; it was the shopping. I just threw everything in the cart, and by the time I got to the register, the cost was over $100. As a kid just out of college, that number wasn't working for me.
Then about a year ago, I was sitting at my laptop watching Animal's "Big on a Budget" video series, and I started trying to match those diets with the little bit of money I had at the time. A year later, I'm bigger, I know how to stick to a budget, and most importantly, I've learned how to match my own needs and preferences to a budget.
So when Animal asked me to do my own video, I knew I had big shoes to fill. I also knew that my take would be different from Evan Centopani's and Frank McGrath's, since I'm not an IFBB pro bodybuilder. I'm just a kid trying to make it to the pro ranks someday.
But maybe that's exactly why my video will be the one that speaks to you, like those others spoke to me. You want to grow? Train hard and eat big—like this.
All the Proteins, Not All of the Money
As I walked into Marazzo's Thriftway, the first thing I did was grab the circular with the weekly specials in it. This is the first thing every shopper should do. A few items instantly caught my eye. First, I noticed that the pork chops and the London broil were both on sale at a very good price. So I steered my shopping cart right to the meat department.
The bone-in center-cut pork was a serious value at $1.99 per pound. I got enough to eat about 7-8 ounces (cooked) for seven days. The London broil was a bit more, at $2.99 a pound, so I grabbed enough packages to get at least one beef meal a day.
After the steak, it was time for some chicken. Because what is a bodybuilding diet without chicken? Thighs were on sale, so I got enough to have 6-7 ounces of chicken each day for seven days. That might be enough protein variety for you, but not for me.
My diet isn't complete without eggs. In college, I was eating almost 30 hard-boiled eggs a day—just ask my friends. I used to dump a whole container into my backpack when I was in the dining hall every day. For this plan, I still got enough eggs to eat six a day for breakfast for the week.
Sure, I could have eaten all pork (or all chicken, like some guys do), but I've always preferred to vary my protein sources, even when I was younger.
All told, that's four different sources every day for a week. You can't beat that. I spend about 75 percent of my weekly budget on protein. Only after I've got that nailed down do I steer my cart toward the carbs.
Choose the Carbs You Want to Eat
Even while I was shopping for the protein, I was thinking about the types of carbs that would work with the eggs, chicken, beef, and pork. You can't just randomly buy whatever you want when you're on a budget; you have to plan how everything will work together, down to each meal.
For example, because I had bought the eggs, I knew I wanted either a bagel or toast with them. For the chicken and beef, I figured I'd need some rice. But for some reason, I was in the mood for pasta with my pork.
The answer? Get both. I went with white rice, because while brown may be healthier, it tastes like cardboard to me. I grabbed 2 boxes of elbow pasta too, for about a dollar a piece, plus some sauce—you've gotta have sauce. I was just craving it, and it was on sale for a buck, so it was a no-brainer.
After I got all the protein and carbs, I was nervous. I didn't know if I'd make it under budget. I didn't have a calculator, and the only math I did was in my head. I thought I didn't have any room to grab bananas, but I tossed them in anyway.
Guess what? Sometimes, the math in your head works. I ended up with a buck to spare—enough to get a pack of Oreos for 50 cents and a lucky rabbit's foot out of the machines.
Is this diet for everyone? Nope. You're dreaming if you think it's going to get you contest ready or shredded. But right now, it's get-big time.
Vincenzo "Mass" Masone Big on a Budget
Additional Q&A With Vincenzo Masone
Which is your favorite "Big on a Budget" video?
My favorite one was Evan Centopani's. I can remember exactly what the meals were—two were 6 eggs and a cup of oats, and two were chicken, potato, and veggies. His was great.
Not that long ago, you didn't have much more than $50 a week. What's different today?
That was two years ago, when I was in college. I had to eat at the cafeteria, and I didn't have any money to go grocery shopping. But I ate a lot at the school cafeteria, that's for sure.
This diet has a lot of fat in it. What type of lifter would benefit from what you bought?
This diet is for someone who isn't really worried about weight management and is focused on bulking up and getting bigger.
Why did you choose the bagels over toast?
There are more carbs in the bagels. Also, I just love a toasted bagel. It's one of my favorite things to eat.
Why no vegetables? Do you really go a week without veggies?
I eat veggies maybe once a day, and that's while I'm prepping. Veggies were just never really important to me.
Was this grocery trip based on pre-existing macros you had in your head?
Honestly, I was winging it the whole time and relied on my instincts. I wanted the process to be real and genuine.
This is how I shop: I buy protein first, because it's the most important part of a bodybuilder's diet. Plus, it's convenient, since it's basically all in the same aisle in any supermarket. I know how much protein I need each day, so just work backward from that to figure out how much I need per meal.
Why is it important for you to get different sources of protein?
I just like to have variety, and it worked out that the different sources were on sale and fit the budget. I typically go for 2-3, maybe even 4. I can't just eat plain chicken all day; I need some beef and eggs, too.