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Diesel On A Dime: 4 Muscle-Building Meals On A Budget

Reap the benefits of protein-packed health food without the premium price with these four quick, delicious, muscle-making recipes!

You don't have to break the bank to achieve your fitness goals. You just need to be wise about where and how you shop, look for deals and seasonal sales, and employ a little creativity in the kitchen.

Regardless of your current financial situation, you can "penny-pinch" your way to building major muscle. Each of these meals has an average cost of $3.50, makes five servings, and can be easily customized to meet your goals. Now that's diesel on a dime!

Spicy Turkey Chili

This is a staple meal in my home state of Texas. One of the best things about chili is you can make it your own by tossing in your favorite veggies and protein. It's virtually impossible to screw this meal up, but, if you do ... well, just don't tell anyone.

  1. Season ground turkey with paprika, cumin, cayenne, and pepper.
  2. Set a skillet on medium heat and lightly spray with coconut oil. Add meat.
  3. Chop the meat as it cooks in the skillet using a spatula. When the meat is nearly 80% finished cooking, toss in 1 serving of McCormick's chili seasoning and tomato paste. Stir.
  4. Add black beans (with some juice), corn, basil, and any other veggie. Yes, it's OK to use frozen veggies!
  5. Reduce the skillet to low heat and cover. Let it simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat and let it cool. Top with cheese if desired.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount per serving
Calories 395
Total Fat 3g
Total Carbs 50g
Protein 46g

Spicy Turkey Chili PDF (88.7 KB)

Bodybuilding on a Budget—$3 Spicy Turkey Chili
Watch The Video - 03:44

Curry Tuna Salad with Brown Rice Cakes

Every time I feel a "squeeze" on my wallet, I turn to my personal ol' faithful—canned or packaged tuna. Tuna is not only affordable, but it's also a good, lean protein source whether you're cutting or bulking.

Just sneak into your parents' house and "borrow" a few spices, and you can crank up that tuna salad to the next level.

  1. In a bowl, mix drained tuna, yogurt, seasonings, and onions. Use a fork to mash the tuna and mix the ingredients together.
  2. Taste and continue seasoning until it is to your liking. You can also use 1 tsp turmeric to really add extra spice.
  3. Place half the tuna salad on a brown rice cake with a slice of tomato and lettuce. Enjoy!
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size Using 1 Can
Amount per serving
Calories 296
Total Fat 4g
Total Carbs 30g
Protein 38g

Curry Tuna Salad with Brown Rice Cakes PDF (33.3 KB)

Grilled Chicken with Pineapples and Bell Peppers

Hands down, this is one of my favorite meals! Penny-pinching or not, this meal should be a part of your regular diet. You'll likely never approach eating chicken and rice the same.

  • 5 oz Chicken Breast
  • 1 tbsp Mustard
  • 1/2 cup instant Basmati Rice
  • 1/2 cup diced Pineapple (freshly cut)
  • 1/2 cup diced Bell Peppers
  • Seasonings to taste: 1 tsp Cumin, Sea salt (pinch), Pepper
  1. Cut the chicken breast into small pieces.
  2. Rub 1 tbsp mustard on the pieces of chicken breast and add seasonings.
  3. Dice the bell peppers and fresh pineapple.
  4. Set skillet on medium heat and lightly spray with coconut oil.
  5. Add chicken to the skillet and cook on all sides. When the chicken is almost finished cooking, increase the heat to high and toss in pieces of pineapple and bell peppers. Be careful not to let too much water from the pineapple into the skillet.
  6. Stir quickly with a spatula while allowing the sides of the pineapple and bell peppers to grill and brown. This should take 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the chicken breast.
  7. Serve over rice and enjoy. If you have it, add a drop or two of Bragg's Liquid Aminos for a flavor overload!
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount per serving
Calories 342
Total Fat 4g
Total Carbs 40g
Protein 38g

Grilled Chicken with Pineapples and Bell Peppers PDF (80.4 KB)

Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Pasta Bake

Well, it's not your mom's homestyle chicken noodle soup, but it does the trick when you're pressed for cash and low on fitness fuel. All you need to do is purchase a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store, remove the skin, and boom! You have instant, delicious protein for several meals.

  1. Set oven to 405 F.
  2. In a pot, boil and cook your wheat pasta. Rinse and set aside.
  3. Dice your raw carrots and mushrooms.
  4. Weigh and separate 4 oz baked chicken meat. In a small disposable ramekin or baking dish, add chicken, pasta, Greek yogurt, veggies, and seasonings. Stir with a spoon or mini-spatula.
  5. Pour chicken broth over the mixture, ensuring that a majority of the noodles are covered so that they won't burn when baking.
  6. Top with fresh parsley.
  7. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy. If you are doing this as a prepped meal for the week, be sure to transfer contents to a microwave-safe container.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount per serving
Calories 347
Total Fat 3g
Total Carbs 33g
Protein 39g

Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Pasta Bake PDF (84.7 KB)