Build Muscle On A Budget: Example $50, $75 & $100 Grocery Lists With Meal Plans

Build Muscle On A $50-$75 Weekly Budget
Learn how to maximize your bulking budget using as little as $50 per week. This feature includes grocery lists and specific meal plans that will help you save and grow.

How many times have you heard the following phrases? - “I want to eat healthy but it’s too expensive” and “I want to bulk up but I don’t want to eat ‘un-clean’ food” The purpose of this article is to show that it’s possible to both eat healthy foods and eat in a caloric surplus without breaking the bank.

Strategies for Stretching Your Dollar at the Grocery Store

  • Buy in bulk – Although the upfront cost of membership may seem daunting, club stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are excellent places to stock up on grocery and non-grocery goods. These stores are built around the concept of bulk quantities to minimize packaging and shipping cost. I typically buy my cooking oils, spices, and sauces from these locations are shelf stable for a long period of time. These stores are also excellent places to buy meat and vegetables in bulk if you don’t mind eating the same meat and vegetables for an entire week (such as myself). For non-traditional bulk-buying locations, consider local ethnic markets for grains, fruits, vegetables and local farms for meats. These two locations are typically willing to cut deals with you if you’re willing to purchase large enough quantities.
  • Avoid name brands – Purchase generic/store brand products instead of their name brand counterparts. For a fraction of the cost, you can purchase a nearly identical product. Furthermore, I’ve found generic brands from places like Trader Joe’s and Aldi that are both cheaper and offer a larger quantity - a double savings!
  • Stock up during sales – The prices discussed in this article will be U.S. national averages, but those prices don’t reflect sales. If you see a sale for staple products in your diet, consider the desired quantity, savings, and expiration date of these goods – if sale offers all three then stock up! For example, the chicken breast prices used in this article are $3.43 per pound, but even in big cities you can find it on sale for as low as $1.99 per pound.
  • Freeze for later – An ample supply of fresh vegetables can be expensive. With the advances in food preservation technology, companies now offer vegetables that are flash-frozen at their peak freshness, which helps to retain the vitamin, mineral, and anti-oxidant content. These frozen vegetables are nearly identical to their fresh counterpart but offered at a fraction of the cost -  $1 to $2 per bag, with each bag offering up to six servings of vegetables.
  • Spice it up – In my opinion, spices are worth their weight in gold, especially for the cost-conscious fitness enthusiast. Having a variety of spices on hand such as cayenne, salt, black pepper, garlic, and oregano can add variety to the meats and vegetables you buy in bulk.

Key Assumptions

The key assumption we are going to make in this article is that you already have spices, vitamins, and mineral supplements. These items typically are not purchased on a weekly basis so they will be excluded from the weekly cost calculation.

Furthermore, the supplement recommendations are based on the assumption that you’re an active individual who is not experiencing the common deficiencies found from eating the typical American diet – iron, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium.

For food prices, I took an average of the past three months of data (March, April, and May 2014) provided by the United States Department of Labor  – Bureau of Labor Statistics, which I found here.

Budgets and Meal Plans

This section provides a grocery list and a 3000 calorie sample meal plan for three different weekly grocery budgets - $50, $75, and $100 per week. The 3000 calorie meal plans below are designed around a 180lb male aiming to eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, 0.5 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight, and roughly 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight.

$50 budget

Goal – less than $50 per week

Grocery List for 7 days of meals:

  • 2lbs of uncooked long grain white rice - $1.46
  • 2.2lbs of 100% ground beef (80% lean/20% fat) - $7.32
  • 3.5lbs raw chicken breast – $12.01
  • 3 dozen large grade A eggs - $5.99
  • 0.5 gallon whole milk - $1.81
  • 3lbs fresh bananas - $1.80
  • 4lbs uncooked white potatoes - $2.65
  • 2lbs romaine lettuce - $3.08
  • 1.5lbs uncooked black beans - $2.16
  • 0.5lb peanut butter - $1.30
  • 7 bags of frozen vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, mixture) - $7.00
  • 1.5lbs uncooked oatmeal - $2.25

Total Cost - $49.56

$50 Budget

3000 Calorie Sample Meal Plan

  • 07:00 – Wake Up
  • 07:30 – 1 serving multivitamin, 5g creatine monohydrate, 2-3g EPA/DHA from fish oil
  • 08:00 – Meal #1 – 5 whole large eggs and 3.5 ounces of dry-measured oatmeal. Nutrition – 720 calories, 44g protein, 70g carbs, 31g fat, 10g fiber, 210mg calcium
  • 12:00 – Meal #2 – 9.25 ounces raw measure potato, 4.75 ounces of romaine lettuce, 5 ounces of ground beef, 1.75 ounces dry measure black beans. Nutrition – 730 calories, 41g protein, 75g carbs, 29g fat, 17g fiber, 170mg calcium
  • 16:00 – Meal #3 –9 ounces of whole milk, 32 grams of peanut butter (~2 tablespoons), 7 ounces of banana (about 2 small bananas, 6 to 7 inches long). Nutrition – 535 calories, 18g protein, 66g carbs, 26g fat, 7g fiber, 390mg calcium
  • 18:00-19:30 – Workout of Choice
  • 20:00 – Meal #4 – 4.5 ounces dry-measured long grain white rice, 1.75 ounces dry measure black beans, 1 bag of frozen vegetables, 8 ounces raw-measure boneless chicken breast. Nutrition – 1,030 calories, 79g protein, 150g carbs, 8g fat, 18g fiber, 230mg calcium
  • 23:00 – Bed – 1 serving of ZMA
  • Nutrition for the Day – 3,015 calories, 182g Protein, 360g Carbs, 94g Fats, 50g Fiber, 1000mg calcium, 160% daily value of iron

$75 budget

Goal – less than $75 per week

Grocery List for 7 days of meals:

  • 3lbs uncooked spaghetti - $3.91
  • 3lbs whole wheat bread - $6.18
  • 3lbs USDA Choice steak round - $15.96
  • 2lbs raw chicken breast - $6.86
  • 2.25 dozen large Grade A eggs - $4.49
  • 0.5 gallon whole milk - $1.81
  • 3lbs red delicious apples - $4.16
  • 3lbs navel oranges - $3.65
  • 2lbs seedless grapes - $6.15
  • 3lbs romaine lettuce - $4.63
  • 2lbs field grown tomatoes - $3.14
  • 3lbs uncooked broccoli - $5.17
  • 7 bags of frozen vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, mixture) - $7.00
  • 0.5lb butter - $1.06
  • 0.33lb peanut butter - $0.85

Total Cost – $75.00

$75 Budget

3000 Calorie Sample Meal Plan

  • 07:00 – Wake Up
  • 07:30 – 1 serving multivitamin, 5g creatine monohydrate, 2-3g EPA/DHA from fish oil
  • 08:00 – Meal #1 – 4 whole large eggs, 4 ounces of bread (~4 slices), 32g butter (~2 tablespoons), 1 bag of frozen vegetables. Nutrition – 908 calories, 46g protein, 66g carbs, 49g fat, 20g fiber, 295mg calcium
  • 12:00 – Meal #2 – 5 ounces raw chicken breast, 7 ounces of romaine lettuce, 4.5 ounces of tomato, 3 ounces of whole wheat bread (~3 slices), 4.5oz of seedless grapes, 7 ounces of navel orange. Nutrition – 606 calories, 46g protein, 96g carbs, 8g fat, 16g fiber, 237mg calcium
  • 16:00 – Meal #3 – 9 ounces of whole milk, 7 ounces of red delicious apples, 1.5 tablespoons of peanut butter. Nutrition – 411 calories, 14g protein, 46g carbs, 20g fat, 5g fiber, 338mg calcium
  • 18:00-19:30 – Workout of Choice
  • 20:00 – Meal #4 – 7 ounces uncooked measure of USDA Choice steak round, 7 ounces dry measure of spaghetti, 7 ounces raw broccoli. Nutrition – 1,079 calories, 75g protein, 158g carbs, 16g fat, 142mg calcium
  • 23:00 – Bed – 1 serving of ZMA
  • Nutrition for the Day – 3,004 calories, 181g protein, 365g carbs, 93g fat, 42 fiber, 1012mg calcium, 140% daily value of iron

$100 budget

Goal – less than $100 per week

Grocery List for 7 days of meals:

  • 3.5lbs uncooked spaghetti - $4.57
  • 1.75lbs whole wheat bread - $3.60
  • 1.75lbs raw sirloin steak - $10.52
  • 1.75lbs uncooked, sliced bacon - $7.46
  • 3.5lbs raw chicken breast - $12.01
  • 3 dozen large Grade A eggs - $5.99
  • 0.5 gallon whole milk - $1.81
  • 5lbs red delicious apples - $6.93
  • 3.5lbs fresh strawberries - $8.17
  • 3.5lbs romaine lettuce - $5.40
  • 3.5lbs field grown tomatoes - $5.49
  • 3.5lbs uncooked broccoli - $6.04
  • 3.5lbs uncooked sweet peppers (e.g. red, green, yellow) - $8.64
  • 1lb ground coffee - $5.35
  • 3.5lbs tomato sauce - $7.00

Total Cost – $98.96

$100 Budget

3000 Calorie Sample Meal Plan

  • 07:00 – Wake Up
  • 07:30 – 1 to 2 cups of coffee (~2.5 ounces of coffee grounds), 1 serving multivitamin, 5g creatine monohydrate, 2-3g EPA/DHA from fish oil.
  • 08:00 – Meal #1 – 5 whole large eggs, 3 ounces of uncooked, sliced bacon, 8 ounces of uncooked sweet peppers, 8 ounces of fresh strawberries. Nutrition – 836 calories, 47g protein, 30g carbs, 59g fat, 8g fiber, 206mg calcium
  • 12:00 – Meal #2 – 9 ounces of whole milk, 4 ounces raw chicken breast, 4 ounces uncooked spaghetti, 4 ounces of tomato sauce. Nutrition – 754 calories, 51g protein, 104g carbs, 14g fat, 5g fiber, 359mg calcium
  • 16:00 – Meal #3 – 4 ounces of whole wheat bread (~4 slices), 4 ounces of raw sirloin steak, 8 ounces of romaine lettuce, 8 ounces of field grown tomatoes. Nutrition – 580 calories, 42g protein, 66g carbs, 18g fat, 14g fiber, 307mg calcium
  • 18:00-19:30 – Workout of Choice
  • 20:00 – Meal #4 – 4 ounces of uncooked spaghetti, 4 ounces of raw chicken breast, 4 ounces of tomato sauce, 8 ounces of broccoli, 3 cups sliced red delicious apples. Nutrition – 852 calories, 49g protein, 151g carbs, 6g fat, 19g fiber, 170mg calcium
  • 23:00 – Bed – 1 serving of ZMA
  • Nutrition for the Day – 3,022 calories, 189g Protein, 352g Carbs, 97g Fats, 47g Fiber, 1043mg calcium, 150% daily value of iron

Author’s Notes

The timings, food pairings, and supplementation schedules are not set in stone. I encourage you to adjust meal frequency and macronutrient composition based on your lifestyle, goals, and activity. This is merely a framework to save you time and increase your chances of success.

The information above is not meant to replace the information provided by your general practitioner or specialist. Before self-diagnosing food allergies and intolerances, I highly encourage you to consult with your health care provider.

I highly encourage resistance training as a way to both improve your general health and physique. Muscle and Strength offers an expansive workout and exercise database here.

Food nutrition information obtained from the USDA Nutrient Database.