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.
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.