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4 Money Saving Methods For Your Next Bulk

You’ve decided to take on the challenge of adding as much muscle to your frame as possible. It’s a rite of passage for all who are in the strength game for an appreciable amount of time. The confidence you feel when waking up and seeing a modern day Hercules in the mirror is second to none.

You have everything lined up and ready to go. Progressive strength training plan? Check. Optimizing your sleep and recover? Check. A nutrition plan calling for a surplus of calories? Check.

Enough money to buy the surplus of calories without breaking the bank? Now you have an issue.

You’ll often hear people talk about how expensive eating healthy is. Now, imagine eating two, three, or four times the amount of food when bulking. The cost of the bulk adds up in a hurry.

Packing pounds upon pounds of muscle onto your frame is tough enough. You’re in the gym four plus hours a week driving your body into the ground with no remorse. The soreness you face each morning makes the simplest of tasks daunting (sitting on the toilet the day after a leg workout, anyone?).

On a daily basis, shoving an amount of food down your gullet which can feed a normal human being for days. Feeling as if you’re going to give birth to a baby comprised of meat and potatoes.

With the amount of struggles you’re going to face while bulking, the financial side of the equation can’t be a limiting factor. You’ll need to be that much more careful about each purchase you make.

Here are four ways you can pound food like it’s your job without becoming broke as a college kid.

1. Focus on Calorie Dense Foods

To stretch your budget as far as possible, you’ll need to include foods containing a lot of calories in each serving. Not only will including calorie dense foods be easier on your wallet, it’ll be far easier to hit your calorie goal from a physical standpoint. Eating 500 calories worth of carrots is going to fill up your stomach more than the same amount of calories coming from nut butters.

Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil when cooking. A single tablespoon of these fats are going to yield 120 calories. Also, olive oil can be used as a dressing on salads or a calorie boost when poured on some rice or potatoes.

Peanut butter is another great option. Two tablespoons offer 200 calories. Almond and cashew butters are good choices for easy calories, but not the best options when you’re trying to save money. They’ll cost four times, or more, the price of peanut butter.

Add some good old fashioned butter to your carbs. Inexpensive, gives you 100 calories per tablespoon, and it’ll turn bland rice and potatoes into a mouthwatering treat.

The best options for getting the most bang for your buck in terms of carbohydrates is white rice and potatoes. Not many options are going to beat white rice with its 150 calories in each serving.

money saving bulking_peanut butter

2. Make Your Gut More Efficient

This will be the tip you may never have thought when trying to save money on a bulk. You may have heard the phrase, “it’s not what you eat, it’s what you assimilate.” Basically, you need to make sure the calories you’re pounding day in and day out are put to use. To ensure this happens, upping your gut health game is paramount.

As an example, in case you’re the analytical type, let’s say your maintenance calories are at 2800 per day when you’re not concerned about the health of your gut. You add 500 on top of that to put yourself in a surplus. There’s a good chance you’ll be well on your way to putting on some muscle in this scenario. But is it optimal?

After realizing your gut health isn’t up to snuff, you decide to take an active approach to improve it. You take the steps I’m about to lay out. After a few weeks, your internal plumbing is humming away like never before. You realize you’re no longer a walking skeleton. Some muscle is starting to accumulate in all the right places.

What happened?

Your digestive system became more efficient. You know, it was able to actually do its job. Now, it’s able to extract all of the calories and nutrients you’re throwing its way.

Since no calories are going to waste, your maintenance calories go from 2800 per day to 2600. If you’re bulking for three months or more, think about how much food those 200 less calories per day add up to. You’ll be saving a decent chunk of change over your bulking period.

Here are a handful of strategies you can use to make sure your gut health is top notch.

Be sure to fully chew your food. Before swallowing, food should be close to liquid form. This gives your stomach and intestines a break and allows the enzymes within your mouth to do their job.

This will be tough knowing much food you’re required to eat when putting on muscle. But you don’t want to waste the time eating and money spent on food by inhaling your food.

Include probiotic rich foods in your diet. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, kefir, and Greek yogurt (if you handle dairy well for the last two). These foods contain good bacteria your gut flora thrive on. Improving your gut flora allows your body to assimilate all of the nutrients you’re feeding it.

(Note: When purchasing foods containing probiotics, be sure they’re refrigerated and NOT pasteurized. Pasteurization kills the bacteria you’re looking to add.)

Limit the amount of sugars, refined, and overly processed foods you consume. You don’t have to totally disregard them. Most are calorie dense, allowing you to take in a significant amount of easy calories. But keep in mind, they feed the unwanted gut bacteria in your digestive system.

OCCASIONALLY take up intermittent fasting (IF). You need to be eating a lot and often when bulking. There isn’t any way around this. But fasting for 14-16 hours once or twice a week gives your digestive system a break and improves your insulin sensitivity. Make sure the fasts are on non-training days and be ready to hit the plate hard when it’s over.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Slash Your Protein Macros

When bulking you quickly notice which of three macros is the priciest: Protein. In some areas of the country you may not be able to get a pound of meat for under five dollars. Protein is going to eat up your food budget in a hurry.

To offset the cost of protein, you’re going to eat less than what the typical bulking diet calls for. Usually, you’re going to see recommendations of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, or more, when bulking. In a perfect world, this is where you’d want to be. But you’re bulking on a budget, so an acceptable amount will have to do.

Go with .8-1 gram per pound of lean body mass (bodyweight minus fat). This will give you just enough protein to put you in a positive nitrogen balance, but at lower cost. Since you’ll be taking in less calories from protein, fats and/or carbohydrates need to be increased to maintain a calorie surplus.

Get just enough protein for rebuilding muscle tissue. Use carbohydrates and fats to put yourself in a calorie surplus. Do this and you’ll be well on your way to a successful bulk.

money saving bulk_protein

4. Know Where and How to Shop

Where you buy foods will have the largest impact on your efforts to save cash. You’ll need to investigate a few stores around your area to see which ones carry the items you need at the lowest price.

The first place you’ll want to visit is a warehouse store (Sam’s Club, Costco, etc.). These stores offer you a greater discount than typical supermarkets because you’re buying in bulk. Since you’re bulking, it seems appropriate to buy in bulk, right?

There’s not going to be many supplies you can’t find at these stores. Be sure to stock up on all of the essentials; rice, potatoes, meats, veggies, nuts, nut butters, olive and coconut oil.

You might not think of going to your local farmers market, but they can be great money savers. They’re great options when stocking up on fruits and vegetables, especially, but many have a good amount options for high quality meats.

money saving bulking_farmers market

You don’t see local butcher shops around much. But if you can find one, it’ll be a great source of locally raised meats. The key here is going to be buying in bulk. A butcher will be more willing to give you a deal if you’re buying ten plus pounds of meat versus one or two.

Another option for you to explore is buying half of a cow or pig from a local farmer. Some butchers may do this. But it won’t be as cost effective as buying direct from the farmer. You’re reducing the price per pound and getting grass finished meats. This includes the more expensive cuts which are usually top dollar.

The issue you’ll run into when buying half an animal is having the freezer space to store it. If you have a large freezer, you’re good to go. If you’re not so lucky, consider finding a friend or two willing to go in on it with you. Buy half the cow then divvy it up.

Don’t Let Money Derail your Muscle Gains

Putting on massive amounts of muscle is a tough endeavor. You’ll realize the struggles of a bulk whether you’re limited by a budget or not.

The extra time you spend in the gym. Your body feeling sorer than a quarterback on Monday morning. Carrying a food baby with you all day. The sheer amount of time you’ll spend eating. Thinking there’s no possible way you can finish your last meal of the day, but knowing you must.

Looking like a Greek God once it’s all said and done is worth the physical struggles you’ll endure. Don’t be fooled to think you can’t bulk on a budget. Use these four tips to make the financial side of the equation more manageable.


Joe HuskeyJoe Huskey is a strength & health coach, enjoys the company of dogs more than most people, and hasn’t counted macros for longer than two hours. Joe works with professional men improve their confidence in all aspects of life using strength training as the catalyst. His solution for everything is to get stronger.

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