T Nation

Buying Food on a Budget

I wasn’t sure of where to post this… But here it goes.

Does anyone have any good tips on where to get the most food for your buck? I find myself spending roughly $100 on food every week and I’m a student so I can’t really afford that. Any tips would be appreciated. I always look through coupons for discounts.

I live in san francisco and usually go to Safeway and get the extreme value packs for meat. I don’t have a car or a Costco membership so thats out of the question.

I eat mostly chicken breast, red meat, salmon, whole green beans, broccoli, potatoes/rice, peanuts.

Walmart for me, im a student. I spend roughly $40 on food a week. I eat chicken breast, eggs, peanuts, pickles, frozen veggies ($1 a pound at walmart), peanut butter, rice, Franks Hot Sauce (for chicken) and used to eat oatmeal with splenda to sweeten it. If I wanted more carbs I would look at pasta/canned beans, but I only eat carbs around my workout and its usually white rice and chicken. I only buy frozen veggies/pickles because I love to eat and they don’t have much cals, plus they are cheap. Some ideas for you take them as you will.

Thats all I eat, every week its pretty much the same with the occasional fast food run when im drunk, though im not a picky eater at all. My advice if you don’t have a lot of money and aren’t afraid to eat the same thing every day: Don’t buy fish and red meat. Im guessing fish may be cheaper for you on the coast, but here its pretty expensive compared to chicken. That has to be where all your money goes, everything else on your list is pretty cheap.

Forgot to mention I use protein powder as well, so I am not getting all my protein just from food. Helps with cost some. I assume you do too but if not look into that.

Wow $40 a week, that’s really cheap. I get tired of the same food all the time so I try to vary it week by week. Doesn’t need to be much different… changing the vegetables up, adding garlic bread, putting cheese on the vegetables, stuff like that. Not too concerned about bodyfat…

Yeah I use protein powder as well, Gold standard 5 lbs bucket for $60-something.

It’s the meat/fish thats the most expensive. I love salmon (and I don’t take any oil supplements so I need to eat fish) so that has to be on the list.

I get salmon for $6.99/lbs. I eat roughly 2,5lbs of this a week.
Chicken breasts are $2.99/lbs, occasionaly cheaper. This is usually discounted so I buy around 6-8 lbs of this a week.
I also eat peanut butter, oatmeal etc. but that’s not where the money goes.

Oh and theres no walmarts in san francisco…

Check the circulars (online) for the supermarkets in your area every week.

Coupons are not the greatest because usually they are for brand name processed food.

Split a BJ’s or Costco membership with a few buddies, and always buy the largest size package of meats that you can. I used to pick up 10 lbs of chopped meat and once I got home shape them into half lb patties and freeze em. Add in a few bags of chicken breasts (10 lbs for $20 at the BJs by me), tons of frozen veggies (always cheap in bulk), and oats (5 lbs for about $5), and some store brand protein powder (I used to use vitamin world brand, they’d have specials where you could get two 5 lb containers for $60) and you’ve got your staples locked in.

As far as choices go, well, I’m the type of guy who can eat the same 5 foods everyday with no issues as long as I can look at my physique in the mirror and know it’s doing its job :slight_smile:


[quote]mattis wrote:
I get salmon for $6.99/lbs. I eat roughly 2,5lbs of this a week.
Chicken breasts are $2.99/lbs, occasionaly cheaper.[/quote]

Here’s your problem. Why not eat fattier meats?

I LOVE chicken thighs and can get them for 99 cents some times. I rip the skins off and trim them but that’s just preference.

Chicken Leg-Quarters and Bone-in/Skin-on chicken breasts are also very cheap and taste soooo much better than chicken breast.

Buy fish oil and flax seed in bulk for your Omega-3’s.

[quote]mattis wrote:
I eat mostly chicken breast, red meat, salmon, whole green beans, broccoli, potatoes/rice, peanuts.[/quote]


Today at Walgreens they had were selling 2 dozen eggs for a dollar. At my grocery store 18 eggs are usually 2.99 and sometimes drop as low as 1.99.

Safeway is NOT cheap. Look around for cheaper places, there’s bound to be one somewhere around there if there are no Walmarts.

I don’t think any of these guys appreciate how expensive food is in SF! Also, I totally understand that if you don’t have a car and safeway is near you, than safeway is the only real option available. Hope it is the safeway in the Marina (date-way) and you can pick yourself up a rich marina milf!

If it was me, and I really needed to save the money, this is what I would do:

Make eggs your staple protein. Buy them in bulk (of course). Ground beef, chicken thighs, cheap fish (tilapia usually) would be secondary. When I say secondary, I mean that only when I couldn’t stomach even the thought of eggs that day is when I would turn to the secondary proteins. A tip on eating eggs - change the way you cook them (scramble/fried/hard boiled/poached/baked) to mix things up. Salmon rocks, and I love it, but at 7 bucks a pound (pretty damn good price actually…) it adds up quick!

Make rice your primary carb and calorie source. If you are really broke, you can’t afford lots of protein. If you do some extra running/sprints/whatever your favorite cardio is, you can still be lean on a higher carbohydrate diet. Potatoes are probably just about as cheap as rice. Rice is just my personal preference, and since it can be bought in bulk and stores well you will be less likely to have any spoilage.

As far as vegetables goes, you could (dare I say it??) omit them for most meals. My biggest tip would be that if you can, just buy enough for the next meal or two. I find that when I buy a lot of vegetables (say a bunch of spinach) I often lose a lot to spoilage.

Buy sriracha, tapatio, and chulula to add variety to your food.

If you can afford it, definitely get a protein powder! I would do a chocolate one so you can make ‘chocolate pudding’ as desert.

If you have extra money, I would spend it on grass fed butter (kerry gold), and wild caught salmon.

Just as a disclaimer:

I am all about grass fed/wild caught meats. I also fully believe in organic vegetables. I have done the AD/low carb diets many times for stretches of up to 6 months (in relation to my recommendation to go for a high carb diet).

However, I do these things because I am in it for the long haul as far as health goes. Given that logic, a few years of eating cheap crappy food (i.e. grain fed meat/low quality eggs) isn’t the end of the world.

You could also just move to the mission, buy a fixy, wear skinny pants, grow a beard, stop eating, and live off of PBR…

A lot of good tips here. Ill take all of this into consideration next time I go shopping.

I do eat eggs as well, just forgot to put them on the list. Protein Powder also.

Good tip on those eggs delta! I usually just cook them sunny side up with a slice of bread underneath and tomato beans on the side. That gets boring really quick so I’ll change up the way i prepare them as you said. Yeah rice is golden! I eat so much of it. Doesn’t get boring either.

Chicken thighs are good but here they are almost as expensive as chicken breasts and with the added weight from the bones it’s roughly the same price. Cheapest eggs I’ve found so far are $3.50 for 18 tiny ass eggs.

Safeway isn’t the cheapest, I’m aware of that. But living in SF (as delta9 pointed out) everything is crazy expensive. And without a car, there’s not that many options left. I have to travel for 40 minutes to Safeway and bring the groceries on the bus. It’s a great workout tho! Traps and shoulders are killing me by the time I’m back home…

No I go to the one in townsend so I only get to see the people that are too fat for the hills so they have to live in SOMA…

Wow, those prices are ridiculous. My mistake. I feel pretty lucky now…

I am also a college student in the same boat. I spend roughly $80 a week on groceries. However, I have realized one huge thing: drink your calories.

Buy yourself a blender (I got a cheap Sunbeam Blender for like $12 at Target). Replace your breakfast with a shake similar to this:

1-2 Scoops Chocolate Protein Powder
2 Cups 2% or Whole Milk
1 Whole Fruit (Apple or Banana tastes best, just chop them up into smaller pieces to make the blender’s job easier)
2 Heaping Tablespoons of Peanut Butter

Blend on high until it’s smooth.

The protein shake above is 700-800 calories and you get at least 40 g of protein, a serving of fruit, healthy fats from the peanut butter, and a pretty solid foundation of vitamins and minerals from all the ingredients. Also, it tastes awesome.

It’s a cheap meal replacement shake. A gallon of Milk is $3.29 where I’m from, Peanut Butter $2 per jar, Bananas maybe $2 per lbs.

If you have 3 of those a day (breakfast, pre & post workout), you just added 120g of protein, and over 2,000 calories to your diet.

StructureInChaos good tip! I do not own a blender but will look around for a cheap one.

BUy in bulk from a Sam’s, costco, walmart, etc
Chicken breast, rice, pasta, potatoes, bananas, oils, nut butters, eggs and milk are fiarly cheap
Dried beans as well. Buy veggies frozen.

Another idea I used when I was in college was to find a nearby bakery outlet. My roommates and I used to buy the largest package of bread or rolls that we could from the ‘near expiration’ selection. Then we’d freeze it and defrost as needed. I can’t tell you how many times I ate storebrand, dented cans of chunk tuna on almost expired rolls with cheese melted on top :slight_smile: