Weight Lifting Diet On A Budget


Being able to eat healthy on a budget is no small task, but being able to cobble together a weight lifting diet on a budget is another feat entirely. I’ve blogged previously about the high cost of healthy eating, so it’s no surprise that it’s hard to get a weight lifting diet on a budget. However, after more than a year of being an intensely “fit person”, I think I’ve got a handle on the challenge.

The problem with bad food is that it’s usually very cheap

… but that’s only because the hidden health costs don’t strike until later. 

Diabetes and obesity aren’t worth shaving 20% off your grocery bill. I’m horrified whenever I read articles about people annihilating their debt in record time by living on ramen. That isn’t an accomplishment, that’s a dangerous gamble of your health to pay a little less in interest. Please, take care of yourself! I don’t want to harp on people for their bad nutrition, but if you’re unhappy with your weight, find yourself feeling tired, sluggish, unproductive, and prone to illness, it’s probably your diet. Which is terrible, but at the same time it’s a very easy fix!

If you’re doing any kind of regular exercise, particularly an intensive program like weight-lifting, you need to eat for it.

I lift weights 4 to 5 times per week and have been diligently for nearly a year. In the summer I also mixed in a few 5km runs every week on top of my weight-lifting but once school started again I just couldn’t fit all the exercise into my schedule. Now that I’m working full-time and completing my last 2 MBA classes at night, I’m even more crunched for time, but thankfully there’s a gym very close to my work so I still get exercise in even during my busiest weeks.

I like to life heavy. Which means  no “Barbie barbells” here 😉 The program I’ve been following since January 1 is the 12 Week Program from FitAffinity. I got it on sale on Boxing Day as part of a set with their Abs and Lower Body programs. They are AWESOME but they go on sale all the time, so if the program you’re interested is at full-price now just keep your eye on it and it should be available at a discount soon!

But back to your weight-lifting diet on a budget. The key to getting the right nutrition when lifting heavy is getting enough protein — but protein is hella expensive! This Bodybuilding.com calculator will give you a rough estimate of how much protein you need based on your body weight.

Below are my weekly and monthly grocery lists. At first glance you might be surprised at the price tag: $300 per month per person on food. The online personal finance community is as bad at nutrition as they are good at managing their money. Many brag about monthly grocery bills of less than $200, which is not so much a budgeting feat as it is purchasing malnutrition at a hefty pricetag. After all, if you’re going to treat your body like crap, you could just starve it for free. But you’re not going to do that! You’re going to eat healthy on a budget!

Weight Lifting Diet On A Budget

Weekly Grocery List ($56 per week)

  • At least 8 servings of: broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes ($10)
  • At least 4-6 servings of: bananas, blueberries, apples, avocado ($6)
  • 1-3 (8-10 servings) of sweet potatoes ($4)
  • 8 chicken breasts ($20)
  • 1-2 servings fish or lean ground beef ($10)
  • 1 dozen eggs ($4)
  • 1 box Rice Thins crackers or other snack ($2)

Monthly Grocery List ($77 per month)

  • Quaker quick oats ($10)
  • Chickpeas ($2) and/or Black beans ($2)
  • Vega All-In-One Nutritional shake ($40)
  • Optimum Nutrition protein powder ($25)

Total Expected Spend: $56/week x 4 weeks + $77/month =

$301 per month

So not cheap, but not bank account annihilating expensive either. Out of this you should be able to make six meals per day each week.

Weight Lifting Diet On A Budget – Meals

  • Breakfast – 1 scoop chocolate Vega One + 1/2 banana + 1/4 cup of oats OR protein pancakes + fruit OR eggs + veg
  • Snack – crackers + hard boiled egg OR piece of fruit OR 1/2 avocado
  • Lunch – 40z chicken breast + 3/4 cup sweet potato + 3/4 cup green veg
  • Snack – protein shake OR crackers + hard boiled egg
  • Dinner – 40z chicken breast + 3/4 cup sweet potato + 3/4 cup green veg
  • Snack – crackers + hard boiled egg OR piece of fruit OR 1/2 avocado

Sources of savings in this weightlifting diet on a budget:

The Vega all-in-one shake negates the need to consume additional supplements. Because the shake contains leafy greens, Omega 3s, and a whole whack of vitamins, it reduces both your grocery AND pharmacy bill. Besides, apparently supplements don’t contain what they promise. Before I started taking Vega I was spending ~$40/mo on supplements and vitamins. I axed both when I started taking Vega, and still feel great. Additionally, Vega is vegan so it doesn’t contain dairy like most protein powders. Even if this is not a dietary concern, anyone who’s ever left their protein shaker bottle overnight knows the next morning isn’t pretty. Well, with Vega you’re not left clearing sour milk sludge out of your favorite water bottle. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is. You can buy Vega online here (Canada) and here (USA) and get free shipping, or in practically any health food store and some high end grocery stores.

Protein powder will let you meet your protein requirements without buying more expensive foods like chicken and fish. I like Optimum Nutrition (I haven’t tried any other brands), but I find it is too expensive to order online, whereas it’s always on sale at my local health food store. I used to be weirded out by protein powder and refused to have it, but I found I had a really hard time getting enough protein (especially while keeping costs down!) so I finally just gave in.

Skipping alcohol, dairy, and junk food is REALLY good for your budget. One of the perks of eating super healthy is you’re getting enough of everything you need, so you don’t feel hungry all the time. Gone are the days of mindless munching! And telling people you can’t drink much because you’re sticking to a strict workout regime is an easy out of spending $100 at the bar. Dairy is only really the enemy if you talk to my personal trainer, but otherwise it’s not super bad for you — but it is bad for you wallet. Cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. are usually higher in price, so finding a way to axe them from your diet will save you a few bucks.

And that’s the best you can do! In my opinion, there’s no better investment than your health — so a $300/mo grocery budget + gym membership + workout program is one of the best ways to spend your money. Because few things will give you such a great return on your investment! Not only will exercise improve your health, it will make you more productive at work AND happier! If you’re going to shell out your hard earned money for anything, it can’t go anywhere better than towards your health.

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22 Comments. Leave new

  • Sweetie, $300 for a month’s groceries does not seem like a lot to me.

  • That’s a very reasonable amount, I’ve got to say. And I see Vega on sale at Loblaws brand stores at least every two months.

  • Hey! I am interested in the Fit Affinity program and currently have weights and a bench at home. I’m just wondering what sort of stuff you need to complete the program? Is it simply a weights program or would I need some sort of cardio machine also?

    • Nope! It’s almost entirely free weights — with the exception of lat pull down & tricep cable push downs, which require machines, but you can easily substitute other exercises instead.

      The FitAffinity program will actually advise you to do NO cardio while you’re building muscle. I waited until Week 8 to bring cardio back into my routine, and even now my cardio is walking at a brisk pace for 30mins twice per week =p haha You definitely don’t need a cardio machine to do it!

  • I’m accustomed to a high grocery bill as I have food allergies (wheat (gluten) and peanuts) & ‘gluten free’ is twice the price unfortunately!
    Only way I could cut my bill is to not eat anything processed at all but then I’d feel abnormal lol.
    I’m currently doing the Insane Muscle Assault program and it’s befitting of its name that’s for sure.

    • I just had to google insane muscle assault… and I’m intrigued! I did the Insanity program last year and it’s still one of my favorites of all time.

      I love having a workout program to work through.. I’m so not good at self-motivating if I don’t have something to check off the list!

  • Thank you. I have been feeling guilty for the last couple of weeks because I have annihilated my family grocery budget with my additional healthy purchases… My food bill alone has been almost equal to that of my husband and child combined (and hubby is still cooking enough for me out of habit)… Yes, this can certainly be accommodated for in our budget, but the guilt over eating more than ramen has actually been painful. Thank you for reminding me that it is ok to prioritise health. In my case it is weight loss rather than weight training, but either way, better long term health is still a good investment in the future. I would rather spend more on extra vegetables and protein now than more on doctor visits and medication later!

    • Don’t feel guilty! There’s no better place to spend your money than on your health — it improves every area of your life!

      Agreed that spending on veggies > spending on doctors & meds! Good nutrition is truly a long term investment.

  • I am totally impressed by your $300/month budget. I spend way more than that… but as another person commented, if I buy anything at all processed or pre-made, I have to get the gluten/dairy free options which add $$$. I always struggle with keeping things interesting while eating a healthy protein heavy diet. Do you ever get tired of eating the same things? Or do you manage to keep a good variation going?

  • You can probably save a bit of money if you consider switching over to protein from Canadianprotein.com. Provided you’re willing to buy enough to qualify for free shipping (spend over $99), you get protein comparable to Gold Standard and a lot more of it.

    Consider that one 2lb bag of Gold Standard via ON’s website costs 29.99, while Canadianprotein.com sells a 5lb bag of protein of comparable quality for 39.99.

    Looking back at your grocery list, I guess you might not necessarily need 10lbs at any time since you seem to get by with one 2 lb bag, but in general, I just find I’ve managed to save a lot of money since switching over to canadianprotein versus buying my protein from local supplement stores.

    Just a thought.

  • Also, you might want to correct this “The Vega all-in-one shake negates the need to consume additional supplements. Because the shake contains leafy greens, fish oils, and a whole whack of vitamins, it reduces both your grocery AND pharmacy bill.”

    The Vega all in One does not contain fish oils, because it is vegan. You probably meant Omega 3s. Might want to clarify that for any vegan readers potential considering that product.

  • Aleksandra Sagan
    February 26, 2015 8:28 pm

    Is that $300 for you, or $300 for you and the fiancé?

  • Aleksandra Sagan
    March 2, 2015 10:36 am

    YES! that answer makes me so happy.

    We spend between $600-650 on food together and I always feel slightly ashamed when I read other personal finance blogs that brag about how little they spend on groceries. I think part of it is that we live in Toronto, where groceries aren’t cheap. Another part of it is that I love to cook and we care about eating healthy/well. I’d rather spend a little more money on food that’s good for me than try to cut corners on groceries.

  • I’m so happy to see somebody address this. My husband and I also work out a lot. We run at least 10 miles a week and lift 4-5 days a week. At first I felt guilty being dedicated to personal finance and also spending so much on protein bars and such. But you hit the nail on the head with the hidden cost of being unhealthy. Health complications will cost you much more later! Its still nice to see though that it can be done in a slightly cheaper way.


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