If you’ve been in the fitness game for a while, you’ve discovered two truths about eating clean:
- It sucks
- It’s expensive
Foods labeled with words like organic, natural, free range and humane seem like healthier options until you look at the price and think, “Do I really want to pay that much for eggs?”
I’ll leave the “organic” foods debate for another post, but there’s no doubt it’s tough to find reasonably priced, high quality foods with all the buzzwords and hype we see at the grocery store.
We don’t need any more roadblocks on the arduous road to single-digit body fat, so in this post, we’re going to cover how to build a healthy diet without breaking the bank.
Let’s start with cheap sources of macronutrients and then move to buying and planning tips.
Best (Cheapest) Foods to Meet Our Macro Needs
Proper macronutrient balance is foundational to the Hack Your Fitness diet, so as we examine the most economical foods to buy, we’ll group these foods by macros.
Let’s start with protein, the most expensive macronutrient you must buy.
- Eggs/egg whites
- Chicken breast
- Canned salmon/tuna
- Low fat cottage cheese
- Protein powder
We covered in this post why you should chew your calories, so although I included protein powder in this list, it’s meant only to supplement your daily protein intake.
Next up is fat, which is the easiest macro to find on grocery store shelves.
With twice the caloric density of protein and carbs, it’s also the most dangerous to our diet.
The good news is that we don’t need to buy a lot of fatty foods.
- Natural peanut butter
- Canola/olive oil (for cooking)
Except for fruit, carbs are the cheapest macro group at the grocery.
- Brown rice
- Black beans
Now that we know what foods to buy, let’s look at some planning and purchasing tips.
Tip 1. Plan Every Meal for the Week
With Hack Your Fitness, planning is one practice that can make or break your success.
Planning your meals for the week is no different that planning your workouts. This practice provides huge benefits to both your diet and your wallet:
- Meal planning allows you to nail your calorie amounts and macro ratios for each day.
- You’re more efficient in your food consumption when you plan your meals (less time spent trying wandering around trying to find foods that fit the diet).
If your weekdays are hectic, take some time on weekends to plan and prep your meals.
Tip 2. Cook at Home
The second part of planning is cooking at home.
You’ll pay a premium for healthy meal options at stores and restaurants, but if you cook at home, you can save a bunch by simply spending Sunday afternoon preparing your meals for the week.
When you can grab your breakfast and lunch and walk out the door for work each morning, you’ll realize the time savings and cost effectiveness of cooking at home can’t be beat.
Cooking your own meals also ensures the highest quality prep (i.e. no extra oil used).
Pro tip: Invest in a slow cooker or Sous Vide machine.
I’m the worst cook in the world but even I can’t screw up Sous Viding a meal.
Tip 3. Bargain Hunt
If you plan on doing a lot of cooking at home, places like Costco, Sam’s Club, Thrive Market, and Trader Joe’s could be worth the membership fees so you can buy in bulk.
If you are an organic type of person then you’re going to have to do additional homework to find the best pricing. We all know that organic foods tend to cost more across the board. This comprehensive list of stores is a good starting point.
Regardless of where you shop, when you find foods with great macros, buy it in bulk.
Here’s a refresher on the 4-4-9 formula if you need help examining nutrition labels.
Pro tip: Buy generic brands to squeeze out some additional savings.
Tip 4. Clip Your Coupons
My mom is the inspiration here, as she never had a problem bringing a stack of coupons to the grocery to save a few bucks (and taking her sweet time scanning each one).
Granted, most coupons are for junk foods, but if you scour the Sunday specials carefully, you’ll occasionally find some good deals on healthy foods.
If you really want to save, check the ego and start clipping those coupons!
Tip 5. Grow Your Own Food
If you want to go full doomsday prepper and have the time and space to do so, you can explore growing your own food, even if it’s just an herb or vegetable garden.
I don’t have the time, space, or green thumb needed to grow food, but I admire people who do.
They’re eating the healthiest possible food and paying next to nothing for it.