Look, it’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re in college and broke.
My brother lived off very little for 8 years of his life and now he is a very successful research pharmacist and money isn’t much of an issue to him anymore.
But he lived off very little and I can remember my mother giving him $20 or $30 and saying things like “You need to make this last a week.”
If he wanted to drink, it was almost always the cheapest shit he could buy, and sometimes it would come down to a choice of either drinking at a party or being able to eat the next day.
There is no doubt that with tuition, books, and housing – college can make you financially strapped for quite awhile.
I have never been a broke college kid because I wasn’t a college kid. But I have been broke before and a budget is a budget, right?
So here’s how you eat when you’re a broke college student and you want to build muscle.
What is the most important thing when it comes to gaining muscle?
Get bodybuilding supplements out of your head for a minute and let’s break it down to the basics.
You need to find a way to eat on very little money before getting involved in anything else right now.
How much protein do you need?
I DO NOT BELIEVE it takes as much as 2 grams of protein per lb. of bodyweight to gain muscle. This has never been proven, and to be perfectly real with you, it has never been proven that your body utilizes more than 0.6 – 0.8 grams of protein per lb of body weight.
So this means that you probably don’t need as much protein as you think.
Best protein sources for a broke college student:
Ok, so we aren’t going to be eating fillet mignon and caviar here.
The best thing to eat on a limited budget would be ground beef and cans of tuna fish.
6 oz of ground beef per serving is what most guys will need to eat, so basically if you by one lb of ground beef you are going to have two hamburger patties (4 oz will probably be lost from the heating process).
I would consume one of these hamburgers a day, and then two cans of tuna fish at another sitting. You can cook 2 hamburgers at a time and save one for the next day also.
For breakfast it would have to be whole eggs, probably about 3-4 whole eggs.
Forget egg whites, you can’t afford to eat as many as it’s going to take on a daily basis. Just eat them whole.
If you are in school and are fortunate enough to have a meal plan or “card” to eat at a cafeteria then hopefully you can get eggs.
Aside from eggs in the morning, a hamburger patty, and a couple cans of tuna fish, the rest of your protein will come from protein powder.
Yes I believe real food is better, but it’s not always cheaper.
Protein powder is a cost measure as well as convenience. A $30 jug of protein with 25-28 servings is a lot cheaper than 25-28 servings of chicken or fish.
Carb sources for college students:
The good thing is carbs are cheap. Potatoes, rice, oats, it’s all cheap.
Are Ramen noodles horrible to eat?
Actually not really, if you leave out the sodium from the flavoring. You can buy Ramen noodles for like 10 cents a pack.
Do I think it’s the best carbohydrate? No, but it gets the job done if you’re trying to build muscle and you need calories!
Veggies for college kids:
As for veggies, on a budget you can forget the expensive “microwave in the bag” vegetables.
Get a large bag of frozen broccoli and throw some in a bowl and microwave it. Actually, I’d microwave more than what I needed and put some in a freezer bag and then put in the fridge for the next day as well.
How to cook in a college dorm:
I’m willing to bet that if you just dedicated 30 minutes a day to meal prep every other day, you could do it!
And some of you may have healthier choices at your local cafeteria that you could also take advantage of.
So lets say you live in a college dormitory, hopefully you have a small fridge and a microwave.
A George Foreman grill is a GREAT TOOL to use for convenience.
You can throw your ground beef on there and cook your rice or potatoes in a microwave, problem solved!
You wouldn’t believe the gourmet food that some prisoners know how to make with just a microwave!
The point is this; where there is a will there is a way! No, it’s not the most convenient way to eat, but nothing in life is exactly the way we want it.
Lets break down the food choices and expenses for a minute here…
These are American prices and I’m not sure what the cost is in your country if you live outside of the U.S. Hopefully there are viable options for you and you can substitute some of this if you need to.
Best food for broke college students:
3 lbs of ground beef: $3.99/lb for 90% lean from Butcher or wholesale store – 3 lbs per week will get me 6 days at 1/2 lb per day- $11.97
24 pack of ramen noodles: 1-2 packs per day and I have 2 weeks worth. Cost: $13.99 per 24 pack.
One bag rice: One bag of rice should last all week. Cost: $2-$3 per bag.
5 lb bag of potatoes: One 5 lb bag of potatoes should last all week. Cost: $3.99 per bag.
18 pack of Eggs: Eating 3 eggs per morning should last 6 days. Cost: $3 per 18 pack.
One 2 lb jug of protein powder: One jug (around 28 servings) at two servings per day will last 2 weeks (2 scoops post workout). Cost: $30 per 2.2 lb jug.
One jar of natural peanut butter: $3 per jar, eat as needed.
One bag of frozen broccoli: $3 per bag, eat as needed.
One large container of oats: $3 per container, eat as needed.
Total cost for two weeks of food: $70
You could buy all of this stuff from Amazon, have it delivered and save even more money.
If you add that up then you will see it comes out to just over $70 and a few of those products will last you almost 2 weeks.
It’s okay if one of them lasts for six days and not seven days. You will probably want a “cheat meal” or a “free day” in there also.
As you go you can collect condiments such as sauces, ketchup, salsa, or anything else you want to add to your food, or seasonings for your meat. And of course those things you won’t need to buy every week.
How to survive being a broke college bodybuilder:
Be honest with yourself about all of this…
Being strapped for cash is one thing, but don’t be one of these little bitches that is always crying about “Poor me, I’m just a broke college kid…”
…and then you are buying an $80 keg of beer every weekend.
Sometimes excuses are easier than facing reality.
Stop being a lazy fuck and start preparing your food.
I would suggest any sort of part-time job money that you could make that would help make buying these things easier.
There is no shame in trying to make extra money to live a fit and healthy lifestyle.
So don’t think that just because your priorities are different than most everyone else’s that you’re wasting your time and efforts.
Without health, there is no wealth
If you do it right then you’ll see that you may spend the same (if not less) on healthy foods rather than eating garbage all of the time.
Remember, building a good physique is over 90% nutrition!
And no, you don’t need to live in the gym.
If all I was allowed was two days a week to work out, I could still have a lean and muscular build.
You can too, if you know how to do it and make it a priority.
There is no amount of money in this world that you could give me to be rich but out of shape.
Don’t be one of these guys who throws everything away to live like a fat slob, with nothing but a healthy bank account to show for it!
Over and out!
PS – Don’t forget to check out Straight From the Underground, the new underground bodybuilding bible!
16 thoughts on “The College Kid’s Guide to Cheap Nutrition”
good post, thanks
Its even better to buy your protein in bulk (25lbs +) online i used truenutrition.com and canadianprotein.com (cost less in shipping in canada) I also love lean ground pork and bulk frozen fish from costco like tilapia, sole, cod, baha bulk frozen chicken breast are at a decent price too ill eat some ground beef frozen salmon and some homemade chicken when i have extra money.
chicken wings are pricey as hell where I live
I’m always up to something and strapped for cash and these foods are by far the most bang for my buck on my grocery list. Turkey meat is another one its 2.09/lb at my local.store and tastes delicious with some dried tomatoes and cheese.
‘There is no amount of money in this world that you could give me to be rich but out of shape’ – aint this the truth.
Can’t stand people who are so proud of their ‘jobs’ and totally overlook the bursting gut in front of them. Don’t they know without health nothing can be had?
Awesome post. Definitely useful as all hell since when I’m not strapped for cash, Im swamped with chemistry and engineering work. Its hard to stay focused, but very doable. Got sick of dropping extra cash on booze and spent it on whey.
Great article, John!
I’m broke college kid myself and this article helped me.
You’re the only guy I listen to when it comes to fitness. This industry is full of BS and you’re a light.
Just wanted to appreciate your work. Thanks.
Great tips. I remember in college I would cook the ramen noodles without the flavor packets and then stir fry some veggies and meat into it for a full meal. It was great tasting, easy, and cheap as dirt.
Thank you for posting no nonsense street smart info that actually works.
This is the month of Ramadan. Around a billion people fast (eat and drink nothing)
from dawn till sunset.
I have found no information on the internet about how to eat to during bulking phase
and how to use it to one’s advantage to loose fat.
Looking forward to an interesting post on this subject.
I’m a college student so this guide is great to me.
There is an issue for me, though : in my country, country is the most expensive meat you can find (20$ for 500gr).
I can buy ham or chicken, which one do you recommend?
definitely chicken!!! Ham is way too high in salt to be eating on the regular
No other way to put it. This is an awesome article that every college kid in America needs to read.
Thanks for this.
I would also add something like canned sardines too
JON WOULD ONE CHICKEN THIGH BE GOOD PER DAY FOR A 52 YEAR YOUNG MALE: !??/ [email protected]
yea, you could eat 3 a day if you wanted to, not going to hurt you