Eating Clean on a Budget

Do you eat clean? If not, don’t expect to see the same results in the gym as those who do.

It’s that simple. If you aren’t feeding your body what it needs to pack on muscle, lose fat or whatever it may be that you are trying to accomplish, then a lot of that hard work you are doing in the gym is going to waste.

I always hear people complaining about how expensive it is to eat clean (healthy). While eating clean can be a bit pricey if you don’t know what you are doing, it’s really not all that bad.

Often times I find that those who are complaining are just looking for a reason not to eat clean. They like to try to reassure themselves that not eating clean is “okay” and tell themselves they will get the same results eating “whatever they want”.

When I find these kinds of people, I like to tell them how much I spent on my “clean groceries” that week and watch their jaws drop in complete shock. It’s priceless.

What do I buy you ask? Well I’ve gotten so tired of explaining this week after week that I’m going to write it all up in this comprehensive clean eating grocery list to help everyone out.

Let’s get started shall we?

Shopping list:

-Greek yogurt
-Brown rice
-Whole-wheat pasta
-Jar of marinara sauce
-Canned refried beans
-Fresh bag of spinach
-Canned tuna
-Skinless boneless chicken breast

Greek Yogurt (~$1.50 Each)

Get as many of these as you are willing to buy. Not only does this yogurt taste good, but also it’s also great for your gains. If you haven’t had this type of yogurt before, don’t be shocked by it’s tart/sour taste. If this bothers you, try adding some fresh fruit or granola and mix it all together.


Greek yogurt boasts almost twice as much protein as regular yogurt. It’s also a great source of important vitamins and other essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, zinc and vitamins B6 and B12. Compared to regular yogurt, Greek yogurt contains much less carbohydrates and sodium than plain old regular yogurt.

When to eat:

It’s really up to you when you fit this into your diet. I typically just use it as a snack throughout the day but sometimes if I’m running late for class in the morning and don’t have time to make something, it makes for a quick and easy ‘minibreakfast’ on the go.

Brown Rice (~$2.00 per bag)

This is probably the easiest and most cost effective meal you will ever create. You can snag a hefty bag of brown rice usually for under $2.00. The bag may not seem like enough, but trust me it’s plenty. You will end up accidently cooking more than you need the first few times you heat some up. Everyone does. Just remember this: rice goes a long way. You’ll see what I mean…


Brown rice is high in manganese and just one cup provides more than 80% your daily value. Manganese is helps your body synthesize fats, which is great for packing on lean muscle. It also contains selenium, which has been proven to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and arthritis. In addition, brown rice is also full of naturally occurring oils, rich in anti-oxidants, and high in fiber. All great for weight lifters and anyone trying to eat clean.

When to eat:

When I pick up a bag of brown rice I’ll usually cook quite a bit of the bag and just store the rest for later in the fridge. That way I don’t need to keep cooking it up every time I want to have a few bites. Heat up some rice to have with lunch or dinner it doesn’t really matter. The most important part is to simply include it in your diet.

Whole-Wheat Pasta (~$3.50 per box)

It may sound a bit gross at first, but after your first dish of this you will definitely have a change of heart. Not only is whole-wheat pasta great for your diet and gains but it’s also one of the easiest meals you might ever make. Boil up some water dump in a hefty serving of pasta and simply wait for it to be done. Minimal effort required.


Whole-wheat pasta is high in carbohydrates, which is exactly what your body needs to turn it into energy. Without them, you’re going to feel sluggish, tired and just useless over all. Along with carbs this type of pasta is high in other nutrients where regular pasta is not. Vitamin B and minerals like copper, selenium, magnesium and manganese are abundant in whole-wheat pastas. B vitamins are essential for energy production in the body, your metabolism and a healthy nervous system.

When to eat:

A common misconception with pasta is that you should always eat it before your workout. While pasta is a great source of carbs (which give you energy) it also helps restore the glycogen to your muscles after a hard work out. This is why I tend to eat my pasta after my workout. Not only is it good for recovery, it’s also just plain easy to make. Toss some pasta into the pot, boil it up, throw in some marinara sauce and you have a healthy post-work out dish.

Marinara Sauce (~$3.15 a jar)

This is more of luxury than a necessary healthy food. It’s more for your personal tastes to add to your whole-wheat pasta. While there are nutrients and vitamins in marinara sauce, they are quite minimal and often offset by the amount of sodium in a serving.

If you feel it is a necessary requirement to eat your pasta then by all means pick up a jar. It’s really not all that bad. Just try to look for a brand with a relatively low amount of sodium in it and you should be fine.

Canned Refried Beans (~$2.75 a can)

A less popular dish to make or pickup from the grocery store but still healthy and very cost effective. Commonly found in Mexican cuisine you might recognize them after you cook some up. Refried beans are also one of the easiest dishes to toss together after a tough workout.


It’s pretty well known that beans are high in muscle-building protein. In fact all legumes have high amounts of protein and dietary fiber. The fiber will keep you ‘regular’ and you can thank me later for that. In addition to protein and fiber refried beans are also high in two essential minerals: magnesium and manganese. Magnesium is an essential mineral used as an enzyme in energy metabolism (great for the gains). It’s also great for building strong bones and teeth.

When to eat:

Like most of the dishes on this list you can fit this into your diet whenever it’s good for your schedule. Since they are so easy to cook, I usually eat them after my workout when I really don’t feel like putting in too much effort into cooking. I just pop open the can and heat them up. Sometimes I’ll throw some inside a tortilla and eat it like a taco on the go. Great stuff.

Bag of Spinach (~$3.00 per bag)

Ever hear of Popeye?  I’m sure you have, if not you are truly missing out on a classic. That stuff he always eats that makes his muscles huge is spinach. While the results are not as instantaneous as they are in the cartoon, there is definitely some factual basis to the use of spinach and muscle growth.


Surprisingly cooked spinach actually increases its’ health benefits. With most foods you are going to lose a lot of nutrients if you eat them anything other than raw. This is not the case with spinach. Among other things, spinach is full of vitamin C that will help boost your immune system. This comes in handy if you are hitting the gym a lot and are exposed to a lot of germs.

More importantly spinach is the most nutrient rich food on this list. I can’t begin to explain all the health benefits of it (that’s an entire post on its own). Just know it’s great for your gains and if you aren’t eating it throughout the week, you are missing out on a great food for your overall health and wellness not to mention your gains.

When to eat:

Spinach is fairly easy to cook and there are several ways to go about doing so. Look up some recipes online if you really can’t stand the taste. I usually cook some up to have a side with my post workout meal, but it’s entirely up to you when you fit this into your diet. Just make sure it’s in your diet somewhere, it’s that awesome.

Can of Tuna (~$3.75 per can)

Tuna has long been a stable dish of body-builders. Not only is it cheap but also it’s full of essential nutrients that are great for any active person. In addition to it being cost effective and healthy, it also comes in the perfect size can so you can easily keep an eye on your servings (very helpful).


If you are not a fan of fish, you should start to become one. The benefits of tuna surely out weigh it’s slight fishy smell/taste. It’s a great source of lean protein and full of omega-3. Omega-3 –incase you haven’t heard of it before– is an essential fat that is vital for metabolism and great for your joints and blood vessels (something we lifters need to take care of!).

When to eat:

There’s so much you can do with tuna it’s almost ridiculous. There are countless types of dishes you can toss a can into. For me I like to toss a can into my pasta dishes and mix it in. It makes for a great post workout meal with tons of gains to be had. But really it’s up to you how and when you cook it (like everything else on this list).

Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast (~$4.50 per bag)

For this one you’re going to have to venture over to the frozen section of the grocery store. Boneless chicken breast has long been a stable dish for bodybuilders. In fact I know some that eat chicken breast 5-6 times a day (wtf)! But why?


Obviously, chicken is packed full of protein which is why so many lifters eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. While that probably sounds a little excessive, there is definitely a method to the madness.

Beyond lean protein, chicken is also a natural anti-depressant because it contains large quantities of tryptophan. It also controls and regulates homocysteine levels in your body, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Lastly, chicken is rich in phosphorus. Phosphorus is an essential mineral that supports teeth and bone health throughout the body.

When to eat:

While I don’t eat chicken for breakfast lunch and dinner, I do eat it quite a bit. I usually grill up some chicken breast in the beginning of the week and keep some in the fridge so I don’t have to light up the grill every time I need some chicken.

Usually, I’ll have a chicken breast for lunch or dinner depending on my mood and what I’ve eaten all day. Either way you can’t go wrong so just implement it somewhere in your diet.

Eggs (~$2.50)

One thing I always make sure to have in the house is eggs. Not only are they insanely quick and easy to cook but also high in protein and essential fats like Omega-3 that I mentioned earlier.


While it has been reported that eggs can be high in cholesterol, it’s simply untrue. In fact eggs contain the good kind of cholesterol (HDL), which your body needs to be healthy. Two eggs a day is great for you. They contain a good amount of protein and many other essential vitamins and minerals. I eat them everyday.

When to eat:

As I mentioned before, I eat eggs everyday. I usually cook up two in the morning for breakfast to start of the day. You can eat them whenever you want but they are great meal to start off your day. Besides it would just be weird to cook them for dinner wouldn’t it?

TOTAL COST: ~$26.65

Yes you read that right. If you buy everything that’s on this list you are looking at about $27. That’s really not that bad. I’m not sure how much you usually spend on groceries but at this low of a cost, there really isn’t an excuse not to eat clean now.

What is on your ‘clean’ grocery list? Let me know in the comments below.


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