Food Shop for a Fat Loss or Muscle Building Goal
Going to the gym, strictly following a workout plan and watching what you eat is supposed to be expensive, right? Won’t your food shop have to contain lots of special foods?
It’s probably going to cost loads of money too, yeah?
No! It doesn’t have to!
If you were to see my food shop you would probably be surprised. In fact, I filmed one of my Aldi “hauls” – see it below:
You might be expecting lots of organic foods. All fruit and veg bought fresh! Some lean meats, coconut oil, avocado, grass fed beef, wild caught salmon and butter from grass-fed cows?
I actually don’t really go in for all of that. All I try to do is buy food I like that helps me hit my macronutrient and calorie goals. Cost is a major consideration too!
It definitely doesn’t have to be expensive to eat and be in shape
Everything I buy is with one of two things in mind:
- Is this something I can cook for dinners and lunches that will be a cost effective way to hit my protein goals whilst staying within my calorie limits.
- Is this something I can fill my remaining calories and macros with, after hitting protein and fibre goals, that is delicious and/or cheap?
You Should be Thinking About Your Weekly Protein, Fat and Carb Numbers When Going Shopping
If you’ve got a physique goal, you should have a calorie and macronutrient goal.
Hit those numbers and you will eventually get into shape (if they’re the right numbers and your training is also on point!).
For example, if you’re like me and you weigh about 86 kilograms when lean, you’re very active and you want to gain muscle, you’re probably looking to eat about 3,300 calories per day and about 200 grams of protein.
Let’s use my numbers (because I know them off the top of my head)
Daily calorie goal for a slow rate of weight gain: 3,300
Daily protein goal to support muscle growth: 200 grams (800 calories)
Average daily fat intake: 74 grams (664 calories)
Remaining calories from carbs: 1836 calories which is equivalent to 459 grams of carbs.
Over the week, that means I need to eat 23,100 calories, or:
- 1,400g of protein
- 518 grams of fat
- 3213 grams of carbs.
Don’t think your food shop needs to be expensive. It really doesn’t. There are cheap ways to hit ANY calorie or macronutrient goal. There are also expensive ways.
When I go to do a food shop, I’ve got my numbers above in mind and I’m looking to hit them in the most cost-effective way possible.
Not everything is bought weekly
However, I also know I have some longer lasting foods at home to help me out. I don’t have to buy these every time I do a food shop.
For example, I buy porridge in bulk for an easy cheap source of carbs (and fibre, and breakfast!). I can buy a bag for £0.70 that will last 2 weeks. I have some jars of jam for a really good source of cheap carbs that I can put on bread, or in the porridge.
The same goes with peanut butter for fats, or my big bags of whey protein for protein. If you buy the right one, there’s no cheaper or more convenient source of protein that doesn’t come with a load of extra calories.
You’re still going to have to buy some sources of protein in your food shop, unless you ONLY want to drink shakes (not recommended).
Therefore, protein is still going to set you back the biggest amount of your groceries budget.
However, you can be clever about it. There’s cheap and expensive ways to get it, and there’s also boring and interesting ways to get it too!
What do I buy when I get a food shop?
- A Cheap source of protein: I’m looking for protein sources that come with fewer calories from fat and carbs. E.g. Turkey mince and chicken breast, not chicken thighs (cheaper, but worse protein : fat ratio) or salmon (more expensive AND worse protein : fat ratio)
- Nutrient dense foods: These are my fruits and vegetables. Cheap sources preferred. Bought loose, tinned or frozen. Not organic.
- Seasonings and sauces – used to make meals interesting. Sauces still have calories, count them!
- Cheap “fun” foods: This is optional (when I have extra calories in a muscle gaining phase). I buy big tubs of ice cream when on offer, multi-packs of biscuits, chocolate, chocolate spread etc.
- Cheap source of carbs: This includes meal bulkers like rice, pasta and bread. I also usually get some “fun” sources of carbs too, to fill out my calories when I have little or no fat remaining. This usually means eating jam on toast, or those little lemon and raisin scotch pancakes – those are great! Hot cross buns and fruit loaf is good too!
- Other bits I use often: I also buy eggs (free range – but only because I feel bad about caged hens), milk (I buy skimmed, because I don’t want to drink extra calories unless it’s something REALLY worth it, like a chocolate milk shake), and other bits and pieces. I also buy yoghurts, which I use to make overnight oats (perfect for those mornings when I need to be up and out quickly) and mayonnaise. Aldi do an unbelievably good one which is only 9 calories per 15g serving. That is a god send when you’re eating Tuna!
I should make it clear I track my calories every day, regardless of whether I’m trying to lose or gain weight. When I have more calories to play with, I still stay within my limit as I don’t want to gain fat way too quickly! This is what happens when you shoot way past your calorie limit or don’t track. I don’t do dreamer bulks anymore!
I should also mention that I don’t really have to worry about buying foods to hit my fat goal. There’s traces of fat in many of the foods you will eat every day – so you tend to hit it without even trying. My fat number is pretty low too. This also limits how many of the “fun foods” I can eat, as I make sure not to go over my fat limits. I want to keep my calorie ratio heavily in favour of carbohydrates as they’re a better source of energy for good workouts and building muscle.
I also eat a lot of vegetables and take a multivitamin to ensure I’m not deficient in anything. Fibre is important too. I make sure I’m getting enough fibre before I start filling up my calories with “fun” foods.
Buying Fruit and Veg
My food shop contains lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, but I don’t give a damn if they’re organic or not. I just buy whatever’s cheapest and still good quality. You can buy frozen vegetables if you want. I buy frozen fruit to put in my porridge or my overnight oats. Still good! Tinned vegetables are also good if you like them.
I tend to buy fresh onions, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms as I use those foods a lot and they’re dirt cheap. I buy the biggest, cheapest pack or buy them loose. They’re really useful for me to batch cook my meals for lunch (usually a curry, a chilli or a spaghetti – all require onions and mushrooms if you follow my recipes!)
I also buy plenty of green vegetables. Broccoli, brussels sprouts and green beans being the main ones. These are amazing – especially broccoli – as they are really cheap, really filling and really low in calories! They also contain a LOAD of micronutrients, which are essential for health, but unlike macronutrients, don’t have calories.
Cauliflower is another great one, but I just tend not to buy it as much.
Everyone says you should buy “lean meat” – therefore lean cuts of steak, burgers made with 5% fat mince and beef mince that is 5% fat or less.
When I’m doing my foo shop, all I worry about is how much protein I can buy for every £1 and how many extra calories are coming along for the ride. If the first number is high, and the second number is low, then I’ve found a good source of protein and I buy it.
Currently that’s 7% fat turkey mince from aldi. It’s £1.89 or something like that for a 500g pack containing 100g of protein and 590 calories.
That works out at around 53 grams of protein for every £1 I spend, and about 5.9 calories per gram of protein consumed (so 1.9 tag along calories for every 4 calories that come from a gram of protein).
You won’t find many protein sources that are better than that on both amount of protein per £, and calories per gram of protein.
There’s also bad protein sources
Peanut butter is a cheaper protein source – however it is actually a TERRIBLE source of protein if you think about the calories.
You can buy a value tub of peanut butter for £0.70. The tub contains 81 grams of protein, so it’s 115 grams of protein for every £1 spent. Clearly cheaper than turkey mince.
HOWEVER, every gram of protein consumed from peanut butter comes at a cost of 34.8 calories (almost 6 times the calories of the turkey mince) – clearly this is not a good source of protein!
50 grams of protein from turkey mince = 295 calories. 50 grams of protein from peanut butter = 1,740 calories.
When I look at my protein sources like this, I inevitably tend to never buy red meat. It’s just not as cost effective, or as calorie effective as some of the alternatives.
If I buy steak or burgers, it’s going to be a treat. I’m going to be eating more calories and I’m probably going to have to supplement with more protein.
My food shop doesn’t contain any wild caught fish. My fish is farmed and it makes no difference to me. Again, I’m looking at the protein content for my money, and the calories per gram of protein.
This usually means I don’t buy fish because I’m going to have to eat 3 fillets to get enough protein – and then it’s going to be an expensive meal which is also probably high in calories (if I’m eating a fattier fish, like salmon).
Of course, I could keep the calories low and the protein high by eating white fish like cod or tilapia, but to keep the calories low it would have to be without batter or breadcrumbs. That’s just not that enjoyable. If I want to have a high protein, low calorie meal, I’ll stick with oven baked chicken breast and green vegetables.
I would much rather have fish cooked in batter or breadcrumbs, and see it as a meal where I’m splurging some of my calorie budget away because it’s delicious. I’ll then have to supplement with whey protein to get me closer to my protein goal.
You don’t even really have to change what you buy in your food shop
I am confident you could work out your optimal calorie and macronutrient numbers and hit those numbers without making any changes to what goes in your food shop.
You’re already buying protein, fats and carbs from the shops, you just may not be thinking about how much of each to buy, and how much of each to eat.
You have fat sources and carb sources in your fridge and cupboard. Once you’re aiming for a certain amount of each every day, you can just eat more or less of each one. The only thing you might have to do is supplement with protein – or slightly change what protein sources you buy.