In Part I, we covered some of the early stages of getting on the right track to gain mass. Starting small and working towards a bigger goal is always ideal so long as you continue to make progress. After going from skipping most meals to starting to eat breakfast I shifted my focus towards lunch.
Now again, historically, I wasn’t a lunch eater. Really my biggest hang up with lunch was two-fold. Having the time to eat it, and then not letting lunch put me into a food coma by the early afternoon. I wanted to really avoid grains and greasy foods as much as possible since these tended to put me in that food coma.
I started by making my lunches consist of either a small $3 steak or frozen fish. I always went with one or the other and used it as a way to gain some variety in my meals. I also consistently switched up the type of fish I was eating just to keep things from being too boring. In all honesty, the lack of complexity in the meals really did make things easier.
In addition to the main protein I added in some brown rice and cottage cheese. Getting enough fiber in any diet can be extremely difficult so the brown rice was a good supplement for that. The cottage cheese was just an additional boost of protein but ultimately I ended up swapping it out for a can of beans to avoid the dairy intake. Here is my rice of choice:
Now that I had breakfast and lunch covered I started to iterate over my meal plan. As the weeks went on I adjusted and added in things or took things out. Once I was consistently hitting my breakfast goal I started adding in eggs. Eggs are very cheap and a great source of protein. The only problem was… I learned I had an egg allergy.
This forced me to substitute out the eggs but I didn’t want to lose the protein gain that I was getting from them so I opted to go with some slightly more expensive protein waffles and I smothered them in peanut butter. The ‘Kashi GO’ brand of waffle is pretty good for the price. The real winner here though is peanut butter. Any brand of peanut butter will do and the cheaper the better. I typically just go with a knock off store brand.
Lunch was the next target to iterate on. Dairy has always been a love-hate relationship type of thing for me and the cottage cheese was starting to get more expensive than I preferred. Again, protein was the name of the game so I wanted to swap it out with something that would keep the protein count high.
Canned beans for the win! You can grab a can of beans at any local grocery store and depending on what brand, they can easily fall under $1. There’s also an enormous amount of options when it comes to beans so you’ll get some extra variety there too. Bush’s tends to be a good one to go with.
At this point I felt like my meals were pretty set, as far as breakfast and lunch. I still ate whatever the rest of the family ate for dinner and because I was slowly building into this meal plan a bit each week I was able to keep it going steadily forward increasing my protein and calorie intake without spending a lot of cash.
I had two more spots that I wanted to add into my meal plan though to really help me top off my protein intake and also get some more variety into my diet like fruits and vegetables. For my morning snack I went with a 12-Grain bread made by Lewis. I couldn’t find this one on Amazon but these types of specialty breads tend to be cheaper than regular bread. You’ll also benefit from the extra fiber of a whole grain bread. PS… smother that bad boy in peanut butter too!
For my afternoon snack I focused on getting my veggie and fruit intake. A protein smoothie is ideal here. You can really get creative when it comes to your smoothies so I would go with whatever you think will work and do some experimentation.
I typically go with some sort of a milk or almond milk along with a Greek yogurt or frozen yogurt. I use store brands for all of these. I’ll then add in frozen spinach or kale and frozen strawberries or pineapple, which ever is cheaper at the store that week, along with a banana. Add in a scoop of peanut butter and some protein powder and you’re set.
This has been my diet for the last 3 months and I expect it to continue to be for a while. Meal planning always failed me in the past and trying to do all that work to create these outlandish meals for the week never worked out. Keeping things as simple as possible and as cheap as possible has been what really worked!
And if you’re thinking it sound boring to eat the same meals day-after-day it really hasn’t been. Instead of trying to figure out what I’m going to eat and then misstepping and eating something that really didn’t give me any energy was a bigger problem than getting bored.
It’s so much easier to just know what you’re going to have and have it, so you can get back to your day. Besides, I still have dinner to throw in some variety and because I ate pretty healthy all day, I don’t feel as guilty to go ham on some tacos at night.
If you’ve found some cheap and healthy alternatives in your diet let me know! I’m always looking for ways to add something new in or swap something out that might be better!