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Bulking up (gaining weight to build muscle) shouldn’t be a full-time job and it shouldn’t break the bank either.
I’m a 1.96 m tall guy and I’m telling you from my own experience that eating enough food to put on weight can be such a nuisance.
First of all, because you keep getting one tip – buy nutritional supplements. Given my height (same as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s), I’ve always received this advice.
That’s because almost everyone thinks that it’s tough and expensive to meet a crazy goal of 4000+ calories every single day of the month while making sure you hit the correct proportion of carbs, fat, and protein intake.
After we researched the foods with the most calories on the market and finally ended up with the cheap high-calorie foods listed in this post, I finally understood.
You don’t need to spend fortunes on meals and expensive supplements if you’re looking to gain weight or build muscle.
Instead, stick to nutritious and also affordable high-calorie food. Your credit card will be fuller and your goals closer than they’ve ever been.
Related story: How to Achieve Your Fitness Goals
This post is a handy guide for your next shopping adventures, whether you are a hard gainer, a skinny student looking to pack on muscle, or just a disappointed ectomorph with a lightning-fast metabolism rate that would make even Flash jealous.
10 recipes you can prepare using the high-calorie foods in this article!
We split our research into 8 different food categories, just because you can’t drink oils all day, and you also can’t stuff yourself with bananas like a hardcore gorilla, even though bananas are one of the 50 easy to digest foods we carefully selected with the help of an expert dietitian.
Before heading over to the meat of our blog post (pun intended), let’s see which foods made the spotlight, and by this I mean which are the cheapest high-calorie foods that will help you gain weight in each of the chosen 8 categories.
Canola oil is definitely one of the most valuable products you can buy if you are looking to gain weight in an affordable way.
Considering the cheap price and the high number of calories found in this oil, using it is a surefire way to up your calorie intake game.
Canola oil is a source of fat with not too many nutrients, vitamins E and K being the stealers of the show here.
If you are looking for cheap high-calorie foods with low carbs to gain weight during your bulking phase, oils are a great addition to your diet plan as they don’t provide this type of macronutrients.
You can add canola oil into your pan when you’re frying some delicious meat, in the oven when you’re baking some potatoes, or in your salads, sauces, and marinades.
TIP: When it comes to choosing your oil for cooking or dressing, aim for variety. This way you can take advantage of more nutrients found in different products.
For example, choose extra virgin oil when you’re looking for more flavor and oils like the canola one for other uses.
It’s not for nothing that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson opts in for a big chunk of pancakes to eat on his cheat days. They are calorie-rich, tasty, and quite inexpensive to make (not that this Hollywood big shot couldn’t afford more).
Quite low in proteins and fats, pancakes are a great source of carbohydrates and offer a decent amount of calcium as well.
However, be aware of the sodium found in such a meal. USDA states that you usually find 439 mg of sodium in a serving size of 100g of pancakes. That’s a fifth of your projected daily sodium intake if you were following a 2000 calories/day diet.
You don’t need a manual for this, do you? We all love pancakes and we all like them with different toppings and combined with all sorts of delicious stuff.
For instance, The Rock serves a cup of tequila alongside his portion of pancakes. I like them with jam, some chocolate spread, or even filled with cheese. With this type of meal, the possibilities are endless and you can easily add up the calories.
A must-have in any bulking addict’s diet, the oldie but goldie peanut butter is a very good investment if you’re aiming to gain weight.
High in calories and costing just a few bucks, the peanut butter outperforms the more expensive classic butter every hour of the day.
Moreover, peanut butter is one of the cheapest high-calorie keto foods.
Besides offering a good amount of fat, peanut butter is a very generous source of protein as well. So, while PB helps you gain weight faster, it also gives your muscles the necessary resources to grow.
Bonus points: PB has a decent amount of potassium and magnesium as well.
Spread it on a toast, add it in a shake, or combine it with everything that comes to your mind: a banana, apples, some cookies, or the classic jelly, as Hollywood actor Kevin James above.
Among all the meats, your most budget-friendly choice is the chicken. As a tip for maximum bang for your buck, always hunt for whole chickens. Remember, we’re looking to make weight gain affordable.
Chicken is on the menu for most people looking to build muscle and get ripped. And this is because of the high amount of proteins found in this kind of meat.
In 100g of chicken, you’ll usually find about 25-30 grams of protein and a little amount of fat as well.
However, if you have cholesterol problems, you may not want to go overboard with our winged friends. A more expensive option for those of you trying to lower your cholesterol intake is turkey meat.
Besides eating it at lunch or dinner, boiled, fried, or roasted, you can add it to your salads or put it in a box and serve it like it was a KFC bucket meal.
Keep in mind: Fast food products may be abundant in calories, but they contain a lot of unhealthy nutrients. Secondly, they are much more expensive than home-cooked food.
Practically, with bananas, you spend a little more than a dollar per 1000 calories. I think it’s a heck of a deal, ladies and gentlemen.
While being a pretty solid source of vitamin B6, C, and potassium, bananas are rich in carbohydrates (about 20-25g per 100g portion). This makes bananas one of the main fruit ingredients in every hard gainer’s diet.
For me, bananas are the easiest way to add calories to my daily intake. Grab it, peel it, eat it!
Of course, adding bananas to your shakes, fruit salads, or combining them with pancakes are other great ideas that will bring your calorie intake to the next level.
Sunflower seeds may look expensive compared with the amount you buy, but actually, they are a treasure of nutrients. You know that saying: strong essences are kept in small bottles (or packs in our case).
There’s a lot to say here. First, sunflower seeds are high in proteins (21g per 100g portion size), so they will help you build muscle easier.
Second, this kind of seed contains an almost equal amount of carbs (20g per 100g portion size).
Finally, sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium, vitamin B6, and iron.
Besides eating them straight from the pack, you can unshell them and sprinkle some over homemade bread or even make a bar out of them. Ultimately, remember, it’s a snack, so make sure to enjoy it!
I guess 3450 calories for a few bucks is a great deal, isn’t it?
This kind of cream is rich in fat (36g per 100g), as you may have guessed, but it’s also a solid source of vitamin A, which has numerous health benefits.
Add the whipping cream to your morning coffee, put it on a desert, or just indulge yourself with a few tablespoons.
With 500 ml of apple juice drank per day, you’ll add about 240 calories to your daily intake. And that cost you only 30 cents.
TIP: Natural apple juice tends to get sour much faster than the one with additives, so just make sure you don’t buy extra-large quantities and keep it in proper conditions.
Some of the best things about natural apple juice are that it has:
You can drink it as it is or mix it with other beverages. You heard about Appletini, didn’t you?
This chart of cheap high-calorie foods for weight gain shows most of what’s on our budget-friendly list and will come in handy whenever you’re in the bulking phase of your training.
TIP: Save the chart to Pinterest, so you’ll never lose track of it.
However, let’s dig deeper into each of the categories.
Adding oils and sauces to your meals is an extremely efficient way to rack in more calories. So, give these high-calorie dressings a try and incorporate them into your everyday meals.
Eating carbs may be the most pleasant part of the bulking phase and now it can be inexpensive as well.
Many of the cheapest high-calorie carbs count among the most popular weight gain foods for females. Pancakes, bread, rice, and pasta are preferred by many women who successfully gain weight. If you're a female, you can easily add affordable foods to your diet by following the budget meal plan among the weight gain meal plans for females.
Besides peanut butter, there is only one more high-calorie spread that made it to our budget-friendly list and that is:
By the way, lard counts among the high-calorie low-carb foods.
If chicken holds the top of our affordable high-calorie meat list, here are another two solid choices to mix things up when prepping your meals.
Vitamins are a must when you’re aiming for your dream physique, but that doesn’t mean you can’t absorb a decent amount of calories as well from your fruits and vegetables.
Here are other vitamin-filled products that succeed bananas on our list:
Note: If you’re a vegan or thinking about adopting a greener approach diet-wise, then these high-calorie fruits and legumes are your best friends.
Eating green can be expensive, especially if you’re trying to gain weight in your bulking phase, but adopting a vegan diet has its own benefits as well.
Snacks make the bulking phase of our training routines way easier. That’s a fact. So, here are 6 high-calorie foods you can nibble on during the day and make the weight gain process easier.
Did you know that, besides being affordable, whole wheat crackers are high-calorie low-fat foods?
For more bulking snacks that will help you gain weight, check out our list of healthy high-calorie snacks. This list is a must-have if you struggle to build muscle.
Also, if you find it hard to stay on a caloric surplus every day, try including any of the best 25 high-calorie bars for weight gain in your meal plan. High-calorie bars are packed with protein, carbs, and fat, and even though they aren't as cheap as the snacks found in this article, this type of bars can be bought for as low as $1.91 per 100 g, so they can be affordable as well.
As a bonus, here is a tip for buying high-calorie nuts and nut butters cheaper: buy them in bulk.
Calcium kid drank milk with a purpose. Dairy products are generally a very cost-efficient source of calories and will definitely help you bulk up faster and easier.
Besides, if you’re struggling to find high-calorie foods with low carbs, full-fat dairy products are the key to your dietary and bulking-up problems.
Since butter and cheddar cheese count among the low-volume high-calorie foods, they are a good way to increase calories without filling yourself up.
Besides the apple juice, there’s one more kind of juice that will help you gain weight efficiently and that is:
TIP: You can combine different foods mentioned in our cheap high-calorie foods list to prepare super smoothies or shakes that will make your bulking phase a breeze. Find ideas in our lists of high-calorie smoothies and weight gain shakes.
If you don't know whether smoothies or shakes are better for you, see the difference between them in the smoothie vs shake comparison.
For more beverages that will help you gain weight, check out our list of high-calorie drinks.
To conclude, now you can include cheap high-calorie foods in each one of your meals and make sure that you provide your body with the necessary fuel a.k.a. calories it needs to gain weight and muscles easier without breaking the bank.
How’s your bulking phase going? Leave us a comment below.
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