No need to join a gym to build muscle when trying to gain weight.

How to Gain Weight on a Budget

by Jill Corleone

You know you need to eat more to gain weight, but with the high cost of food these days, you don't want to break the bank doing it. That doesn't mean you have to limit your diet to inexpensive high-calorie foods like instant noodles or the fast food dollar menu, however. Whether you want to gain weight to improve your athletic performance or improve your appearance, you'll have more success eating inexpensive nutritious food rather than cheap junk food.

Add 500 calories to your estimated energy requirements. To gain up to 1 pound a week, you need to eat an additional 500 calories a day. Knowing the number of calories you need to eat each day helps your meal planning and budgeting.

Include nutrient-rich, calorie-dense foods in your diet. To get the most bang for your buck, you need to eat foods that not only help you meet your high-calorie needs, but also provide essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats that are necessary to support muscle growth and your health. High-calorie, nutrient-rich foods include wheat germ, nut butters, nuts, seeds, beans, cheese, eggs, 100-percent fruit juice and dried fruit.

Boost calories with nonfat dried milk powder. Not only is nonfat dried milk powder an economical substitute for refrigerated milk, it is also a good way to increase calories without having to eat massive amounts of food. One tablespoon contains 33 calories and 3 grams of protein, and you can add a few tablespoons to whole milk, hot cereal, soup, casseroles, mashed potatoes, yogurt, ground meat and pancake batter.

Create a weekly menu and plan on eating five to six small meals each day. Knowing what you are going to eat ahead of time helps keep costs down because you can plan ahead and look for deals. Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day keeps you from feeling too full and it supports muscle building.

Build muscle with an at-home strength-training workout. You need to work out your muscles when trying to gain weight to make sure you gain muscle and not fat, but you don't need to go to an expensive gym to do it. You can make a small investment in a pair of free weights or a resistance band or use your body weight as resistance when doing squats, lunges, pull-ups, push-ups and crunches.


  • Use your grocery store circular to help you create cost-effective, high-calorie menus for the week.
  • Buy meat in large bulk packages to save money and freeze what you can't eat right away.
  • You don't need to work out for hours to gain muscle, all you need is 20 to 30 minutes two to three days a week. Just make sure you hit all the major muscle groups, including arms, chest, back, shoulders, abs and legs.


  • Consult your doctor before making changes to your diet and exercise routine.
  • Don't shop when you are hungry, because you may buy too much and buy things that are not good for you.

About the Author

Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.

Photo Credits

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