How to diet without going bankrupt

Dieting doesn't have to be expensive… and we'll show you how!

Today's gyms, with more lights than a disco, more classes than a university of higher education and more instructors selling PT's than people exercising, lead to the belief that attending a gym can be extremely expensive.

As we pass through the "healthy" area of the hypermarket, with prices that looks more like a Gucci store in Dubai, it leads us to think that changing our habits by practicing more exercise and following a more balanced diet can be impossible in a time of crisis.

The intention of this article is to share some ideas, at least regarding diet, and allow monthly spending on the diet is not the excuse not to start.

First of all, some important points:

  • Preparation – When we do not have the meals prepared leads to us making less accurate choices: we end up eating out (more difficult to do calorie tracking and more spent €€€), make occasion shopping in the supermarket (more expensive, less controlled).

  • Being important doesn't mean being cheap – We can save on diet, but it doesn't mean being an overly boring diet. We will rather buy in moderate dose things more expensive, less essential to the diet, but that will allow us to taste what we like in a smaller percentage.

    As another saying would say, "it's a two-vegetable knife." It benefits the portfolio and diet with the minority inclusion of these foods.

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  • Make the summary of current spending on your food – Maybe you will be surprised (and a lot) at how much you spend on cookies, dinners/ lunches outside, soft drinks, chocolates, stops at the gas station. What about that night that ended up in the trailers?

As for gyms, I'm not going to advertise, but there are already lots of low cost offers with enough equipment to reach the body they're possibly looking for.

If you're sure of what you want, creating your own home gym can be a huge long-term savings.

The beautiful and ugly of the flexible diet

A flexible diet (aka IIFYM) is increasingly popular.

In addition to other mistakes made by the misinterpretation of it, there is the general drawback of everything fit "in the macros".

Although my view of flexible dietis to be "inclusive", it doesn't mean that this is the excuse to eat more often outside or eat "real food" less often.

I think if the idea is an excuse to eat what you want as long as it fits in the macros, save a day a week to play the mathematical equations, trying to stay focused on less processed foods on the rest of the week.


In general, I end up seeing lots of flexdieters who only shop on occasion, or almost always eat in restaurants, etc.

Thus, I remain an apologist for rational thought:

  • What matters most right now?

  • Change your body?

  • Avoid a hole in the budget?

So set priorities.

Prepare the marmites, shop for promotions, and plan the important dates to get away from the diet, having these days the freedom and relaxation to eat out and have fun.

Create your menu

Now that you know my basic views on the subject, let's try to figure out how to approach the diet in order to optimize investment (because you are investing something, in you and in your goals).

Steps to create your menu

  1. Set daily calories/meal, or based only on the purpose of your diet (hypercaloric, low calorie, low carb, paleo, etc).

  2. Create meals based on the goal set for the day (being able to associate practical and easy recipes).

  3. Create several simple options for each meal, so you can vary between them.

  4. Create a base shopping list based on your menu.

  5. Print the menu and use it as the basis of your shopping trip to avoid impulse purchases.

  6. Include a list of spices to your liking, which allow you to taste the food and avoid buying foods already seasoned with unnecessary substances/products/calories.


Some (small) settings that allow you to optimize your menu

  • The normal mass is cheaper than the whole mass, besides it does not make much difference in nutritional level.
  • White brand rice (mainland, sweet drip, etc.) is generally cheaper than other more reputable brands. Nutritionally it does not change (almost) anything and those who consume many carbohydrates possibly notice positive impacts on the budget with this change.
  • Save calories and budget by cooking with a good non-stick frying pan and if necessary Olive oil/coconut oil in spray (I usually use extra virgin olive tree in spray).

  • Chicken and tuna are cheaper than salmon and noble cow cuts, using the former in greater quantity, thus cutting calories and possibly a few euros in the budget.

    The missing fat of this exchange can be replaced by dried fruit butter and olive oil, for example.

  • Frozen vegetables are cheaper than fresh ones.

    Now let the anti-frozen advocates come… Frozen vegetables will always be a better option than not eating them at all.

  • The same rule applies to canned goods. They are delicious, cheap and practical.


Note: Last chapter has some examples of meals.

How to get started?

You already have the menu, you already have the shopping list, and now?

Now comes the part that's most important.

I read every week the brochures of the main hypermarkets, are available online and it is easy to find the basic foods that are on sale. It is usually easy to save a lot on meat/fish/eggs with these weekly promotions.

For meat and fish the ideal is to buy if possible for the whole month, pack in individual bags and freeze. The ideal is to always remove to defrost in the refrigerator 24 hours before.

Always look for possible agreements with local suppliers. For example, in the Power Fitness group we have a chicken breast supplier at 3.5€/kg. We are many and the price is very appealing and without having to run to the queues of Pingo Doce.

The same applies to fruit and vegetables, there is a lot of local trade with prices equal /lower than hypermarkets. For example, I discovered weeks ago that I have at the door of home a grocery store with almost all of them made in Portugal (few imported), with a price 15-20% below the hypermarkets. And the taste much better than that of frozen banana (imported).

So in short we can try to use the following idea: "I eat these 15 foods, of which are 5 on sale and it is worth supplying me" instead of the impulsive thought: "I'm going to buy everything, because it's on sale."

Where to buy?

My favorite supermarkets:

  • Aldi – Listing the main items with good price/quality: canned tuna (2x the normal can), canned in general (includes lentils, ratatouille, jalapenhos peppers, etc.), Quark 0%, Curd 0%, lactose-free milk, fresh in general.

  • Lidl – Enumerating the main articles with good price/quality: Ice Tea 0%, Quark 0%, Greek light 2%, Whole cheerios, assorted cereals, fresh overall.

  • Makro – Enumerating the main items with good price/quality: Frozen hake loins, Fullprotein 0%, 1L egg whites, Gin and tonic water (often it's cheaper lol).

  • Jumbo – Those who do not have access to the Makro card, Jumbo also sells egg whites.

  • Local commerce – Always look for what alternatives the grocery stores/butchers in your area offer.


How to save money (and time!) in food making

Another useful solution is to save time and money in the making of food. 

  • Microwave recipes – They don't kill, unlike some lost articles, and are super practical on difficult days (which we all have).

    Who doesn't like sweet potato chips in the microwave?

  • Pressure cooker Allows you to cook huge amounts of food using only meat, vegetables, seasonings and some sauce to taste (as simple as ripe tomatoes).

    The chicken slow cook recipe on the page is my favorite.

  • Cooking in advance – Cook in quantities that last several days. Saves time and money.

Bonus 1: Examples of meals

Below are some examples of meals that can be prepared in order to be used in several days, which include affordable and clear options, S-A-B-O-R-O-S-A-S.


  • Eggs + Egg whites and fruit (Sweet version).

  • Egg omelette and/or egg whites, using the vegetables that are spoiling in the refrigerator.

  • Quark 0% with frozen red fruits, or fresh fruit and/or dried fruits.

  • Overnight Oats, simply cook the oatmeal with water/milk and add Whey if necessary. Leave overnight and consume cold in the morning. (with honey on top just when eating and it doesn't even look like they're following a diet).

  • Whey Smoothie, Fruit, Spinach (frozen leave no flavor), Cereals, Dried fruits, etc. Fast and effective.

  • Oat pancake and whey. A classic.


  • Thins bread with homemade chicken burger and Light cheese (Aldi) + salad.

  • Salad of friar beans, onions, tuna and peppers.

  • Slow Cooks with rice, beans and vegetables.


  • The magnificent Fluff of whey.

  • Microwave cake with whey (#beltsanderbrownie).

  • Quark with Flavdrops + Fruit.

  • Boiled eggs + Fruit.

  • Light curd (Aldi) with stevia and cinnamon. It's like rice pudding!

*You'll find these and other recipes here and here.

Bonus 2: Where we waste €€€

We've talked about where to save, and that following a balanced diet (whether it's gaining muscle mass or losing fat) may not be as expensive as many people think.

To finish, let's focus now where in this area of fitness (not just food) we waste money.

  • Excess protein – Many people have a daily protein intake above 3g/kg in weight.

    Unless you like to waste money, 2g/kg is enough to maintain/gain muscle mass without having too much "catabolic" effects on the budget.

    Never forget that the higher monetary expenditure of our diet usually attaches to protein sources.

  • Organic food – There is still not enough evidence that the increased cost, brings benefits equivalent to the difference in value.

    I don't have this telling you not to consume them, but if the budget is a problem, avoid it.

  • Useless supplements – No supplement is required but it also does not mean that they have no use. For example, Whey is very practical and comes cheap by dose.

    More add-ins only if budget allows.

  • Expensive training clothes – They are beautiful but do not bring results.

  • Accessories – Pedometers, cardiofrequency meters, etc. They're cute, they may be useful, but they're not mandatory.


I hope that now at the end of the article, there will be more clarity with regard to doubts whether following a diet is expensive, or cheap. Or they're justified in their way that they can't go on any diet because they don't have any money…

Possibly with a few tricks can make the diet they want, to reach the body they desire, spending less than you imagine!

Article written by Team Sik Nutrition

About the author

Team Sik Nutrition is a recent group of people passionate about the world of Fitness. Team's focus is to guide, educate and motivate those interested in achieving their health goals, both physical and performance. All this sharing is based on scientific facts and experience of team members.

The CEO of Team Sik Nutrition is João Gonçalves. Amateur powerlifter, passionate about Fitness and writing articles.

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