Easy Meal Planning on a College Budget!

College Workout Plan | How to Gain Muscle in College | Easy College Meals | Dorm Room Supplements | Ripped Undergrads

The fall season marks the start of the school season. Those days of sleeping till noon and lounging around in your PJs are sadly behind you—at least for a while.

Being a full-time student also means funds could be tight, and a limited food budget can impact your fitness progress. Fortunately, it is possible to meet your nutritional needs without breaking the bank if you take the time to plan ahead.

Here’s how to start the school of gains off on the right foot and feed your muscles what they need to grow.


Budgeting is a highly underrated step that many students skip, but this critical skill will help you fuel your muscles for growth, not to mention prove very useful in the years ahead.

Bodybuilding diet when in college

First, subtract the cost of necessary, non-negotiable expenses like tuition, books, rent, and transportation from your income. It might be easier to do this on a quarterly basis since these expenses change with every school term.

Once you know how much money you have left over, you’ll know how much you have to spend for your food budget. Even though it might not seem like much, most healthy, muscle-building staples are relatively inexpensive, so your food budget will go further than you think.


When money is tight, it’s imperative that you focus your spending on the things that are most important to you. One night out for dinner and drinks with friends can easily blow your entire week’s food budget.

If a fancy mixed drink means only eating ramen for the next couple of days, you need to be aware of and OK with that trade off.

Be smart and get your priorities straight. If going out and having fun is a priority, you must account for that in your budget. If you can’t, find more free or very low-cost ways to have fun. Many establishments offer discounts to student and daily specials, so if it’s important, put in the effort to find affordable deals. It’s all about give and take.

Whey is a foundational supplement and supports a huge range of goals—perfect for muscle building and fat loss in combination with a healthy diet and exercise.*

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Plan on making the majority of your meals with nutrient-dense foods, meaning foods that are full of the necessary macro- and micronutrients to help your body function at its best. These include lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and eggs; complex carbs like oats, beans, and brown rice; fresh fruits and vegetables; and healthy fats like nuts and oils.

Once you stock up on these nutritional staples, you can splurge more expensive items like avocados or prime cuts of meat if your budget allows.


Once you know how much you can spend, create a grocery list and stick to it. Do your shopping when you’re not hungry to ensure you won’t make impulsive buys.

If you can stick to a few healthy staples, then it’s best to buy in bulk. Sign up for promo emails at your favorite grocery story to get coupons and deals, or try to buy when things go on sale. The more you pay attention, the more deals and promotions you’ll find, so stay alert to savings.


Many types of protein powders and meal replacement shakes can be had on the cheap as a reliable and convenient protein source. Mass gainers can be an especially affordable option since they are often sold in bulk quantities and offer a full complement of macronutrients per serving.

Bodybuilding diet when in college

While you should still get the majority of your calories from whole foods, a meal replacement can be a great option for the chaotically busy student. Whenever possible, buy in bigger quantities or special sales to get more protein for your money.

Mass-gaining protein powders are a cost-effective way to raise your daily protein, carb, and calorie intake to fuel your body and build lean muscle.*


Dollar-priced fast-food menus are tempting for the cash-strapped student. They’re convenient, fast, cheap, and a (subjectively) tasty treat for those late-night study sessions. While they don’t cost much as far as money is concerned, consider the real cost on your health.

Fast food is loaded with sugar, salt, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and a whole lot of other ingredients that spell trouble for your long-term health. These meals typically won’t meet your macro needs, either. If you must indulge in fast food, try to stick to muscle-building options. Otherwise, drive past that drive through and opt for something healthier.


Time is a hot commodity, especially for a college student. When you’re trying to cram in as much studying and sleep as possible before your early morning quiz, the last thing you’re thinking about is what to have for breakfast before you head to class.

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Bodybuilding diet when in college

Set yourself up for success by having all your meals packed and ready to go. This maximizes your money resources, since you won’t have to splurge on expensive convenience foods, and it supports the progress you’re trying to make with your physique. No matter what else is happening, take a few minutes every night to pack your next day’s meals and have them ready.

— Update: 21-03-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Bodybuilding Nutrition | Cheap Diet For College Students from the website us.myprotein.com for the keyword bodybuilding diet when in college.

By James Braun

US Myprotein Writer

Being a college student isn’t easy, and it makes it even harder to get in proper nutrition to fuel muscle growth, especially with the busy schedule, late night studying, and classes. At some points, it’s even hard to make it to the gym!

Of course, college students also have a hole in their wallets and simply can’t afford healthy food to help with their bodybuilding aspirations. A large part in the way most people look is the nutrition aspect, as is their training.

Now, we’re going to look at some fast, cheap, and easy meals for college students who are struggling with paying tuition and making gains. Also, I will outline some tips for those with a dining hall meal plan and no kitchen.

The Dining Hall

Bodybuilding diet when in college

You see that bowl of fruit?

Shove it in your bag, along with some loaves of bread and a jar of peanut butter. In all seriousness, take what you can from the dining hall! Most halls have plenty of fruit and even some whole-grain bread, so stock up. Also, the halls tend to have “healthier” options such as grilled chicken, veggie and turkey burgers, and a salad bar. Get as much as you can while you’re there, and you can get a bit of nutrition from what you have in your dorm.

Moderation Goes A Long Way

Another key point I wanted to mention in this article is moderation. Go ahead, check out that dessert bar from time to time, and don’t feel guilty for doing so. It’s important to treat yourself every now and then, and having something “bad” sometimes can make the diet so much more sustainable over the Long Term.

The Meals For Bodybuilding Diet

Now, I hope as a college student you’re not expecting some crazy gourmet meals. These meals are cheap, nutritious, and easy to make and you can even take them on the go!

Bodybuilding diet when in college

Oatmeal “Sludge”

This meal is crazy easy, and actually tastes great too. You’ll combine the oats, protein powder, and peanut butter in a bowl or tupperware container, and slowly add water until it turns into a thick “sludgy” consistency. If you add too much water, it won’t turn out. Also, no microwave needed, just mix in the ingredients and eat up.

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 – 1 cup of old fashioned oats(do not use quick oats)

 – 2 scoops of Whey protein of choice

 – 1 tbsp of peanut butter

 – Topped with one banana

Calories: 665

Protein: 45 grams

Carbs: 94 grams

Fat: 17 grams

Remember, you can always adjust these recipes to fit into your overall diet. Add in chocolate chips, more whey, less oats, more nuts…. You get the idea.

Tuna and Rice

I call this my daily pile of “mush” (Yes, I’m also a college student). It’s really easy to make, and it tastes relatively good (definitely add sriracha, hot sauce, or salsa, otherwise it doesn’t taste that good). You can cook the rice in the microwave, and just add in a can or two of tuna.

Bodybuilding diet when in college


 – 2 cups of rice of choice

 – 1 can of tuna

 – Salsa or hot sauce

Calories: 430

Protein: 28 grams

Carbs: 76 grams

Fat: 1 gram

Now, this meal only has one gram of fat, so if you need more, have some nuts with it or eat some peanut butter out of the jar. If you don’t like tuna, canned chicken is also really good, as is canned salmon. Also, your roommate and other students may hate your guts because of the smell of tuna, but gains are more important anyway.

The Shake”

Now, this is just if you don’t feel like eating a ton of food, or if you need a ton of calories.


 – Myprotein Total Oats and Whey

 – 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

 – 100 grams Myprotein Quick Oats

 – 2 Medium bananas

 – 2 tablespoons of peanut butter

Calories: 1,055

Protein: 43 grams

Carbs: 160 grams

Fat: 31 grams

Remember, taper these meals as necessary. You can easily make this a “Lower calorie shake” by using less peanut butter, less bananas, less oatmeal, and a lower calorie whey protein. Whatever fits your needs, go for it.

Takeaway Tips

Canned food is another great option, such as canned beans or meat. Lower sugar granola bars, protein bars, whey, nuts and fruit are all great snacks that you can keep in your dorm room, and you can always take bread from the dining hall to make peanut butter sandwiches. Getting in proper nutrition while you’re in college shouldn’t be a struggle, so take these tips and meals and get back to it!


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