9 Cheap Foods For Budget Weight Gain

I love starting these blogs with a bit of controversy, and there are just so many different opinions and debates in the fitness world that it’s pretty difficult to avoid.

This post is no different.

So, a little bit of a warning here, I’m about to share a bit of an unpopular opinion.

Here goes…

Gaining weight is a lot harder than losing weight.

That’s right.

Being tall, having a fast metabolism, or just struggling to find the time to eat 3000+ calories to build muscle and get bigger is tough on you and your pockets.

At least when you cut, your weekly shopping bill drops.

Your credit card doesn’t have to take a beating every time you shop to gain weight, though.

I have taken the time to research foods that are not only cheap but nutritious and calorie-dense.

This list is great for students who want to pack on some serious size on a budget, or help those of us who struggle with our metabolism and find it hard to eat loads without throwing it back up, helping you go from skinny to sizeable affordably and speedily.

Let’s get into it.

8 Cheap High-Calorie Foods

Peanut Butter 

Cheap foods to gain weight - peanut-butter-in-a-plate

This beautiful delicacy is a firm favorite amongst households across the world, including mine, for a variety of reasons. 

The taste is divine. And the texture is even better.

Personally, I like my peanut butter smooth, but I am partial to a bit of chunky peanut butter crunch now and again.

Whether that’s on a piece of toast, in a PB&J sandwich, or just thrown into my morning shake.

But it doesn’t just stop there with peanut butter.

There are so many options, and whether you go for the cheap option or not, you can expect a multitude of health benefits and nutrients that can help improve your heart health, lower blood sugar levels, and most importantly, pack on pounds.

Bodybuilders and powerlifters alike tend to lunge toward the opportunity to put peanut butter in their bulking diet due to the sheer number of calories and an optimal amount of protein in just 1 serving, making it efficient and cheap.

Nutritional Information

These are based on the USDA values for 100g of Skippy’s Creamy Peanut Butter:

  • Calories: 594kcal
  • Protein: 21.9g
  • Fat: 50g
  • Carbohydrates: 18.8g

Value For Money

  • Cost Per 100g of Skippy’s Peanut Butter (based on 40oz jar): $0.60
  • Cost Of 2000 calories of Peanut Butter: $2.00

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cheap foods to gain weight - olive-oil

Olive oil has become a bit of a trend within the fitness industry, with many people noticing the number of calories even the smallest amount of this liquid can provide the body and then deciding the best way to consume this is to drink it… straight from the bottle…

Pretty gross if you ask me.

Just check out this youtube video I found of someone tackling a whole bottle of Olive Oil in one sitting. 6000 calories worth.

I think I would throw up.

This is a pretty extreme method of bulking, and in no way shape or form am I asking you to consume it straight (unless you really wanted to).

I would recommend using it to fry your foods, adding it to your shake, or, my favorite option, dipping ciabatta rolls into it.

Not only does olive oil provide an excellent low-cost option to your diet, but it also has a ton of health benefits.

Surprisingly, despite the amount of fat, olive oil is pretty great at improving your cardiovascular and digestive system health, while being low-volume so you can eat more food and reach your calorie goals.

Nutritional Information

These are based on the USDA values for 100ml Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

  • Calories: 800kcal
  • Protein: 0g
  • Fat: 93.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g

Value For Money

  • Cost Per 100ml Of Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $1.94
  • Cost Of 2000 Calories Of Olive Oil: $4.85


Cheap foods to gain weight - roast chicken

Chicken is a staple in any bodybuilder or gym-goers diet.

While it isn’t as cheap or high in calories as a bar of chocolate, the nutritional benefits and sheer amount of protein make it the cheapest option to build lean muscle mass and improve your overall health.

Any part of the chicken is pretty good for building muscle and getting shredded, but we are looking to save money with this list.

I would recommend keeping your eye out for whole chickens, rather than aiming to purchase just the breast.

Think of it as similar to wholesale.

My favorite part about finding a whole chicken is that it can be cooked for lunch, with some even being left over for dinner, this means we are getting 2 meals for the price of 1, saving even more on our shopping bills!

Nutritional Information

100g of a Whole Rotisserie Chicken, according to the USDA contains:

  • Calories: 214kcal
  • Protein: 22.6g
  • Fat: 13.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g

Value For Money

  • Cost Per 100g Of Whole Chicken: $2.84
  • Cost Of 2000 Calories Of Chicken: Approximately $14


Cheap foods to gain weight - ra bunch of bananas

You’ve always got to include some fruit and veg into your diet.

Yes, that’s right, even when you are bulking and need to consume as many calories as you can, you still need to include the nutritional prowess of the plants.

With a banana, you can consume all of the health benefits of fruit, without giving up room in your stomach for empty-calorie foods.

A banana is a surprisingly high calorie, providing you with a food that has plenty of nutrients and a fair amount of calories and carbohydrates.

A bunch of bananas can provide you with 750 calories for around 3 dollars, which makes them the perfect snack between meals, on the go, or even added to smoothies!

They are rich in Vitamin C and Antioxidants too, so bananas truly are the key to health and wealth.

Nutritional Information

According to the USDA, the nutritional information in 1 banana is:

  • Calories: 113kcal
  • Protein: 0.851g
  • Fat: 0.333g
  • Carbohydrates: 26.4g

Value For Money

  1. Average Cost Per Banana According To USDA: $0.55
  2. Cost Of 2000 Calories Of Bananas: Approximately $10

Whole Milk

Cheap foods to gain weight - milk-bottle-and-glass-with-milk

Bulking can be as simple as switching from your normal ingredients to those calorie-dense alternatives for a similar, or cheaper, price.

That’s what I decided to do with milk.

Rather than buying the more expensive, lower-calorie, skimmed alternative, I switched to whole milk.

Not only does adding this to your diet help give you an extra influx of protein, but you can also add some much-needed calcium to aid with muscle recovery and bone strength.

Whole milk tends to retain more vitamin D and other essential minerals that can be lost during the purification process of skimming milk, making it a lot more nutritious.

If you are someone who blends their protein powder with water, then I recommend switching to whole milk.

This will increase the calories, and the protein, and make it taste a lot nicer.

Nutritional Information

In 100ml of whole milk, you can expect:

  • Calories: 61kcal
  • Protein: 3.27g
  • Fat: 3.2g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.63g

Value For Money

  1. Average Cost Of 1 Litre of Whole Milk: $0.97
  2. Cost Of 2000 Calories Of Whole Milk: Approximately $3.25

Trail Mix

Cheap foods to gain weight - raw-homemade-trail-mix

The ultimate hiking snack, this combination of fruits, nuts, and granola is a great option for an energy boost.

Nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, are very high in calories and great for gaining weight, however, they can also be pretty hefty on the pockets.

Luckily, you can pick up trail mixes for as cheap as a dollar, which has the bonus of the fruit and granola for taste and variety.

Trail mixes are my favorite snack when I’m working or on the go.

They are so easy to carry and make excellent foods for improving your digestive health, and your cardiovascular health, with a ton of healthy fats included in the nuts and granola.

If I am being honest, though, there is not much else you can do with trail mix other than using them as a snack!

Nutritional Information

In 100g of regular trail mix, you can expect:

  • Calories: 462kcal
  • Protein: 13.8g
  • Fat: 29.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 44.9g

Value For Money

  1. Average Cost Of 100g Of Great Value Trail Mix: $0.80
  2. Cost Of 2000 Calories Of Trail Mix: Approximately $3.40


Cheap foods to gain weight - fried-crunchy-streaky-bacon-stripes

When I first started on my fitness journey (which you can read a bit more about right here), I thought I would be giving up on all the foods I love.

And bacon would have to be one of the foods that I would never be able to touch again.

Maybe this would be true when I am on a diet, but then I realized something. Bacon is an awesome meat alternative with a lot of calories, making it a cheap food you can eat to gain weight.

There are plenty of essential micronutrients within bacon that can help develop muscle strength, as well as bone health while helping you reach the recommended daily intake of vital minerals selenium and phosphorus. 

Bacon can be consumed in a variety of ways, whether you put it in a delicious Hunters Chicken recipe, in a bacon sandwich, or just chew on it as a midday snack. It’s awesome!

The only note I have with bacon is to avoid consuming it too often.

Whilst it’s great for gaining weight, the majority of this large surplus of calories lies within the saturated fats, making it likely to affect your cardiovascular health and increase your bad cholesterol.

Nutritional Information

In 100g of bacon, you can expect:

  • Calories: 501kcal
  • Protein: 40.9g
  • Fat: 36.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.1g

Value For Money

  1. Average Cost Of 100g Of Bacon: $1.56
  2. Cost Of 2000 Calories Of Bacon: Approximately $6.12

Whole-Grain Bread

Cheap foods to gain weight - sliced-whole-grain-bread-on-wooden-board

Do you want to know an interesting fact?

Of course, you do. 

Well, did you know that whole grain bread, although commonly referred to as healthy bread, has very similar calories, or sometimes if it has been seeded, more calories than white bread.

This is why bread is such a great option for trying to put on weight.

Each slice has plenty of calories, with a loaf coming in at around 2 dollars, sometimes even cheaper.

We aim to eat whole-grain bread in the fitness industry due to the added nutrients we can consume.

Rather than eating the empty carb, which we call white bread, I prefer to choose whole-grain bread for the extra fiber that can help improve our digestive system and overall health.

I tend to combine this food with bacon when I’m bulking.

I don’t think anything can beat a bacon sandwich in the morning and is a great start to hitting those high daily calorie goals.

Nutritional Information

In 1 slice of Whole-Wheat Bread, you can expect:

  • Calories: 81.5kcal
  • Protein: 3.9g
  • Fat: 1.14g
  • Carbohydrates: 13.8g

Value For Money

  1. Average Cost Of A Slice Of Whole-Grain Bread: $0.16
  2. Cost Of 2000 Calories Of Trail Mix: Approximately $3.93


Now you have this article in your arsenal, you can bulk without the worry that your bank account will get thinner. 

These are my top 8 cheap, high-calorie foods, however, they are not the only thing you need to achieve your goals.

I have 3 small tips you can add to your checklist that will help you put on mass. These are:

  1. Choose foods low in volume – we can’t get full too quickly when eating a lot of calories!
  2. Eat more often – trying to eat too much at once will put you on route to throwing up.
  3. Easy to digest – Choosing foods that digest easily, like bananas, will help you feel hungry and less bloated, meaning you can eat more.

With the help of these 3 tips and the list of foods above, you can guarantee your bulk will become a lot easier, while also providing your body with the nutrients and fuel you need to stay healthy.

Over at the Grizzly Online Gym, not only do I post all my workouts for you to follow along with.

But I also regularly post recipes and diet tips, so head over and check it out!

What foods would you eat to gain weight on a budget?

Is there any you would change on this list?

Let me know in the comments below.