How can I better meet high caloric needs through bulk cooking and on a budget?

Answered on September 27, 2013
Created September 22, 2013 at 3:38 AM

I've been eating primal (a la Mark's Daily Apple) for close to a year now, and while I feel a very drastic improvement in energy levels, recovery rate and overall well-being as a result, it does come with a particularly vexing issue for me. I'd like to gain weight, but I have been a hard-gainer since I was 12. Since I began strength training in late March, despite dramatic increases in strength, I have gone from a weight of 72 kg to 69 kg, keeping in mind that I'm 184 cm tall, so I wasn't really carrying around much fat to begin with. I eat between 2600 and 2800 kcal on a typical day, and still only lose weight, so I'm looking to bump up to, say, 3200 kcal per day.

As with many other paleo/primal folks, I have had to permit a significant increase in the cost of groceries both because I've cut back on carbs which are often very cheap by the calorie, and because I'm going out of my way to get high-quality ingredients. When you factor in my high caloric needs, all of that comes dearer, and I live a fairly Spartan existence. I currently subsist on a paycheck to paycheck basis, and there really isn't much flex room in my budget to divert to food right now.

I am also very pressed for time, so I try to do all my cooking in bulk on my one day off per week. So I'm also looking for things I can cook that keep well in the fridge/freezer, because I have enough difficulty choking down as much food as I do in a typical day without it being bland or having unpleasant textures or what have you.

I wish I had the time and money to experiment with this stuff myself, but right now, I absolutely don't, so any suggestions would be most appreciated. My only food allergy is to whole olives--though olive oil itself is fine. I cannot reliably cook fish, as I have roommates who complain about the smell. I am trying to stick to grass-fed/organic what have you as much as possible. Thank you so much!

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3 Answers


on September 27, 2013
at 02:06 PM

Fats in bulk will help add calories to your diet; they tend to make a food more palatable, rather than less and will help you stay hungry long enough to get more food in.

If you can tolerate carbs, you'll need to push your carb intake up, both to add more calories and to promote insulin secretion (actually helpful when you want to put on weight). Sweet potatoes can be a good choice, though they aren't terribly cheap. Your best bet would be white rice; it's incredibly cheap (even if you buy organic, which I recommend; had a bad stint with some GMO rice a few months ago and now I'm gunshy over it) and you can pump up the micronutrient profile by cooking it in bone broth instead of plain water. Just introduce it gradually in case you don't tolerate it well.

Coconut is a godsend for adding calories; I've found that coconut milk especially is a great calorie-per-dollar value; I can buy cans of coconut milk (Native Forest brand, which is BPA free I believe) for $2.00 each, at 700 calories a can. If you were to buy in bulk, you might even be able to find it a little cheaper.

Bananas are a good fruit choice, as they're a little more starchy than other fruits (they also contain inulin, a soluble fiber that's important for feeding gut bacteria; make sure you're getting some probiotics into your diet if you aren't already), they're dirt cheap, and you don't need to buy organic since the thick peel will keep most of the chemicals out.

If you tolerate dairy, milk is not only relatively cheap but also a good source of carbs and highly anabolic; I don't handle straight dairy well because of lactose, but I make my own kefir and use that.

Nice little shake combination: 2tbsps kefir, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1 banana, 1/2 cup berries or other sweet fruit (for flavor), ice if desired. Blend until smooth and enjoy your extra calories :)



on September 22, 2013
at 02:29 PM

just going to repeat whats pretty much said on all budget posts. eggs, butter, potatoes, in-season vegetables, rice... maybe lean non grassfed beef+lots of butter. would imagine your still going to have to consume quite a bit of carbs to get to 3k calories though.(butter on everything??)


on September 22, 2013
at 07:16 AM

Do you have any food sensitivities/intolerances/allergies? Any foods/types of food you don't eat? If yes, what are they?

Knowing this info will help folks offer you more helpful and useful ideas.

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