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The Poor Man's Diet: Eating On A Tight Budget - Awake & Alive
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The Poor Man's Diet 1

The Poor Man’s Diet: Eating On A Tight Budget

We all go through periods where there just isn’t enough money to eat and train like a king. During those times the Poor Man’s Diet may be your only choice. Here are a few tips for surviving on a tight budget.

How I found the Poor Man’s Diet…

The day after I graduated high school was the day I left home; or rather, my home left me. I realized very quickly that I needed to develop the poor man’s diet it was going to have to be cheap if I wanted to be able to afford to continue training and going to college.



That day, I went to Sam’s Club with my Mom’s Sam’s Club card and bought a plastic storage tub and 20 lbs of rice to go in it. I also bought a giant can of tuna, which was a bad call on my part. I already had a rice cooker so now I was set.

This article is a collection of the things I learned while trying to eat on a shoestring budget that gave me enough fuel to continue training.

The Poor Man’s Diet is not for everyone; if you have healthier choices, take advantage of them.

This is not the healthiest diet out there by any means. In fact, it isn’t even close. Look, someday that will be you shopping in the organic section wearing skinny jeans and drinking whatever the new trendy drink is that consequently tastes like a goat’s anus. Someday that will be you, so hang in there kid.

This article is not for you if you currently have a Netflix account, a Starbucks gold card, cable television, and internet. If you are that person, you aren’t poor, you just need priorities.

The Poor Man’s Diet is for the kid who is piggy-backing on WiFi from the parking lot and selling plasma to afford training costs…the guy who gets coffee in the morning from the local coffee shop and then refills his cup with whole milk just to get some extra calories.

The Poor Man’s Diet Guidelines:

  • Nutrition Content – Focus on macro-nutrient content (e.g., carbs, protein, fat, etc.)

  • Price – Keep it cheap

  • Portability – Focus on food that you can easily store and carry in your backpack, lunch box, etc.

  • Storage – Focus on food that will last (e.g., canned food)

Depending on your current situation you are going to need a few tools. If you have a working stove you can get by with just a pan for cooking and maybe some silverware to stir with. If you use some creativity you should be able to acquire a pan for cheap and silverware for nearly free if not free.

If you have a microwave then all you need is silverware and a bowl. If you have neither then get a rice cooker. They’re about 15 bucks new and I had mine before I left home and still have it. 

Foods you’re going to be using a lot of are: rice, beans, canned meat AKA tuna, spinach, and cheap fruits like bananas. These foods are chosen for a few reasons: nutritional content, price, portability and storage capacity.

How to Execute the Poor Man’s Diet

Here are some options: cook your rice in your rice cooker, which requires water and rice. Then when the rice looks to be about done, dump a drained can or packet of tuna over it. When you get tired of tuna you can switch to some other canned meat.

When you get tired of rice you can switch to beans or lentils, although they usually require a day of soaking, which can be done in the rice cooker’s pan. If you don’t eat everything in one sitting you have a second meal for later in the day, which is why I suggest you cook your meals in the morning. That way, stuff doesn’t go bad overnight.

Not that you couldn’t eat tuna that is several hours old, but for some people that might seem gross. You also have the option of keeping the meat canned until you are ready to eat. If you have some canned spinach you can mix it in with the rice or beans or you can cook it in your rice cooker as a standalone dish.

Also, any of these dishes can be made the old-fashioned way on the stove. As for fruit, eat whatever is cheap whenever you can afford it. This is a great way to get rid of loose change. If you don’t have a clean place to store the fruit then just buy it as you go.

Let’s talk about where to shop. Discount grocery stores can be great, but you want to be careful because sometimes the stuff you find there is scary. These sorts of stores can be useful for finding canned food like sauerkraut. Farmer’s markets and meat markets can also be a good choice if you have a little extra cash and somewhere to cook the food.

I can get three locally raised steaks at the local meat market in my area for the price of one at the giant retail grocer. Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have mentioned steaks. But if you have the resources, look for places like those to use them. Another secret to eating the same semi-healthy shit every day is condiments and seasoning.

When it come to this you have two options: you can buy a bulk bottle of Texas Pete and have the choice between plain and spicy or you can get creative and find ways to acquire condiments for free. Between you and me, there might be a gourmet fast food chicken place that has a decent selection.

How to Cheat Day on the Poor Man’s Diet

The Poor Man's Diet 2

Basically you save up as much as you can and once every week or two weeks you have a cheat day by going to a buffet Pizzeria, Chinese restaurant or breakfast diner. These are all solid options. Usually cheat days will cost between $5-12. Also, always get water—not only is soda unhealthy, it also has a ridiculous mark up on it.

In conclusion, no this isn’t some miracle diet and it is not the healthiest way to eat but it is a way to survive until you can do better. You will do better eventually! If you found this page or if you’re already training then you have motivation and drive and things will get better so keep it up. I also want to point out that it is good to have friends.

While the poor man’s diet definitely helped me out, I always had friends who ended up forcing me to eat their food from time to time or let me use their kitchens to cook. So if you don’t have friends make some. Training is a great way to do that.

There was once a time when I was a broke and basically a homeless college student (okay, homeless after I wrecked my house) who had to find a way to eat and train and these are the lessons I learned while doing it. It’s not the best diet ever but it’s enough that you can get by with.

No, you’re not going to get huge and hopefully you don’t lose a ton of weight, but you won’t go hungry and you will still be able to maintain your training.

Also, and this is a total side note, never give a girl you like a peanut butter and tuna sandwich. I know it’s full of protein and tastes delicious, but don’t do it!

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Ben Green

Ben Green

Ben Green has studied martial arts since he was a teenager, was a tactical athlete trainer while in the US Army, has held multiple kettlebell and fitness-related certifications and is currently a kettlebell instructor at Tao Health & Fitness in Austin, Texas.TaoHealthandFitness.com

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