Matty Costello: Student diet on a budget

After speaking with a young GSP member who is a student (with the desire of competing at a high level) about his diet, it got me thinking back to when I was around the same age. I was in college, eating to be strong and recover effectively. After giving him some tips, I thought it would be a good idea to create a little blog post so that I can share the information with anyone else that struggles to eat big on a budget.

Everyone is different, but for me, when eating to perform I have no issue eating bland foods or eating the exact same things day in and day out. I’m very much a creature of habit so a lot of people will probably look at what I did and think it's miserable, but remember I was a student with little money to spare. I was highly motivated at becoming the best strength athlete that I could be, so I did the best with what I had.This wasn't when doing my master's last year, this was during my undergrad, I was 19-22 years old and weighed around 100-105kg for most of it.

Morning - around 8 am

5 Full eggs + a bowl of porridge with berries

Lunch - around 11 am-12 pm

Tuna(full 145g tin of tuna) Sandwich

Lunch 2 - around 1 pm-2 pm

Chicken fillet(120-140g) + rice

Pre-training snack - around 4-5 pm

4 rice cakes sandwiched with peanut butter + banana

Post workout - Anywhere between 7-9 pm

Around 200g of Mince beef, rice + veg

Pre-bed 11 pm-12 am

Tub of cottage cheese(300g), sometimes I added nuts or had it on rice cakes


Focusing on the protein here because it's where I see a lot of people struggle to get enough of and it's the most expensive part of your diet as a strength athlete. The above diet will give you roughly 180-200g of protein per day(which worked out perfectly for me at around 100-105kg) with a large variety of proteins and that doesn't include what you’d get from the carb-based food, the peanut butter or the milk in the porridge(if that is what you use). 

Carbs are fairly cheap with a 1kg bag of porridge at 80c a 1kg bag of basmati rice at €1.19c and bread at around €1-2 per loaf. Your macro breakdown can vary a lot here depending on what exactly you want to do, if you are bulking eat a lot more of these because they’re cheap, if cutting you’ll most likely not be eating a lot of these however that won't save you a lot of money. I personally never measured these foods when in college, I just eat a lot of them if I wasn't trying to lose or make weight.

I didn't focus on my fats at all, I kind of figured that the eggs, peanut butter and beef took care of that and I wouldn't have been wrong really.

Fruit and veg - other than my banana before training most of my fruit and veg were frozen, mostly because they’re way cheaper and being frozen I didn't have to worry about them going off because to be completely honest I wouldn't have actually eaten them every day.

Cost of protein-based foods.

To keep it simple I checked out just one website which was Tesco and took all my prices from there.

Egg’s  €5.45 for 20 eggs - 2 boxes

Tuna €1.10 per tin - 7 tins

Chicken €8.09 for 4 fillets - 2 boxes

Beef €7.50 per 793g - 2 boxes

Cottage cheese 99c per tub - 7 tubs

Total = €56.62 for protein-based foods

Based on the diet above you’d have some eggs, a chicken fillet and some beef left over, you could either spread it out over your meals, keep the extra bits for a day you’re very hungry or freeze it for another time, after 7 weeks of freezing fillets you’d have a week where you wouldn't need to buy chicken, this would be a good time to top up on a bunch of spices (I wasn't totally boring), sauces and whatever else might make the food a bit less boring.

Making good choices(price-wise) for your carbs, fruit and veg you will most likely be able to eat to grow as a 100kg male on around €70 or under per week, if you're a lot smaller you’ll be able to do it cheaper. You may even be able to do it cheaper now if you shop around and look for better deals than what Tesco has to offer.

I’m aware that this diet isn't perfect but it ain't bad at all and from what I hear back from a lot of young athletes now this will 100% set them on the right track, I did fine on it, getting some good results with it as a junior lifter.

1 comment

  • Nice article Matty, simple and effective. Modern diets are too varied and unrealistic in my opinion. Finding time to prepare meals and train and work just makes a lot of meal plans unsustainable and expensive. My own plan isn’t a million miles off of this one.

    Blaine Donovan

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