Budget Friendly Meals for Athletes


With intense training, comes high energy and nutrient needs, and obviously the need for more groceries. This post covers over 30 budget friendly meals for athletes!

Criteria for inclusion in this post for meals included at least 20 grams of protein and adequate carbohydrates for energy. For snacks, at least 10 grams of protein and presence of carbohydrates were necessary. For all of the recipes use of primarily cost-effective ingredients or a cost effective version of a packaged product was necessary.

If you want to read more on protein needs for active individuals and athletes, check out this post on macronutrients and this one on maintaining muscle mass. Many vegetarian recipes are included here, as they tend to be much more cost efficient – check out this post on building muscle with plant protein.

budget friendly athlete nutrition guide

Need more help grocery shopping and meal planning on a budget? Download my FREE Budget Friendly Athlete Nutrition Guide! It offers lists of low-cost high-nutrient options for each nutrient category that athletes should prioritize, packaged snack suggestions, tips for getting saving money without wasting time, and printable sheets for a pantry inventory and your grocery list that will help you make a meal plan for the week.

budget friendly meals for athletes

Much of this post was curated by Laura Farrell, RD, sports nutrition associate at Kelly Jones Nutrition.

Budget Friendly Breakfast for Athletes

budget friendly athlete breakfast

Veggie Egg Muffins via Kelly Jones Nutrition
With frozen veggies and cost effective eggs, these veggie muffins are perfect to prep and have at any meal or snack. Pair 3 with whole grain bread and fruit for a balanced breakfast.

Shredded Sweet Potato Egg Casserole via Endurance Nutrition Expert Bucket List Tummy

Vegan Tofu Scramble via Lettuce Veg Out
Tofu is a cost effective high quality protein and can replace eggs easily with the right flavors!

preworkout overnight oats

Protein Packed Strawberry Banana Overnight Oats via Sports Dietitian Heather Mangieri
These oats make getting a nutrient-rich breakfast easy. They are made in advance and can be eaten hot or cold. With 10 grams of protein, they’re great as a pre-workout breakfast.

Peaches & Cream Protein Packed Cereal Bowl via Nutrition Starring You
Who said cereal can’t be high protein?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Oats via Kelly Jones Nutrition
If you spend money on protein powder, it’ll stretch much further when paired with cost effective nutritious ingredients like this oatmeal bowl.

Avocado and Egg Toast via Sports Dietitian Heather Mangieri
Did you know you can freeze avocados for later? Buy the whole bag of them next time to save money, without worrying they’ll go to waste, and then mash over high protein bread with two eggs!

Budget Friendly Meals for Athletes

vegan chipotle burrito bowl recipe

Chipotle Inspired Vegan Burrito Bowl via Kara Lydon Nutrition
This recipe brings together the delicious flavors of your favorite Chipotle burrito bowl at a much lower cost. Prep the ingredients ahead and put the bowl together easily several times throughout the week after training.

Skillet Beans & Greens With Sausage via Satiate Nutrition 
This skillet meal pulls together a few simple and easy to cook ingredients that can be enjoyed in under 15 minutes.

Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato via Better Is The New Perfect
These burgers are high in protein and rich in omega 3-fats to help support your recovery.  Also, you can make a double batch and freeze the burgers for later

Nourishing Chicken Shawarma Bowl via Meals With Maggie 
These nourishing chicken shawarma bowls are full of warm Middle Eastern flavors, vibrant vegetables and bold herbs. It can easily be made into meal prep for the week or made for dinner.

Easiest Broccoli Chicken Stir Fry via Colleen Christensen Nutrition
This super easy dinner comes together in 20 minutes and is made from pantry and freezer staples!

Green Bean Medley With Tuna Salad via Sarah Koszyk
This well-balanced dish includes vegetables, protein, and starches all from items in your cupboard! The perfect recipe for when you’re low on fresh ingredients.

winter vegetable polenta

Roasted Vegetable Polenta & White Fish via Kelly Jones Nutrition
Grab a budget friendly fish from the freezer section to save money and stock your kitchen up for later. Then pair with cost-effective 3 minute polenta, and seasonal veggies, which are always cheaper than those not in season.

Instant Pot Turkey Chili via Wholesome Start Nutrition
This simple and quick Turkey Chili recipe is made with canned goods that make meal prep a breeze!

Salmon or Tuna Burgers via Sports Dietitian Heather Mangieri
These simple salmon burgers are made with either packets of tuna or canned tuna or salmon. It couldn’t be more simple to have a budget friendly upscale burger.

Simple Shepherd’s Pie via Heather Mangieri
It doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day, or costly, to enjoy this classic.

High Protein Vegan Lasagna via Kelly Jones Nutrition
This lasagna will fool dairy lovers with it’s rich vegan ricotta (made for less money than dairy ricotta) and bold flavors. With high protein ingredients it’ll satisfy active individuals while repairing muscle, too!

budget friendly vegetarian dinner

Vegetarian Rice & Bean Casserole via Sports Dietitian Jenna Braddock
This Vegetarian Rice & Bean Casserole can be made ahead of time and frozen for a quick dinner filled with plenty of plant protein. 

High Protein Vegan Stir Fry via Kelly Jones Nutrition
This easy high protein vegan stir fry comes together with pantry and freezer ingredients in 15 minutes! Perfect for when you haven’t shopped in a while.

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese via Endurance Nutrition Expert Bucket List Tummy 
This pasta dish is a great pre-race meal. Have this the night before a run to set up your glycogen stores and muscles for prolonged activity.

Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes via Lettuce Veg Out
These vegan lentil sloppy Joes are a quick and simple high protein meal, perfect for meal prep or batch cooking to freeze. Tasty and budget-friendly, you can’t go wrong with this classic dinner.

Italian Lupini Bean Salad via Amy Gorin Nutrition
This Lupini Bean Salad with Crushed Pistachio is a delicious high-fiber side dish with a crunchy pistachio topping. It would make a great addition to any warm meal! Or pair it with a side baked sweet potato or roasted squash for a full meal.

Budget Friendly Snacks for Athletes

budget friendly protein bars

Snickerdoodle Protein Bars via Kelly Jones Nutrition
If you’re a fan of protein bars, but not the price tag, make these snickerdoodle protein bars at home!

Peanut Butter Frosting Dip via Sports Dietitian Jenna Braddock
Pair this peanut butter greek yogurt dip with some fruit and you’ve got yourself a perfect post workout snack.

Strawberry Basil Protein Smoothie via The Oregon Dietitian 
This light and refreshing smoothie provides the perfect combination of protein and carbs needed in your post-workout recovery snack.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Energy Balls via Sarah Gold RD
Made with only 4 ingredients and filled with antioxidants, healthy fat, and energy-boosting carbohydrates, these chocolate peanut butter energy balls are perfect for a quick pre-workout snack, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or even as a post-workout recovery bite.

Cold Brew Coffee Protein Smoothie via The Oregon Dietitian 
A cold and delicious way to boost energy before a morning workout!

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Bake via Endurance Nutrition Expert Bucket List Tummy
This Sweet Potato Oatmeal Bake with Blueberries is the perfect quick and nutritious breakfast option before a mid-morning workout. It’s great for your meal prep oatmeal needs.

Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie via Leanna Ray
This creamy and delicious strawberry banana peanut butter smoothie requires just four ingredients and comes together fast for a balanced and tasty breakfast on the go.

What are your go-to budget friendly recipes for athletes?

We’d love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite recipes that don’t put your grocery bill over the edge? Share in the comments, and let us know which of these you try, too!

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